Drop The Pilot

by Jacob Clifton November 2, 2009
The Plan

Kaiser Wilhelm II was only 40 in 1890, when he fired Chancellor Bismarck at 75. He'd shown him a letter from the Tsar that described him as "a badly brought-up boy," and Wilhelm threw a big old fit, rescinding a forty-year order and collapsing the checks and balances that decreed the Cabinet should never report directly to the Prussian King rather than the Prime Minister. Bismarck was screwed; he wrote crazy letters and freaked out, even asked the Empress to talk to her son for him. As Lord Salisbury told Victoria, "The very qualities which Bismarck fostered in the Emperor in order to strengthen himself when the Emperor Frederick should come to the throne have been the qualities by which he has been overthrown." And the Empress, loving every minute, told Bismarck that she couldn't save him from her son; that in fact it was he that had destroyed her ability to intervene.

Bismarck stayed in politics, tossing off one far-reaching and correct prediction after another like some kind of Aeschylean poet-god, and Sir John Tenniel -- best known to us for his Alice In Wonderland illustrations -- created a famous cartoon in Punch -- The petulant nascent ruler, watching Bismarck disembark the ship of their ambitions -- and titled it Dropping the Pilot. His gravestone still bears the mark; it reads, "Loyal German Servant of Kaiser William I." That's the cruelest thing.

In a big city on Picon, lots of buildings going up, there was a small club left, called the Pink Moon. ("I saw it written and I saw it say/ Pink Moon is on its way/ And none of you stand so tall/ Pink Moon's gonna get you all...") The bartenders had their breasts out; the Twelve Colonies were like that. They'd been like that for years. Ellen speared an olive with a cocktail umbrella and ate it like a cougar, crawling on her chair. One looked at his mother with desire, and hatred, and she flirted back. She loved olives; she loved the way she looked reaching for them even more: Back arched, perfect legs trailing behind, perfect ass in the air. He liked it too; he hated it. For a moment he saw her, naked in a tub back on the Resurrection Ship, sleeping her way into madness. One ordered his mother another drink, and she giggled; he called himself a mysterious stranger.

When God comes, they say, he will come like a thief in the night. A mysterious stranger. Maybe he'll ask a question or two; he'll be looking for something but you won't know that. Anonymity is essential to the enterprise. Your answers must not be tainted by foreknowledge or by self-interest; they must be absolutely honest. And on them, everything will depend. And you'll never know the world is ending.

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