Roger ignored the imperatives of riding shotgun at his peril: dump, deny, duck, dodge.
It had been a long three months since that frenetic night in late June, the night of the boojum. I had been Roger's muse then, as I had been intermittently for the previous decade, eschewing the power, but cruising the corridors none-the-less, wraith-like. Infatuation will do that, turn one into a lady of the lake. Roger found proximity to power an aphrodisiac; whereas, for me, he was the only turn-on I needed. We shared a small town house behind the Manuka cafe strip, within walking distance of the gallery, curating being my only other indulgence in a life mired in tedium.
But, back to riding shot gun down the corridors of power.
Honourable leader of the government, Caesar, had launched himself upon the road to ignominy, when he executed a wholesale dumping of inconvenient truths, a dive from the high platform, clipping his head on the board during the double-flip, causing much disturbance upon re-entry. This dive mirrored a dive of equal ugliness in the hallowed halls of public esteem, which Caesar needed to confront, but being momentarily disoriented, he failed to rise to the occasion. Esteemed deputy, Brutus, was called upon to steady the ship of state, to give direction, all the while denying her hand, instead of the hand of Caesar, was upon the tiller. The cloak of Judas lay around her shoulder as she navigated the canals of Gethsemane, three times forswearing her loyalty. Each time my poor, poor Roger did not see the knives for the spinning smoke and mirrors.
That June night, the legislature was empty of members, honourable or otherwise. All the action was in the executive wing. They came to praise Caesar, except for Brutus who took her lead from the glory whisperers. Not that Brutus was entirely absolved from overwheening hubris. Breaking the glass ceiling in the people's house guaranteed a mention in historical despatches. She was not averse to this, our red-headed lady from Altona. And Roger, my Roger, was her eyes and ears, her Chief-of-Staff, although Aide-de-compte had a more appealing ring, at least to my effete ears.
And so the multitudes assembled that night of the long knives, and wither goest the multitudes, so attend the hyenas and jackals of the fifth estate. By morning, as a weak winter sun struggled above the waters of Yarralumla, the deed was done. The king was mortally wounded, long live the queen. Music to my ears, darlink. A teary king, devoid of attendant acolytes, mounted the ramparts, to deliver a soliloquy, awash with the tears of the vanquished, ego triumphant, and yet inconsolable. With one eye cocked to the assessment of history, Caesar positioned himself as white king, sans pawns.
As a loyal lieutenant, Roger drew the fire. That was part of the role, to stick his head above the trenches, to see if the opposing forces were still gung-ho to rumble. Roger ducked the silver bullet, more by good luck than good management. As he relayed to me later, sipping chilled verdelho while the tepid bath water eased his battered flesh, the bullet had come from within, causing maximum damage as it ripped into the red head's flesh. Everyone knew that Caesar had cherished a personal vision upon a white charger with lancet erectus, scattering the philistines, the believers in the essential goodness of the market left to its own devices. Outsiders had no conception of the depravity to which Caesar could stoop when thwarted, until they saw the whites of Brutus' eyes when the bullet struck, a momentary stutter, a public flicker of incomprehension. Roger should have known it was coming, that in his quiver Caesar always packed a weapon of last resort, in this instance a poisonous tip from Jabba, the doyen of the press corps. The point being, that Roger had not realised that Brutus should have been warned to duck.
Anger that is white hot, frequently overplays its hand. Although Caesar did not play for our team, his bitchiness qualified him for a wild-card entry should he have so desired. He went for her again. With Jabba as jockey, Caesar's riled stead turned at the end of the field and readied for a second charge. This time, Roger had his head above the battlement facing the right way, and our lady Brutus, the redhead from Altona, entered upon the field, nostrils flaring, hooves pawing the dust, ready to rumble. She dodged the flaming arrow-head aimed straight for her inner core, and gave forth a god-awful whack, toppling Jabba from Caesar's trusty steed, leaving the erstwhile opponents toe-to-toe in arena central with just a trickle of blood from one of them, dripping into the sawdust. The dodge mechanism gave Our Lady essential breathing space, which she needed for the main game was about to commence. She was now, courtesy of Caesar, and his Jabba, positioned to play to her strengths.
Roger feared his days of riding shotgun were numbered. The redhead had been burned too many times, had sustained damage to the flanks, singeing to the tresses. She was left exposed, scrabbling for foot-soldiers as the barbarians stormed the battlements. The redhead exceled at the close in tussles, prefering to leave the grandiose set pieces for the likes of Caesar. Roger was despatched to sound out known enemies of her enemy: he cosied up to the gardeners, who joined her ranks; the singular poet's of the kingdom were endowed with the title Laureate; but, the renegade who marched to his own rhythm was last seen disappearing over the dales. All was in readiness for the second battle of the season. With Caesar castrated, and her troops augmented, Brutus readied herself for the battle with the Babarians, those who spread doubts of her legitimacy upon the waters.
Roger once again rode sidecar, his heart in his mouth, and with reinforced chainmail. I retreated to a gig on the side, as conservator of a collection of 18th century velvet wallpapers for a Fine Arts Gallery in Adelaide, our relationship once again, intermittent.
Written in response to aprompt from the Tenth Daughter of Memory, a writers' collective
9 months ago