EP&M Online Editorial

The Accompanist of Wounds


Arthur Mortensen

                            One more easily counts sheep than friends.

If Harry had been a cowboy on a ranch, he wouldn't have known what to do.  A master of political persuasion, he believed in nothing but how others perceived of him.   Presented with a lamb in need of a quick gunshot to put it out of misery, he would have rushed it to a veterinarian, abandoning his flock and leaving the gate to the pasture open.  The wounded were what moved Harry; the more they bled, or seemed to bleed, the more they were his best constituents.  And if his flock followed him as he bore one of them to see a doctor, he was more than happy to pose for a TV camera, an interview, or an opinion, as long as each sheep could see or hear.   For Harry did not differentiate between one sheep and another; and he would abide no wolves.  If, on the other hand, they rushed willy-nilly into another field, or onto the road into traffic, his attention would turn to the one most likely to vote for him with a ballot, a wish, or a kiss.  To close observers, however, to be touched by Harry was the kiss of death.

For Harry had a mission inimical to the healthy.  If Harry had his way, everyone would bleed, and each would have to be carried to a hospital, where Harry's ministrations, paid for from the public till, would save Harry's reputation and occasionally a patient.  It has been argued by his detractors over the years that Harry's second most common activity is to put as many people in danger of injury as possible, so that, hero that he must be, he can rush forward with a bandage and a stretcher.  And some have said that the best aid Harry could offer the world would be to fall headlong off the Empire State Building.  But Harry has carefully refrained from going that high in an elevator, whether one cabled inside a skyscraper, or one built from political, or cultural, exposure.

For Harry believes in nothing but how others perceive of him.  As such, his opinions count for nothing.  Shepherding his constituents, he examines the expressions of their thought, and with an art for distillation, regurgitates what he hears in speeches and essays on this subject or that.  One day, he promises the moon; the next, he swears that the moon is a dangerous place.  On Tuesday, he discovers a possible remedy for pain; on Thursday, he avers his pleasure in the pain of others.  He offers his strongest supporters a deal, and sells them down the river if the price is right.  On Friday he smiles at close of day with a promise to join the Sabbath's congregation; on Saturday and Sunday he offers a winning smile to a rabid dog.  On Monday morning over coffee, he announces his intention to run for office; by Monday night he has denounced democracy as a fraud. 

If he calls in the night, be careful to be elsewhere.  Turn on your answering machine; ignore the insistent ringing of the phone.  There is no worse merchant call than one from him, no promise more likely to benefit none but the promiser.  And there is no voice more subtle in its manipulation, each dulcet tone hoping to lift the listener as a marionette by its strings. Strangle his voice by hanging up; and keep him back with an unlisted number.  Harry is not in it for you, not unless you bleed for him, not unless you pray for his assistance in your hour of need, and not unless, without his soothing touch, you might die.   Trust this; the illness you fear most is spread by him; his is the vector of the worst disease.  If you succumb to it, do not call his number; do not shout his name.  He will only innoculate you against your best intentions. Do not trust him; do not believe a word.  When he quotes himself at you, as he will past boredom, be original in speaking to him.  Use small, succinct words and phrases; stick close to the Anglo-Saxon.  Tell him to go back to Hell.

                                                                Arthur Mortensen