Liber Jonae CAPUT FIVE Page COPH



_____COPH_____

High heaven has the best special effects,
Software and hardware, the best graphics.
What about the Toad God? Who is this?

He isn't one of the major deities.
In fact, until this message was received
I'd never heard word of a toad god,
An odd lapse in my High Priest training.
Watch your step, Jonah, you could break your neck
On all those shell casings underfoot.

What is the Toad doing in the photo,
The naked one, not the enchilada?
I asked the priest, as casually as I could.

He was kissing the nude Queen of Nineveh.
And no blackmailer could have located
A camera angle that would reveal more
Of either the woman or her paramour.
The Toad was so fat, his flesh so slack,
His long, flickering tongue so fly-specked,
And his amphibious kiss so sloppy liquid
That this single act was more prodigious,
More clearly reprehensible a feat
On the part of the woman Semiramis
Than Messalina's famed copulation
With Caesar's legions, cohort by cohort,
Six hundred sweating soldiers at a time.
And by this kiss did the Toad God change
If not indeed into a blooded prince,
Then to a pretender to a prince's throne,
For it's thus the lovers sealed their bargain
To become regicides, to kill Ninus,
To elevate the Toad God to his place,
To empty his gold into the Queen's purse.
Or so the photo caption informed us.

Here is my plan, said Toad to the Queen,
His calloused toes stroking silken flanks,
We will poison your husband, Ninus the King,
Tomorrow at his breakfast, seize the throne,
Introduce stringent wage and price controls,
And then live happily ever after,
Semiramis in wealth, Toad in power.

Why poison Ninus? said Semiramis.
Why not overpower him with platoons
Of crack barbarian mercenaries
Armed with semi-automatic weapons,
Grenades, land mines, and cavalry sabers?
Why not send in Praetorian Guards
With their bayonet-mounted muskets?
Or, failing that, a few crack ninjas
Could stealthily emerge from behind curtains,
Leap across the room, bound off the walls,
And batter him to death with a quick series,
Mystically guided and choreographed,
Of those martial arts hand and foot strikes.

You're far too direct, Semiramis.
I have my reputation to consider.
Am I not, my Queen, a dark eminence?
Poison is more my style; a subterfuge
Will always serve you better than brute force,
And it's more expedient in this case.
There are knee-jerk liberals hereabouts
Who, hearing of bloodshed, would oppose us
With flimsy pretexts and absurd ideals,
Citing constitutional rule of law.
Much as I'd enjoy a fight with such scum,
I'd rather the succession was unquestioned.
With poison we can claim, even truthfully,
Ninus died of severe indigestion.

But no one's going to believe that tale.



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