Since I know a thing or two, I explained,
About correcting the ills of this world,
I had a few words with the poor machine.
It's working now, better now than ever.

She looked a bit confused, but did not object
Or hinder my passage toward the chamber
In which Quintus conducts his interviews.

What about the arm, said Marguerite,
That you left behind in that broom closet?

It had already forgotten me, I replied,
As foetus, once expelled, forgets its womb
And the turd its transformative intestine.
So too will a thought abandon body
And the ache of the pose it was forced to hold
During its afflicted sojourn in flesh
And the travailed departure therefrom.
Remember, if you can, the dearly departed;
However well-disposed they once did seem,
They now don't give a damn about us.
It was much, I believe, the same with my arm.
There, in the warm darkness of that closet,
It pursued a separate putrefaction.

As I entered the King's central chamber
A workman was wheeling out a dolly
To which was strapped a large, bulky slot,
One of the video tarot machines.

What's that? I asked the man pushing it.

The last applicant to be State Oracle,
He replied, struggling to angle the dolly.

I saw that one panel was quite dented
As though a forceful blow had landed there.
A door was ajar, exposing an interior
On which I chose not to train scrutiny.
Curative sight of such proven power
Must sometimes blink, and even doctors,
Though bound by youth's Hippocratic oath
And moved by pity when pain meters jump,
Will oft withhold oxygen from monsters
Or pull the plug on a braindead loser.
Nor did I speak at all to this machine,
And I suppressed an urge to kick it myself.
It would seem to some, I thought, ungracious.
And restraint, too, was required not to yank
That stray wire harness that dangled out.
Instead, polite, pleasant in tone, I said,
I gather it was unable to perform,
That it produced no jackpot on demand,
That the Oracle job still stands open.

King Quintus judged it unfit for the post,
Said the man as he sought the right balance,
Tipped it forward and back, missing the point.
It didn't show the King proper respect.
He put in one of the newly minted coins,
One of the coins he'd struck with his own face,
Hit the spin button, and the damn machine
Spat the coin right back out at the King.

Minor bad timing, major bad luck.
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's
Isn't always best if a Caesar wants more.

He wheeled the tarot machine out the door,
And I proceeded further into the room.
This place was blessed. It was air-conditioned.
Quintus himself was there, in uniform
That bore an Air Marshal's insignia.
He was seated at a desk, reading papers.
A black leather motorcycle jacket
Of Persian cut was draped over his chair,
And a large hound was curled up nearby.
That hound, unlike everyone else
I'd met within this town, didn't hum.

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