Liber Jonae CAPUT EIGHT Page RES


Quintus turned to Mr. Toad and said,
And now it's tea time - and he left the room.

While Quintus is gone, said the Toad to me,
There's a matter or two we might discuss.
I know you're keen to see the torture start,
So I'll make this pitch as brief as I can.
Give back my chip and I'll let you go.
And don't pretend that you don't understand.
I mean that object you stole back at the bar.
A surveillance photograph caught your act.
You've since lost the hand that palmed that chip.
I hope, for sake of all your other limbs,
You haven't lost the stolen chip itself.

That's yours? I said. But what does it do?

Long ago I obfuscated my code
So that none will know how the game's played.
I wrote out an end that sees Toad win,
Destiny in binary cuneiform,
And inscribed my program onto the chip.
A game of chance goes better for betters
If all chance is gone, if futures are fixed.
When nine becomes five, payoffs increase.
Replace nine by five and oracles speak.
If the nines are fives, I know what they'll say.

Good luck, then, I said, tossing the chip.
Numbers, so often, get out of hand.

Toad looked at me with bold, bulbous intent.
So, friend Zu, your plan is dead, he said.
Nineveh will stay mine until the end,
Until Nabupolassar marches north
And leads armed Medes up from Babylon.
Go back to the depths and forget revenge.
No, don't get up. We'll throw you out.

But listen, Toad, I said, to what I say.
You take the near future, I'll take the far,
I'll take it far away, far as it goes.
My recent past has trumped your long ago,
And truth is more than what you now observe,
The odds perhaps worse than what you've supposed.
Any prophet, it's true, can make mistakes,
Like that time that Mahomet's trenchtool
Struck not once, but thrice, a power line,
But still, on whole, we normally score high.
And don't think, Toad, that you tote the score.
Labcoats stand among us, taking notes
On which of us weighs most, the next to go.
They don't note they too stand in feedlots,
That they too have now grown fat enough
To pass along to where the throats are slit.
The point? Let me dwindle it down to this:
A refurbished machine may well cheat fate,
But I'd hammer out those dents it took,
Make way for new in new interviews.

What's that he called you? said Marguerite.

Zu, I said. It's myth, a fabulous beast.
Toads are not noted for keen eyesight.

Yes, that's the thing that marked your rooftile.
It sounds to me, parrot, you already knew
The machine Armand's chip was meant to fit,
The chip you asked about, awhile ago.

I hoped my near-sighted foe couldn't see
What I'm forced, after the fact, to admit:
I knew nothing of what I talked about.

But that's common, she said, for know-it-alls.

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