the cabbage leaves, which are strangely soft, like animal fur. The
crowd lets loose an appreciative aaaah and he continues to
stroke the leaves, remembering back to when he was a child and could
still live in the night, lying on the wet grass of the park, seeing
a flower-like shape in the darkness and grabbing hold of it only to
discover that his fingers were locked around a thistle, and in the
instant before the pain hit he could feel the needles biting into
his flesh, and the sensation had a peculiar friendliness to it.
Every so often he receives a request from one of his benefactors,
or a friend of a benefactor. The pleasure of a visit … a dying
patient … the opening of a new school … consult with us on our nation's
natural energy program … All requests are basically the same:
come to us, be with us, educate us, bathe us in your glow.
It is a difficult high-wire act, being able to placate his supporters
without fulfilling any of their wishes. Usually a thoughtful response
cobbled together from respectable sources - scientific journals, self-help
books, political foundation reports, health magazines - suffices.
Throw together a few interesting words, mention the value of the sun,
bingo, instant wisdom. It is a game really, the equivalent of the
sudoku or crossword games he sees so many travelers busy themselves
with. He retains none of it, for his mind is never settled enough
for osmosis to occur. Always his thoughts drift to the next destination,
the next street to visit, the latest happening to jot down. Calculations
of public policy and faraway human misery do not register.
Has it come to this? Does he only trust what he sees before him with
his own eyes? Sometimes an impassioned letter will be forwarded to
him, another wayward soul