A fractured view of most of the 20th Century, viewed through the dying eyes of Brian
Loftus, who has been Consultant to every president fro Roosevelt to Clinton.
Barnes & Noble.com
During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Brian Loftus,
lifetime Chairman and CEO of Crown Industries and Consultant to The President,
suffers a stroke, which sends him on a wild chase in search of his identity, a chase
which takes him into the "realities" of his life in the halls of Power; a chase distorted
by folk lore and phantasms conjured up by the evasions employed by those in seats
of power that have unsuspected limits.
The personal cost of those evasions has led Brian to an unadmitted isolation from
the wife he has loved from the first moment he saw her; an isolation that has cost
her as much as it has him. As he runs from the phantoms of his past, a still-born
son, a dance macabre with another son burnt to death in Vietnam, and the ghosts
of misapplied atomic tests, he becomes aware at last of the mission that he is now
on: acceptance of his end, an acceptance that contains in it, a kind of redemption.
- 1 -
He floated up through the dark to a vast gray inner-space.
Where am I? I'm on my back. The surface under me feels hard. In bed? If so, where?
On one side of him he could hear machine sounds: Am I in a hospital?
He dismissed that thought and its corollary, that if he were in a hospital, something
bad must have happened to him, and thought it prudent not to attempt to open his
eyes to find out just yet, preferring to see himself in his mind's eye as a song-and-dance
man. This was the way he had experienced significant occasions ever since his fifth
birthday, when his father had taken him to his first vaudeville show.
The songs he performed in his mind on such occasions - as a boy, at confrontations
with his father or the school principal; when he was grown, at Board Meetings, the
White House Oval Office, Congressional Hearings, and Disarmament Conferences -
were sometimes ironic, sometimes straight, new-minted or parodies of well known
pieces. They played parallel with the actual event, and most of his life's memories
were a compound of the two versions. Now, from somewhere below his mind's line
of sight, flashing on and off like letters on an electronic billboard, he saw words from
a family precept: 'Smile' and 'Adversity'. The complete saying might have been,
"Smile as you face adversity," but his alter-ego - a never-aging soft shoe man in
striped blazer, white flannels, straw hat and cane - took off on just those two words,
to a bouncy 1920s style tune:
"Ev'rybod-y loves a Lov-er and they love a Smile-er, too!
So whenever skies are gray-hay here's the thinggg to dooo
If you've lost an ear - you've got one left, you hear
So Smile, Smile, Smile!
If you've lost a leg don't stand around and beg
Just Smile, Smile, Smile!
The world is not a gloomy place, it only looks that way
Things are better when you smile, that's what wise men say
So if you're out of luck, say I don't give a fuck
And Smile, Smile, Smile!"
Ghostly applause echoed about his ears and revived the uneasy sense that
something bad had happened to him: