Onward, Anti-Christian Soldiers!
A. F. Christian meets the midget in the red cape.


Mary Eberstadt

It was the freakiest moment ever! Because it seemed like it took forever and at the same time was over in a second, do You know what I mean? And I asked the attendant could I come back again and see the baby tomorrow, and he/she/it said I don’t know, it depends on what the Director says about where you’re going next. And I said I don’t care if I stay here forever as long as I can see her, because that’s how I felt.

But after a while the gray thingy laid a hand on my shoulder, and I understood without its saying anything that I had to put the baby back. I must have been crying like it was raining in there, because I could feel that my whole face was soaking salty. Still in we went to the midget Director’s office anyway, and the attendant sort of swooshed me into a chair next to him and left.

The first thing the midget did, and it really surprised me, was to take the silky edge of his red cape and wipe the wet crap off my face. Then he told me not to be scared of anything, including him, and that he doesn’t always look the way he does right now. He said that because of all the babies in this place, he makes himself into a midget when he’s visiting them so he’s more like their size and their level. He says he can do that with whoever is around if he wants to, put himself into whatever shape they need. Like apparently he can speak any language he wants, too, and change himself however he wants to make people comfortable.

I know! I told you! How crazy was that — and just for starters! Sure, there’s this midget who’s got my life in his hands, drying my eyes with the hem of his red cape and telling me he’s like some kind of alpha Animorph! Like I said, I wouldn’t have believed any of it either two hours ago. But it’s all true, and there’s even more.

He asked me if I knew where I was, and I said sure, some kind of super-secure rehab. Then he asked if I’d ever read Dante, and I was kind of taken aback. I mean it seemed so random! Now it’s true that I’d read plenty of the Loser’s apologists and quoted them to you guys, back when I was thought-stalking all their books in the effort to improve on your new atheism. But Dante just seemed so 14th century I didn’t think he even counted, know what I mean? I had the feeling the midget knew the answer already, but for some reason he wanted to hear it from me. Anyway I told him no, I hadn’t read Dante, and the midget just sort of nodded his head for a minute, then sat down close to me and took down his hood.

And that was like the freakiest thing of all, because I still couldn’t see his face! In fact I couldn’t see anything at all — just light, light, and more light, in every direction I tried. But it wasn’t light like we usually experience it; it felt liquid; only it wasn’t exactly liquid either, because I could even breathe it too. It felt like the most wonderful thing that ever had gotten into my lungs (and in my case you know, that’s saying a lot!) Then the midget started to talk again, and this time when he talked it was just like when I was holding H.D. — I just wanted it to go on, and on, and never, ever come to a stop.

You see, A.F., he said, this place you’re calling rehab is kind of like House. You like House, my dear, isn’t that right? And just like on the show, there are a bunch of really smart helpers in here — I call them the Messengers, though there are other names for them — and one of their main jobs is diagnosing the patients who come in.

Now the Messengers aren’t perfect, the midget continued — and here he gave some weird little snort — and as a matter of fact, between you and me, A.F., some of them can be pretty obnoxious. But they are quite knowledgeable about what goes on inside a person — far more knowledgeable than any of the patients here can be themselves.

And just as House’s job on the show is to let his posse take the first crack at diagnosing everyone who comes in — because that’s the only way they’ll ever learn to get better at it — that’s how it is with me and my posse, too, the midget continued. The Messengers go as far as they can and no farther. That’s where I come in, just like House always does eventually — to explain what they’ve done right or wrong, and to figure out what the patient needs next.

That’s what happened in here in your case, the midget explained. You showed up unexpectedly, and the Messengers had to decide what to do with you. And the most important things they had to figure out were, did you feel remorse about what happened with H.D.? And did you really mean to check out for good that last night in Portland when you took all those drugs? Because everything about what treatment you get next depends on those two things.

As it turned out from the rest of what he told me, the Messengers had quite a fight over my case! (I told you I didn’t like some of those fey buggy two-faced little Kabuki posers!!) And some of them said no, I didn’t mean to leave Portland for good, and others said yes I did. Just like some of them said I didn’t feel remorse about Mom and H.D., and some of them said yes I did too. So they talked it all over and finally took votes, and both times around the ones who were wrong won.

That’s why they gave me the Rosetta Stone German, the midget explained. It’s because there are only two places where people can go from here, and in one of them — called Stalag Eins — that’s the only language anybody is allowed to speak. And it was shortly after they did that that the midget stepped in. He suggested there was a better way for the Messengers to figure out what the truth was than taking votes on it. He said that if I wrote out all these Letters to you, they’d all be able to see exactly what I was thinking at the times in question. He said that after reading the first half of today’s Letter — which apparently they did while I was holding that baby — they took another vote; and this time around, even the creepy sneaky metro backstabbing Messengers (my words, not the midget’s) were unanimous about where I go next.

Holy crap guys — I can’t believe the midget watches House! Can you? But he sure seemed to know everything about it. He knows about lots of other random things too, as it turned out. He loves Johnny Cash, for instance. And guess what — I even asked him about the red cape and where he got it from! He gave a little laugh about that — he said nobody ever asked him before — and told me it was actually quite new. He saw one like it in a shop window in Rome that he liked, so he told some Polish friend of his named Karol. And when the Polish guy checked in here a couple years ago, he brought a red cape just like that with him for the midget! How cool is that?!

Oh, and speaking of Italy, how cool is this: The Director also told me that where I’m going next — someplace called La Terza Sfera, which he says is as far away from Stalag Eins as it’s possible to get — they also only speak one language! And guess what: it’s Italian! He gave me the Rosetta Stone kit for that, instead, as a good-bye present. Isn’t that AWESOME?

You say it’s all absurd, I know. And it is! But compared to what? The idea that the chronological line from the lungfish, say, to a Bach sonata is somehow straight and self-evident? That a Shakespearean play really is just a matter of mathematical inevitability? That H.D. really was just a blob of cells? Or that the feeling that only grows in every man and woman as they get older, according to which their loves are infinite even as their time is increasingly finite, actually signifies nothing, nothing, nothing — nothing at all–despite the fact that something deep down inside almost everybody says otherwise?

If it’s any consolation though, I really did enjoy writing those Letters to you all! I don’t need them any more I guess, so they’re yours to keep. Feel free to put them in the paperback editions of your books, everybody!

BTW, the Director also said that Mom and I — Mom! — could come here and get H.D. and take her back to our place for a tea party any time we wanted to. He said we could have real cake, too, this time, because in La Terza Sfera they don’t serve any crappy Little Debbie cookies. In fact he said it would be the best cake I’ve ever tasted. And after everything I’ve seen, I believe Him.

No longer yours! Ciao ciao ragazzi (guys)!
A Christian

P.S. Even if we aren’t BFF’s anymore, could you guys do me one little favor? I mean seriously, nobody’s spent more time on your books than I have, and it’s just a tiny thing!

If you see Lobo around anywhere, could you please tell him for me to stay away from his friend at the Internet café who gives him all those supposedly hot books and ideas? Because the Director told me he knows that guy, too. It turns out he’s only moonlighting there in Portland, you know. His real job is running Stalag Eins. How seriously stalking creeptastical not good is that?!