Maine lawmakers were making reading recommendations to one another the other day. This was meant to be escapist reading, novel ideas tossed off to cut the tedium of having to wade through the language of legislative bills. Substantive books which yet carried one along without having to think about the words that conveyed the story. It was the kind of reading one does at camp in summer or at the beach, maybe beside the woodstove or fireplace in winter. With something good to drink, your feet propped up.
Some read thrillers, cozy mysteries, or horror — the last very germane to the State of Maine and guaranteed to keep the reader awake and distracted from legislative business no matter what. A few were big on Tolkien, one of the great fathers of fantastic escapist literature. And that’s how it came about that some lawmakers agreed one evening to read a short work by the maker of Middle-earth and discuss it the next morning over coffee before the vote on recommendations for that particularly knotty piece of legislation.
This was part of a bill, provoked by attention brought through the eviction of an old couple, causing them to lose all the equity in their home on Lovejoy Pond. Other oldsters in the State had also legally lost homes and equity through foreclosure in failure to pay property taxes. You can see the issue of fairness coming into play in getting the language just right. And how it might be very troublesome.
So these Tolkien fans settled on reading “Leaf by Niggle” — something short and fun to discuss before the job of parsing this language.
But the next morning no one wanted to talk about the story! All had been anticipating a fun read and discussion, but now there was silence around the table. Two legislators did not show up for the chat and others sat there, hardly lifting a gaze, turning coffee mugs, or looking the other way. Light coming through the window was gloomy.
Finally one stalwart, looked at the others and said, “So what did you think?… It wasn’t exactly what I expected. Pretty visual images, but….”
“Seems like it was just a bunch of dithering to me. I couldn’t even finish it.”
“Me neither,” said a third. “I have the story in a print book, a collection, and I actually fell asleep with the book on my lap. .”
They all stared. “You did?!” A couple people exclaimed at the same time. Another said, hesitantly, “Did, um, did you dream anything special last night…. Because I did. Right where I sat in the condo over there.” She gave a vague gesture in that direction out the window. It was a bit dim from the overcast and buildings across from where they sat over coffee.
… “Was it… a nightmare?…”
“As though I was reading Stephen King instead of Tolkien, I’ll tell you that!”
“Fortunately there was no blood in it, no graphic violence or anything.” All looked surprised at this lawmaker, who would not spoken until now. That fit with their own experience. Then they were silent again.
“Okay,” said another man at last. “I’m going to tell you my dream. Compare it with your dreams and tell me what you think. Okay?”
There were nods from the group around the table. No one was drinking coffee. Some hands were still. Others continued restive, turning the cups.
“First, I should say I finished the whole story.”
“I did too,” another confessed.
“Me too.” This was said by one with a grave look, almost beseeching.
“The story might seem to end well (after a lot of bother), but.” This was the man who brought the whole thing up, prompting the creepiness to spill out he around the table.
“Maybe for the title character!”
“Dithering when he was supposed to be helping his neighbor. And then he did help his neighbor at unexpected great cost to himself… — seems it turned out to be no earthly good reason for it.”
“Forget the story! What was your dream!?” said the more impatient lawmaker.
Will Not say this “is” satire because I don’t yet know what the meaning of is is. I will just call it story, a parable. I know what story er is. But it’s rough and unfinished. Typo and VRS errors may abound. (Am sick at the moment.)
See unfair for a real world situation.