Paying for It | Laurence Davies

        Today I had a letter from a charlatan styling himself Seraphic Doctor Mazda Zend-Avelius. The mail arrives along my little street in Plymouth around nine thirty. I like to read it as I sip my coffee, cream and two brown sugars, glancing up from time to time to watch the sun dazzle the waves. Zend-Avelius poses two questions and a proposition. Do I suffer from bad, from catastrophic dreams?  Then don’t I want to be relieved of them?  As thousands of my sort have found, he can annul these fearful nightmares. (And make them, too, he hints, perhaps warning against doubt or overdue accounts.)  To what sort I belong he does not specify, but it is the sort, apparently, willing to trust the Doctor with two-hundred-and-seventy-five dollars for a cure.
	His letterhead is striking: no street address or phone, but the number of the P. O. Box in Chelsea where sufferers must send their cash, and beneath that the silhouette of a man poised at a triple-manual organ, the whole surrounded by an oval loop of dark red words -- ‘Is this the organ of my dreams or yours?’
	I need no organ for my dreams -- no opium, no stars, no holy crystals. Here’s what  I have seen, here’s what I know will happen, here is what will come to Boston.
	Launches weighted down with canvas, cheese, and kerosene sputter between the red-brick canyon walls of Marlborough Street; dredgers work Columbus Avenue; punts bob across Summer, Washington, and Winter; a yawl moors halfway up Savin Hill; Watertown, where the dispossessed who eat their lahmejoun with pomegranate paste and bitter olives hanker for Ararat -- Watertown is Water Town. Boston is Venice.
	Over the Federal Reserve, a scarlet, circled A roars in the sky. A hecatomb of melted Saabs and Volvos marks where Wellesley shopped. Blue, and red, and saffron, curtains in Somerville and Medford flap like empty academic robes. Wrenched from the State House dome, tailless, eyes pounded flat, the golden cod lies twisted on the Common grass. The sound of Newbury is windows falling. Axes have smashed the lamps of Copley Square, have shredded Athenaeum catalogs, have chopped oak panels into biscuit-wood. Pay Day has dawned in Boston.
	Could Zend-Avelius – beg his pardon -- Seraphic Doctor Mazda Zend-Avelius, rival that?  Does he think he can silence these echoes of the coming fury with some brassy diapason or a trepidating vox humana?
	The sanitary cordon is complete, unbreachable. From Mother Church the saddest of bass bells tolls every sixty heartbeats; before slinking into the streets with charms and stomach-curling potions, anxious quacks and spielers drench themselves with vinegar; quivering Buddhists spin their prayer-wheels; New Agers clutch their crystals till they shatter; sexless in their pointed cowls, bare-backed penitents lash themselves with roses from the Public Gardens; incense blinds the South End air; doctors in Mass General palpitate their own, their threatened groins; green, and bronze, and black, and blue, flies buzz about the triple decks of Roxbury; bare to the hips, bramble-haired and raven-eyed, a preacher castigates the vanquished multitudes of Harvard Square; the wailing rises to the sweaty sky, waa-ah-oh, waa-oh-oh, waa-ah-ah-oh; the pits of Roslindale are choking; lime smothers all. Boston is become a city of the plague.
	He does not know my sort at all. Pay to lose the exhilaration of the spectacle, the beauty of the rightened balance, the splendor of conclusion?  How dare he question my just pleasures?  How dare he call salvific revelations bad?  It’s time he knew his audience, time he watched his language: if he’s not very, very careful, he’ll be howling in the bonfire too. Here, from Plymouth, I can see the city burn. 
	Black and grey with scarlet hearts, cinders hail down on Beacon Hill, gusts of flame sear the freight-yards and factories of Allston, inky, sulfurous smoke gags the windpipes of Revere, fire sucks the wonder out of Wonderland, dragons have charred Prudential Center. Boston is Sodom, Boston is Gomorrah, Boston is gone.   
	No doubt of this, he has shown himself a wicked man, a man who traffics in the misery of deracinated souls. Yet such is the kindly work of providence, this spiritual midget has a perch to call his own. Back to it, back to the organ bench, where he may still do some good. Let his hypnopedic melodies play on until  his death or Doomsday, but let those melodies be requiems, be dirges.

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