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Printed Woman Deleted Scene

December 19 2018
December 19 2018

Every author has heard that the story usually starts with the second chapter, and they are advised to delete the first chapter. I did that with Printed Woman. Here is the original Chapter One.

 

“Assume everything is a lie.”

The professor pointed to the hologram displaying an outline of the history of philosophy for the past five thousand years. The black robe of an instructor billowed as he moved.

“That was the view of the thinkers of the third millennium. But what’s wrong with that notion?”

None of the forty students moved. He scanned the room to find only blank looks or the tops of heads, as some of them pretended to be looking at something on their desks. He would need to use the Socratic method. He knew which students would know, and which had no idea what he was talking about. After a renaissance in education during the past hundred years, things were cycling back toward dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.

He chose a boy he knew struggled with the material. Why not beef up the lad’s self-esteem?

“Mr. Islay, what do you think? What’s the problem with that statement?”

The boy stood, as required when called on by the instructor. (At least there was still discipline in school.) He wore the tight, dark green jacket and black trousers of the military class. Short, copper-colored hair glistened under the harsh lights of the classroom. “The statement says to assume that everything is a lie.”

The room had grown silent as the other students peered at him, apparently expecting a dull answer.

“And?”

“That leaves open the possibility that something may not be a lie.”

“Go on.”

“It should simply say: Everything is a lie.”

Claudius Germanicus stood with his pointing stick to his side. “And to whom may can we attribute that idea?”

Islay stood erect, his fingertips resting on the desk in front of him. “Gaius Flavius Andronicus, the Plantagenet Prelate.”

Claudius strolled into the aisle amongst the students. Their gazes followed him. “But, Mr. Islay, what if everything is a lie?”

Islay locked his hands behind his back. “Even the telling of a lie is a lie.”

“And what is a lie, the telling of which is a lie?”

Islay held his head high. “It becomes the truth.”

Claudius nodded and smiled. “You may sit.”

#

Claudius hung his robe on a hook on the back of the door to his study, sat behind his desk, and began to make notes with a pen and paper. He had been working on a treatise for a few years. Although he could dictate to the computer, he preferred this more silent method of writing. Also, writing by hand encouraged economy of words, and other ears could not hear his thoughts. The present regime was not as oppressive as some of those in the past, but it was prudent to keep one’s thoughts quiet. Political circumstances could change at any time.

Someone knocked on the door. He slid his notes into a drawer.

“Come in.”

A young woman from the class he had just finished entered. The heads-up display before him identified her. He recognized the woman, so he turned it off. Ursula.

“Is this a good time?” she asked.

“Of course, please sit down.” He indicated one of the two chairs in front of his desk. “What can I do for you?”

Her youthfulness shone like a holy light, contrasting with the worn-out and tired face that looked back at him in the mirror. It was astounding what a hundred and twenty-five years did to a man.

She considered him with stern, intelligent eyes that looked out from a face the color of porcelain. “I wanted to ask you about everything being a lie.”

“All right.”

“It’s bullshit, isn’t it?”

The forwardness of the question startled him. This was not a political environment in which one called the sayings of the Plantagenet Prelate bullshit. Maybe it was a trap, or a test. He had to be careful. Either this youthful creature did not understand the political situation, did not care or, as is too often the case with the young, thought that by confronting the government they could change it. Would the administration test him by sending a student into his office to boldly declare that one of the basic tenants of this regime was bullshit? Nothing more subtle? Why would he be tested? No matter; they didn’t need a reason. No, the question was as direct as it was subversive. It must be genuine.

On a scrap of paper he wrote, “Yes, of course,” and slid it across his desk for her to read, then pulled it back for destruction. He said, “No, it’s a quote from the Prelate. How can it be bullshit, as you so colorfully put it?”

“Because it doesn’t make any fucking sense.”

Where did these people learn to speak?

“Let me clarify it for you,” he said. “Have you taken any mathematics courses?”

“Yes, of course.”

He leaned back in his chair. “You are familiar, then, with negative numbers.”

“Yes.”

“What is the negative of a negative?”

She frowned. “A positive.”

“There you are. It’s the same thing.”

She took a pen from the cup on his desk. He handed her a scrap of paper. As she wrote he considered her hair, shaved to the scalp all around her head, leaving a carpet of purple at the crown.

She slid the paper to him. On it she had written, “But what can we do about it?”

And then she said, “I see. Thank you.”

He wrote, “Nothing” on the paper, and said, “Any time, that’s what I’m here for.”

She wrote, “Another time,” and said, “Have a nice evening professor. Great lecture, by the way.”

“Thank you. Please close the door on your way out.”

She left, and he destroyed the paper.

Back to Printed Woman Page


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