Saving Steps

January 09, 1995|By ANDREI CODRESCU

New Orleans -- This guy was partaking of eggs Sardou on the porch at the Columns and as I went past him, he went, psssttt.

I unwillingly sidled over and he beckoned me sit. He was a trim type with a mission: ''Listen,'' he rasped, ''can't we skip a few steps and have a nice world?''

''Sure,'' I said, ''but everyone can't live on eggs Sardou and ponder such questions. Some of us have to work, you know.''

''OK,'' he said, ''but look at it this way. This guy in Florida kills a gynecologist so he won't kill babies and now we want to kill him for killing the gynecologist for killing. Couldn't we skip a couple of steps here so that nobody'd get killed?''

''Sure,'' I said, ''but that's called reason, and we've run out of that stuff in this country eons ago. Besides, Florida didn't kill him, just put him away for two lifetimes, whatever that means.''

But the stranger was relentless. ''And think of this law that just passed in the West somewhere that requires prisoners to work at jobs to pay for their upkeep. They'll be competing with free people for scarce jobs so that those people will now have to commit crimes that will land them in jail where they'll have to work to pay for their upkeep. Couldn't we skip a couple of steps here and just give people jobs in the first place?''

I agreed that we could, and I was about to skip a few steps out of there myself, when he grabbed my arm:

''And how about that minister who was so afraid of the Brady Law he bought a whole lot of guns and then shot himself dead at dinner while showing his family how to use guns safely? Couldn't he have skipped a couple of steps here?''

''In this case,'' I said, ''he couldn't have. If he hadn't shot himself at dinner in front of his family we wouldn't have known that God was against guns.''

''I don't understand,'' my interlocutor said, ''didn't you skip a couple of steps here?''

''I'm sure I did,'' I said, ''but I'm late for a training seminar in living with the absurd and, 'sides, your eggs Sardou are getting cold.''

''And how about the guy who shot at the White House and got arrested, and then Jesse Helms threatened the president and barely apologized? Couldn't we have skipped . . .''

Maybe, but I never heard the rest.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of ''Exquisite Corpse.''

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