Title: Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 2a
Authors: Erynn & Sally
Email: inisglas@seanet.com, sallyh@flashcom.net
Archive: Ephemeral, Gossamer, LGM, FLO, all others ask first so we know where we're being kept.
Rated: R for grownup stuff
Spoilers: We assume you've seen the series
Category: Gunmen -- angst, humor, a little romance
Summary: Sometimes words are more important in our lives than we think.

Stories in the Things Undone series:

Things Undone, by Erynn; a 5-part story wherein the Gunmen deal with some unfinished business.
TU 2: Mending the Tears, by Sally; a 6-part story wherein Fro and Langly go to the ER.
TU 3: To Carry On, by Erynn; wherein the Gunmen begin to deal with the repercussions of their adventure.

Disclaimers: We don't own the boys, but we sure wish we did. They and the other characters from the series are owned instead by The Powers That Be at Fox and 1013, the boys were created by Morgan & Wong, and they're all controlled by the folks at The X Files and The Lone Gunmen series. Other characters are ours, some of whom are blatantly based on people we know, frequently at their request. Don't blame us, we're being coerced. Quotes from Rimbaud are used without permission. Deepest thanks to Mel, our Tech Consultant Queen and resident cartoonist.


"Poetic old-fashionedness figured largely in my alchemy of the word."

~~Rimbaud -- "A Season in Hell"~~

MARCH 4, 2000

When I arrive at the Soylent Bean, there are maybe five customers in the bookshop, and the small cafe is almost to capacity with the brunch crowd. I browse for a while, picking up a used Chomsky title, and stake myself out a table for the reading, which should be commencing shortly. The MC has already passed around the open mike signup, and has been talking to what I presume are the two featured poets. One is a guy in his twenties, who looks like he's one of those radical Marxist college student political poets. He probably won't be too interesting; strident is more likely. The other is a woman about my age, dressed casually but with a certain elegance. I can't quite peg her for type, but I'm betting she's a professional of some sort.  An attorney, maybe? She has a businesslike air about her, and a natural charisma. I wonder what her poetic style is. God, I hope it's not sappy love sonnets. I really don't need any of those this afternoon. I can't stand sappy to begin with, and love sonnets are not likely to improve my mood in the least. Fortunately, she doesn't really look the type. No frills and lace that I can see.

The reading starts with the two I'd observed, and runs through a short selection from the open mike list. Nothing particularly special, although the woman, who was introduced as Sari Thomas, seems to be a rather better poet and reader than I would have expected at a tiny place like this. As the reading goes on, the contrast between her work and the rest of the readers becomes more and more obvious. She has talent and is good with a crowd, and she's hooked most of the audience, including me. Her poems don't stick to one genre; some are formal, some free verse, and she moves from subject to subject with grace, giving interesting introductions to her works. They range from the personal and introspective to the comic and in one or two she ventures into sensual, almost erotic territory. Her overall effect leaves me with a very satisfied feeling, and I'm glad I've come.

At the break, the MC announces that some of the poets have chapbooks for sale, and I note that Ms. Thomas is one of them. I like what I've heard so far, and I'm interested enough to want to see a little more of her work, so
I head over to check out her stuff.

She's signing a book for a customer when I get there, with a pleasant, genuine smile. It looks like she has more than a chapbook or two out. In fact, there are three books and five chapbooks on the table with her name on them. Rather more prolific than I'd expected for such a small venue, too.  The back cover bio says that she's from Portland, Oregon originally, and splits her time between Portland and DC. Educated at Reed and Antioch, very tough independent schools with excellent reputations, earning a BS in Environmental Studies and an MFA in Poetry. She's been published in a lot of the big literary journals, and has also won a few impressive literary awards, including a Pushcart prize. Overall, a fine curriculum vitae. It surprises me that I hadn't run across her work before. I'm flipping through a collection titled 'The Nature of Dreams' when she turns to me.

"Hi. That's my newest book," she says. "It has some of my favorite material in it. I read a few sections from the title poem before the break." I look up at her. She's smiling at me now, her lively dark eyes alight, seemingly happy to see me, although I know we've never met. If she notices that I forgot to shave today, or that my suit is wrinkled, she doesn't mention it.

"So I see," I reply, as I had opened the book to the poem in question and recognized some of what she'd been reading. "I'm... I'm really enjoying your reading, Ms. Thomas."

"Thank you! Oh, and call me Sari. I don't stand much on formality. What's your name?"

She asks with genuine interest. I don't get the impression that it's an author's act so she can sign the book when I buy it. And I do intend to buy it. "John," I answer. "But what's a poet with your obvious talent doing reading at a little hole in the wall like this?"

She colors with a bit of a blush. "Harry, the owner, has been a friend of mine since I started coming to DC. I always come by to read here when I have some time. He's been such a wonderful encouragement to me over the years." She smiles and waves to Harry, behind the cash register across from the table where we're standing. The elderly man waves back and smiles a lopsided grin at her. "And thanks for your kind comments about my work. I really enjoy meeting the people who read my books. I take it this is the first time you've come across my poetry?"

"Yeah. I wasn't in the mood to join my friends at their date with a big screen basketball game tonight, so I came here instead."

"Ah, a man of distinction." She winks. "I'm not a sports fan myself. There are a lot more important things in the world than watching a bunch of sweaty jocks playing with a ball." Well, she certainly has a point there. "Chomsky?" she asks. She's looking at the book under my arm. "Interesting political thought, very admirable in fact, but I can't say I agree with his linguistics theories. I just can't buy the whole deep structure grammar argument." She adjusts her glasses, pushing them back up her nose with a forefinger.

"You know Chomsky?" Most people, even here in Washington, aren't too familiar with him. He's been one of my heroes for years.

"Well, I met him once at a protest march, but I can't say I know him. I am an admirer of his work, though."

"Oh, by the way, I'd like to buy this." I hand her the volume of her poetry and some cash. "I didn't mean did you know him personally, I was just asking about your familiarity with his work. Apparently you're better acquainted with the material than most people."

She took my money and signed the book for me, then said "Yeah, I'm interested in him both as a political philosopher and a linguist." She takes money and signs books for other people as she talks. "His take on the media and governmental control over information is much more on target than most people want to admit. I have a day job as a lobbyist, and let me tell you, the amount of graft, corruption, information suppression and willful ignorance I see every day in the house and the senate would boggle the minds of most Americans."

"Who do you lobby for?" I ask. We seem to be of at least superficially like mind, and I have to wonder who she's working for.

"Sierra Club on my professional time. Other environmental and human rights organizations on my own." She sells and signs another book. "What do you do?"

That's always been an iffy question for me. If I tell her I'm a journalist, she'll want to know who I write for, and while she might be the sort to be interested in some of our more serious work, I don't feel comfortable talking about it here. I can't exactly say that I'm a hacker, either, although that's the largest part of the truth. Telling her I'm an intelligence analyst might fly, but somehow I think she'd misinterpret it and figure I work for the military or the CIA , or something equally distasteful. I opt for the most acceptable of the public truths. "I do computer design, software, and security consulting."

She fixes her eyes on me. "Oh, really? Do you have a card?"

"I... um..." I fish around in my wallet to see if I'm carrying any today. "Yes, actually. Here." I hand her the card and she looks at it.

"John F. Byers, Aegis Consulting, eh? You know, just by coincidence, I'm looking for somebody to do some work for me."

"What kind of work?"

"I... oh..." She looks up.

The MC stands hovering over her shoulder and says, "We're starting in about a minute. Time to wrap things up here."

"I can't talk now," she says to me. "I have to get back to the reading."

"Look, Sari... can I, ah... buy you a latte or something after you're done?  We could talk about what kind of help you're looking for." A little extra money wouldn't be a bad idea, nor would a job. Maybe it would take my mind off of Susanne for a while; at least it would get me out of the office. And this woman seems pleasant enough. If she's got a day job as a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, they would certainly be able to afford me.

"Sure," she says, smiling brightly at me. "I'd like that. We'll talk in a bit." With that, she turns and heads back to her seat. So do I. 

end part 2a