04/07/2020 Snippet, KINGS AND MASKS.

There is so much about this story that is an elaborate, shameless in-joke. The trick will be to keep it from getting tedious.


The kings and queens of Virginia, as Whitman understood it, had always avoided holding court in Old Washington. The founder of the current dynasty had taken over the old university grounds instead, and his descendants then spent the next six hundred years tearing down any building without historical significance, and most of the uglier ones that did. What was left by now fit the general style of Virginian architecture, again as Whitman understood it: cheerful anarchy, but in marble. There was absolutely no continuity in style or time period from one building to the other. Indeed, at least one building appeared to have been started off in one architectural style, then completed in another.

Dame Fraser came up alongside Whitman as he frankly gaped at the Royal Grounds. “At this point we’re supposed to say,” she murmured, “’And yet, somehow it all fits together.’ But it doesn’t, really?” She smiled, affectionately. “It’s remarkably hideous, even.”

President Whitman knew that there was a time for the truth, a time for diplomacy — and that this time, at least, the former was preferable for a change. “If somebody ever tried something like this in Providence the citizens would riot and pull the whole thing down under the ground. Then set the ruins on fire.”

“But not Boston?” asked Fraser. Her tone was light. “I can’t imagine the people there liking this more.”

“They wouldn’t. But they’d just flood the offending streets.” Whitman considered the thought, for a moment. “They’d still set the ruins on fire, though. Somehow.”

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