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This Great Society
 

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“The banners of Hell’s Monarch do come forth
Towards us; therefore look,” so spake my guide,
“If thou discern him.” As, when breathes a cloud
Heavy and dense, or when the shades of night
Fall on our hemisphere, seems view’d from far
A windmill, which the blast stirs briskly round,
Such was the fabric then methought I saw,

To shield me from the wind, forthwith I drew
Behind my guide: no covert else was there. *

Canto XXXIV, The Divine Comedy, Volume 1, by Dante Alighieri

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                 The car came at 8:57am. Only three minutes early today, so it didn’t happen until 9:11am. The mornings there always felt the same to her: gray, hard-boiled light, as if that sun was much too old and hot to birth out anything fresh. Their Driver was the very best part of the morning. The only one of the locals she saw every day, and the only one who didn’t know a word of English. The skin on his face always crinkled up at her in the same tidy, strong curves as he swung open her door. She liked his movements: nothing wasted, nothing too quick. He polished the rusty handles and cranked the gear shift as if he had been in the chariot business when his bones were softer. The three of them usually had to sit for a minute at the little guard station: Kate, Their Driver, and her, waiting.
                 Today, he laughed suddenly—a low, wheezy, belly sound—and pointed. Two grubby, skinny boys were crossing the street, each with a fistful of lacy, black cicada. At this height of summer, the massive insects squealed out constant electronic vibrations at a painful pitch. The boys were playing them like a violin, squeezing and releasing to hear the sound when they wanted.
                 What a life, Kate said. Fuck like crazy for two weeks and then die.
                 Two weeks? Is that it?
                 Yeah, but the whole cocoony-hatching thing takes way longer.
                 They always flipped and scribbled through lesson plans for the 15 minutes it took to get there—sighing and shifting into the morning and away from each other. Every morning meant a different something that she especially watched. Today, she watched the walking faces especially much. There were never this many walking faces anywhere back home. She liked to imagine them, all these not-back-home faces, riding on a criss-cross of moving escalators, with strips lain over and back across the streets, making up for the no traffic lights or crosswalks, making for a little easier go of it. Maybe this was because they all had the same quick march escalator rhythm already, the same hungry, forward leaning bend. The old women had the heaviest bend—like a corner, like the handle of a cane—leathery heads held up, and hands behind back. She thought that if their hands swung forward accidentally they would crumple down from the imbalance, in a dusty gray and brown pile.
                 One of the white vans blared past them, the funnel-shaped loudspeakers emitting the tinny, operatic strains of patriotism. The pitch was remarkably close to the cicadas’.
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This Great Society
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