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Chapter 21: A Visit to the Capital

It's the first week of June and we're in an airplane again. Mariposa is at the window, Coyote is craning his neck, and I am trying to see Washington through both kids as we descend along the Potomac to land at National Airport. We changed planes at Dallas-Fort Worth, which gave us all some wiggle time; this creaky old lion wouldn't have liked to be stuck in a narrow chair for over four hours with his tail wrapped around his butt. Attila is asleep on my lap, since the seat belt goes right across my pocket. She's not asleep by chance: soon after we boarded the aircraft she had finished exploring me, the other kids, our seats, and our side of the seats in front of us. At her age of one year she has the confidence to join the neighbors in front, but I don't think they have the confidence to welcome six kilos of opal tipped weapons platform into their laps, judging by their apprehensive looks. Nor do I. So before we took off I hit upper button four, putting her instantly to sleep. At mid-flight she woke and I emptied her bladder and gave her a snack of milk; the latter operation fascinated the family on the other side of the aisle. When Attila and the human girl seemed to be developing a relation a bit too intimate for a human who doesn't know the safety rules, I firmly sawed it off and put Attila back to sleep.

Mariposa: There's the capitol building!

I poke my finger behind each side of Attila's jaw to let the last of the air into her ears; then I dump her into the seat pocket, which I've emptied out in advance. In case of trouble she'll probably be safer there than in my pocket, even if the seat belt didn't go right across where she would have to fit. I wedge my jaw joints too, for the pressure difference is uncomfortable. I can see Mariposa and Coyote struggling with their ears. Clunk! We're on the ground. And unlike at DFW, our gate is ready and we can roll right up to it. Attila's one hour sleep spell is wearing off right on schedule.

Attila: Yaaw!

Coyote: Hi, Attila! We're in Washington! Come to Coyote.

He picks her up and she clings to his shirt. People milling in the aisle retrieving carry-on luggage make her cautious. I rise in my space and snag our bag from the overhead bin: toothbrushes, hair brushes, underpants, shirts and socks for the kids, and spare pants and outer shirt in case they fall or jump in the Reflecting Pool, and swimming clothes in case there's a legal opportunity. And a thin blanket and sheet for each. What do other people bring that fills multiple suitcases?

Me: Thanks, Coyote. Let's put her in my pocket. OK, our turn to leave; put your packs on in the aisle. Move out.

On familiar territory Attila will run underfoot, but the human-packed aisle, the smiling human stewardess, the jetway, none are familiar, and Attila sits in my pocket, looking around at everything like a kangaroo's joey. In the concourse I see a patch of lion colored fur and I lead our group toward it.

Charlie: Simba, over here. So these are Coyote and Mariposa that we've heard so much about. Want a hug? And hi, Attila, who we've gotten a good look at already. Jeez, how big you've grown! I won't pick you up until you know me a little better. Want to see Alex? Come on, Alex, stick your head up.

One month means half a kilo difference in mass, but a greater difference in self-confidence. In the noisy airport Alex pops his head out of Diana's pocket only after being called, and on seeing attentive strangers he goes right back in. There could also be a personality difference here: Attila is cautious approaching a new situation but seems supremely certain that her claws and fangs will take care of any unexpected occurrences. She's probably right. Hmm, something's missing in this greeting.

Me: I'd like a hug too. I'd like to keep this visit as normal as possible.

Charlie, with fake jollity: OK, one hug, coming up. Diana, your turn. Well, let's take you home. Do you have bags?

Me: In our possession. No checked baggage.

Charlie: Well organized. The metro station is down this way. What meal are you on?

Me: They gave us something inedible, supposedly a sandwich. Those two split mine. If you've eaten already I'll be fine with some bagels or bread, and maybe the kids want some fruit after those grease globs. What time is it here, almost eight, right?

Charlie: Right. We have everything you could want in the refrigerator. Hmm, kids, what do you eat?

Coyote: We figured that two liters of lactose free milk and half a kilo of cheese would give us reasonable nutrition for the week, to supplement your lion food. What should we call you? Uncle Charlie?

Charlie: I'm not your parent's brother, so uncle won't do, or anything else, I guess. Just call me Charlie. The food can be arranged. Go down those stairs; it's not much further now. Voila, a decent tube station! Go through the gate and each of you feed my card through. How do you like it?

Mariposa: We saw this in pictures. It's neat, not like the dumb buses in Salt Lake. When does the train come?

Charlie: Here's one now; we're going to Anacostia. Not this one, maybe the next one.

Coyote: Simba said you work for the government, the SEC. What's that?

Charlie: The SEC supervises the issuance and trading of corporations' stock. I'm in the enforcement branch. I look for cheaters, and hunt them down. That suits my personality. Do you know, did Simba tell you about stock?

Mariposa: Yes; it means you own part of a company. We have Xylogen stock.

Coyote: We shouldn't really say ``we''. Simba and Tiger own it, and our right to it ends when we've finished our education, unlike Attila and her brothers and sisters.

Charlie: Due to my position I'll refrain from stating the obvious about Xylogen. Here's our train.

Mariposa: Oh, neat! It doesn't look scuzzy like the buses that come around our area. Do we just walk on? How fast can it go?

Charlie: Only about 50 kph, but it only stops at stations, so it's a lot faster than a bus on the street. Were you able to see any of the city when you landed?

Attila has her head up and is watching Charlie intently as he talks, sitting next to me, between me and Diana. She reaches out a paw toward him, then snatches it back.

Coyote: We saw the Capitol and a bunch of monuments, but they went by so fast I had trouble to tell which was which. It's nice that they have lights on.

Charlie: How's your energy level after the flight? I had an idea to let you kids have a snack, then take you out to see the Capitol up close, and the rest of the Mall. It's spectacular at night, and we'll come back tomorrow so you can appreciate the monuments in daylight too. What do you think?

Coyote: Good idea. I could stay out all night. That's a joke, but I think we can stick with you as long as necessary. Right, Mariposa? And it'll be a lot of fun, for all of us. Simba, will we be responsible for Attila?

Me: No, I don't think she can handle being out of a pocket so long, and I think Charlie will have a pocket full of Alex. Or do you want to try to handle Attila? She's pretty wiggly, but the kids know how to keep her under control.

Charlie: Diana, what do you think?

Diana: If Attila's willing, I think I'd rather keep Alex, than leave Attila with Simba. See if she'll go in your pocket.

I take Attila out and set her on my lap facing Charlie. She gently feels and sniffs his large lion colored leg. He pulls open his pocket. She crawls fully on him and sniffs the interior, paying particular attention to his nipple. A fellow train rider looks shocked. Charlie puts his hand down in his pocket and wiggles his fingers to attract her attention. She looks at me; I smile and coo. She makes up her mind, hops in head first, rights herself and starts sucking. No loyalty.

Me: She filled up about an hour and a half ago. I don't think she'll take too much.

Sure enough, on hearing me speak Attila pops up her head.

Me: Let's simulate an excursion. Back away step by step, and kids, go with Charlie and talk to Attila.

Charlie moves one seat away, then two. Attila doesn't look happy with this development.

Me: Mariposa, stroke Attila. Oops, ask Charlie's permission first.

Mariposa: Charlie, may I put my hand in your pocket to stroke Attila? They warned me about you and I figured that I'd have to ask permission.

Charlie: Good kid. Yes, you may.

One or two minutes of stroking and good cheer from everyone are enough to calm Attila, and to give the suspiciously watching rider the willies, after which the recessional can continue into the next car. I don't hear any shrieks of ``Yaaaaw''. I think this is going to work out.

Rider: Excuse me, but could I ask something? What was that?

Me: My children. My friend is going to take them sightseeing tonight, and we want to be sure the youngest will feel safe with him.

Rider: Your... children.

About then Charlie returns.

Me: Hi, Attila! Just leave her in your pocket, but let me stroke her and let her smell me. Permission?

Charlie: You may.

I rub scent from my shoulder glands on the backs of my hands, then stroke Attila, making sure she gets a good whiff. She's on edge, but cautious, not distressed.

Diana: Our stop is the next one.

Me: Kids, take your packs. We'll get off from the front of the train and you get off the rear, and we'll meet on the platform. Attila will get the idea of separation and return.

When Diana and I meet up with Charlie, Attila is looking around frantically but not yet screaming. I wonder if she's sophisticated enough to think beyond that I'm not there, to the idea that the train has carried me off. Not likely. It takes time for someone's brain to develop. Anyway, she's overjoyed to see me and reaches out her arms. I pick her up and give her a good wiggly stroke, but when she tries to climb back to my pocket I hold her against Charlie, who opens his invitingly. Attila turns around and grabs me, and I stroke her some more. It takes two more tries, but she eventually goes in. I let her hold and smell my finger as we walk out of the tube station. Coyote carries the clothing bag.

Charlie's condo is on the eighth floor of a brand new building, with elevators. The condo is nice, but it looks like a one bedroom flat of about 70 square meters. It'll be crowded with eight kittens. The walls are light sand color, and the wall to wall carpet is fawn or camel: elegant. I hope Attila doesn't decide to exercise her claws on it. Charlie's Kandinsky bird is on the wall, joined by the same cat that we bought, and other prints -- on the other side of the room -- which I believe to be Diana's style. There's a cypress bayou that looks inviting, if I didn't know what lives in cypress bayous.

Charlie: Well, here's the pad. Let's give you people a territory next door. Will the kids need keys?

Coyote: We'll be with you or Simba all the time, won't we?

Charlie: OK, then, Simba, here's a key. It opens all three doors, but knock when you come in here, just like the old days. That goes for the kids, too. You want to put your stuff in there?

We troop next door. Apparently I'm expected to open my ``territory'' with the key. It's another similar condo, with two inexpensive beds in the bedroom and two exercise mats in the living room. There is vinyl flooring instead of luxury carpet: a wise choice, in my opinion. There's the faintest odor of latex paint. The kitchen appears empty, unlike Charlie's own. The lighting is from one mushroom-shaped fixture in each room, unlike the track lighting and tastefully chosen luminaires next door.

Charlie: We're gradually fixing up this condo for the kittens. I'd like to put a door through this wall but it's going to raise hell with the electrical and plumbing. We'll figure something out. I saw you sneering at the lamp; the covers are polycarbonate. Diana is going to paint little animals on them. Getting these three units all together took some major armtwisting in the auction. And in the finances. Diana handles all our finances due to conflict of interest. Am I babbling? Come on over to my territory and I'll get you the snack I promised.

Charlie gives the kids their choice of fruit: a banana for Coyote and grapes for Mariposa. I get half a stick of excellent French bread. Charlie and Diana split an onion bagel.

Charlie: Could Attila have a grape?

Me: She's never had solid food, but it's about the time. I wouldn't try the experiment with her in my pocket, however.

Charlie: Right: pounce! Come on, Attila, you're going to have an experience. Come on up on the table.

Me: She's not allowed on our table. Could she do it on the floor?

Charlie: Sure. There you go, sit on my foot. And here's a new toy. See, you eat it.

Charlie gives Attila a grape and she watches as he makes a big production of eating another. She looks at her grape and drops it. Sure enough, as it rolls away she pounces on it, but not with claws as a cat might; she plays with balls at home. She explores it with her mouth. Odd taste, not like rubber. Sucking brings out a little more, but the incisors, which touch my nipple, don't incise; they lack an edge. Hmm, pressing the grape against the fangs is rewarding. Soon she has it reduced to shreds many of which find their way down her throat. The remainder litter Charlie's floor and toes.

Attila: Eep. Uh.

As requested, Charlie gives her another grape to demolish. A two word phrase, pleasure and hunger! Were we that skilled with language at one lion year? I'll have to look it up. Of course the individual words are instinctive. A human six months older would be lucky to manage one word at a time.

Charlie: The garbage can is under the sink; the disposer can't eat banana skins. You kids ready for some sightseeing?

Coyote: Do we have time to brush our teeth? And we'll need jackets, won't we?

Charlie: Yes to both. There are cups and supplies in the bathroom cabinet. Please knock before re-entering. I'll clean up the floor here. And Simba, I'd appreciate it if you go next door and stay there.

Me: Will do. Come on, kids.

Coyote, when we're in the other room: Is he always that cordial?

Me: He's bending over backward to be hospitable and accommodating. Remember what he's putting up with. You're doing fine; just see that you continue to do so. And if you find you're getting tired and your discipline might slip, particularly you, Mariposa, suggest to come home. He's highly responsible, but putting extra pressure on him by brat behavior is a good way to see his claws up close and personal. I hope Attila will behave herself. Monitor her, stroke her and talk to her. If necessary hold her, but she ought to want to stay in Charlie's pocket. Don't worry about staying out real late; an hour should be plenty. But see as much as you and Charlie find fun. Don't be surprised if when you come back he invents some task like checking his mail, and gives you the key and sends you up ahead. Coyote, wash your chin; toothpaste got on it.

Coyote: We won't let you down. Should I say, good luck?

Me: Like at home, you handle your sexuality and I'll handle mine. Have a good time, and see that Charlie doesn't look back.

I neaten the exercise mats, placing them together, and sit seiza on one, and do breathing exercises to calm my mind. Mine is a very awkward situation, and attitude is everything. I hear Charlie's door close. What I want is for him to be happy, and for my species to be healthy. He's doing his part to make that happen. My job is yang and yin: extension, but accommodating, not demanding. The door again. Diana enters my territory without permission.

Diana: Well. Simba, I'm not quite sure how to begin.

Me: I'm going to imitate Charlie, as much as he told us. He really wants Becket, right?

Diana: Right. He wants the species to succeed, and he'll do whatever it takes.

Me: Then let's give him a good one. You're fully charged, right? I am.

Diana: Yes, I've been ready since mid afternoon.

Me: That should be within parameters. I'm going to lay down on this side of the boundary. Let's just be together for a while.

Diana: How long will they be gone?

Me: We'll be done long before they're back. Coyote knows his role in this. Are you with me? Let's be together, nobody else but Becket.

Diana: Nobody but Becket.

We talk for a few minutes about kitten trivia. How cute Attila was learning to eat grapes. How heavy Alex is getting. Hearing his name, Alex pokes his head out between us, and begins to investigate the horizontal stranger. Diana gets herself noticeably more relaxed.

Diana: Is Alex bothering you?

Me: No. When Tiger and I mate we usually try to get Attila out of the pocket when we first connect, then let her back in. What do you and Charlie do?

Diana: It works out better for Charlie if Alex is asleep.

Me: I can imagine. I'll let you handle Alex. And I don't want to always ask you if you're ready for this or that. Press my buttons when you're ready for them. I'll bet Charlie wouldn't let you do that! Tiger knows when she's ready, and I let her signal me to start the main event.

Diana: I guess you don't know our signals. I'll make it obvious.

She starts working me over with her tail, and I reciprocate. She's getting more and more into the mating. She activates her genitalia, which I attend to caudally. She hits my buttons, and starts poking at my penis with her clit. That's a new move I'll have to take back to Tiger. Alex is not too sure about the various motions and retires to his mother's pocket to ride them out. I'm not sure if she's put him to sleep; anyway, he's her responsibility. She rolls up against me and I can feel the depression of her vagina. I slide my penis forward. I feel a luminous fog, a warm rain over my whole being.

After a few minutes I can feel Alex shoving hard at my belly, and I arch in the middle to let him out, while maintaining contact at opposite ends. He plays happily atop us, hopping from one to the other as we enjoy being together.

About twenty minutes later our genitalia unlock.

Diana: Say hi to Becket. Thank you, Simba; that was wonderful. I'm kind of guilty about enjoying it so. It's so hard on Charlie.

Me: Don't spoil it by guilt. We mated at his permission and request. I'm wondering what we should do when he comes back.

Diana: He's hard to predict. I'm going to play it by ear. But Charlie is tough, not brittle, and so far we've always worked things out OK. I'm going to go back and wash, and I think it will be easier if you hang out here. Nap, or read something. Do you want to borrow one of my discs?

Me: Thanks, but I have a story that I'm in the middle of.

Diana: You know, getting pregnant gave me a bit of appetite. What would you think about having a bite to eat when Charlie and the kids get home? I'll induce Charlie to suggest it.

Me: That sounds good. And talk to Coyote about coyote as an adjective.

Diana: OK, see you. You're a dear.

A dear. That's the first time I've been called that. I boot up my machine and resume the story. It's an interesting situation, lots of action, and an intelligent resolution. What time is it anyway, 10:30? Apparently Charlie is showing the kids the entire capital. I'm just starting the next story when there's a knock on the door.

Mariposa: It's me. May I come in?

I open the door, but she's waiting with key in hand.

Mariposa: Did you guys mate OK?

Me: The question is rather impudent, but yes, we mated OK.

Mariposa: Charlie says he's guilty about telling you to stay here the whole evening. You're supposed to go next door, not on his territory of course, and I'll go down and let him know it's OK.

Me: Trust Charlie to orchestrate an event. OK, let's make it a happy one. How's Attila?

Mariposa: We're all fine. Wait 'till you hear what happened! See you.

Me, knocking: Diana, may I come in please?

Diana: Sure, what's up?

Me: Charlie's back, and he wants me here for the grand entrance.

I sprawl in a comfortable tube frame reclining chair, upholstered in fawn and sand striped cloth, not leather. It's not right under the Kandinsky, nor do I sit on the couch with Diana, but in artistically neutral territory. Diana nods approval of my choice. Charlie knocks and opens the door.

Charlie: Me here. Well, hi, Becket!

He sweeps Diana into his arms and hugs emphatically. I hear hisses from pockets and they separate suddenly. Attila and Alex pop up simultaneously, but Attila catches sight of me and leaps directly into my lap with ``eep'' calls, making Charlie sway. Alex transfers over and climbs to Charlie's shoulder, gets a good grip, and spits at Attila, not saliva but hostility. Then he marches down and repossesses his territory in Charlie's pocket. Now that the strangers are a little more familiar, he's picked up some assertiveness. Amid giggles, I hug Attila and fluff her fur. She's happy to get this affirmation of family, but soon goes head down into my pocket and starts sucking, for comfort.

Coyote: Heh, heh. Welcome, Becket.

Charlie resumes the interrupted hugging, and for the hell of it I hug Mariposa and Coyote.

Diana: You kids must be famished, tramping around in the cold after such a skimpy dinner.

Charlie: Right. Who wants to go out for pizza? There's a place right across the road, on the other side of the building.

Mariposa: Me, me!

Charlie: We'll celebrate Becket's assembly day.

So we all troop into the elevator.

Mariposa: You've got to hear what happened! First we...

Charlie: What did I tell you, Mariposa?

Mariposa: Wait 'till you have your audience's full attention. But it's so hard to wait!

Charlie: Lion discipline is hard, that's true.

Me: So how did Attila do? Or is that the story?

Charlie: She was steady as a rock, after a little whimpering at the start, but she really enjoys watching out the window of the subway, and that made her forget about you. Jealous? She wanted to come out and have the kids hold her, twice, but when she was ready she went right back in my pocket. We took her in the restroom, which caused some consternation. I don't know if Attila and I caused more stir in the confined space, or Mariposa, it being a men's toilet. I think a number of humans' urination programs malfunctioned.

Mariposa: I was scared to get separated. This one wiseass made a comment and I told him I'd seen more dicks than he ever would, and his was boring. It was a lie; I was being coyote. The toilet was dirty so I did it like Attila does: sticking my butt out, not sitting.

Me: Good for you. A lie is a weapon and can be useful, as well as hurting if you're careless.

Charlie: In here; this is the pizza joint. What kind do you like? They have a good vegetarian pizza.

Coyote: We like that; we make it at home.

Charlie: Really? I didn't know you could do that. You'll have to teach us. OK, Rasheed, we'll have a large vegetarian pizza, and five drinks.

Mariposa: Could we have Coke?

Charlie: Whatever you want, at the fountain over there. Thanks, Rasheed. Kids, listen for number 86. We all get our drinks now; Coke is this one here. And let's sit at that table in the corner.

Mariposa: Are we all settled? All listening? OK, what happened to us: We started at the Washington Monument, and it's so high; I want to run to the top, to see if I'm tough enough to do it. Then we saw the Lincoln Memorial. Big old Mr. Lincoln back in the shadows; I imagined I was a lion seeing him on infrared. The Jefferson Memorial is kind of small, but it's Coyote's favorite. Then we went up on Capitol Hill, and went all around the building. Jeez, it's big! I want to go inside tomorrow, and if I can use Charlie's web connection I'm going to find out who our senators are, and who our congresscritter is. I want to at least go in his or her office. Charlie's been in a real hearing! Anyway, we went over to the Supreme Court building. And I got mugged!

Me: What?! You make it sound like the high point of your visit. Are you all right?

Mariposa: Yes, I'm all right, but the hairball isn't. He's in jail. I wanted to see what was around a corner, and he grabbed me and started putting his hand in my pockets. I dropped out from under him like you taught me, but I was really scared and it didn't work. I picked myself up in my mind and shook myself, like El Oso used to do sometimes when I sassed him, and calmed myself down, and did the drop again, and he came right down on top of me, just like we practiced. Of course I did the rest of the movement too, and turned him on his face with his arm twisted. It turned out to be this really monster black guy, but I just held his hand twisted like you taught me. He started cussing at me. Then Charlie walked over and stood about half a meter from his face and kind of tapped his claw on the marble floor. That shut the hairball up fast! And you should have seen Attila! Coyote and Charlie and I were all looking at the guy real hostile, and she saw what we were doing. She climbed down Charlie's leg and stood on his foot and did a threat display right in the guy's face, fangs and claws! I always thought it was just something Coyote says, he pissed in his pants, but oh, man, was that guy scared! I could smell the urine. Coyote called the cops, and they took him away.

Charlie: They took our statements right there; they had a laptop. I said Mariposa would testify; I hope that's OK.

Me: Sure it's OK.

Charlie: So they've seen the sights of Washington. All the sights. I'm sorry I let her get away from me, and I'm not sure I judged right letting Attila have her head.

Me: No blame to you, Charlie. I'm called on to make a judgment here. Ten points for not dying, and three points for getting out of it neatly. I'm glad you were brave, and made the combat training work. But I'd be less than responsible if I didn't point out a few facts. There were a lot of ways your little adventure could have gone bloodily wrong. You had backup, but you don't want to rely on them. If this, what did you call him, hairball had been quieter and had gotten his hand over your mouth, they might not have known. You did make noise, didn't you?

Mariposa: Yes, a lion rage call, after I did the drop successfully.

Me: Good. As for tactics, the way to come out of a situation smelling like a rose is not to get in trouble in the first place. Your maneuver might get into a lesson set as an example of what not to do: avoid splitting your force, because the adversary can pick off one portion at a time. I think both of you kids should add tactics to your lessons. Don't you think?

Mariposa: Well... Maybe it was kind of dumb to look at that statue alone.

Me: There's a question of balance here. Yes, attend to the tactical situation. But if you treat your whole life like patrolling the jungle in Viet Nam, you're going to get just as good a result. You need to have fun, but prudently. A deliberately imperfect defense will let in the fun, but also the adversaries, and you have to accept both, and tune your behavior for the best result. It takes maturity, look who's talking, but you can learn the foundations now. In particular, as you put it less elegantly, it was kind of dumb to split off in a known dangerous situation.

Mariposa: Yes, Simba. But I didn't think it was dangerous.

Me: That quadrant of the city, at night? Well, maybe I've read a whole lot more than you have, and I was assuming you knew more than you really do. Look, usually successes are messy and partial, with lots of lessons of what you could have done better. We'll deal with those as we can, but now let's bring back the smiling faces and be glad of the big success you had. Slight interruption; I think our pizza is ready.

Charlie brings back the pizza and we all grab a slice. It has to cool a moment or it will burn our mouths.

Me: Let's drink a toast to Becket; that's what we're here for.

Charlie: Hear, hear! Kids, take a ceremonial drink. And now I'd like to propose a toast to our young lion, Mariposa. Hairballs of the world, tremble!

Mariposa: Can I make a toast? To Attila.

Diana: Right, what a little fighter she is!

We occupy ourselves with drippy cheese. But a few minutes later...

Me: Mariposa, is hairball some kind of kid slang for a criminal?

Charlie: Hah, it's the latest in law enforcement. The two cops even recognized it. Here's the etymology: hairballs are choked up by cats, and who's the most feared enforcer at the SEC?

Me: Oh, that's great! Hairballs, tremble!

Coyote: It was funny, when the cops were taking statements Attila was having a snack or something, anyway she wasn't visible, and they made a comment about the hairball's wet pants, and I nonchalantly go, well, Attila came down and threatened to bite his nose off. So she sticks her head up and they jumped! Yuck, yuck. They thought her name was so cool. She wouldn't open her mouth for the cops but Charlie showed them his fangs. We're used to her but I guess people think of this terrible warrior, and then she does some of the things he did. It is cool.

Me: Yes, we were a little worried about that name, but Attila is certainly growing into it. I hope she doesn't grow into it all the way, of course.

Mariposa: Right, we have to live with her. Simba, what's Viet Nam?

Me: Very messy, very partial, and no success. It's a nation that a number of countries fought over, including the United States. If we're going back to the mall tomorrow I'll give you a name to cry for: Shelhamer. Mr. Lewis' some kind of collateral kin from the previous century. He told me if I ever got to Washington, to look for him. Charlie...

Charlie: Yes, I visit him when I have the chance. Key parts of our lion training came right out of Viet Nam. Well, maybe that's extreme, but you can read the history and know why Simba and Tiger get on your case about goals, issues and action. I assume they do. Viet Nam is an enormous joke, and when they finally got to the end of the story they forgot what the punch line was. I know a good disc of the history and I'll buy it for you. But let's cut the doom and gloom; Mr. Lewis told us what his grandparents told him, and I think Sgt. Shelhamer would have liked us to have a good time.

Me: From what Mr. Lewis said, he was coyote. I'll split a slice of pizza with someone. Coyote, how 'bout you?

Charlie: And you can refill your drinks for free. Go on, get more Coke.

Me: Thanks but that's enough for me. I notice you didn't stay in Prof. Milstein's office for long.

Charlie: He said my talents were wasted, and I don't want to seem too proud of myself, but I kind of concur. We're still close, but in enforcement I can get a much better grounding in what the issues are: not just what we learned in econ, but the real world relations between bankers and corporations and customers and politicians that economic theory just can't represent. And I enjoy enforcement, as you can imagine killer Charlie would, and I'm good at it. But I'm also good at policy. I still attend the policy group's meetings, a string pulled by Bill, and mostly I just keep my mouth shut and speak when spoken to, but Bill says he's gotten feedback that the few things I've said were pretty well received. Bill sent me once to represent his office's position in a Banking and Currency Committee hearing. That was interesting. Bill did those hearings all the time at Chicago, and he felt I should get some training in facing down congressmen, and I felt they should get used to seeing this furry face, because I have plans, maybe thirty years down the line, that they'll be seeing a lot more of it. In I think three years from now I'm going back to school to get my Ph.D. since by then Diana will have her CPA license and her income plus reserves that she saves from my salary will cover our living expenses. When I come back I'll have the academic skills and knowledge to do policy right, plus the practical background from enforcement, and the policy people will pay attention to me, I hope. I'm pointing at being a commissioner or maybe a FRB governor. To rise as high as my skills, economic and interpersonal, can take me.

Me: You'll make it; I know you. Wouldn't it be a blast, to have a lion person president?

Charlie: A blast, yes, but it won't be me. The kind of day-in, day-out hyping and compromising and wriggling that it takes to get elected and then to make a legislative program happen: I couldn't take it; I'd start slashing. And the presidency is even worse that way, with flappers and global diplomacy and toadying to senators and congressmen while sticking the knife in their backs. My style is to stick the knife in the front, which I get to do in enforcement. An obscure appointive office is what I'm suited to.

Me: The FRB. Actually, you think the president's power isn't enough for you.

Charlie: Come on! The FRB has the tiger by the tail, and they pretty much have to just formalize what the tiger wants to do anyway. They have power, but not autocratic power; they guide and influence the financial forces, but holding back the tide is not something they can do, when the tide decides to go in or to go out.

Coyote: Power grabs, enforcers, it sounds like... It sounds like I should be in bed before my mouth gets me in trouble. Charlie, thanks for getting us the pizza, and thanks for showing us around Washington. But I think we're both sleepy, Mariposa and I. Could we go back please?

Charlie: Sure, it's late. Come on. Rasheed will put away the pizza pan. Simba, I've been talking something over with Diana. I'd like to ask a big favor of you. The way my plans are going, it's going to be a major hassle ethically if either of us make investments. Remember how I didn't feel comfortable even discussing your Xylogen holdings when your kids brought it up? I need to set up a blind trust, for both our incomes.

Diana: Right. I'll have conflicts of my own, eventually, though not as bad as Charlie's. It's exciting to manage our investments, but people will assume that Charlie tells me everything he knows, and I can just imagine some adversary nailing Charlie for conflict of interest. As it is, we can hardly say a word about his work. Our thought was, we could set up a trust with some generic mutual fund agency, but for a territorial person like Charlie, he'll be a lot happier if someone he knows intimately is managing the money. Such as you.

Charlie: Charge us one percent as a management fee and invest our money the same way you handle yours. We know how you got the spectacular result with Xylogen, of course, and we realize nobody will be getting that kind of bang again, but from Diana's discussions with you we think you're handling your investments pretty astutely, and it would really help us a lot if we could tack on to you.

Me: Of course, Charlie! As they say in the prospectus, perpetual winnings aren't guaranteed, but I see your situation and I'll handle the trust for you. I'm sure Tiger will see it the same way. And forget about the management fee; we don't need the money.

Charlie: Actually you do. If you do it for free, it seems like it isn't arms-length dealing.

Me: True; I didn't think about that. OK, I'll charge you what an index manager charges: cheap but fair. How's that?

Charlie: Thank you. You've given me two gifts today. Come on, kids, the elevator's here. Let's get up to our territory and get into bed. We have a lot of stuff to see tomorrow.

The purpose of this visit was literal cross-fertilization, and that's been successful. But Attila grew so much, just by being in the new environment, and so did Mariposa. Maybe it was just actualizing what had been potential up to that point, eating grapes and handling an adversary, but I really think the kids put the final bricks into their new programs as a direct result of the new situations they were thrust into. Not that I would have picked that lesson for Mariposa had I the choice. Coyote doesn't seem changed, yet, but give him a day or two; he's growing extremely fast and I'm sure there are several programs, not yet known to me, that just need a trigger to activate them.

I wish Tiger and I could be together on this trip, but vacation hours and project schedules just don't permit it. I'll have fun in the capital for two days, then trade places with Tiger, who just before flying back with the kids will mate with Charlie and produce our Bear. The fertilization dates are skewed six days so Dr. Newman has a little leeway to get across the continent in winter when it's time to bring forth the new kittens. I feel jealous about the mating, sure, as Tiger does about mine with Diana, but nothing near the rage Charlie has to keep under strict control. I don't know what he'll do to blow it off and I don't want to know. Probably he has a case of stuffed animals in the third condo which won't survive the night.

It's a very successful visit, and I think it's going to get better as the days go on.

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