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Dost Thou Know This Water-Fly?

posted on November 19, 2011 by fractalbob

Hear you, sir.
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I loved you ever. But it is no matter.
‘Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.’
—  Dr. Tom Cole

Last Thursday the majority City Council was pissed off to find its rubber stamp had been stolen.

Council met for a bizarre 30 minutes, primarily to canvass the votes of the Nov. 8 election. But instead of the unanimous vote customary in such situations, Dr. Tom Cole, who lost to Joe the Plumber, declined to say “aye” without a “quality control” provision that called for a box of ballots to be examined.

I watched the Council meeting on the upstairs TV with my father while we sipped our single malt Scotch.

“Jesus Christ,” my father said when Cole made his motion.

“What did your father say?” my mother called from the hallway as she headed downstairs.

Televised City Council meetings might as well be zombie cage matches as far as she’s concerned — she hates local politics. But she’s like the little girl who lurks on the stairs past bedtime while her parents watch a horror movie. She’s drawn to it even if she refuses to admit it.

“He said, ‘Jesus Christ’,” I yelled to her.

Dad gave me a sharp look, anticipating a reproach from my mother for having taken the Lord’s name in vain.

“I was talking about Tom Cole!”

“Oh,” she said knowingly.

But what the doctor was asking for last Thursday night was only the chance to take the temperature of a diseased city. And if there is one thing we can all agree on, even something most candidates ran on, it’s this: Something is rotten in Huntsville.

Before that canvass vote, Cristan Shamburger of the SHSU Student Government Association read a proclamation making Dr. Cole an honorary Bearkat for his advocacy of the rights of students as well as his “fiscal responsibility” and dedication to “small government.”

The Council, one and all, stood and applauded Cole’s honor. This left me nauseated, as weapons-grade hypocrisy tends to do. The Council survivors are glad to see Cole’s seat filled with one of their own, and they couldn’t give a shit about students except for the dollars they bring into the city. Go — shop at Target, children. Eat at our Olive Garden.

Cole accepted his honor with a quote from “Hamlet”: “Let Hercules himself do what he may,/The cat will mew and dog will have his day.”

Even the biggest swinging dick in the pantheon of gods cannot prevail over the whims of small domesticated animals and the human idiots who can be likened to them. In other words: A fuck lot of good my advocacy for the students and taxpayers did, I lost anyway.

“Did you get what he just did?” I asked my father.

“Just his usual crazy pompous bullshit,” Dad said. “Erudite motherfucker.” Or something to that effect.

“No, no. He dragged all of ‘Hamlet’ into it,” I said. “Brilliant.”

“You’re an erudite motherfucker, too,” my father said. Or something to that effect.

My father thinks “Hamlet” is about some rambling, tights-wearing Elizabethan who collects the skulls of his friends and drives his girlfriends to suicide. I wouldn’t blame you if you thought the same thing. But “Hamlet” is about a man driven mad by his quest to prove a charge that has been borne to him on the lips of a ghost.

Hamlet, Sr., murdered King of Denmark, appears to Hamlet, Jr. to reveal who killed him and urge his son to avenge his death. Who done it? The king’s brother, who’s now shacked up with the queen and has the unchecked run of the place.

I don’t know about your family, but in my family this is some white trash shit.

Hamlet’s famous hesitancy comes from wrestling his uncertainty. How can he prove his uncle-stepfather, Claudius, murdered his father to get to the throne? Hamlet’s billowing obsession drives a wedge between him and Claudius — natch — but also between Hamlet and his mother, who understandably finds the idea she’s sharing a bed with her husband’s killer a tad icky.

Hamlet sets out to push Uncle Claude to a confession by publicly accusing him. Confession is a long shot, of course, but if he gets a rise out of Claudius, he believes he’ll know the truth.

Any of this sound familiar? It should, for Jack Wagamon is our mad prince, and not our Yorick, as the powers that be (Thanks, Rich) would have us believe.

It’s Yorick’s skull Hamlet contemplates in the graveyard where Ophelia, the daughter of wealth, will be buried Christian-style despite her suicide.

“Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him,” says Hamlet of the once antic court-jester. “Where be your gibes now?”

Hamlet will soon join Ophelia in this graveyard, and his death blow will come at the hands of a friend. But it’s orchestrated by Claudius with the help of his city manager — I mean, courtier — Osric, who has been sent to fetch Hamlet for a duel.

“Dost thou know this water-fly?” Hamlet asks his one true friend Horatio when Osric shows up with Claudius’ message and, no doubt, a smirk on his treacherous face.

By stock Shakespearean machinations, the entire royal lot ends up dead, leaving the kingdom to a promising outsider with a great résumé. Denmark passes its rotten obstruction like a kidney stone.

Huntsville’s entrails are still knotted, but not for long, if you ask my father. The Thursday night vote, approved 7 to 2, with Hamlet and Horatio dissenting, will seat a Council that promises to get done the things that Hamlet and his friends prevented as they endlessly soliloquized.

As Cole made his case for an amendment that would open up a box of ballots to the light of day, the Council Chambers’ video caught the expressions of the complacent survivors looking none too complacent for the moment. Lydia Montgomery had valiantly delivered the official statement: The city contracts with the county to conduct elections, and we trust in the county’s integrity. The Secretary of State waived its option for a check of our election results. What’s good enough for the SOS should be good enough for Huntsville.

But during this discussion, Mac Woodward, Keith Olson and Don Johnson lowered their heads and averted their eyes so no one could look into them. Johnson’s head was bowed so low that it was almost up his ass.

What was that about? Surely they were not embarrassed by the outgoing Cole’s proposed amendment or struggling with the call to defend county election officials. They were not deep in thought vetting the risks and rewards of an inexpensive step to reassure voters who might remember that this is not the first time Cole has challenged city election results.

Those guilty looks might have been just enough to satisfy Hamlet that he was on the right track. They were enough for me.

After arguing with me the night before, my father was quite relieved to read in the morning edition of the local ragster a brief article about this blink of a Council meeting. Under a sentimental headline, it began with a description of the proclamation J. Turner issued for his wife and, after that, duly recorded each milestone with equal weight, missing completely the significance of Cole’s motion and the missing rubber stamp.

Rotten.

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