61. Collaborating with the Oligarchy – Saturday, October 23
Mr. Duck, Mrs. Sutherland’s dry waller, looks nothing like a duck. Actually, he most closely resembles a piece of driftwood. Lean, sinewy, not a trace of beard or body hair, apart from the fringe of white on his head. His smoothly weathered skin seems to give off a brown glow.
The way he cocks his head and peers at me when Mrs. Sutherland introduces us is, however, distinctly bird-like. The insulation problem around the sky light has been solved, and Mr. Duck has just installed the last section of dry wall. The mud between the seams still wears a wet sheen.
He’s taking a cigarette break on the back porch with Rusty, his heavy-set assistant.
“So you’re in classics. You’ve read Xeonophon?” Mr. Duck asks me.
“The Anabasis was required translation in my sophomore Greek class.”
“I’d like to learn Greek someday. But not for the Anabasis. I’d like to read his Socratic dialogues, see how they compare to Plato’s in the original. In the Loeb’s translation I have back at the trailer, he avoids calling Socrates ‘wise,’ which is a central word in Plato’s characterization, probably to avoid tainting him with Aristophanes’ accusation of being an atheist. Which he was, of course. And he deserved what he got.”
“What are you saying?” Rusty demands.
“I’m saying that the court was right to convict him. Socrates was an oligarchic collaborator, an enemy of democracy. An enemy of the people. Who do you think created Alcibiades and Critias?”
“He was a martyr to the truth.”
“Bull. What junior high school textbook did you get that idea from?”
“He saved Leon of Salamis.”
“He did not. Socrates ran home like a scalded dog and hid under his bed. Don’t talk to me about Leon of Salamis.”
“I don’t know why I ever bother arguing with you,” Rusty grouses. “You’ve got a closed mind.”
“Because you work for me, and an ignorant drunk like yourself is lucky to have a job.” Mr. Duck rises, stubs his cigarette in the lip of a bottle of RC Cola, and turns to me. “The walls will be finished and dry by Friday. You can start any time after that. Come out to the trailer park sometime. You know where Campground Road is? We can talk history without pea brain here interrupting.”