BEN IN PARIS
Silverthought, February 2005
It was just after Bastille
Day, the joyous celebration that marked the
singular event that symbolized the French Revolution. Ben
received the following order from Starship Command.
Rather Warped Factor T to Paris on July 14, 1793, the fourth
of Bastille Day, and some three months after the formation of the
of Public Safety; the Reign of Terror is in its early stages. Do
not interfere with any of the principals at risk of changing the
From the starship’s
database, Enterman learned that Louis XVI [pronounced Lou-ee Says] had
already been executed, and his queen, Marie Antoinette [pronounced
Antoinette], would follow on October 16 of that year. Starship
instructions were clear: “Observe habits and customs of the
Do not interfere.”
had been cruising leisurely through the South Bronx at the time, and
rather enjoying the celebration of life as evidenced on the streets of
the area [sometimes one is forced to question Ben Enterman’s sanity]
the order came from Starship Command. He muttered a choice
went through the customary checklist, and proceeded through Rather
Factor T to the designated time and place.
emerged from its voyage renamed the Starsedanchaise EnToutMain
“in all hand,” whatever the hell that means], and with the assistance
three Ben Enterman clones carried aboard the starship for just such
the starsedanchaise proceeded through the streets of 18th century
It would be presumptuous
to report that there was anything startling about life in the French
at the time. In truth, the Parisiens existed not much differently
than their contemporaries in other parts of Europe. There were
extremely rich, and indeed there were few of these. There were
quite poor, of which there were a great many. And there was a
middle class. And, oh yes, there were the tumbrels, those
ubiquitous carts used to carry victims to Madame Guillotine.
As in every society,
in every time, Ben Enterman observed a general unrest among the
The blatant wealth of the gentry contrasted sharply with the penury of
the peasants. Caught in the middle, by definition, was the middle
The wealthy were
more obvious than today’s richer strata. They had lavish estates,
castles, palaces, chateaus, servants. Today’s scions and
may be better off materially, but most of us have cars, computers,
systems, basic comforts. Still, unrest is basically a contest of
wills between classes.
was a holiday, and the people were in a joyous mood, as they celebrated
Bastille Day. Everyone seemed to be having a great time –-
and dancing in the streets, not to mention quaffing an inordinate
“Look at that
dandy,” said one peasant as he spotted a French nobleman being drawn in
an ornate carriage through the streets. “He’s come to mingle with
At that moment,
the nobleman, in what must be assumed to be an act of generosity tinged
with disdain, casually tossed a few coins into the street. That
action caused one of the peasants to reach down, pick up a rock and
it casually at the carriage; nothing malignant, just a casual flip of a
loose paving stone. Within seconds, a barrage of rocks and
was bombarded the carriage from every direction.
One of the horses
stumbled, went down. Suddenly, the crowd was upon the
The doors were ripped open, and the nobleman, in all his finery, was
from the carriage. Within seconds, he had been stripped quite
but was fortunately otherwise unharmed, the crowd being in a generally
jovial mood. The mob stood around roaring its approval.
does it feel to be one of us?”
There was Ben
Enterman in Paris, circa 1793, along with three clones; it takes four
to carry a sedanchaise, or two men looking for massive hernias.
there was this nobleman standing in the center of a crowd, stark naked,
trying to retain his dignity, but somehow failing to pull it off.
Maybe there are
100, or 103, peasants laughing fit to beat the band [whatever that
idiom means]. Now this poor gentile, as anyone could plainly see,
simply didn’t know which way to turn. When you’re surrounded, and
starkers, it really doesn’t make much difference.
At any rate,
our noble genius figures the best thing to do is cover up. Now
guy shows he isn’t at all stupid. He covers his face. How
people can recognize you by your religion, particularly when your
is in the huge majority?
Still the problem
of getting away does present a challenge. How to escape? He
is in no immediate danger; laughers are seldom dangerous, and his
maneuver has only accelerated the general sense of merriment.
and the clones are also enjoying the scene, and laughing in
The nobleman is peeking from between his fingers, looking here,
The laughers are mostly looking there.
like to help, but Starship Command has advised him not to
interfere. But that was in reference to the principals in
Enterman reasons. How do I Know this guy is a
principal? Obviously, there is only one way to find out.
sent one of his clones to the nobleman. You can distinguish the
from the clones because Ben the Original uses a sunlamp while the
stay out of the sunlight. Sort of makes one wonder, doesn’t it?
Clone III wends
his way through the laughers until he is at the inner edge of the
“Hey,” he hollers suavely, “Where do you teach?”
is dumbfounded. He stares at Clone III through his hands.
question simply does not register. It makes no sense at
“What?” he replies brightly.
“Where do you
penetrates, but still makes no sense. What the devil would a
be doing teaching? He ponders the question behind his
“Teach. Teach. Me, a teacher? My dear sir, don’t be
ass.” And all the time, he’s starkers and hiding his face from
Clone III, who
of course has Enterman’s sense of humor, replies, “Ass?
Do you want yours saved?” And Clone III abruptly leaves the inner
circle surrounding the naked nobleman and returns to Enterman, Clone I
and Clone II.
“He is not a
teacher,” reports Clone III.
Enterman, “he is probably not a principal. Since he is probably
a principal at this stardate, our order fr4om Starship Command does not
apply. We can, as you so succinctly put it, ‘save his ass.’”
“As you so put
it,” retorted Clone III. “I am you.”
“Then how come
I asked you for a report?”
“You see,” answered
Clone III, rather abstractly, “you can be in several places at the same
time, but what you see is not necessarily what you see.”
Not in the mood
to pursue what promises to be a circular conversation, Ben Enterman
into a huddle with Clones I, II and III. Since they are all Ben
the discussion is sort of one-sided, but they do develop a strategy.
“The entire problem,
as I see it,” expounded Enterman, “is getting that ass into the ship.”
corrected Clone III.
Enterman. “If we can get that ass into the star...” He
and cast a meaningful glance at Clone III, although he could not really
distinguish one clone from another since they chose to dress exactly
and tended to move about just enough to confuse Enterman.
he amended, “then we can extricate him from this crowd.”
“It’s not really
a vehicle...” started Clone II, who maybe was Clone II.
“Stuff it,” said
Enterman. Clone II, if that’s who he was, stuffed it.
Phwew-hoo. Get him,” said Clone I.
“You have any
friends?” asked Enterman, a bit heatedly.
“I am my friends,”
said Clone I, smiling his Enterman smile.
“Then go @#$%
Then what would that make me?” asked Clone I.
And here the
semantic possibilities, probabilities, combinations and permutations
Enterman’s mind. He gaped at Clone I, eyes bugging out of his
face a brilliant crimson, sputtering, muttering. “Pick up the
He paused. “...sedanchaise,” he said with quiet rage, barely in
The clones and
Enterman lifted the sedanchaise, with the commander in one of the
positions. By this time, Enterman couldn’t even be sure if he was
him, or if he was a clone, and the clones were wondering whether they
clones or the original Enterman.
for the inner portion of the laughing circle where the naked nobleman
still hiding his Christian identity behind his slightly splayed
“Let’s show the
entire Eternal City what a real royal pain in the ass is like,” shouted
Entermen above the raucous noise of the crowd. He repeats himself
several times before any of the peasants even take notice of the small
Then Clone II
uses a simple playback technique of the Recorder Pack V to throw his
so that it seems to be coming from somewhere in the crowd. “Say,
there’s an idea. Let’s put him in that sedanchaise over
We’ll parade him through the streets of the city.”
The naked nobleman
was trembling with fear, his skin flushed red with embarrassment.
“Make way. Make way,” shouts Enterman. The crowd, sensing
humor in the situation, takes up the cry. “Make way. Make
for the sedanchaise.”
And before he
knew what was happening, the naked nobleman had been hoisted into the
by two of the clones who, incidentally, had remarkably cold
Then the clones lifted their burden and started down the street.
The crowd parted
ready to follow, and the sedanchaise started to fade. Within a few
it had disappeared altogether. The crowd was stunned.
they didn’t believe their eyes, and the entire event was later
as mass hysteria induced by an overabundance of wine.
What had happened,
of course, was quite different. Once the naked nobleman was
in the sedanchaise, Ben Enterman had quickly thrown the starship into
Warped Factor T, moving the starship briefly backward in time.
fully clothed and totally oblivious to what had happened in the moments
to come, is drawn through the streets of Paris in his carriage.
meaning well, but with just a touch of disdain, he reaches into his
Wait a minute! “Where’s my purse?” he exclaims aloud.
In order to prevent
history from repeating, Ben Enterman had lifted the nobleman’s purse
before letting him disembark, puzzled but fully clothed, from the
Since the first event had never happened yet, the nobleman had no
whatsoever of the events in which he had participated in that other
which would now never exist.
Or, as Ben Enterman
reported to Starship Command, “Mission completed – successfully.”