The King of Jordan sits at his ham radio, inviting strangers to the palace. I visit my assistant mistress. “Well, Azalea,” I say, sitting in the best chair, “what has happened to you since my last visit?” Azalea tells me what happened to her. She has covered a sofa, and written a novel. Jack has behaved badly. Roger has lost his job (replaced by an electric eye). Gigi’s children are in the hospital being detoxified, all three. Azalea herself is dying of love. I stroke her buttocks, which are perfection, if you can have perfection, under the capitalistic system. “It is better to marry that to burn,” St. Paul says, but St. Paul is largely discredited now, for the toughness of his views does not accord with the experience of advanced industrial societies.

from Donald Barthelme, “The Rise of Capitalism”

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