“The Dismemberment” / Memorable Fancies #2286

Tronn joins the crowd streaming into the theatre. He intends to stay for the dismemberment, but without much enthusiasm as he has seen these ceremonies before, and tonight’s smart money has focused on an undistinguished bureaucrat. Last week it was a thieving vice-mayor, and before that a general of one of our unsuccessful wars.

But you never know. Every three or four performances, no one can figure out why this particular official was selected. There are odds-makers, but their odds turn out to be more often wrong than right.

But tonight is special: everyone who’s here has been specially invited, for once, and one will be the year’s final – “guest of honor,” as it’s politely put. Tronn finds this element of risk exciting. He begins to sweat slightly, politely.

The audience hushes. A spotlight controlled by tonight’s guest host wanders the audience, teasingly lingering on one person as the crowd gasps, whispers; then moves on. In this way the spot identifies ten, twenty people, any one of whom, or none, could be tonight’s honoree. Some cringe, try to hide, their enthusiasm for the spectacle suddenly gone. Others stand proudly, defiant.

Twice, the spotlight passes directly over Tronn, but without pausing. He is annoyed. Surely he is worth more than a passing light, a shrug, a murmured “who the hell is that?”

If there were just a way to volunteer,…

Malice-cover lightened

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