It is the pledges that this place makes to me, pledges that cannot be redeemed, that confuse me later and make me feel I am not getting anywhere. Everything is presented as the result of some knowable process; if I wish to arrive at four I get there by way of two and two. If I wish to burn Moscow the route I must travel has already been marked out by another visitor. If, like Bobby Vanderbilt, I yearn for the wheel of the Lancia 2.4-liter coupe, I have only to go through the appropriate process, that is, get the money. And if it is money itself that I desire, I have only to make it. All of these goals are equally beautiful in the sight of the Board of Estimate; the proof is all around us, in the no-nonsense ugliness of this steel and glass building, in the straightline matter-of-factness with which Miss Mandible handles some of our less reputable wars. Who points out that arrangements sometimes slip, that errors are made, that signs are misread? “They have confidence in their ability to take the right steps and to obtain correct answers.” I take the right steps, obtain correct answers, and my wife leaves me for another man.
My enlightenment is proceeding wonderfully.
– from “Me and Miss Mandible”, written by Donald Barthelme.