By Rob Essley

Wrapping up a series of lectures, we find our Horace
wheezing quietly behind his lectern, special-ordered,
navel-high, gilded travesty that it is. A gift from the
deposed royalty of some forgettable Balkan place, his
entourage transports it from venue to venue, allowing him a
familiar platform upon which to set his beverage and behind
which to pontificate freely and with vigor. He’s taken to
calling the lectern by name—Roger Boggleton—which is
fitting for such a bold yet classic object which stands
nicely between himself and the audience to alleviate his
stage fright, and to offer him amazing pleasures he still
can’t fully grasp.

The lectures, if you can call them such, have gone fairly
well this year. All Horace has to do is finish up a short
discussion on Theoretical Semiotic Morality, and he will
conclude a long journey spanning four decades and thousands
of cities and finally get back to his first love, carving
soap into likenesses of world leaders. A milky-white soap-
bust of Abraham Lincoln rests just inside the lectern’s
cavity, nodding along and smiling in eternal affirmation of
Horace’s windbaggery.

“Ah, thank you for being here. This will be my last such
talk, and on a very special day, to be sure. On this day in
1916, or thirteen days prior, depending upon the calendar
you choose, Grigori Rasputin was assassinated by the coward
Yusupov, changing the course of world history. Little is
known about Rasputin’s true influence on Russia, but it is
said when Tsar Nicholas’s lips moved, Rasputin pushed the
wind.” Horace takes a drink of his lemon water, clears his
throat. He senses boredom in the front row, shifts gears.
Somewhere in the audience, a cell phone chirps, a bag of
chips crinkles. Horace adjusts his glasses and wipes his
brow. “How many of you know about the Cuban Missile
Crisis?” Almost all of the hands launch like rockets. “Ah,
excellent. Hands down. Now, I wonder how many of you know
about the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy?” Most
of the hands fly toward the ceiling. Must keep it relevant,
he tells himself, and then comes the tingling of the
lectern’s touch. Roger Boggleton, you’re always there for
me, he thinks.
Horace grins, looking at the young faces, scanning the
crowd. Roger has begun to massage his thighs, and he’s
trying to focus on the subject matter. “Mmm, yes, as you
know, President Kennedy was shot to death during a parade,
in Dallas. 1963, November the 22nd. I bet you don’t know,
that JFK’s father, Joe Kennedy, met with Tsar Nicholas and
Rasputin shortly before Rasputin’s own assassination in
The small crowd squirms, mutters, makes chicken-yard
sounds. Roger strokes Horace’s belly, calming him. He
rattles on, “And I’ll bet you didn’t know, that JFK was
born shortly thereafter. What’s interesting about all this,
is that Joe Kennedy carried an urn back to the states with
him, risking his freedom and his life. The urn contained
the ashes of Grigori Rasputin, which Joe fed to his
unwitting wife, spoonful after chalky spoonful, cooked into
her food, mixed in with her bathwater during her
Legs uncross and cross again, and phones are checked
nervously. His eyes roll back as Roger pleasures him.
Horace realizes he’s slipping out of mindfulness, clears
his throat. He smirks down at Roger, who dutifully caresses
him. “Am I postulating that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the
reincarnation of Grigori Rasputin? Well, yes, indeed I am.
How does this relate to Theoretical Semiotic Morality? I’ll
have to invite you to consider this: Upon Kennedy’s
assassination in 1963, which I believe was a staged event,
the war machine cranked up yet again, this time focused
upon southeast Asia. Mmmm—“ Horace nearly loses it, bites
his tongue to keep from climaxing. He loses track of the
Military-Industrial Complex rant, which he normally closes
with, and drifts long enough to hear the restless students
tapping their desks, murmuring to one another
He goes on, hoping to prolong the inevitable, “When Emil
Skodon was born, November the 25th, 1963, some forty years
before he would become the Ambassador to Brunei, the
world’s most corrupt and wealthiest Islamist monarchy in
history, nobody knew the life energy of the late President
would find its way into the Skodons’ bouncing baby boy, but
it did. And Rasputin’s too.”
Horace throws his head back, his entire body quivering like
the string of a balalaika, and letting out the sound of a
displeased horse. He leans forward on the lectern, panting,
and gives Roger a few light taps to let him know it’s over,
and that he’s enjoyed the lectures. Forlorn, satisfied, but
fulfilled, Horace zips up and takes his leave to a standing
ovation. The spotlight on Roger fades, and the students
shuffle out of the classroom.
In another town, nowhere close to here, the lectern’s
future owner finishes his application paperwork and begins
the process of moving his things to Roger’s town.
Just like Rasputin, Roger lives on.