restricted access Perpetua
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

8 8 8 8 8 We are happy to be traveling together in the alligator. To survive the crisis in the city outside, we have had ourselves made very small. To make our trip more pleasant the alligator herself has been equipped with many windows, cleverly fitted between the armor plates so we can look out at the disaster as we ride along. The lounge where we are riding is paneled in mahogany and fitted with soft leather sofas and beautifully sculpted leather chairs where we recline until seven, when the chef Father engaged calls us to a sit-down dinner in the galley lodged at the base of our alligator’s skull. Our vehicle is such a technical masterpiece that our saurian hostess zooms along unhampered, apparently at home in the increasingly treacherous terrain. If she knows we’re in here, and if she guesses that tonight we will be dining on Boeuf Wellington and asparagus terrine with Scotch salmon and capers while she has to forage, she rushes along as though she doesn’t care. We hear occasional growls and sounds of rending and gnashing over the Vivaldi track Father has chosen as background for this first phase of our journey; she seems to be finding plenty to eat outside. Inside, everything is arranged for our comfort and happiness, perhaps because Father knows we have reservations about being here. My sisters and I can count on individualized snack trays, drugs of choice and our favorite drinks, which vary from day to day. Over our uniform jumpsuits we wear monogrammed warm-up jackets in our favorite colors—a genteel lavender for Lily, which Ella apes because she’s too young to have her own ideas; jade for Cynthia and, it figures, my aggressively girlish sister Anna is in Passive Pink; Father doesn’t like it, but I have chosen black. “Molly, that color doesn’t become you.” “Nobody’s going to see me, what difference does it make?” “I like my girls to look nice.” I resent this because we all struggled to escape the family and made it too. We’d still be out there if it wasn’t for this. “Your girls, your girls, we haven’t been your girls in years.” Father: “You will always be my girls.” That smile. ok, I am the family gadfly. “This crisis. Is there something funny going on that we don’t know about?” Perpetua 206 k i t r e e d “Molly,” he thunders. “Look out the windows. Then tell me if you think there’s anything funny about this.” “I mean, is this a trick to get us back?” “If you think I made this up, send a goddamn email. Search the Web or turn on the goddamn tv!” The chairs are fitted with wireless connections so we can download music and email our loved ones although we never hear back, and at our fingertips are multimedia remotes. We want for nothing here in the alligator. Nothing material, that is. I check my sources and Father is right. It is a charnel house out there while in here with Father, we are pampered and well fed and snug. It is a velvet prison, but look at the alternative! Exposure to thunderstorms and fires in collision, vulnerability to mudslides and flooding of undetermined origin ; our alligator slithers through rivers of bloody swash and our vision is obscured by the occasional collision with a severed limb. We can’t comprehend the nature or the scope of the catastrophe, only that it’s all around us, while here inside the alligator, we are safe. Her name is Perpetua. Weird, right? Me knowing? But I do. So we are safe inside Perpetua, and I guess we have Father to thank. Where others ignored the cosmic warnings, he took them to heart. Got ready. Spared no expense. I suppose we should be glad. If it weren’t for the absence of certain key loved ones from our table and from our sumptuous beds in the staterooms aft of the spiny ridge, we probably would. It’s Father’s fault. Like a king summoning his subjects, he brought us back from the corners of the earth where we strayed after we grew up and escaped the house. He brought us in from West Hollywood (Cynthia) and Machu­ Picchu (Lily) and (fluffy Anna) Biarritz and Farmington, for our baby sister Ella attends the exclusive Miss Porter’s School. And Father reached me . . . ​ where? When...


pdf