“Do you realize that the Latin phrase ‘Caveat Emptor’ is a saying?” said the Traveller. [DESCRIBE HE IS TALKING TO DACE, WHERE THEY ARE TALKING (LOCATION IN QUEENS -- WHITE CASTLES ON ROCKAWAY BLVD?)]
“Okay.” answered Dace. “‘Let the buyer beware.’ So?”
“In other words, ‘Let the buyer beware’ is not a literal translation. Think about it — Caveat is a word we use today in English. It basically means an addendum to an agreement.”
“Emptor — well, that related to the modern word empty, does it not? So, it’s literally an empty caveat. An addendum that is empty.”
“Here’s my point — Caveat Emptor is a saying, a catch-phrase … in Latin! When people think of Latin, they probably imagine these words that are so serious and well-thought out. Baloney! Caveat Emptor is like … equivalent of ‘You’re S.O.L.’ or “You’re fubar’ed.’ It’s slang.”
“Oh,” Dace said, finally picking up the Traveller’s train of thought. “Caveat Emptor — empty caveat — that’s like street talk.”
“Exactly, We assume that Latin is this out-of-touch language spoke by geniuses a long time ago when it is, in fact, a language with colloquialisms and phrases used in much the same way we have today with English. The dumbing down of language has always been with us … and there will always be professors preaching the virtues of proper language usage.”
“Huh. That’s fascinating.”
“You’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up.”
“I just figured it hit you … out of the blue. And you felt like sharing.”
“Well … yes, but there’s more to it. I think Caveat Emptor — the phrase — is directly linked to the Realtor.”
“I suspect he offered an empty caveat to someone … ages ago … and now we have this relic from the past, almost as a warning. To me, the translation should be, ‘Don’t deal with the Realtor.’ I’d bet he came up with the ‘Let the buyer beware’ phrase.”
“That phrase puts it on the buyer to beware … and leaves the seller out of the equation. However, if you consider the true meaning of an empty caveat, it suggests the seller is providing the caveat … which lays responsibility on the seller for doing such a thing.”
“That certainly is a twist on a common phrase.”
“Yes. So, how did the Realtor talk you into this deal you’ve struck with him?”
Dace was stunned. The Traveller had been dancing around the edges before getting to his point.
“I … didn’t know you knew.”
“Hey, listen. I trust you … okay? I’m not here to try to talk you out of something, or ask for a justification. I just want to know what happened, for the record.”
“It’s going in my book. Oh, you didn’t know?”
Dace proceeded to recount what actually happened … for the Traveller’s record.
Downtrodden. Alone. Not a friend nearby to help or relate.
Dace sat against a wrought-iron fence that was inches from a brick wall, facing a one-way street near Rockaway Boulevard. There were some kids a few feet away, playing stickball. He marvelled that such a thing was still possible. Then he remembered he was sitting in the middle of a lower-middle class neighborhood, complete with cracked sidewalks and homes with aluminum siding. A brick church across the street offered congregants hope … no one on this block attended.
It was here that the Realtor found the Dream Seeker — next to the brick Post Office building with wrought-iron fence.
Dace looked at him and then looked away, watching the stickball contest.
“Wish you were that young again?” asked the Realtor.
“I wish you would leave me be,” said Dace.
“I can’t do that. You’re too important.”
“Nonsense. I can’t convert the world, like Nehal. I have no world-wide organization, doing my bidding. In your eyes, I’m an insect. Like a field anthropologist, you’ve decided to study me.”
“Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth!”
“Please. Don’t build me up and then sell me something. I know what I am. I’m Mother Theresa without the publicity. I’m a fly on your wall. I’ll help out a few people, and then I’ll be gone.”
“You’re an Icon. You can’t die that easily.”
“Have you read the papers lately? Dreams are dying left and right, and with that goes my influence … my abilities.”
“You’re a young man, DAce. Even if people stopped believing in you, which I don’t think they have, you still have a lifetime ahead of you. You haven’t lost that.”
“Hmph. Not unless Ma Yuan kills me.”
“Look, kid. I’m not here to sell … okay, maybe I am, but it’s not what you think. This is different. I need your help. The world needs your help.”
“Oh, brother. Spare me the platitudes.”
“Okay, okay. Look … my organization needs dreams, or else we won’t exist. I can’t exist without someone like you, inspiring people to pursue their, ahem, true goals in life.”
“So … you want me to inspire a few people so you can mislead many? I’d rather die.”
The Realtor paused a moment and then said, “No, you wouldn’t. You want a chance. You want to compete with me. And I need you to compete with me, becuase if you don’t, then we both will die.”
“Not good. Have you thought about what happens afterwards — after we’re both gone?”
“Not really, but since you’re asking … uh, let’s see: a world living in peace, with less stress, less anxiety, less jealousy, less rage … the realization of Nehal’s dream without the huge deception to bring it about?”
“No, my young friend.”
“God. I am not your friend….”
“You saved me once. You understood the practical importance of saving me then, even though you disagreed with my overall objectives. I wonder if you can understand the practical side of this situation.”
Dace sighed. “Go ahead, if only to end this sales pitch of yours.”
“If we die, the Gambler, and everything he represents, takes over. We won’t be around to act as a buffer against his influence.”
Dace looked at the Realtor. He had not considered the Gambler. Although he gave off the air of being a jovial drunk without a clue, Dace knew the Gambler was dangerous. He avoided Las Vegas, ever since….
The Realtor continued: “You’ve always thought I was your arch-nemesis, right? Yes, we’re not friends, but … the true enemy of dreams … the one person who you would never help, the way you helped me … it’s the Gambler.
“There are things that … you haven’t learned about yet. Maybe you should ask your buddy the Traveller.”
“Let’s just Nehal wasn’t too far off with his Animalgram system of enlightenment … but it doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Okay. I’m damn curious, but I’ll wait until I see the Traveller, but … what does this secret knowledge have to do with the Gambler?”
“His personality … what he represents … it is linked with the power that controls our reality. Without us, his link to that power would grow, to the point that he would fashion the world in any manner that he sees fit. No one would be able to stand up to him. As it is, he’s grown in power … that’s why you’re having so much difficulty finding dreams.
“The Icon of gambling is all about random chaos, lack of logic, confusion, impossible odds, and … for him, challenging us to our very core, all the time.
“If he wins, and some Icons believe he will, he won’t hide from the public anymore. The world will know of his immortality … he will encourage worship … but not for biblical reasons. No, he wants people to try and get something from him — he wants to control the ‘blessings’ that people receive.”
“Strange,” said Dace, “but in a twisted way, that does sound biblical. Of course, I know he’s not the only one who enjoy being worshipped, right?”
“Of course I would enjoy it, Dace … but I’m more interested in commerce, moving ideas around and making realities out of them … I don’t want direct worship like that. I like running the show, knowing that i helped build this, or invent that. The Gambler, on the other hand … his vision of what the world should be is far worse than Nehal’s. I guarantee it.”
Dace pondered what the Realtor was telling him….
“So,” said the Traveller, “you had no choice.”
“Nope. It was getting harder and harder to find viable dreams within people, and I didn’t have the resources to scour the country. Plus, the people I did manage to help weren’t donating to my cause very much … I need a real financier to keep going.”
“He’s giving me carte blanche…”
“…and he gave me this credit card,” Dace showed the Traveller a black AmEx card. “In exchange, I don’t meddle in his affairs.”
“That’s what he’s always wanted.”
“No, I think he wanted to control me before — to tell me who I could help. This is different. It’s a more defensive posture.”
“But it’s still a compromise.”
“What choice did I have?”
“Well, you could go after the Gambler directly.”
“Ha! And who is going to pay for that trip? You?”
“No. I’ve been juggling my finances, too. Good point.”
“Even if you did have plane fare for me, how would I approach him? I didn’t need the Realtor tell me the Gambler’s grown more powerful … I can feel it.”
The Traveller thought for a moment. “Let me work on that. It might take a while, but I’ll figure something out. There has to be some way to slow down his increase in power.”
“you agree with the Realtor then? The Gambler is too dangerous?”
“Yes … as he told you, there are certain things you don’t know about. I’m not even sure if Edith knows about the Nine and their eternal struggle over the nature of reality.”
“I’ll explain it … it’s simple, but it can get complicated if you think too much about it. At any rate … I think we have an empty caveat. If you defeated the Gambler, that would eliminate the premise of your agreement with the Realtor. That’s a way out of your current deal.”
“That is an empty caveat! If what the Realtor said is true about the Gambler, I can’t defeat him. It’s like he’s … it’s like fate is on his side. He has to win, if he’s linked to the power that controls this reality.”
“If that’s true … then why bother fighting him?”
Dace and the Traveller gave each other knowing glances.
That night, Dace made a phone call.
“Well, what a surprise!” said the Gambler on the other end. “Never thought you’d call me! Ha ha! How you doin’, kid?”
“I’ve been better.”
“So I hear. So I hear. It’s a shame you had to go to the Realtor for help.”
“Yeah. Well, look — if you need help, you should come to me.”
“That’s a thought.”
“It sure is! It sure is. You’ve got lots of potential, and, look — what you do and what I do get along just fine. Just fine. We don’t have to fight. I don’t have to tell you don’t meddle in my affairs! Meddle away! Ha! It’s nice to have some dreams in the Casino.”
“I’m sure it is.”
“Look, kid, I know you made a deal, but let’s be realists, okay? I mean, it’s not like you signed a piece of paper and sold your soul to the devil, right? Right?”
“Yeah. It’s just a verbal agreement. And you know the Realtor….”
“Ha ha! Do I? Of course I do! He’s an old-time snake oil salesman, as far as I’m concerned. Fancy technology doesn’t change what he is. Look, as far as I’m concerned, that agreement between you and him doesn’t mean a thing. If you want help, come on down to Vegas and I’ll help you. How’s that sound?”
It sounded good to Dace. The Gambler made arrangements for Dace to fly out tomorrow. Dace hung up and looked at the Realtor — they sat in his high-rise Manhattan office.
“I’m surprised you didn’t just go over there and turn against me,” said the Realtor.
“You never did understand me.”
“What’s to understand? For all I know, this scheme you’ve cooked up is just your way to bring me down, instead of him.”
“Your paranoid, man.”
“So, what do you want me to do while you go over there and hang out with the enemy?”
Dace stood up and said, “Get ready to fight.” As he walked out, he added, “And if you’re thinking about double-crossing me, I’ll know, and you’ll be fighting the both of us.”
Dace walked out and closed the door. The Realtor smiled. The kid’s learning, he thought.