© Copyright Arthur Hagopian 2016

Tempor est incididunt ut

Labore in aute et pariatur

One

”Never,” the other said, pushing the bedsheet

aside, and trying to shuffle out of the bed.

"No,   no,   don't   get   up,   please."   He   pushed   the   old   man   back. "I won't stay long. We have a long day tomorrow." "You sound tired, Beatitude," Zohrab said. "I   have   spent   half   the   night   on   my   knees,   but   somehow   my prayers   lacked   fervour.   On   the   eve   of   my   greatest   earthly   triumph, I felt so empty." "Probably,   this   is   an   after-effect   of   the   euphoria   which   has held   the   whole   region   in   its   grip   these   past   few   weeks.   Now   that peace is assured, the effect is wearing off." "Perhaps,   you're   right.   That's   probably   why   I   am   so   reluctant to   chair   the   conference.   I   wish   someone   else   would   preside.   I   don't care   so   much   for   bright   lights.   But   it   can't   be   helped.   I   have   been personally   assured   by   both   Palestinian   President   Ismail   Hamdan and    Israeli    Prime    Minister    Aharon    Mordechai    that    without    my personal   presence   around   the   conference   table,   the   ceremony   will lack credibility." He took a deep breath. "They're   right.   You   can't   rob   the   plebeians   of   their   peep- show.   You   have   to   be   up   there   on   the   stage,   in   the   splendour   of your   gilt   and   velvet   vestments,   and   equipped   with   all   your   full office   regalia,   which   many   of   them   would   give   an   arm   to   own.   They have    to    have    their    circus.    The    gimmickry    will    lend    lustre    and meaning    to    a    silly    ceremony    that    will    come    too    late    for    the thousands   of   innocent   Arabs   and   Israelis   killed   in   seven   bloody, stupid   wars.   They   could   have   had   their   peace   with   dignity   30   years ago   and   saved   the   world   all   the   heartache.   But   no.   They   had   to wait   until   the   Ayatollahs   dangled   their   little   nuclear   toys   before their noses, before some sense was knocked into their heads." The    long    outburst    seemed    to    have    winded    Zohrab.    He closed his eyes and lay back against the pillow, breathing heavily. "Are you all right?" Mihran asked solicitously. "I    was    never    much    good    at    hiding    my    feelings,"    Zohrab croaked, grimacing with pain. Mihran got up from the chair and stood before the window. "It's   been   a   long   way   from   the   wilderness   of   Syria.   Hasn't   it, Zohrab?" "Too   long.   But   are   you   complaining?   I   know   I   am   not.   My nose has been bloodied, true, but it's been worth it." There   was   a   short   silence,   then   the   Patriarch   said,   "I   am tired, Zohrab. I believe my journey is over. I need some rest." "You'll   never   have   any   rest,   Beatitude.   You   cannot   afford   to. Your   journey   won't   end   with   your   abdication.   You   have   to   keep   on walking   along   the   road   that   you   chose   the   day   you   were   born,   and that   you   hope   leads   to   perfection,   wearing   your   cross,   till   the   last day of your life." "So   be   it.   But   I   shall   have   the   satisfaction   of   knowing   that   my crown   of   thorns   will   be   worn   by   someone   who   is   worthy,   and younger,   and   more   dynamic   one   who   will   continue   what   I   have begun."     There was silence for a minute. "St    James    will    be    the    poorer    without    you,"    Zohrab    said, laying   his   gnarled   hand   on   the   other's   sleeve.   "I   have   no   intention of   dissuading   you,   I   had   suspected   something   like   this   for   some time now, but I did not expect it so soon." The Patriarch burst out laughing. "You    have    always    had    an    uncanny    power    of    reading    my mind, of penetrating my innermost secrets." "Only   the   ones   you   wanted   me   to   know.   Not   everything.   I did    not    like    the    idea    of    being    your    conscience."    Abruptly,    he changed the subject. "Are   you   now   fully   convinced   that   Bishop   Ardavazt   will   be able to win the Patriarchal election?" "I   have   not   the   slightest   doubt.   He   will   be   perfect   for   the   job. He   has   commitment,   you   see.   But   what   is   more   important,   he knows   very   well   that   in   order   to   succeed,   he   must   outperform   his predecessor.    He    has    absolutely    no    intention    of    walking    in    my footsteps.   And   that   is   good.   We   need   some   fresh   blood   in   the Patriarchate." "This   is   farewell,   then?"   Despite   his   penchant   for   stoicism, Zohrab could not conceal the pain in his voice. "It must be." "Have you told the Vehapar,[4] yet?" "He will be the second to know. You're the first." "I   could   have   dispensed   with   the   honor.   Where   will   you   be going?" "Away   from   Jerusalem.   Probably   to   the   old   convent   in   Jaffa.   I don't   want   to   hover   in   the   background,   as   a   spectre   haunting   the new   patriarch.   He   will   have   his   hands   full   already   without   having to worry about someone breathing down his neck." "You are taking the 'little treasure' with you." "Of course." "I   can't   wait   to   know   that   it   has   been   safely   ensconced   in   the Madenataran,[5]   as   we   have   planned   for   so   long,   and   where   it rightfully belongs." "Yes, it will be safe there, for our people, for eternity."     "You're     sending     it     to     Yerevan     with     Gevorg,     from     the Embassy?" "Yes.    We    have    had    cause    in    the    past    to    rely    upon    his discretion.   At   this   crucial   moment   in   the   history   of   our   Motherland and   our   Church,   we   must   avoid   at   all   costs   getting   embroiled   in sordid   side-issues   like   a   scandal   about   a   purloined   Manuscript   or its   perilous   peregrinations,   and   its   near   miraculous   recovery.   The world   will   know   of   its   existence   in   the   proper   time   and   context.   In the meantime, it will remain under wraps in the Madenataran." "How much does Gevorg know?" "Gevorg   is   a   career   diplomat,   Zohrab.   Such   people   are   not chosen   or   cultivated   for   their   flippancy   nor   are   they   noted   for   their penchant to breach a trust. He is a good man." "I     wonder     how     many     people     really     know     about     the manuscript." "Not    many,    besides    you    and    myself,    thank    God:    Enver Mustafa,   the   auction   house,   the   Vehapar   and   the   man   responsible for the whole mess." "The copper box will travel via normal postal channels?" "Yes."
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