Inside “Revenge of the Scapegoat”

Excerpt from "Revenge of the Scapegoat"

Chapter 31

Isolation and Encounter

Joe Diamond was unprepared for the increasing depth of loneliness he had felt since boarding the vessel two days earlier.

He sat on his stateroom balcony, windows open to the cool early-dawn air, watching the Viking Century Sky depart from the small harbor where it had anchored for the night. The scene on the wide river — aging junks in slow motion, commercial trawlers and small motorboats churning the water, the omnipresent coal barges — gave little visual respite from the heat and smoke of the day when the sun was blazing. But there was no surcease from the acute discomfort that regularly woke him at 4 a.m. with anxiety about Paul and his link with the puzzle of the Americansı presence on board.

These painful emotions surprised him: it was an inevitable part of the experience of an only-child prodigy and one that he had welcomed. But despite their unique gifts, prodigies desperately needed human comfort. True, some were geniuses at relationship, devoting their lives to healing and advising. But most prodigies suffered intensely from their superiorities. A significant minority chose suicide — cowards whom he disdained, men and women unwilling to face the challenge of being different from the rest of humanity. Others deliberately hid their talents within the ordinary population. But the real heroes of his subspecies were those who, like himself, actualized themselves to the fullest, no matter the personal cost.

He, Joe Diamond, had willingly sacrificed camaraderie for the pursuit of greatness. He hadnıt conquered loneliness — his relationship with Paul was proof of that. Until this cruise, he hadnıt realized how dependent he was on the crutch of this special friendship. Herodotus said that everything changes — everything — but he had never included his relationship with Paul in this famous credo. It was Paulıs familiar presence that kept him safely in the world, and it was Paulıs recent disaffection that had created his current crisis. The others in his life — the loose federation of the members of Sons of Mozart, his scientific colleagues, Zvi and Peter, a few favorite whores — all provided a utilitarian service. Paul was alone in the give and take of love. Joe never contemplated losing him.

It was imperative to regain his friendıs loyalty, and that meant it was time to prepare the ground for action.