For All Nails #299: Patience

by Johnny Pez

Bogotá, Sovereign State of New Granada
1 August 1979

Fernando mopped the sweat from his face as he collapsed into an armchair. Whose idea had it been to hold the handover ceremony in August? He doubted whether he looked very regal with sweat stains covering half of his ADNG uniform. A servant handed him a glass of iced ginger beer (a vice he had picked up in the CNA and never shaken), and he gratefully downed half of it. Then he sighed a long, heartfelt sigh.

In spite of having spent as much time up on the platform as himself, Sophia, as always, managed to look cool, aided no doubt by her sleeveless lavender gown and pale complexion. "Congratulations, Your Majesty," she said with a sly smile, "you've got your country back again."

"Somebody's got his country back again," said Fernando, "but I doubt whether that somebody is me."

"Oh, no you don't," Sophia warned him. "No moping. This might not be an unalloyed triumph, but it's a triumph nonetheless. If Alexander remains the power behind the throne, then that's as it should be. Without him, there'd be no throne. For that matter, there'd be no country, just a collection of fragments ruled by a handful of British puppets."

"And what a country!" Fernando exclaimed. "Have you seen those murals they've been putting up around the city? They're practically carbon copies of the propaganda the NRP use in Britain. Tell me you don't look at them and see Mosely Leigh-Oswald in an ADNG uniform."

"Alright, I grant you the murals are not a positive sign," Sophia admitted. "And nobody has more contempt for the NRP and its ways than I. But you told me yourself, the day I arrived here, that this country was not a perfect one. You said that it held many dark secrets, and that by staying here we ran the risk of becoming corrupted by the evil around us."

"Did I say that?" Fernando wondered.

"In those very words," she affirmed.

Any further thoughts he might have shared with her were interrupted by the arrival of New Granada's Crown Prince. With Don Fernando, inevitably, came Nefertiti, a Congo terrier who had arrived the year before as a gift from the new Mahdi of Ouadai. Sophia had suggested at the time that the choice of a dog as a gift might have been a deliberate insult on the Mahdi's part, and Fernando suspected she was right. There was no question of returning Nefertiti to the Mahdi, though, particularly after she attached herself to Nando (and vice versa). Being a month shy of four years old, Nando had a lot in common, temperamentally, with the dog.

Nefertiti briefly separated herself from Nando to rush over to the King, giving him a look that clearly implied that he must be concealing something tasty about his person that ought to be shared with her.

"My apologies, young lady," said Fernando gravely. "I have nothing to offer you but perspiration."

A few sniffs on Nefertiti's part served to confirm the King's words, and she returned to her earlier pastime of licking Nando's face. Fernando could feel the disapproval radiating from Sophia without having to look at her. His wife's youthful experience with her mother's corgis had permanently soured her on dogs, and Nefertiti's unfortunate habit of chasing Sophia's cat Lupe didn't help matters. Glancing back again at Sophia, Fernando said, "Where were we?"

With an icy look at the Congo terrier, Sophia said, "The evil around us."

Grinning in response, Fernando added, "And the risk of becoming corrupted by it."

"Perhaps I'm becoming corrupted myself," Sophia said with a sigh, "but living through the past five years has given me a greater appreciation for Alexander's point of view. It's bloody humiliating watching our country become a plaything for the Great Powers. And it's not just New Granada -- the whole of South America's nothing more than an arena for the Germans and Mexicans and that lot to play out their rivalries by proxy. The only sure way to put a stop to it is for all the South Americans to come together and show the rest of the world a single face."

Raising an eyebrow, Fernando said, "My face?"

"If that's what it takes."

Fernando shook his head. "My wife, the imperialist. Who would have guessed?"

"Your wife," Sophia reminded him, "is a member of the House of Windsor; she comes by it honestly."

Fernando was pensive, though. His wife's comments had started him thinking, and he thought best aloud. "Old-fashioned imperialism didn't work out very well for New Granada," he remarked.

"True," said Sophia. "I recognize that look. What are you thinking?"

"Alexander's an intelligent man, not the sort to make the same mistake twice."

Sophia nodded. "Also true."

"If old-fashioned imperialism didn't work, perhaps he might try a new-fashioned sort."

"What do you mean?"

"If you can't conquer with men and weapons," he said slowly, "you can always try to conquer with images, words, ideas."

"Such as?"

"Such as a man on a mural wearing an ADNG uniform," the King answered, and now he began speaking more rapidly. "Such as slogans like 'strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action.' Such as a populist political movement called National Solidarity. If you've got a dozen National Solidarity movements in a dozen neighboring countries, you don't need a conquering army. All you need is patience.

"And if there's one thing the last five years have taught Alexander," Fernando added, "it's patience."

Sophia had started to blink rapidly; years of marriage had taught Fernando that it was a sign of agitation. "Do you really think that's what Alexander has in mind?"

"Who can say?" Fernando shrugged. "But if I were him, that's what I'd be doing."

(Forward to FAN #300: Descendants.)

(Forward to 21 January 1980: Joining Up is Hard to Do.)

(Forward to New Granada: Buque Nights.)

(Return to For All Nails.)

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