Stay with me, people, as the mood grows darker still. Two new segments this week in my serial novel, "The Country/The Country."
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After Pig abruptly takes over the city of Monro and establishes rule by fear, everyman Keel braves a gathering of Pigglies in the hidden basement bunker of the house of his enemy. Surprise! -- Pig is expecting him. He fires a few provocative questions, to find out what this strange little man is made of, and they debate the classic question of whether it is better for a ruler to be loved or feared. Does Keel pass the test? More importantly, does he do what opposition guru Mrs. Nathan wants him to do? Make Pig notice him. Make a connection; however momentary.... Chapters 25-27 in "The Country/The Country." https://www.inkitt.com/stories/thriller/226757/chapters/25
From chapter 27, "It's an Honor":
"So you're Keel, right?" The booming voice of the network-addled rallies scaled itself to basement-bunker dimension. "The phil-os-o-pher."
He wanted to deny it; shake his head. He shrugged instead.
Besides, this was his job. His part to play: make him look at you. That appeared to be happening without much effort on his part.
"So. What do you think of Mac-Veely?"
Pegasso's voice beckoned with a sort of punishing charm. Not the chanting, stump-thumper's voice of the choreographed rallies, those thinly veiled war-games.
Keel forced himself to look at the candidate. His features not handsome, but strong. His Adam's apple prominent. His chin narrowly cleft; why, Keel concluded, he was photographed always from a profile dominated by the strong nose. In person he appeared larger, wider, than even the big-shouldered protectors who lurked behind Keel with their hands at their sides.
"Well?" A voice like a blade.
"Excuse me." Keel searched for present-mindedness. "You asked about Mac-Veely?"
"You're this Keel we've been hearing about, right? This man who knows all the old books."
Hearing of? How?
"Yes." What more could he say? "I'm Keel."
"And I am Pegasso. So let's go, Keel. Let me hear from you."
In a city under the rule of Pig, the Pegasso Campaign takes what it wants. It runs up debts it has no intention of paying. Steals a car. Kidnaps a girl. In a campaign of humiliation of its opponents, Pig's soldiers demonstrate control by public ‘shamings’ of members of the 'leets' through brutal displays of pain and intimidation, turning ordinary citizens into collaborators.
Keel finds two large men at his door. Come with me, they say. Is he about to be shamed. Instead they take him to another encounter with Mr. Pig himself, this time in an empty City Hall (or 'City Hell,' as Keel thinks of it). It concludes on an ominous note, as Keel finds himself a prisoner. Chapters 28-30. https://www.inkitt.com/stories/thriller/226757/chapters/28
If you're just hopping on, here's a brief synopsis of the plot set-up of "The Country/The Country."The novel's principal character, who goes by the single name of Keel, is a former college teacher pressed into early retirement by the declining interest in his academic specialty, classical philosophy. The chief antagonist is the wealthy businessman Karol Pegasso, who heads the international cartel Animal Firm and whose political theories involve more frankly brutal tactics than even those currently on display in American politics. After a long period of peace and moderate prosperity in The Commonhope of UZ (a fictional country with resemblances to our own), fears of economic stagnation and social change are driving the candidacy of a new kind of leader. Called "Pig" by his supporters, who pack angry rallies to show their eagerness for vague, sweeping concentrations of power, Pegasso dominates the early rounds of his country's complicated election system and appears a near certainty to be the county's new chief executive. But when citizen Keel discovers the graffiti "Kill Mr. Pig" in his own neighborhood in the middling city of Monro, the desperate call of a potentially violent opposition both frightens him and arouses a deep patriotic urge to make a difference. Chance, or something else, brings him into conflict with local Pig supporters, and into psychic connection with an old woman of unusual powers (Mrs. Nathan). He also encounters a network of mysterious "watchers" monitoring the activities of the Pig campaign in Monro and a local dog officer who has ties to both Pig supporters and opponents. And when Keel travels to the backwoods hideout of Mrs. Nathan, he is told to be ready to play his part in stopping Pig's momentum.