Not surprisingly, there is a dearth of diplomatic volunteers willing to serve in the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. According to a statement recently released by the State Department, it will be necessary to use a form of "draft" to recruit members of the diplomatic corps to serve there. Some 2-300 diplomats are being notified this week that they have been identified as "prime candidates" to fill 40-50 vacancies that will open as of next year. Those selected will be required to do a one-year posting.
"Do you suppose they'd be willing to hire an alligator?" Virgil asks, the only reptile on the planet who is busy composing a life. "I'm good at dealing with people who are absolutely allergic to any kind of direction, and I have no vested interest in always being right. I like surviving in unwholesome conditions, and could keep at bay anyone who turns nasty, or threatens us with fists, rocks, or machetes."
I freak out. "You can't possibly go to Baghdad, Virgil," I say. "Even if it does make a certain crazy sense, I'd never be able to manage without you. You may be an alligator, but you are still my best link to the human community. You're my guardian angel, helping this Cinderella as she pokes among the ashes of what used to be called civilization. You can't just leave!"
"Not to toot my own horn, Madame, or encourage confusion between your own ego and mine, but I know that it is wrong to lie, cheat, steal, or inflict cruelty, so maybe my presence there could help stem the tide of hundreds of years of exploited bitterness. At my peak, I realize that I'm only an artistic endeavor, not a liberal or a conservative. I may not fit any well-defined job description, but I do have a vivid sense of the plasticity of the human condition, approximate to the grunt. Besides, life in the swamp has become pretty pricey. Like everyone else, I've got my bills to pay."
"Okay, okay," I say, taking the hint. "So find out what they're paying, and I'll double it."
Anything to forestall my worst nightmare: waking up one morning and finding that the alligator has split. Now that really would be the end of the world.