The ward of castoria, p.7
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.7

           Robin Silverglate

  Chapter 3

  Dinner Guests

  The moment Bryn made it home, she began cleaning. There was so much to do and so little time to get it done. She and her father never cared much about the house’s status of cleanliness. They usually had a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and the bathrooms would be left untouched for as long as they could stand it. She and her father had so many other priorities in their lives that the house usually came in last. Today, however, Bryn wanted it to look nice. She did not want other people to see their mess and her father seemed to really appreciate her offer to straighten up.

  So she cleaned every room that had the possibility of being seen by their guests tonight. The kitchen, family room, and downstairs bathroom were scrubbed spotlessly. Her room, as well as her fathers, became dumping grounds for anything that could not easily be put away. When her father came home, he offered to help her, but Bryn refused. She gave him the task of ordering and picking up dinner. When the house seemed presentable enough, Bryn quickly showered and changed because she did not want to smell like disinfectant while they ate.

  She walked into the family room at five minutes to six and plopped down on the couch. Her father looked up from his newspaper and said, “The house looks great, Brynie Bird.”

  “Dinner smells great, Dad,” she mumbled from the couch. “I’m so tired though. Just let me rest my eyes for a few minutes before they get here.” The doorbell rang just as she finished her sentence. An involuntary groan escaped her mouth.

  Her father gave her a regretful look and said, “I’m sorry. It appears they’re a few minutes early.”

  Bryn forced herself to sit up and walked with her father to open the front door of the house.

  Beck walked in and said, “Thank you so much for inviting us for dinner.” He turned to Bryn and said, “I’m so sick of pizza. I might choke if I’m required to eat another slice. You have literally saved my life.”

  Bryn laughed and said, “Death by pizza? There could be worse ways to go.”

  “Very true, but at the moment, I can’t think of one.” She led them to the family room where they could sit down on the couch for a few minutes before diving into the food. Dane quietly ambled in and took a seat. Beck and her father began talking about the different textbooks they were reviewing for the school to adopt. Dane looked a little uncomfortable as he sat in the corner of the room. Bryn left them to go set the table and get the food ready for serving. She was glad she did not have to engage in small talk with Dane. Bryn hated having to think of stupid, nonsensical things to say to people she barely knew. She was grateful she had some employment to keep her occupied in the kitchen for a while.

  When dinner was ready, they all squeezed around the small kitchen table that usually had plenty of room for the two of them. Beck happily sat in the chair between Dane and Bryn and said, “This smells delicious. I’ve never had food from Wild Bill’s before.”

  “It’s one of our favorite restaurants,” explained Bryn. “Dad and I know all the best places to eat since we don’t do much cooking ourselves. I’d be happy to recommend a few places for you so you don’t have to be stuck with pizza ever again.”

  Beck looked excited and said, “Thank you. Dane and I are so incompetent in the kitchen. We couldn’t even tell you the difference between a pan and a pot so we’re always ordering out, too. But being new in the area, I have no idea where to start. Any advice you can give us would be much appreciated.”

  Bryn and Beck carried on most of the conversation during dinner with periodic advice from her father. Dane quietly ate as the three others chatted about this, that, or the other random things.

  After dinner, they moved back into the family room to continue the conversion. Bryn was ready for the night to end. She had so much homework to do and was getting worried she was going to have to be up very late in order to finish it. Worst of all, Bryn started to feel the tell-tale signs of exhaustion from all the fervent housework she had done earlier. She sat on the couch deliberating between not wanting to get up for a while and excusing herself to her room to work on homework. At the moment, her eyelids were feeling too heavy to even think about getting off the couch. She only half-listened to her father’s conversation with Beck.

  At some point, her father tried to include Dane in the conversation by asking how his first day of school was. He replied that he found his classes interesting. Bryn dozed in and out as they discussed teachers and their various subjects. At first, when she heard them move on to the subject of her father’s lecture, she did not take much notice. But something Dane said, forced her out of her stupor and called her to attention.

  “I agree with Machiavelli,” stated Dane.

  Bryn saw her father nod appreciatively. As a trained teacher, he was required to hear all the different viewpoints and try to find ways to show their merits, but Bryn could not agree with Dane. Machiavelli was synonymous with the term, “the ends justify the means.” He encouraged kings and princes to do whatever they needed to do in order to keep their countries powerful. No matter what the cost.

  “How can you agree with him?” Bryn asked in disbelief. “He was horrible?”

  Dane looked over to her. While he looked a little surprised at the challenge in her eyes, he did not back down. “His methods were harsh, but the principles behind many of his ideas were sound.”

  “But he was an advocate of cruelty to others. Dad, what was that part where he talked about being extra cruel to someone?”

  Her father smiled a little and said, “Actually, there were many parts about cruelty. However, I believe the part you are referring to is when he said, If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe, that his vengeance need not be feared.”

  “See!” Bryn exclaimed. “He said when you hurt someone, make sure you hurt them so badly that they don’t have the ability to fight back.”

  “I’m not saying I support that particular statement of his. Your father and I were talking about the part where he said, Before all else, be armed. I was merely stating that I agreed with Machiavelli on that quote. He was telling Princes their first priority should be to protect their kingdom. If they are not prepared to protect themselves, then they are an easy target. A good Prince would never risk the safety of his people. They are his first priority. And he needs to be ready for anything that comes his way.”

  Bryn sighed with frustration. “But wouldn’t building up weapons for protection actually encourage the Princes to become greedy with power and then eventually go on the offensive? Especially with Machiavelli guiding the Princes down the path of cruelty, how could they not be tempted by evil?” Bryn did not even give Dane time to answer her question before moving onto her other point. “Machiavelli’s advice created nothing but greedy and evil rulers. I mean, he flat out tells the Princes that it is better to be feared than loved.”

  Dane shook his head and said, “Actually, his exact quote was, it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than loved.”

  Bryn silently cursed him for having such a good memory from her father’s earlier lecture, but she was still undaunted. “Ah, even so. He is still an advocate of unleashed cruelty.”

  “No, he isn’t. He’s not advocating cruelty for the sake of cruelty. He only advises that a Prince be tough when he is trying to protect his country. That is the only time when cruelty is allowed.”

  Bryn was unable to come up with further evidence for her dislike of Machiavelli. She sat in silence for a few moments as she composed a new attack. She finally said, “Even if Machiavelli had avid followers during the Renaissance, his advice is too old fashioned for today’s leaders. In fact, princes are an entirely outdated concept. Are they even needed anymore? Laws are passed by Parliament or Congress. Princes are nothing but figureheads. They sit in their luxurious castles, dress in fine cl
othes, and wave their hands while they take a few pretty pictures.”

  Dane looked frustrated as he explained, “Not all monarchs are like that. Many of them use their power to help their people wherever they can. If they know one of their subjects is suffering, it’s their duty to give aid in whatever way they can. You see monarchs as either horrible, greedy rulers or delicate, useless rulers. Most of them are excellent people and only desire the best for their people.”

  Bryn laughed harshly and stated, “How do you know for certain? Have you had tea with the Queen of England recently?”

  “No, but I’m an excellent observer. One can tell what type of person a ruler is by his or her actions,” Dane explained in an excited voice. “Monarchs are dedicated to helping others. I say they are not an outdated institution, but an essential part of the government.”

  Bryn had just opened her mouth to continue her side of the argument, when she was checked by her father clearing his throat. She looked over to him and saw him subtly shaking his head. Acquiescing to his implicit wish, she politely smiled to Dane and said, “I see we will just have to agree to disagree.”

  While Bryn quietly formulated more arguments in her thoughts, Beck and her father began a conversation about the textbook adoption. Bryn stole a glance over at Dane and thought he looked as if he would have been perfectly happy continuing their discussion. Eventually, she felt it best to end it anyway. She had too much homework waiting for her and decided to use that as an excuse to end her social obligations. As soon as there was a break in her father’s conversation, Bryn stood up and said, “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go upstairs and finish my homework. Goodnight.” Dane and Beck stood up and then she got out of the room as fast as politely possible.
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