The Unquestionable History of
Ptolemy XIII

Caesar reclines on a gold matte divan, the feet of which resembles boys' buttocks. He toys briefly with a pomgranate, then takes a knife and slices it crossways, ruining the fruit. I stand before him, covered in rug lint. Armed guards are positioned on either side of me, their weapons drawn but not at ready. Woofie crouches by a footstool.

"You're a large woman. I wasn't expecting such a ... large woman." Caesar inclines his head, indicating that I will be allowed to speak. The man's nerve knows no bounds.

"Don't you find my body appealing?" I lower my eyes, as a virgin would, and move slowly toward him. "This way there's more of me to love."

"But the likenesses I've seen ..." Caesar feigns interest in the rug that bore me to him, a damask affair with fringe and black tassels. "They are so different."

I dismiss his rude comment with a gesture. "Artists curry favor with the powerful. You should know that. My spies tell me Calphurnia's ears are elephant-sized, yet one would hardly guess it from the bronzes."

Caesar turns to me, his stern visage possessed by the ghost of a smile; reflexively, he sticks tongue in cheek, exorcising it. "Yes. Well."

Suddenly my voice falters, and a tear hangs from my iris. "If my appearance offends Caesar -" I pause, waiting for him to plant reassurances, if not kisses, upon my brow. He doesn't. And so my regal bearing returns. I strike a haughty pose, startling the guards; my voice, like the desert wind, roars. "On your knees, little man! Here, I am both God and Goddess. I am Egypt's Light and Immortality. I am The Dawn and The Night Sky. Bow before your betters, or face the wrath of Hah!"

Caesar sighs. "Your theatrics tire me, Cleopatra. Where is Ptolemy? Where is your brother?" Since weeping seems inappropriate at this particular moment, I merely shrug. "You murdered him, didn't you? Yes, I imagined as much."

Scents of salted fish, yAsamIn, and Roman sweat circle my nose, like raptors ...

Lately I've been getting hang-up calls, and I think someone's keeping tabs on me. At night, after the lights are switched off, there's an unfamiliar vehicle that drives up and down the beach, slowly, in front of my house. I've seen it passing by on three separate occasions. It inches across the sand, not at all like the teenagers that race along looking for empty houses where they can make out or smoke weed.

What was it the hippies used to say? Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean no one is following me.

Still no word from William. I tried contacting him by phone, kept getting transferred from one government office to the next. I'm starting to get concerned. For both of us.

Caesar paced. His hands were cupped behind his back, long fingers intertwined. "From this point on, I will talk and you will listen."

Outraged, I began to sputter. Woofie, creeping cat-like to my side, dabbed the corners of my mouth with what I later discovered was her feminine sponge.

"Rome has watched with sadness the anarchy that befell Egypt after your father died. The corruption, the family intrigues, the treachery one usually associates with the Court in Persia. And of course Judea."

"And your point?"


I must confess that his commanding tone of voice had a strange, almost erotic, effect upon me. It also shut me up, Woofie observes with a sly grin. I slap her, briskly.

We are relaxing on The Royal Barge, attended by a score of winsome eunuchs. It is a pleasant winter's evening, six short days since my meeting with Rome's First Consul. Rome's Second Consul Octavian - Licinius Crassus having recently died - has, during this time, been a busy bee. According to my spies, he recently exhausted most of his charm and all of his wife's money poisoning the Roman Senate against his Uncle Julius. (And Caesar speaks of our family treachery!) Alas, Rome's Third Consul, the dreary Pompey, enjoyed a brief reunion of head and body - thanks to the Latins' odd sense of honor - before forsaking Eternal Life for a pile of burning sticks.

Where was I? Oh, yes ...

Caesar was talking, rather shouting in my general direction. "Egypt is a subject state of the Roman Empire, and as a subject state she has certain responsibilities, no duties to perform."

I know, I wanted to say, she must feed Rome's mindless masses. I wanted to say that. But I was being silent ...

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