It begins, tonight and always, with a closer look at a single man, usually a woman, wearing jeans or an old dress, with that look in her eyes like she knows something, and if you sat her down long enough and gave her enough vodka in various forms, she would begin to hum; the world would hum, and you would be left with something like humility. Even a young boy in a sweatshirt kicking a soda can down a stretch of highway, even Olympic gymnasts whispering to each other next to the balance beam, even old men hugging copies of Edith Wharton which they chose because they smell old, like someone's house, are promising. This is the square marked "Go," and we have one foot on it; enormous dice loom over us like helicopters with mechanical voices telling us we are surrounded.

In a few short hours, we will have risked everything, will have mortgaged our souls and our railroads, have made our deals and lost by them. We will come out with our hands up. There will be chalk drawings in the shape of words covering the sidewalk beyond the burning house of your expectations. But in the meantime, just think of me as a kind of Russell Baker in disguise, introducing a nice safe work of the nineteenth century, which will inevitably delight you. No reason to fear. The dice have landed and we move ten spaces.