Roger had invited me for lunch, which he often did. I have never been able to regard myself as a friend of Roger's, not because I did not like him—in fact, as eccentric and unpredictable as he is, I really love him, but I just never felt that I had earned the right to regard myself a friend.
I had been eager for this opportunity to talk to Roger. Someone had told me something about him I could not quite believe, at least until Roger verified it.
It was after lunch while we were enjoying coffee that I broached the subject:
"Roger, someone told me a few days ago that some of your workers here are illegal aliens. You know I wouldn't care if it's true or not, but I am curious. Are some of your workers illegal aliens, or could they be, without you knowing it?"
"What exactly is an illegal alien, Mark?"
"You mean you really don't know?"
"Oh, I know what it's supposed to mean. The question is to find out what you think it really means? Let me put it this way. If somebody is here, they're here, aren't they? What makes someone's being here, 'illegal.'"
"You know Roger. Illegal means, 'against the law.'"
"So being here as an illegal has nothing to do with why they are here, how they got here, or what they are doing here. It only has to do with the fact that the law discriminates against some people who are here. Far from men all being treated equally under the law, they are treated unequally. It is against the law for some people to be here, and if any of them are, that makes them illegal aliens. Now just which people has the law discriminated against? Which people does the law forbid being here?"
"It is against the law for anyone to be here who was not born here, is not a naturalized citizen, or does not have a valid visa which allows them to visit here."
"Well, then, Mark, whether I have any illegal aliens working for me or not is a minor point. I am an illegal alien. And, by the way, some of those working here probably are illegal aliens, but I'm not certain, because I don't care, so I never check."
I really didn't know what to say. I could only ask questions.
"You mean, you are not an American?"
"I guess I'm not, if American means someone born in the United States."
"Roger, I had no idea. I've always thought you were American. But you don't have to be born here to be an American citizen. You must be a naturalized citizen."
"No, Mark. I'm not an American citizen."
"Then where are you from?"
"Mark, you would not believe me if I told you. I do intend to tell you, but not now. I want to go to to the range. Would you care to join me?"
"I'd love to Roger, but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to forget the mystery you've provided me."
"Yes, a mystery for you indeed. I'm afraid it's going to get worse."
To reach the range we had to pass through the wine cellar. The "door" to the range did not look like a door, but like all the other paneled walls. Still the door opened easily enough and closed automatically behind us.
"I've meant to ask you Roger. The entrance to your firing range looks as though it were hidden, but anyone could open just by pushing on it. Why is it disguised if anyone could enter it?'
"They couldn't Roger. The door is always locked unless I'm using the range. The lock is electronic and controlled upstairs."
Poor Roger. I was full of questions today.
"How did you get a permit to have this firing range, if you don't mind my asking."
"I don't mind your asking, but I do not have a permit?"
"You know this house is within city limits. It is against the law to discharge a firearm within city limits. If you don't have a permit for this firing range, you are breaking the law."
"No doubt. I do it all the time. Break the law, that is."
"Funny thing about your laws, though. So long as no one knows you are breaking them, nothing at all happens. All these petty tyrants actually think their laws do something, but no law has ever made anyone do, or not do, anything."
"But what if someone finds out you have this range?"
"How would they do that, Mark? The range is sound-proofed."
"Isn't your property ever inspected?"
"Oh yes. All the time. The house is inspected about twice a year. That costs me about two hundred dollars. Of course the woods and fields have to be inspected by the agriculture people, but only every two years. That costs me a thousand dollars. Even the fire department inspects the place. That costs me about a hundred dollars. Andrew pays them. It saves me bother, and it saves them time."
"So you bribe them?"
"Yes, but they're the smallest bribes I pay. The biggest one is to the protection racket called property taxes and so long as I pay it, the municipal thugs, calling themselves the police, leave me and my property alone."
"There's a difference between taxes and bribes, Roger."
"Really? I don't see any difference except who's receiving the money. They're all crooks—the petty amateur ones get bribes, the professionals just get bigger bribes and call them taxes."
All of this conversation was between sessions firing various kinds of firearms at targets resembling certain politicians and various so-called celebrities. Roger was an incredible shot with all the firearms.
I knew why I was interested in firearms, but knowing what roger thought about defense and violence, I didn't think his interest in firearms was the same as mine, so I asked him.
"How come you have this interest in firearms, Roger? Are you interested in them for self-defense."
"Absolutely not. These primitive devices are not defensive at all. They can only be used offensively. At best, they might even up the odds a little when confronted by someone else with one of these crude things.
"It is, as a matter of fact, their crude simplicity that interests me. The great variety of designs, learning how to use one effectively that I enjoy. Developing a skill with anything is always worthwhile, and exercising a well-developed skill is always a pleasure".
"By the way, Roger. I haven't forgotten your mysterious answer to my question about where you are from. When are we going to discuss it."
"I haven't forgotten Mark. I have an appointment tonight, however. Could you come by tomorrow evening for dinner? The usual time if it's convenient for you."
"Well, I see you are determined to keep me on pins and needles, as they say. Of course I'll be here tomorrow—at six. Though I cannot imagine what could be more important this evening than answering that intriguing question."
"Sorry, Mark. I like you very much, but my guest this evening is more important to me than your question... and she's much prettier too."
"Oh," is all I could say.