by Chris R. Morgan

Robert Taylor Testifying

CONGRESSMAN A: Okay, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is now in session; the subject of today’s hearing being Mid-Atlantic relations. Will the witness rise? [pause] Do you swear that the testimony you are about to give at this hearing will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?


CONGRESSMAN A: Be seated. Do my fellow committee members have any opening statements that we did not get to yesterday?

CONGRESSMAN R: I’d like to add a comment.


CONGRESSMAN R: Does today’s witness have any disabilities of which the record should be aware?

CONGRESSMAN A: Not that I know of.

CONGRESSMAN R: Why is he wearing sunglasses?

WITNESS: My testimony is being given under the condition that my anonymity would be respected.



WITNESS: I’d like to keep them on all the same.

CONGRESSMAN A: Fine, moving on. Also as a condition for his testimony, the witness’s name and occupation have been withheld from the record.

CONGRESSMAN F: How are we to address the witness?

CONGRESSMAN A: As “the witness.”

CONGRESSMAN F: Well that gets kind of tiring after a while.

CONGRESSMAN R: Surely there must be some shorthand mode of address here.

CONGRESSMAN A: Okay, how about “X.” Will Mr. X please give so and so or repeat such and such? Does that work?

WITNESS: I’d prefer a name.


WITNESS: I think I’m of a bit more value than a letter.

CONGRESSMAN A: Do you have any suggestions?

WITNESS: Certainly.

CONGRESSMAN A: Of course you do. What is it?

WITNESS: Maximus.

CONGRESSMAN A: You want to be called Maximus?

WITNESS: Please.

CONGRESSMAN A: Fine. Let the record show that today’s witness will henceforth be referred to as “Maximus.” Is everyone okay with that?

CONGRESSMAN F: Yes, proceed.


CONGRESSMAN R: I agree with my fellow congressman that we can proceed.


CONGRESSMAN A: So, Maximus, why are you here?

WITNESS: A subpoena brought me here.

CONGRESSMAN A: I gather as much. But we don’t subpoena the hot dog vendor on Maryland Ave. unless he’s part of a much larger scheme that interferes with our government’s defense of freedom.


CONGRESSMAN A: His current work, I think, is in alliance with freedom.


CONGRESSMAN A: Hot dogs are a boon to freedom, wouldn’t you agree?

WITNESS: Right. [pause] I don’t know where Maryland Ave. is.

CONGRESSMAN A: Yes, that’s right; you’re not from around here.

WITNESS: No. I’ve come in from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

CONGRESSMAN A: Maximus, can you confirm or deny that you are employed by the government of the state of Pennsylvania?

WITNESS: Probably.

CONGRESSMAN A: Can you maybe lean in one direction or the other?

WITNESS: I can lean away from denial.

CONGRESSMAN A: Can you tell us anything further? Like the level at which you serve?

WITNESS: I’ve been advised not to.

CONGRESSMAN A: Whether you’ve been appointed?

WITNESS: I’ve been advised not to.

CONGRESSMAN A: Are you an administrator or a consultant?

WITNESS: I’ve been advised—

CONGRESSMAN A: Have you been following the news these past few months, Maximus?

WITNESS: I read mostly local stuff.

CONGRESSMAN A: What we’re talking about has been more than local for some time.

WITNESS: I sometimes read Time magazine and listen to the Morning Zoo when the wi-fi gives.

CONGRESSMAN A: What do you use the wi-fi for?

WITNESS: Lifestyle YouTubers.


CONGRESSWOMAN J: Congressman, if I could add … this could help.


CONGRESSWOMAN J: Maximus, would you mind opening up your copy of the report to page … 46, please?

WITNESS: Report?

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Yes, the one in black to the left of your microphone. The one that reads State Congressional Report on the Delaware Border Incident.

WITNESS: Oh, yes.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: There’s an extracted passage on the lower half of the page.

WITNESS: Yes, I see it.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Do you need to remove your glasses?

WITNESS: No, I’m fine.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: I’d like you to read it out loud.


CONGRESSWOMAN J: Can you tell us what it is first?


WITNESS: It’s from another report. Dated 1840.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Proceed please, Maximus.

WITNESS: “Degeneracy in the United States has never reached a higher zenith than that which has been discovered in the ft— the ftate—” sorry, they forgot to remove some of long s’s.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: That’s fine, carry on.

WITNESS: “… the state of Delaware. Though the source remains ever shrouded, and its communication all the more so, its spread is undoubtedly statewide. Set the Red Indian or the Negro or the Irishman side by side with the Delawarean and they will never be closer to our humanity. The people of Delaware, to our knowledge, observe no customs, or at least especially hallowed customs that bind their people under a proper holiness. They do not have what we would call a society. The tense confusion bordering on panic at our expedition’s appearance did not indicate a leadership presence. Where a Governor should be seated we find a kind of idol in straw, string, and burlap. When we greet them with salutations they answer with hoarse grunts and rude gestures. When we offer them bread they retch it back to us and blacken their teeth with bark after any passing rodent eludes them. When we offered them goods we were given some crudely torn pelts and an infant. Their appearance is not merely unkempt, but otherworldly. Their flesh is some unsavory almost greyish off-white. Their eyes are yellow, their gaze is listless. Border dwellers on all sides are stricken awake by their ungodly howls, and they are greeted in the morning to immense piles of dead heaved from within the state, because they are either unable or wholly indifferent to learning about proper burial. Moreover, their pride in being citizens of the first state admitted into the Union is at present unconfirmed.”

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Have you any familiarity with that passage?

WITNESS: Familiarity? Not specifically.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: But you get the sentiment behind it?

WITNESS: It resonates to that effect.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: You are at least aware that that extract is an official document, in your archives, and that the report in which it is included was leaked to the public in the wake of the incident itself.

WITNESS: Okay, hold on, I was not the one who leaked it, if that’s what you’re insinuating.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: We’re not insinuat— Maximus, we’re not insinuating anything.

WITNESS: It was not my office it was probably a rival office in my department.

CONGRESSMAN A: This is that … Department of Interstate Affairs?

WITNESS: That is the umbrella organization overseen by a secretary who is appointed by the governor at his or her pleasure.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: So it was leaked from there?

WITNESS: Well, as much as I don’t want to name names, there are certainly some, at the very least, highly incompetent people running the Health and Sanitation office. Information just bleeds from those people like a sieve.

CONGRESSMAN F: Just for clarification, what office do you represent?

WITNESS: Oh, I’m Imports and Transfers.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: So your office is responsible for imports into … Delaware?

WITNESS: Sort of, yes

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Like … like goods?

WITNESS: I wouldn’t say goods, exactly.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Okay, from what I gather, Maximus, perhaps you more than anyone else can clear up the reason why we’re all here.

WITNESS: I guess.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Because the entire nation has some interest in the chaos that unraveled in Delaware. And seems to have been unraveling for some time.

WITNESS: Sure, sure.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Because so many people for so long, some of us here included, have never once paid any mind to Delaware. And yet we wake up one day and it consumes our entire identity. We can’t escape it. And we have to explain to onlookers, allies, and enemies alike that that isn’t us. That this is just some error. And I just want to know if we are telling the truth when we say that.

WITNESS: Well … I think a matter perspective is useful here.


WITNESS: Yeah. See, the reason why that and other extracts of that old report are in the new report is because there’s not much that separates the two. The civilizing effect we hoped to bring about among the Delawareans has been utterly bereft of progress. In fact some would say it has been regressive, almost to the point of malice on their part. The education office—God bless it—comes up with new schemes and designs and every time they—

CONGRESSMAN A: The Delawareans?

WITNESS: Yes, the Delawareans push back tenfold. No, thirtyfold. Frankly, the people of Pennsylvania were tired of it. So we pivoted.


WITNESS: We collapsed education into other bureaus and focused on making better use of the situation. Instead of trying to work with Delaware we took it upon ourselves to have Delaware work for Pennsylvania.

CONGRESSMAN R: And so that’s when Imports and Transfers took precedence in the department?

WITNESS: “Precedence” is putting it strongly but yes, we did get a sense that we were moved a few seats forward in the classroom, so to speak.

CONGRESSMAN A: So how did the current policy come about? What was the reasoning behind it?

WITNESS: It was a classic sort of killing two birds with one stone, you see? It was a way of dispensing more efficiently with our death row population. Kind of cleaning out the system.

CONGRESSMAN A: Pennsylvania doesn’t have the death penalty anymore.

WITNESS: I know, so we sent them to Delaware.

CONGRESSMAN A: Why would Delaware want to take on your death row burdens?

WITNESS: Why not? Death isn’t the abberative object it is in the other states. It’s a cultural reality, an identity. Death is made to order in Delaware.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Maximus, have you been to Delaware at all since you took you position in Harrisburg? Or even at any point before that?

WITNESS: No, access to Delaware is highly restricted to anyone save maybe the secretary of the department. And punishment for illegal entry into Delaware is permanent residence in Delaware.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: So you and presumably most others in the government of Pennsylvania didn’t see anything operatively wrong in releasing hundreds of violent offenders into a neighboring state?

WITNESS: Certainly not.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: But Delawareans seeking refuge in Pennsylvania was not a part of the contingency plan?

WITNESS: We did not see a need for a contingency plan.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: So you thought that the criminals would be dealt with?

WITNESS: In a word, yes. But we give the Delawareans a lot of creative freedom on that account, though my weak stomach for these matters keeps me from speculating on how they wield it.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Many are back in custody. But some of them are still at large.

WITNESS: So you say.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: And reports suggest that incidents of violence were heavily one-sided against the Delawareans.

WITNESS: I can’t help that you’re getting information from bad sources.

CONGRESSMAN A: Perhaps you can help in addressing why your governor is besieging the president with call after call demanding … let me see here … a 70-foot wall of reinforced steel and 24-hour patrol, as well as an increased presence of the coast guard along the Delaware River by almost triple what is currently available.

WITNESS: Pennsylvanians want order. They want safety. If Delaware is what a life in pursuit of freedom gets you, then we reject it wholly, and will take measures to defend against it if we have to. I’m sure you will hear the same thing when you speak to my counterparts from Maryland and New Jersey, with whom I will propose that we combine forces and to call more persuasively for your intervention in this matter.

CONGRESSWOMAN J: Have you reached out to these counterparts?

WITNESS: I have been unable to in light of the recent events.

CONGRESSMAN R: Have they reached out to you?

WITNESS: Not that I am aware of. So I hope what they have to tell you is instructive as they seem to be handling the situation very well.

CONGRESSMAN A: Yes, indeed. [pause] Maximus, I’d like to thank you for your testimony today, which in its own way has been very instructive.

WITNESS: I’m honored to take part.

CONGRESSMAN A: And let it be stated for the record that Pennsylvania can expect to hear a federal response in short order.

WITNESS: And let the record show that Pennsylvania looks forward to hearing from you!

CONGRESSMAN A: You’re not allowed to say that.