The Far Side of the Real
Posthumously Published from the Manuscript Files of Paul Cain
- I -
Trouble like Nobody’s Business
The call came as I was listening to Lou Christie’s one-man performance of Lucia di Lammermoor. While it’s not as polished as Frankie Valli’s version of Norma, it afforded him a fine showcase for the whiff of insanity lurking in all his songs. I had a copy as partial payment for a case I’d cracked tracking down the mastermind behind a bootleg edition of the Scratch’n’Sniff Edition of the Cantatas of J.S. Bach; a grateful academic music publisher arranged me and my external hard drive access to the archives of one of the larger university music schools. The recording was a plum of the haul. Back in the salad days of the 70s, a rich alum with a taste for bel canto and a weakness for falsetto pop-meisters had commissioned a series of recordings of his favorite operas as a showcase for the singers he loved and the student orchestra he tolerated to keep their pots boiling; in a fit of inspiration, he had all the roles in each opera sung by one man as a way of ensuring greater artistic cohesion, unity of musical language, and suchlike guff. A solitary record of each performance was pressed during the fellow’s lifetime for his personal collection, but after his death the school, seeing a gold mine, released Del Shannon’s version of La Cenerentola onto the market. After it sank like a lump of pyrite and passed from view faster than a box set of Latvian viola concertos, the school archived the rest of the recordings and soon forgot about them.
“Guntersied? This is Tusklo.”
“Good evening, Chief.”
“I have a case for you. It’s more confidential than usual, so keep Guido and Vinnie out of the loop for the nonce.”
Things suddenly looked up. A job Guido and Vinnie couldn’t handle called for smarts, at least the kind found in the higher vertebrates, and after a month wasting my nights drawing small-beer money for staking out the administration building to catch unlicensed sidewalk chalkers, I was ready for something that called for backbone.
“It’s an associate professor. He claims he’s being libeled. And slandered, perhaps. He said he can’t go through the usual channels because he thinks it’s probably one of his colleagues. He might be right. Be careful around all the people you interview and keep the prof out of the loop as well. Above all, don’t let on that anything is going on to anyone in the Division. Look out for Pressny in particular. You know how the tentacles are tangled in this university—it could be all our heads if you tug at the wrong thread, capisc’? You need to get the information from him and feel out the situation on the ground over the next couple of weeks.”
“Understood.” Pressny was Tusklo’s boss, the head of the Investigation Division.
Tusklo continued, “His name is Randall Boileau. He is in the linguistics department, so it’s in your line of work.” He gave me Boileau’s contact information and some more good news. “You’re off stake-out duty until this is done, of course, and take your time. It needs a delicate touch. Besides, Guido’s jokes have been even worse than usual, so maybe several weeks of all-nighters will clog that well of wit shut right tight. Anyway, try to interview him tomorrow morning and come in at the regular time to report to me.”
“Will do, Chief.”
“Don’t bollix this up, you hear me?”
“Bollixing’s not my ball of wax.”
Cheered at the thought of a warm bed later instead of a cold stone wall and a prickly bush, I poured out the coffee I had brewed and called Boileau. “Hello?”
“Hello, this is Studd Guntersied. I’m with the university’s Legal Office.”
“You’re an investigating detective for the university?”
“We prefer the term ‘visiting researcher.’ ”
“I understand you think you’re being libeled. What exactly has happened?”
“I’ve had several papers published that I didn’t write or even know about.”
I said nothing for a couple of seconds as I chewed this over. “Could you elaborate on this, please? It seems like something most people would view as an unforeseen blessing.”
“I received requests from linguists at other universities asking me to elaborate on analyses in papers published under my name in Linguistic Enquiry and International Journal of American Linguistics, or for further data, or to explain contradictions in my glosses. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I went to the library and discovered there have been three papers published under my name in the last two months that I didn’t write on a language I work on, but filled with ludicrous analyses and faulty data, and all in a long-discarded theoretical framework. There’s no way anyone will take me seriously after that. And then I discovered that a paper I had been working on with real data containing my actual analyses had been published by Speculative Grammarian, so now even my real work is irremediably tainted.”
“I see.” This was serious. “Now, I understand that besides, um, what we might call libel for argument’s sake, you also claim to have been... slandered?”
“Yes. I recently bought a used book online, and as I was leafing through it I discovered the previous owner had scrawled ridiculous opinions attributed to me throughout the margins, as if they were notes taken down in a seminar.”
“The next day I was in the departmental library and discovered someone had done the same thing in several of the books in the holdings.”
“This is very curious. You’re sure no one outside your department would have had access to any of the books or to your papers?”
“I’m pretty sure.”
“Okay, think about that overnight—who are all of the people who could have had access to the different materials? Who would have reasons to sabotage your career or destroy you personally? Who have you ticked off or stabbed in the back? Whose toes do you step on? Whose majesty has lesions from your wingtips?” He chuckled. I continued, “Let’s meet tomorrow morning. Bring me copies of all the papers and the book so I can start looking into it. A copy of your Amazon sales slip too, if you have it. I’ll meet you at the Burgled Brain coffee shop at 8:30—that’s not in conflict with your schedule?”
“No, that’s fine.”
“Good. I’ll be the nondescript guy in the booth in the back corner next to the restrooms. It’s the booth safest from listening ears.”
“I’ll see you then.”
After I hung up, I set out the chess board and played a championship tournament game between Big Blue and Deep Pondering, seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, a battle without armor, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an Optimality Theory seminar.
As I followed the moves made by our electronic lantrucular overlords, I considered how to classify the case I was getting involved in. Certainly it was defamation, or at least defamatory, but did an act of what was essentially anti-plagiarism count as libel? A little thought convinced me it did. Falsely attributive marginalia would be libelous under the letter of the law, but in a pragmatic sense they might be considered slanderous. This much was straightforward. It brought to mind the difficulties entailed by a recent case destined for classic status in which one employee of a vegetarian food supplier had hidden a chunk of rotting flesh inside the seat cushion of a coworker applying for the same promotion. The latter took the former to court for slander, which opened a whole can of worms, of which the least was what to call it. A new category of defamation was created, putor libellus, after lengthy wrangling against the many advocates of putor famosus, yet despite the name the opinion of the court is that the matter was best treated under the heading of slander. Unfortunately, that was the last point on which the court was able to reach any measure of agreement and the case was still on appeal. I knew about the case mostly because Tusklo had ordered me to censor all references to it appearing in our newspapers and magazines so as to forestall Guido and Vinnie’s getting any wild ideas. When I caught myself wondering how to classify defamation perpetrated by Morse code per se, as opposed to the transcribed message, I realized I should call it a night.
❦ ❦ ❦
I awoke as the next day dawned, which beat the hell out of going to sleep then. Soon I was out the door and down the street. I arrived at the Burgled Brain at 7:50 and pondered the possibilities as I waited and caffeinated myself. The morning regulars had gone on to work and the next rush would start about 9:45. Boileau arrived on time and I looked him over as he came to the booth: Suntanned to a fare-thee-well, so probably recently back from fieldwork in the tropics; well dressed, so eager for advancement; quiet and unobtrusive, so in academia long enough to have internalized its hierarchies and subservience to the tenured elite. So markedly so, indeed, that if it weren’t for the way he looked you in the eye, you’d swear he was an ABD fearful of running into his committee members.
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Here are the papers. I must have thrown away the invoice, so I’ll email you an electronic copy if you give me an addy. And here’s the book.”
After he put them on the table, I thanked him; “I’ll take a quick look at them while you get a cup of coffee.” I handed him a coffee card.
When he returned, I asked, “The handwriting is quite distinctive. Do you recognize it?”
“I think so. It looks like the writing of one of my students in phonology class last year. The corner was cut off as well, but you can barely make out the impression of an earlier owner’s name on the next page below. It might be her. Caroline Molinet.”
“I’m intrigued by the marginalia. In some circles they’d be enough to start a whole intellectual movement. Did you really say that...,” I opened the book, “ ‘While it is true that some languages are inherently greatly superior to others as media for human thought, this has little significance for the social sciences because well over 99% of all speakers of any language are incapable of using their language for anything more taxing than asking for food and directions to the toilet.’?”
He glared at me. I glared back until he said, “No, I most certainly did not.”
“How about... ‘Bloomfield did more for the study of syntax and the mind than Chomsky has ever dreamed of.’?”
“Certainly not. Syntax wouldn’t have come up in class anyway.”
“No doubt. What about... ‘Just on grounds of cultural geography it is clear that the Chinese tone system developed as it did due to the influence of cat ownership, never mind the nature of the tone contours.’?”
“Of course not.”
“Or, ‘One of the major theological consequences of the Chomskyan Revolution has been to make the horror of infant damnation even more unspeakable while yet ever more palatable to the stupider denominations in our cretinous society.’?”
“Good Lord, man, of course not!”
“Does that even mean anything? I think I’m missing something.”
“Who knows? Probably something along the lines of all concepts being inherent, even carburetors...”
“Or infant damnation?”
“Precisely, and the view that concepts are inherent because they’re evolutionarily advantageous, and thus must correspond to some environmental factor in the past. But it still doesn’t follow.”
“Maybe we’re just missing a few of the necessary concepts to make it all obvious. Harmful mutations or delayed maturation or suchlike. I’ve been told that’s why I can’t grasp the logical necessity of UG.”
He grinned. “I like the cut of your jib. But that’s not even the worst, as you’ll see.”
“I’ve seen a lot. Once I got a copy of Thomas Paine’s writings that had been owned by a divine right Catholic and then by a straight-and-narrow Dominionist, and I think the two got bulk discounts for ink. The marginalia were most entertaining; you could scarcely make out Paine’s words for the squabbling back and forth. I treasure the book.”
“Some of that nonsense comes close.”
I nodded. “I like how he or she introduces each pearl of wisdom with ‘Says Boileau.’ And underlines your name twice.”
“I don’t like it at all myself.”
“Yes, of course. Anyway, are you sure this former student of yours didn’t just misunderstand you? Never attribute to malice and all that. Was she, oh, an education major, perhaps?”
“Senior linguistics major, and a departmental honor student.”
“Ah. Hmm. I see. So, perhaps she was just selling her textbook, saw you were the purchaser, and decided to yank your chain.”
“Not likely. The mailing address was out of state. She’s in grad school in state.”
“So, perhaps she sold it after your class ended and the next person down the line sold it in turn. It would be an odd coincidence, but not beyond the realm of possibility in a small field. Which brings up the obvious next question: Why were you buying it anyway? You should have at least one instructor’s copy already.”
“I donated my old copies to a book drive for Eastern European universities and decided to get another copy without going through the publisher. Saved time that way.”
I nodded again. “I’ll need to look over these on my own.” He nodded and I continued, “Now, did you contact the journals about the papers?”
“Immediately. The contact information that had been given them was bogus from beginning to end. The mailing address is the street address for the municipal sanitation service and the corresponding email address was with AOL.”
I frowned. “Someone really wants to blacken your name, I’d say.”
“Yes. I called the phone number given, but it had been turned off.”
“What about Speculative Grammarian?”
“They wrote back that my letter wasn’t funny but merely detracted from the humor of my article, that they already had enough lame losers’ lame submissions for the next fourteen years, and besides that, that half their editors don’t like meta humor and the other half thought it was too derivative of Buñuel. Added something about how one of the editors has two personalities and had to be taken to the hospital for injuries he sustained in a fist fight with himself arguing over my letter. I think he was joking.”
“Probably not, actually. Anyway, tell me about your work.” I saw the look in his eyes and quickly added, “Just the basics. What, when, and where, and skip the how and the why and the vast ramifications for a Theory of Everything.”
“I do fieldwork on Amazonian languages in Brazil near the border with Paraguay. I’ve been there off and on for five years now. I specialize in morphology and syntax. I’m documenting one language, Periminho, with about 40 speakers left. I’m teaching it in field methods this year, in fact, as I did last year.”
“Is there anyone else in your department who works on languages in the same general region?”
“Three professors. Probably seven graduate students overall... yes, seven. They tend to focus on the area around Guyana, however.”
“And what branches of linguistics in your department?”
“Two phoneticians, three phonologists, four syntacticians, me, and, oh, four doing other stuff.”
“How are your relations with them?”
“Of what sort?”
“I don’t mean squabbling over parking committees unless threats have been made. Either for funding, or about courses taught, or over theory.”
He gave me a list of names. I didn’t want to think about them too much before meeting their owners, so I wrote the information down mechanically and stowed the notes in my shirt pocket.
I said, “I have to wrap it up now. I have to get into the department to see how things stand there. Someone will break into your office tonight and steal your laptop—make sure it’s there, and if you’d be so kind as to leave your window unlocked, I’ll be much obliged. Go in at the regular time tomorrow and call the police immediately. Someone will call my office and I’ll be by to investigate. You will not recognize me when we are introduced, and you will take an instant dislike to me; while you will be polite, you will be noticeably distant and unhelpful. Got it?”
“Here’s my email address and phone number.”
He put the slip of paper in his wallet. “Thanks.”
“It’s my job.”
He returned my coffee card. “I meant for the coffee.”
I waited until he left, glancing around in seeming unconcern at the three other people in the shop—no one was out of place. I finished my coffee and put on my coat and hat and walked three blocks perpendicular to the route Boileau had taken and then turned toward campus. No one noticed me pass. We are trained to pass by unnoticed, but it’s a simple gift: Dress well but plainly, walk smartly as if you should be there, never look around or evince curiosity in your surroundings, and live your life internally. Act drab and the world will take you at your word; drab is the background against which bright colors stand out, the plain fabric of social life that gives a point d’appui to virtuosi and rebels, and not coincidentally is also the preferred hue of the institutions of power and control. We are the people that even the women that men don’t see don’t see.
I walked for eight blocks until I reached the edge of campus. I was near the northern edge of the administrative area and walked on to a large Edwardian building that housed a congeries of offices most students would never have dealings with outside of work-study. I went to the basement and walked to the end of a long, decrepit hallway, where I passed through a chipped and flaking white door. The desks to the left and right were empty; the newspaper standing above the desk facing me dropped a little and a gray eye peeked at me. Vinnie grunted and went back to reading while I hung my hat and coat on the stand. From behind the newspaper, “Fancy seeing you here. Tired of sleeping all day, huh?”
“I’d started to miss your scintillating conversation. The absence was keeping me awake at night.”
“If I’d known you missed me, I’d have called you up.”
“If I’d known you were calling, I’d have had my phone turned off.”
He grunted again and folded the paper. “Nice change from Guido. He’s been on a roll the past week, right down the hill and into a ditch. I swear, he must have discovered a borrowing library for kids. Two weeks ago I think he finished a collection of knock-knock jokes for second graders, and the only book left at his reading level was a bunch of poop jokes for first graders. Finally Tusklo told him that since he didn’t give them a rest he wasn’t giving Guido a rest. That’s why you’re off stake-out.”
“The Chief said something about that, yeah.”
“Hell’s bells, I was sick of Guido’s jokes when I was in first grade; he thought they were just the funniest things he’d ever heard.”
“More likely he figured we’d all hate them.”
“Yeah, that’s about his style.”
I shrugged, “You know what they say.”
“Почему летят птици? По воздуху.”
“Just some old words of wisdom.”
He shook his head and noticed the front page of his newspaper. “Oh, see the news?”
“Read it. Crazies, just twisted antisocial sickos.”
I started reading. A member of a jazz band working as an elevator technician for a skyscraper in Chicago had, according to testimony, gotten sick of piping easy listening music into the elevators, so he had put in a tape of Mingus’s “Better Git It In Your Soul” right at the height of morning traffic. Three elevators had been destroyed as the dancing matched the resonance frequencies of the elevator cables and 47 people had fallen to their deaths, while in the remaining elevators a deathly silence prevailed; 586 people had been institutionalized as they stared into space and muttered about being brought face to face in a padded box with the meaninglessness of their lives before slipping into catatonia. For perpetrating such a major attack against the American business system and way of life, the jazzbo had been arrested for terrorism and the rest of his band with him for good measure. Homeland Security had issued a list of acceptable recordings for elevators and had considered exhuming Mingus’s corpse and scourging it publicly as a warning against discontents and malcontents until they learned he had been cremated.
As I shook my head, Tusklo came out of his office and nodded at me, “Hello, Guntersied.” He looked at Vinnie, “Mr. Terne, go to the fountain. That street preacher’s back yelling at all the students about how their sex lives are damning them all to hell. They’re about to string him up, so escort him off campus. There’s no need to be nice this time, understand?”
Vinnie grinned. “It’ll be my pleasure, Chief.”
“While I have to admire a man who seeks martyrdom for his faith so fervently, I don’t want to have to clean up the stink.”
After Vinnie left I reported to Tusklo. He nodded, “Yes, standard procedure. Good. Hell of a case, Guntersied. Put a bunch of eggheads in a room together, they always end up trying to make omelettes of each other. What’s your take on it?”
“It’s too early to speculate, Chief. Could be several of the profs here, could be an enemy at another university, could be an aggrieved grad student, or it could be some joker with too much time on his hands.”
“Yes. What do you plan to do next, before tonight?”
I ticked off my fingers. “Read his papers, of course. Then check him out in our databases, and get a look at other researchers in his field at the same time. Look at the funding figures for the department, and get the basics on all the grad students.”
“Good, good, I’ll let you get to it.” He shook his head again. “Hell of a case.”
As I walked down the steps of the building, I fell in behind Vinnie leading a stern older man from behind with one hand on his left shoulder and the other on his right elbow. I caught a snippet before I turned down a side path. “Mindja, that was a pretty good method o’ testin’ their faith, but it was over too fast, ya know? Even better was ta hang ’em from a tree by their wrists with their arms behind their backs, see? And yank on their legs from time to time, then tyin’ weights on ’em when ya got tired o’ yankin’ on ’em...” I often rued the day that Vinnie bought the Sports Illustrated Book of Medieval Tortures during one of his periods of fascination with extreme sports, but he had a new audience and was making it count.
I walked out of campus and headed to the Squalid Squirrel coffee shop. Before I got in line to buy some coffee, I looked around. Across the room I saw Peterson Dunlap, a visiting researcher in the comparative literature department, rise and get ready to leave. Striving to distinguish himself as a young man in Duluth, he sought to polish a lapidary finish to his surname with French and insisted on being called “Dunlap,” a suggestion his classmates accepted with alacrity to ensure greater referential clarity; his follow-up suggestion to cast the purple light off the place and rename their city Luteson failed to catch on, however, and when his entire high school class was graduated Super Mediocritatem he left the state in disgust to embark on a promising career as a lit critter.
Unfortunately, his ability to actually read French rendered him immune to the fashions necessary to obtain tenure, and this was not helped by his fondness for making fools suffer; because he loved to ham it up among his fellows, he was soon nicknamed the Continental Fop. On one unfortunate occasion, he bragged to me, the leader of a seminar on modern French thought said, “But you have to look at this question in the longue durée,” pronounced [ˈlɔŋguʷ ˈdɹ̩iʲ], and he commented, “Perhaps you should study less François Furet and more français, professor,” after which his career was a continental flop. And thus and so, as so many have done, he drifted into the role of visiting researcher in the permanent twilight of the shadowy para-academic realm amid, or rather below, ABDs, post-docs, and departmental graders and computer jockeys. I had distanced myself from him after hearing credible rumors that he had hired himself out to the RIAA as a campus copyright enforcer, a fate even lower than an art student having to make a living painting covers for Star Wars novelizations and one not nearly so clean. He waved at me as he left and I nodded back.
After ordering lunch, I filled my coffee mug and sat in a booth to read the papers. The dining area was starting to fill up with the usual complement of power tools in power ties doing power lunch, grad students writing about power series or power relations on PowerBooks, and a pair of electricians on coffee break. After ten minutes, a young woman sat down in the booth in front of me and looked around the coffee shop without taking much notice of anyone. After a few minutes a young man came over and said to her, “Hi, are you Marty Koppel’s friend?”
“Yes, that’s me, Louise Bridges.”
“Hi, I’m Phillip, Phillip Bowder. Pleased to meet you.”
“Call me Lou.”
“So, Lou Bridges, can I buy you anything?”
“I’d like a cappuccino.”
As he went off to place the order, she primped in a hand mirror and I debated putting on headphones. A few times I caught a glimpse of her eyes past her mirror, and as they were so spring-like that I sensed a March blueness and emptiness in them, a sick curiosity won out. He soon returned with a cappuccino and a latte and like a good boy seemed to manage for the most part to keep his eyes above her neck as they talked.
“So, Lou, have you lived here long?”
“Three years. How about you?”
“Five years. Marty told me you’re a grad student too. Which field?”
“Oh, comparative literature. I was in English, but there’s no way to find a job in the field, and when I tried to find a job in the outside world everyone was so snooty and sexist and kept going on about how an English major should have been able to write a cover letter without grammar mistakes. I told them no, I was an English education major, but that didn’t help any. I tried to get a job in video stores or bookstores or record stores, but they could open schools with all the other English majors applying, and they were all looking for people who could give change without cash registers in case of power outages anyway. Finally, I decided to go back to school since you need a PhD anymore to get a job anywhere anyhow. What about you?”
“Oh, I currently work in an interdisciplinary program in biology and linguistics. My undergrad degree was in economics. I did a major concentration in econometrics, actually, but if you do interdisciplinary work you don’t actually have to have studied any of the fields whose boundaries you transgress.”
Her eyes flashed and cheeks flushed at the last phrase and I realized I had made the right choice to listen.
“So... you’re done with your course work then, right? What are you working on?”
“I’m currently working in an interdisciplinary research project applying cladistics and philology to medieval philosophy.”
“That sounds fascinating,” she lied brightly.
“The focus of our work is a complete analysis of the concept of haecceitas on a linguistic level. It’s not a classical Latin word, so there’s an important question of just how it was pronounced across time and space. The head of our project, Dr. Pulvis, is working on an OT analysis of the degree of assibilation in different Italian universities. My job is to perform statistical modeling of the orthographic variants to arrive at the likeliest cladistic tree for the different manuscripts. It’s an important application of truly modern scientific techniques to medieval philosophy for the very first time, so that we can get past relying on the outdated, unscientific work of the old philologists. We’ve already determined that the heretofore accepted date for Duns Scotus’ birth is off by three and a half centuries, and he was 176 years old when he died, plus or minus 14 years,” he ended in a fit of self-satisfaction. He was like a senior writing an entrance essay, and I wished him luck getting in.
“That does sound fascinating,” she said with less conviction. “So this Ikea toss, what does it mean?”
“Well, you have to remember first that you can only make true progress in understanding language once you discard questions of meaning entirely. And since language expresses thought, asking the meaning of a concept is entirely the wrong way to go about doing philosophy or philology.” He was starting to lose her, so with a quick glance below her clavicle he bit the bullet and quickly added, “But it’s still an interesting topic. Now, haecceitas, it’s completely unimportant in and of itself, since it long predates Frege and Russell and so it’s utterly wrong-headed, but it’s kind of like hussy’s... uh, Husserl’s metaphysics of presence.” I thought it a good thing for him Kant hadn’t come up, for he’d not want to muff that.
“Husserl... oh, yeah, Derrida liked him, didn’t he?”
After another quick glance below her clavicle he said, “Yes, I think he did.”
“Yeah, Derrida was on our supplementary reading lists. You don’t actually have to read him, you just need to know what he was talking about. They test you on that.”
“So, you’re still doing course work?”
“Yes, but I’m almost done. I’m mostly doing an advanced seminar in critical social theory this semester.”
“Sounds interesting.” He sounded convinced enough to convince.
“Yes, it really broadens our horizons and gets us out of the ivory tower. We hold it in the cemetery so we can get practice yelling at dead people.”
There was a pause as he seemed to gauge the degree of intended humor. “Sounds like that could be a breath of fresh air.”
“Oh it is, sometimes. Except when it’s about to rain, then it’s really stuffy.”
I saw him glance again below her clavicle when she looked down to take a sip of cappuccino, and following the better course of discretion he asked, “Sooo... what else are you studying?”
“Oh, I’m doing a class on modern literature. We just finished a paper comparing and contrasting The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Death in Venice. I wrote about how Gerasim was a dedicated peasant while Aschenbach was a desiccated pedant. Dr. Velmington wants me to submit it to the Journal of Comparative Literature. She says it’s a groundbreaking paper.”
Sensing romantic competition from an unexpected direction, he quickly replied, “Yes, it sounds like a great essay.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I’m just glad it’s over.”
By this time the meeting of minds had started to pall, so I put on my headphones and cranked up some Leon Kirchner. About an hour later, shortly after Kirchner gave way to Samuel Zyman, I looked up as they stood up and walked out of the coffee shop hand in hand, on the way, as so often in the modern academy, to yet another one-night stand of the philological and the mercurial.