Monday, May 18, 2009
The Superfluous Book
I had another half-hour to kill before the client scheduled a knock on the door of the smartest man in Proper, and loyal leg man or not I was bored at my little desk and I wanted someone else to know it.
‘Boss, I’m bored. I think I’ll hit the Stairmaster for a few-“
‘You labored on that machine this morning for six minutes past an hour.’ Abelard Winchester Coventry, registered genius, kept his eyes on his work but wasn’t done with me. ‘Exercise is excellent for the brain and the heart, but further waste of calories would be Sisyphean, not to mention vain.’
‘No doubt. But keeping this chair from floating into the ceiling fan isn’t stimulating my mind.’ Plus, beach season was on its way and I had a little number that allowed little mystery, but I didn’t think that argument would hold any of
‘You finished your crossword?’
‘Yeah.’ I waited, then made a face and said, half keeping the inner child sarcasm to a minimum, “Yes.’
‘You finished it entire?’
‘I’m finished with it, yes.’ Silence. ‘Fine, I couldn’t break into the bottom left hand side at all, and only half finished the other bottom half. If we had the internet then—‘
’We would have an electron miasma poisoning our synapses. 60 Down is “Trousseau”.’ He spelled it for me, and given that hint I had to get back to work. Bastard didn’t even write in the answers, he just looked at the crossword for a few minutes before I cut it out. Yes, vain displays are Sisyphean.
When I admit clients I like to think that the
I tacked her down as a mean Sunday school teacher, and dismissed her accordingly. Then I smiled and ushered her through the sunlight drenched yet barren hallway to the dark, brooding private office of the boss. He kept the lights dimmer than most would like in their office, except for a few wall lamps highlighting various doodads he liked to stare at from time to time. One of the doodads was an early, discarded page of the second draft of the Declaration of Independence he got from a former Supreme Court Justice whose wife was a doper and needed cover. That case was before my time.
‘Missus Able, sir.’ I showed her to a chair more comfortable than mine, watched her sit, then took a flanking position at my desk. My standing orders at this point are to look, listen, and disappear until spoken to.
‘You are Abelard Coventry, correct? I am in the right place?’ Her voice was stronger than I would have suspected. I’d expect it to be hoarse from yelling at small children about Hell I guess, but then the boss tells me that I’m too impatient for any critical thinking analysis more time-consuming than prejudice so what do I know? Also I’m still not used to the southern accent. It still feels like an act; like an amateur theater group playing Gone With the Wind, but damn it these people actually talk like this. Weird creatures, but we went to a Hell of a lot of trouble to conquer them in the Civil War, so we’re stuck.
‘Yes, madam, I am Abelard Winchester Coventry, for good or ill, and this is my dogsbody, Fallon Bridle. Her tongue is vulgar and lacking in grace, but it’s discrete. You wish to hire my services, but I’m, ha, afraid your letter was as vague as shadow in a trench.’
‘Yes. Well.’ She clutched her blue purse/bag to her blue clad chest and I wondered if she had a breathing device in it hooked to her lungs because the color of her 19th Century modesty-conscience getup hurt even my throat, and I was all the way behind my desk and out of harms way. ‘I suppose I must tell you everything?’
‘First you must tell me what you want. The issue define, hopefully, we can omit the necessity of universal cogitation.’ She took the boss rather well. Most people assumed he was making fun of them, which wasn’t fair because he was just mean, not mocking. However, I think Francine Able was more embarrassed than nonplus.
‘Well, my husband has a number of a photographs, five, and I want them.’ Oh really?
‘I shall presume you have asked him directly for these photographs.’
‘Don’t. I haven’t in ten years.’
‘You are separated?’
‘No, of course not!’
‘Well, madam, I fear you may be asking omniscience of me after all.’
She cleared her throat. Here it came. ‘My husband is Dr. Perry Able, dean of
‘Not unwise.’ Dogsbody or not, someday I’m going to kick him.
‘Hmph. I see I was justly warned of your prejudices as well. Well, in any case, then you understand, and I suppose you will think he has some… some… psychological disorder. I’ve been told that before, by experts.’
‘I reject psychologists, at least expert psychologists, but I accept the terms of the school if used under a named dictionary. However, I suggest, for the interest of my time, you make yourself plain using the direct words of whichever language you are most comfortable with, if not English. I need no more “wells.”’
I’ve seen this before. Anger helps people get over their embarrassment long enough to spill it. However, boss doesn’t infuriate potential clients for this reason. Or any reason that I can detect, but then again I’m not a detective. I’m a dogsbody.
‘Well, as a deposit of my trust, I allowed my then fiancé to take pictures of me in compromising positions in a context that… doesn’t speak well of my propriety. In order to have something on me. An advantage. And I performed the acts because of love. Do I need to detail them?’
‘I will charge you extra if it is necessary.’
‘Well…’ she stiffened. “He took the pictures, and hid them from me, and now I want them.’
‘Do you--no. Why do you want these pictures now, when you want no alteration after 20 years of marital bliss?’
‘Because he’s a fool to still doubt me. He’s always been foolish, in his way. He has been nothing but kind to me, and I love him and he loves me back, and we have created and raised three perfect children that I love more than I can say, and I want those Goddamn pictures and I will pay to get them.’
‘This may be an expensive want.’
‘I have my own family accounts and I’ve saved my allowance. My needs and pleasures are more than met by my husband’s largesse. I need and want those pictures.’
‘Yes, well I don’t empathize but I do sympathize. However, after I remove the pictures your husband will notice them missing and your tranquil union will be jeopardized.’ I like the lack of “if” in that sentence. ‘Pretend reason, madam. To what purpose do you wish these pictures?’
‘To give them back to him, of course.’
‘Of course. I shall need a written contract, dated, and a retainer adequate to fill the final bill; otherwise these pictures could give this job the patina of blackmail to the causal observer. I suspect a period of three days effort. That is expensive. Fallon, type what I say, and make three carbon copies.’
I walked Missus Able out with two copies of the contract: one for her and one for her lawyer. She gave me one last disapproving look, then thanked me like people thank their dentists and was off to whack children with rulers or cluck her tongue at married adults holding hands in public. I heard
‘I don’t think she likes me.’
‘She no doubt considers you a harlot. Not without reason: her subconscious very likely saw the two artificial holes in your ears made with blades for the purpose of pagan adornment.’
‘Hmpf. Check adequate?’
‘Ample. The woman has no talent for business. That she has no training should be obvious.’
‘Spotted right off when I saw that her shoes fit. Speaking of business, I assume you wont be leaving your rabbit hole for this job.’
‘This afternoon I shall be reading a transcript of a recent talk on economics and disease in
‘Who would want a woman underfoot? I’ll arrange with the client for a good time to get into the house. I figure we should get the servants out so they don’t gossip about a nubile, breathtaking young lady like me in too tight jeans noising around the Master’s chambers. I can find these pictures in your three days of effort.’
‘No need. The pictures are in the dean’s office of the preposterously named
I turned my head to get some of my hair out of my eyes. ‘How do you figure?’
‘A tale of wife searching for photographs, in her own home, for twenty years—and not finding them? Claptrap. Wives are as good at sniffing as bloodhounds. There is only one qualitative difference between female humans and dogs.’ He opened the oven, sniffed, then closed it. ‘This trout resists. Remind me not to patron this fisherman again. He has bad luck. For a female of status to grow so desperate as to relay her graceless tale to two strangers means that she has checked all paper trails, so no safety deposit boxes. No banks, no post offices. Besides, such a man with the credentials to govern such a privileged school, forsaking riches, would no doubt amuse himself with pictures of his wife in his sanctum sanctorum after giving a lecture on morality to an errant student. I suspect he is a gadfly. A graduate of Harvard. The institute attracts a wealth of students blissfully free of reality when they pretend to think. Still, ring in nose, they have their uses.’
‘Yeah, a bunch of dummies. So what’s the plan?’
‘You will contact your patron, Miss Feinstein, and-‘
‘She’s not my patron.’
‘You will contact Miss Feinstein, whatever she is, as she is ideally placed in their society, and she will enroll you tomorrow at the Academy as her hopelessly rebellious niece that has been expunged from institute after institute. That should satisfy two egos. Once positioned, you will act out, play the brat, be sent to the dean for a lecture, and memorize everything in the office. Then you will finish your school day as a schoolgirl in case I need another intrusion. The work may require an additional day. I shall expect a report on the office after Miss Feinstein drops you off.’
‘The academy is for high school students. I’m twenty-six.’
‘You are sufficiently youthful. However, you may make what preparations as you see fit. Please don’t use drugs in my home. Keep the receipts of legal purchases.’
I could be insulted or flattered. To serve
‘What’s the one qualitative difference between female humans and dogs?
‘Dogs don’t bite the hands that feed them.’
As a woman, I was offended.
I sniffed the air for the rainbow trout. He noticed it, but then again he notices everything.
‘I prepared it as Wulfe Trout. There is more than enough for two.’
‘I’ll call Feinstein after lunch.’ The problem with a genius is that he can make things, like trout, better, so he has to be suffered. As a woman, I was offended. As a dogsbody, ruff-ruff.
The bus. I rode a school bus, and the horrible thing was that it was rather pleasant. It had been some years since I suffered a pack of young men sniffing about. Dogs. Lovely, adorable dogs. Still, none of them could tell the difference between confidence and arrogance. And they didn’t seem to appreciate that, after the glorious act of sex is finished, there’s this whole thing called “living together” that happens. Jesus, I felt old. But compliments never hurt.
I’d never been to a prep school (state educated, or “state inculcated with banalities and platitudes” as some bosses say), but I’m pretty sure even prep school high schools have changed since I was a sweet little thing sneaking cigarettes behind the gym and living the Breakfast Club dream. This school was for advanced students (kids with parents with money) between the age of 18 and 19 who wanted to clep out of the first year of college.
I didn’t go to college myself, except to bail my sister out of jam.
‘Miss Handel.’ Finely. Third hour and I was called upon at last. Now to start my errant plan. Step one: I continued to doodle in my notebook with my head down. ‘Grace Handel, please. Would you like to answer the question?’
‘Which question?’ I murmured, still doodling a scene from Boogie Nights.
American History Professor D’Accord persisted. ‘The question I just asked about early American History.’
‘Don’t give a shit.’ I murmured again, but this time a little louder for the benefit of the class. Heh-heh-heh, my brilliant plan was foolproof.
‘Well good for you! Class, I was going to wait a few weeks, but Miss Handel is absolutely correct. Bunch of bullshit.’ I stopped doodling, but kept my face down. Frozen, perhaps, is a better word for my face at that moment. I’d been made! ‘What we know of it is mostly lies, and whatever is true is largely just lies and opinions from a bunch of dead men. Oh, and quite bullshit.’
I looked to my left, then my right, hiding behind my hair. I felt a certain buzz in the air. Twenty young minds suddenly cared.
‘Instead of wasting our time with some bullshit, let’s discuss how we think American history should have begun. Huh? Sound like fun, class?’
The class of teenagers was unanimous that Make Believe class would be more fun than History class. At the end of the hour the general consensus was that George Washington should have been more like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Martha Washington should have been like “that chick in Terminator.” Also, I was lauded as a hero, especially by the teacher.
Modern Education: 1/My Plan: 0.
Next hour was gym, and I hadn’t played volley ball in forever so I put My Plan on hold. My serve was rusty but true. I also fenced for the first time and I must say jabbing someone with a sharp stick is as enjoyable as it sounds.
Then lunch. They didn’t serve Wulfe trout. It may have been fish sticks, or perhaps pizza, but I’m sure it wasn’t Wulfe trout on ice sauce in a almond honey glaze.
OK, right back at it six period: math. Never liked the stuff. The problem with My Plan was that the teacher told me not to worry about being called upon because it was my first day, so I folded five pieces of paper into five triangles (footballs) and flipped them at the girl sitting in front of me. The first one missed, but the second one donked her right on her pate. She reacted, and I prepared for a good dressing down, which I would ignore until I was sent to the principle for capital punishment. Heh-heh-heh, My Plan was unstoppable.
The teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, took my footballs, then spent the rest of the hour teaching the class how to make the things tighter and firmer than mine: and she never mentioned angles or hypotenuses or any of that crap I didn’t remember. Again, I was well received. I only had two more classes to go to get sent to detention.
My Plan stood on the edge of a knife.
But it was ok! They wanted to play rough? Well, sister, I can play rough.
We mob of students had ten minutes to scramble in the halls to get to our next class, and I spent my time asking, loudly, “Hey, anyone holding? You, you holding? Anyone have any hydro? KB? Some kind bud? Come on: I’m dry and I have a hundred bucks—‘
A female teacher stopped me! Yes, nothing could stop My Plan. It was beyond the pale, you see. Then the teacher smiled.
‘Please, we do not allow crass commercialism on school grounds because capitalist imperialism destroys the mind. If you must buy pot, please do so after school in the parking lot like all the other students. I understand the green van has the best prices but the blue Chevy has the highest quality. Now you really should get to class, young lady. Much to learn!’
Other than the “young lady” bit I couldn’t fucking believe it. I admit I panicked. And oh hell my science class was in Building A. Where was freaking Building A?
‘Hey, excuse me…’ A pair of girls walked by me, distracted in conversation, so I tapped one of them on the shoulder. ‘Could you please tell me where—‘
‘What is going on here!’
I turned and dropped my books, terrified at the screeching behind me. It was that same teacher that told me where to go buy illegal drugs, but now she glared at me. I turned around to make sure she was looking at me. The girl I tapped looked mortified, but mortified at me. She covered her face in shame and ran off crying, her friend comforting her.
‘Look at me!’ the teacher said, and I did. ‘There is NO touching, ever, young miss! Are you a savage?’ I thought she might spit on me. ‘You are coming with me to the principle’s office right now, young lady!’ She didn’t grab me, because touching wasn’t allowed, but she non-the-less railroaded me to horrible lecture, perhaps even detention.
My Plan was unstoppable.
A teacher with nearly 50 years' experience yesterday spoke of her 'devastation' after being banned from her school over a claim she assaulted a pupil.
Thelma Hoskins, 67, said she simply put her hand on the boy's shoulder after telling him off for disrupting a lesson.
FEAR ME, MORTALS! Yea, Pallidbust can predict the future!!!!!
Holy crap, western society is falling apart faster than I thought. Having no children, and being a heavy smoker, I don't even care anymore. It's funny, really. We witness, without a doubt, the largest mass suicide ever, and people are only concerned about housing prices. This sorry state of affairs is particularly good for me, because it proves Abelard Winchester Coventry, registered genius 100% correct.
Now, of course, the problem is to write his tale before it becomes history, and before the environmentalists outlaw electricity. Pallidbust finds himself in a race against the fourth dimension itself.
Without further ado, some more of the first tale of Abelard Winchester Coventry, registered genius. Enjoy while you can.
Damn it.... I can't seem to post it from Microsoft word without it being in one mush without spacing... crap. This is embarrassing. Somewhat humbling as well. Ummm.... I'll work on it.