Wednesday, March 14, 2012

325/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "L'antenne est à nous" by Etienne Charry

The room was small but opulently furnished, and the lights, camera, and crew were squeezed in around the two facing black velvet covered armchairs, one of which contained an interviewer for a nationally televised investigative news show, and the other contained Ed Gavivi, the inadvertent billionaire, so-called since his monetary wealth kept growing each year without his interference. The interviewer leaned forward, her intention to corner Gavivi and make him squirm.

"In these stark economic times, why spend your money like this? Why not give to charity or--"

"I don't tell you how to spend yours!" Gavivi bristled and the color rose in his neck.

"I spend my on necessities--"

"So do I! What is necessary for one person might not be so necessary for another--"

"That's not what I mean by nec--"

"I need these things!"

"No you don't!"

Gavivi rose abruptly and ripped off the microphone attached to his shirt collar.

"Get out!" he hissed.

"No one needs these things you've collected!" screeched the interviewer. "Come on," she signalled to the crew.

They packed up promptly but the interaction was filmed the damage to Gavivi was done.

From the small window in the room he watched them leave in their white truck with its big spiral antenna. He knew it would air that evening and opinion would sour against him, and people would withdraw from his hedge funds but he didn't care. Everything he needed was inside.

He dialed his cell phone and called the construction foreman.

"What is our progress?" he asked.

"The plans for phase fourteen have just been submitted to the zoning commission."

"Too slow."

"I'm sorry, but this is as fast as it can go."

"Build anyway. They won't notice with all the current construction."

The foreman sighed audibly on the other end of the line.

"That's not the right way to do things--"

"I'm not asking for your opinion. You either do what I say or you find yourself another job."

There was a length of silence.

"Yeah, okay." The foreman hung up.

Gavivi slipped the phone back into his pants pocket. He took off his shoes and sunk his bare toes into the deeply piled carpet. Then he set off on his usual walk, which took more than five hours to complete.

He left the tiny set of rooms he kept as his personal residence and strode into a long and tall hallway made of cement that lead to the storage wing that had been under constant construction and expansion for over a decade. He passed through a series of airlocks that kept the wing climate controlled.

He turned left into the first storage block. Contained here were the objects made of plastic in the twentieth century. Everything was arranged on deep shelved pigeonholes of various sizes, first by age of manufacture, then by region of origin, and then by color and shape. Each pigeonhole contained only one object and was fronted by a locked three-inch glass door with a seal to kept out dust. The bottom third of the glass was etched with the name of the object and other essential identifying information.

Gavivi would occasionally open the cases and take out the object within, holding it in his hand, feeling its shape and coldness and weight. He enjoyed the different smells the objects could give off, through decay usually, and spent considerable time on his walks imagining how the objects had been used by previous owners.

He worked his way through twentieth century plastic and then moved on to other blocks: musical instruments, metal utensils, seventeenth century prosthetic limbs, funeral masks, unopened cereal boxes from the nineteen thirties, worn bridal gowns from all periods (folded), origami models, sets of children's teeth, bird cages, and taxidermied marsupials. It was his intention to collect all the things that regular collectors largely ignored--to make a complete inventory of all the sorts of objects that had ever been used and owned by people--though his collection was far from complete.

Finally he came to one of the most recently built blocks. He strolled past small boxes of mementoed locks of hair, empty wedding rings, jars filled with human kidneys, brains, and other organs, and past ancient books bound in human skin, and came to one of his most recent and difficult acquisitions.

He opened the glass door and peered inside a dark pigeonhole three feet wide and three feet tall and six feet deep.

"Water," asked its occupant, his voice frail and rasping.

Gavivi put his hand on the man's head and stroked the hair. The smell was overwhelming, but Gavivi thought it leant extra authenticity to the acquisition. He hoped that the man would die in a wretched pose instead of a placid one, with pain and confusion contorting the expression because it would be so difficult to pose the body after it expired. He closed the glass door and reminded himself that he needed to purchase extra silicon desiccant to speed up the drying process. The discomfort of the interview was now faded--soothed by the objects and the stroll, and he happily made his way back to his small living quarters.

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