The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
Sirius was in search of fame and fortune from her writing. She felt writing was her calling. In fact, she was consumed by the thought of becoming the word; not so much the notion of the word becoming flesh and all that, but the notion of making a living via the written word. She lusted after the title of “writer.”
She had always wanted to have the perfect “Nome de Plume,” one that would get her noticed and project the noble air of an author, while still providing her with the necessary cloak to be on par within the literary establishment. Choosing the perfect androgynous moniker had been daunting. She had tried many appellations. She had written out these names in mock title pages to see just how well the name would fit on the page, and how well it would sound when spoken over loud speakers. She’d tried: “Roger Daring,” but thought it too cliched; “Martin Brandon,” too much like the actor; “Brendan Frost,” too cold. She had even toyed with the idea of using ‘Acton” or ‘Ellis,’ Eliot’ ‘Isak’ or even ‘George,’ but she had instead settled for the illogical but intriguing “Sirius Sheet,” which she’d found compelling and daring.
Sirius had earned the imperative degrees required by the profession: BA, MFA, along with certificates from trendy writing programs in Iowa and New York. She had been careful to intern at important places, with well known names like New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review. In her mind, she possessed all the required credentials to succeed as a writer of important books, “high brow” literature. All she needed, she’d thought, was a proper introduction to the proper person, and the backing of the strong marketing arm of a well established publishing house. Until that day, however, she’d had to maintain a ‘proper job,’ mixing spirits at the local pub.
Sirius had read an advertisement in the library’s online newsletter, while conducting research for her next project. The ad read: “Antiques Road Show comes to our library,” She’d been immediately snared by the lure of the prize. The prize, of course, being the potential of ‘trash to treasure' she had witnessed on television. She’d figured that finding the advertisement at a moment when a lack of funds was making her daily writing life uncomfortable, was an omen. She was broke.
The public library’s “Antique Road Show,” she thought, was an opportunity to finally find out if the water color in the large, heavy, gilded frame, that had been willed to her by her father, was actually worth anything as she had always hoped. The watercolor in question had a clear signature on the lower right hand corner, in pencil, an indication, she’d thought, of importance and large monetary value, she’d hoped. She’d marked her calendar to attend the event, even though, on the same day, she’d scheduled time to meet with a man who represented a publishing firm in New York. Sirius had figured she could make the meeting after attending the free appraisal at the library.
The “Community Meeting Room” was located in the basement of the public library. It was an average size room with a low ceiling, mole color carpeting, and wood paneled walls. Framed art created by local seniors was displayed proudly on every available inch of the walls. They consisted of water colors, lacking luster and devoid of any color theory, drawings of children’s heads with large eyes and out-of-proportion features; landscapes, seascapes, moonscapes, and giant bowls of fruit galore; all created without any notion of perspective, but encased in expensive gilded frames.
The Community Meeting Room was already replete with pensioners inhaling and exhaling as a single giant lung, when she arrived. They sat in silence. They sat elbow to elbow in industrial style, excrement color, folding metal chairs; not sharing space in the room, but greedily grabbing as much space for themselves as they could possibly muster without touching each other. Without exception, each of them cradled an object on their laps; defending it, protecting it like the goose protecting its golden eggs. The room was tense with expectancy as they sat in silence waiting for their number to be called.
The silence was briefly broken when Sirius pushed the squeaky side door open. Instantly, like a wave of birds changing direction in mid flight, every head in the room turned towards her expecting the host to materialize. When they saw Sirius walk in, they emitted an audible sigh of disappointment that sounded like a tire being punctured by a sharp object; not a pop, but a slow, gassy, hissing leak.
“Is this the show and tell?” Sirius asked to no one in particular. She wasn’t expecting an answer, she was just deflating the tension, and deflecting attention from herself.
“Well,” she added, “I have something to show,” and walked through the door hauling a large package she’d wrapped in a black garbage bag.
Sirius walked slowly burdened by the weight of her wrapped treasure. She waded through the crowd towards the back of the room. When she reached it, she unburdened herself of her cargo by leaning it against the wood paneled wall. Before she could occupy the last empty chair, an elderly woman waddling between the rows of chairs approached her and handed her a small piece of paper with a single number written hurriedly in black ink.
“Here,” she murmured as she extended her heavy appendage and placed the paper in Sirius’ hand. “You’re number twenty.” The woman gurgled as she spoke.
Sirius stood in the back of the room. Her face was the youngest one in the crowd. She’d decided not to sit. Instead, she yielded the last chair to a pensioner who had arrived late to the party.
A door opened in the back of the room, and a small man wearing overalls and heavy workman’s boots, came into the room with a stack of chairs collapsed in a pile. The weight of the chairs pressed down on the burdened dolly, causing its wheels to make loud squeaky noises that pierced the silence in the room. The squatty man slowed down trying to silence the wheels of the dolly, while murmuring meekly: ‘I’m sorry, sorry,’ keeping his eyes low to the ground. When he reached his destination, he unfolded the chairs expertly and stood them up on the remaining empty spots on the floor of the Community Meeting Room.
Sirius stood near the back door with her arms folded and her feet solidly planted on the mole colored carpet. She didn’t wear a watch so she looked up at the large industrial clock on the far wall every so often.
At twelve-twenty, twenty minutes later than the time the advertisement had stated the Road Show would begin, another door opened. A thin man walked in. He was wearing gold chains around his exposed chest and rings on each of his fingers. His hair stood up in a greasy, stiff wave, coiffed atop his large forehead. He wore big, aviator-style glasses with gilded frames that nearly covered his entire face. His neck was long with thick wrinkles around his Adam’s apple. The wrinkles were as thick as the veins on either side of his forehead. He bounced when he walked, as if the heels of his ox-blood loafers where fitted with springs. He stopped for a moment and looked at the clock on the wall, then looked at his wrist watch, he shrugged his shoulders and resumed his approach to the front of the room. The crowd’s heads moved with him as if following the strong scent of his cologne.
“Welcome, Welcome” the man said addressing the crowd.
“So..., I see many new faces,” he blurted like a carnival barker directing his statements to some area in the back of the room, past all the heads of the people sitting in front of him. Clearly, he was addressing some invisible person only he could see, someone he had invented by necessity. A technique for addressing crowds he’d learned from years of professional auction-calling.
“Good!.. I’m glad!” he said to himself loudly. “This means you haven’t heard any of my jokes,” he shouted gleefully while rubbing his hands and hunching his shoulders like a villain ready to pounce on some unsuspecting victim.
“Did you hear the one about the man who goes to his Rabbi?” he asked rhetorically to the invisible person in the back of the room. Without waiting for a reply, he continued: “Rabbi, I think my wife is trying to poison me,” he shouted with the same intensity he had used when greeting the seated crowd.
Before he could continue, however, a few straggles stumbled into the room making distracting noises as they weaved their way in, hunting for a place to rest their goods, and their large behinds. The interruption caused heads to move about; some heads turned towards the offenders, others moved close to their neighbor’s ears to murmur platitudes, or possibly, insults. The room sounded like a French restaurant after all the wine had been consumed by the diners at all the tables.
When the room settled, the man conducting the affair clapped his hands to get the crowd’s attention. He then proceeded with the necessary introductions, without finishing the joke he had started to tell.
“Thank you very much for coming,” he said, speaking to the same invisible person in the back of the room.
“What about the joke?” some shouted.
“Yeah, what about the joke?” the room echoed reproachfully.
Sirius was sweating. The humidity in the room was approaching the tropical-island level. It was becoming difficult to breath. She looked at the industrial-size clock on the wall impatiently, the second-hand was marking every hash mark between the large numbers: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven; reaching and passing the number twelve, and starting over.
“Fine!,” said the host. “If you want to hear the punchline, you’re going to have to simmer down,” said the man.
The host made eye contact with the few who had arrived early enough to occupy the chairs arranged at the front of the room. A large woman laughed loudly at every word the host uttered. Her body occupied two chairs, she sat on the edge of them as if ready to bolt.
“Finish the Joke,” the large woman demanded.
The host turned on his heels, moved his ringed hands as if he were straightening an invisible tie, and with words that curled at each end when he spoke them, he muttered:
“Well, if you need me too,” he said, “I will. Let’s see, where was I... Oh yeah.” He spoke it with the flair of a hack comedian. “So the man says to his Rabbi: Rabbi, I think my wife is trying to poison me”
The eyes on the faces of the crowd moved impatiently about the room looking for something to focus on. The only eyes fixed on the host were those of the large woman occupying two chairs up front.
“Don’t worry, said the Rabbi, I’ll go talk to her,” shouted the host continuing with the joke.
Sirius felt her legs starting to ache. The clock was her enemy. She’d made the appointment with the Rep from the publishing firm, an hour after twelve noon, to see about a possible lead for one of her proposals. The representative of the publishing firm in Manhattan had alluded to possible interest by his firm on her proposal for a book.
The Rep had even mentioned the possibility of a “large advance.” Sirius felt the trickle of sweat gliding down the back of her neck, and perspiration in her underarms. She pressed her crossed arms tightly against her chest. She glared at the man telling his joke to the crowd, as if trying to telegraph her displeasure with her exasperated looks, urging him to be done with it with her body language.
The host continued unabated:
“So the Rabbi comes back and says to the man...”
“HA HA HA HA HA,” the large woman in the front row burst out laughing, slapping her hands on her fleshy thigh, before the man had had a chance to finish his sentence. The faces in the room turned to each other and scowled, some turned their heads close to their neighbor’s ears and whispered some profanity directed at the large woman.
The air in the room had been consumed by the lungs of the expectant throng. The heat from their bodies flowed like steam from a boiling kettle. Sirius tapped her foot against the mole colored carpet.
“I spoke to your wife.... Take the poison!” the man finished his joke.
The joke fell to the floor like overripe fruit. Sirius picked up the scent of hard boiled eggs in the air coming from the paper sack guarding the pensioner’s treasure sitting behind her. In her mind, Sirius was trying to calculate how long it would take for the appraiser to reach her number, to give value to her treasure, dreading she’ll miss the meeting in Manhattan. She could not postpone the meeting. She did not want to leave the library without having her loot appraised, she needed the money, and there wasn’t going to be another opportunity for a free appraisal.
For a brief moment a spark of hope lit her mind: call the rep and tell him you’ll be late, she thought. She reached for her cell phone, flipped it open, and pressed a key to wake it. No signal. The Community Meeting room was in the basement of a building that was constructed with concrete and steel, thus, no cellular signal would ever penetrate it. She could not call the agent. Before she flicked the phone closed, she looked at the clock on the wall, its marked time differed from the time displayed on her cellular. The clock in the room was slow by at least 20 minutes.
She looked at the gathered crowd. She looked at the wrinkled piece of paper in her hand. She rubbed the number 20 with her fingers. Too high, she thought. She’d never get her chance to get her water color appraised, and she was hopelessly late for her meeting. She lifted her eyes and looked at the art works covering the wood paneled walls of the room. She looked down at the mole color carpet. She looked at the excrement color steel chairs. Her eyes scanned the greedy looks of the crowd. She shouted:
“TAKE THE POISON YOURSELF YOU BASTARD!”
A wave of blank faces turned like a flock of birds changing direction in mid flight and drew a collective gasp like a dying man taking his last breath. Sirius stormed out the back door, dragging her worthless watercolor, knocking over a elderly pensioner’s antique treasure from his lap, revealing a framed silk handkerchief embroidered in colors with the phrase:
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mom.
© Oswaldo jimenez June 2012
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