Thursday, April 26, 2012
Chapter Eleven - Enter Genius
Enter Genius is the eleventh chapter in Alistair Vogan's novel How To Lose Your Voice Without Screaming.
Sri Zeak Chattopadhyay sat on his embroidered Japanese cushion, in the lotus position, his chin up and his eyes, only slightly open, focused on the floor before him. His breathing was deep, but there was, decidedly, resistance. He could sense it. Something was bumping around in his head, bugging him. Like a bird that’s flown in an open window and couldn’t get out, she wouldn’t leave his consciousness. He got up, disgusted. His knees snapped and crackled.
“For crying out loud!” He could stand in the middle of the room in his purple turban, his cape blowing in the draft behind him from the air rushing in the open window on the 45th floor, with his purple shoes curling up towards his knees, a fake mustache, and not be wearing pants but looking around the room frantically for them, and, still, the what-to-do next of it all would somehow miraculously elude her. He could also point a colt 45 to his temple, press it so that the barrel dug into his skin, cock it, pull the trigger six times without a major event happening in her day, say “drat” even, pat all his pockets, check behind him in the drawers of his desk… still she’d bite her lip, turn and look at him sideways as if she were struggling to answer the 65 thousand dollar question being filmed in the studio the floor below. No. That didn’t quite nail it either, he thought. He had a better scenario… He could douse himself in gasoline. Strike a match and set him ablaze. The flames could rise up and blacken the stucco ceiling as he fell to his knees. There could be a fire extinguisher, even, to his right and a plate of six ham and cheese sandwiches to his left. He would be screaming at the top of his lungs over the sizzling of his flesh for her to help. He might say something to the point like, “Help me! I think I am-on-fire!” With one choice to make – fire extinguisher, or ham and cheese sandwiches - she’d still be uncertain what to do…
This was what he was stuck with.
Carol tapped on the door and entered carrying a tray with a white rose in a vase, a jug of milk, a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise, and the morning paper. Yee haw! Speak of the devil! She placed it on the coffee table before the couch. He turned where he stood looking out the window at the city below, his city. He took a deep breath and looked at the wall just above her head, remaining calm. He bit his lip and exhaled through his nostrils. “…Why?” he asked exasperated.
She froze. His eyes traveled around the room and stopped at the large bookshelf to her left. He took in the various photographs of him with presidents, celebrities, a Maharajah, an elephant... This is the way it had become. He saw a photo of himself, in his younger years, smiling warmly, holding an orphan up to his chest by the elbows in a desolate African village. He could almost read the wreath around his right shoulder that had been placed on him moments before the photograph had been taken. He looked good. He’d dug a well with his own hands that particular day! – or, at least held a shovel, he remembered the splinter. A village of forty, for the first time, had been given the opportunity to drink fresh, clean water without the need to walk for miles with buckets on their heads. He lost himself for a minute. Malnourished or not, that kid had been heavy. Now that he thought about it, why couldn’t they have got a better malnourished kid? Relatively speaking, the kid looked chunky. Yep. He had to do everything himself…
“I am here…” he said, looking down his torso to his feet and then to the tray on the coffee table several feet away, “and my food is there.” It was obvious. And, he’d have to spell it out to Missus Simpleton. “Do you expect me to walk over there? Bring it here. Put it on the floor by my feet. No. NO! Pull the coffee table over with the tray on top! Now look what you’ve done! Pick up the flowers! Wipe the table quickly. Carol… Sweetheart. That’s teak, you know? You don’t know, do you?” He looked out the window, shaking his head. “I’m very very busy Carol,” he said. It came out sing-songy and imagined his studio audience watching impatiently for the magic to begin. He imagined strangling her as she slowly dragged the table over beside him. The imaginary Carol was on the rug. He was straddling her with his hands around her throat, her tongue sticking out. Her face red, eyes protruding. His turban slid over his forehead and bounced beside her like a bowling ball. The ruby and several diamonds broke from the turban and scattered around the rug adding beauty to the image. He wipes his forehead, his nostrils flaring, and his dark eyes fiery. In his mind’s eye he looks devilishly handsome, like Clark Gable.
Darius, Salahad Udin, Julius Caesar. Empire builders, all. If the reward wasn’t so great, and elusive, we’d all be living in hovels, eating our own filth. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day, mainly because all great men are, by nature, surrounded by idiots. Why must everything be spelled out? He knew what everyone else was thinking. He knew what they’d say, what they’d do. But he had to think everything through and broadcast every freaking thought to get anything done ‘the right way’. If he didn’t, it’d all be a mess. They knew it too. They were incapable of making an intelligent decision. They were terrified to make a mistake. Where were the great Risk Takers that had built America? He had to do ALL the thinking ALL the time.
The coffee table and its contents came to a stop at his side. Were there Goddamn tomatoes in his sandwiches? He couldn’t believe it. Genius. He looked at the sandwiches then her, then back at the sandwiches. Which was more intelligent? She, or his lunch? “Oh, what’s the use?” he thought. He tapped his knee against the coffee table beside him, pointedly, “Carol, did you really…?”
He shook his head smiling warmly. “Darling, I was joking! You did know that?” She smiled nervously and then he told her how lovely she looked as she dragged the coffee table back to its original location.
“I love that blouse on you.”
He looked at the sandwiches languidly, then flicked on the television and watched the recording of the previous day’s show. It was perfect! Still, he made a list of people at random who should be fired. Best to keep them on their toes. The worst thing, he knew, was for his team to get too comfortable. That would be the beginning-of-the-end. That’s when quality becomes the real casualty. It’s simple human nature. Also, he’d give everyone else a raise so that way they’d keep their yaps shut. If he didn’t, they’d start talking about how they were all “brothers” and that they had to stand together. Keep ‘em divided, he thought.
When Carol was gone, he grabbed a sandwich and removed the tomatoes. He sat at the edge of the couch, and bit into it tentatively, hunched over like a squirrel.
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We would like to gratefully acknowledge assistance provided by:
Sir William Newman
editors and story consultants at The Ivan Von Noshrilgram Foundation, Prague, Czech Republic.)
Copyright 2000 (Alistair Avery Vogan / the Von Noshrilgram Foundation)