Monday, May 13, 2013

Let Me Tell You a Story

[Author's note: I've been working on this story for quite some time...it's coming along nicely now, and so I'm sharing a draft here...all details are subject to change, though, according to current events mostly...just so you know...]

In a country far away there lived a young, simple man, in a small apartment, in a quaint village. His name was Amaro.

Amaro lived by himself, not counting his cat (named Starpaw...because it had a star shape on its...but you're already ahead of me, aren't you?). Nor counting his ficus (which I mention only because he talked to it sometimes, having heard that that would make it grow faster...but...we're not really interested here in how well or not Amaro's ficus grew, so we'll just...uh, just forget I mentioned the ficus). 

Even though his apartment had a built-in book shelf, he didn't read much, so Amaro used it to display the various medals he had received in the Boy Scouts for achievements in things like First Aid or tying knots. He also used it as the place he kept his keys and wallet when he came home, alone, each evening.

Simple as he was right now, though, Amaro had plans. Among them were a beautiful wife, at least three children (two boys and one girl), a summer cottage near Lake Wagaravoaka, a position of respect eventually within the company that recently hired him as a junior associate, and one day a very expensive watch he could leave behind as a family heirloom.

This last part of his plans consumed a great deal of Amaro's time. He was frequently up late researching the world's best watches on the Internet and had even set up a Google alert for record-breaking auction prices. His current plan was to buy a Patek Philippe, but (because he didn't live anywhere near the London, Paris, or Geneva salons where they were sold) he secretly hoped he'd stumble across one that no one else quite knew the value of at an estate sale...or some similar scenario...especially if he was to get one on his current salary.

A few years later, on a day in late Summer, no closer to his other plans, Amaro did happen to read of an auction of the belongings of a popular local dignitary who had no heirs. Amaro thought the odds were probably pretty good, and indeed after searching Google for images, low and behold there was a Patek Phillipe on the dignitary's wrist at a ceremony to open a new sewage plant.

Amaro immediately sold all the stock in his uncle's company he got as a graduation present and the four-door sedan his grandfather had given him as his inheritance when he passed away a few years back (he didn't drive it much anyway). Between the two sales he amassed roughly 2,000,000 chmartas...a small fortune for someone like him, but a solid investment nonetheless in the heirloom he now understood was his destiny.

The auction was held at the dignitary's huge house on the outskirts of the village. It turned out to be quite the local occasion, with fine hats on many a head and a virtual who's who of people from the village attending. The room where the auctioneer had set up (with a podium, a side table, and rows of chairs) had been the dignitary's grand dinning room, and as the strong afternoon sun gleamed through the stain-glassed windows with colorful pastoral scenes, it made it quite festive, if a touch too warm. By the time Amaro arrived, all the seats were taken with people fanning themselves, and so he stood in the back of the room.

Amaro studied the room as the auctioneer began with items he had no interest in: some artwork, some rare books, a scotch collection, boxes of linens, and an assortment of silver platters and such. In the second row Amaro recognized one of the Vice Presidents of his company, a Mr. Srkortoz, who had obviously arrived early enough to get a good seat but had yet to bid on anything. A few rows back sat Cristiana, the baker's daughter with the wonderful child-bearing hips, the soft kind eyes, and the long black hair. She had bid on one of the boxes of linens, but backed down when the price got too high. Several seats over sat Herzimao, the village's best realtor, who seemed to get exclusives on all the best properties long before anyone else knew their owners were thinking of selling. 

"I'll have to put a bug in his ear about cottages on Lake Wagaravoaka," thought Amaro.

"Next up," declared the auctioneer in a tone he reserved for truly special items, "We have a truly special item from the estate: an antique gold watch. Just look at that craftsmanship, Ladies and Gentleman. Let's start the bidding at 60,000 chmartas."

Amaro could feel a rivulet of sweat stream down his back. He knew that watch could fetch the equivalent of 3,800,000 chmartas in London or Paris. He only hoped no one else in the room knew its true value. He decided to play it cool and let the bidding peter out before striking.


After the bids reached 1,000,000 chmartas, though, it was apparent to Amaro he wasn't the only one who really wanted that watch. The skunk Srkortoz raised his hand for the third time, sending the bid to 1,010,000. In a flash, though, Cristiana's hand shot up and it was 1,015,000. For the next flurry of bids, the two of them essentially kept their arms raised, vigorously wiggling their hands to indicate, impatiently, Yes, Yes, the next step...I'll pay it...I'll pay it.

After the price reached 1,045,000, though, their arms came slowly down. The last bid belonged to Srkortoz, and Amaro could see by her body language that Cristiana was struggling with the idea of committing to 1.5 million chmartas for a piece of jewelry.

She didn't need to worry about it, as it turned out. 

As cool a customer as one would expect him to be under pressure, Herzimao raised his hand, and the bid was 1.5 million. The smile on Herzimao's smug face told Amaro that the realtor too had read the slouch in Srkortoz's shoulders as a sign of resignation. 

"Going once at 1.5 million," the auctioneer rejoiced. "Going twice..."

"Two million chmartas!" came Amaro's voice from the back of the room. A collective gasp and a hundred heads swung around to witness the audacious act of arrogance. The indignation on Hermizmao's face was matched only by the heartbreaking look in Cristiana's teary eyes. As for Srkortoz, Amaro was not quite sure he had ever seen anyone that color of bright red. All three of their faces conveyed one crystal clear message though: Amaro was persona nongrata, permanently.

"Sold!" cried the auctioneer, with a bang of his hammer, apparently having gone once, twice, and three times while everyone else was trying to process what had just happened. Amaro beamed, despite himself, but couldn't take much more of their glares, and he so took his pack of cigarettes from his pocket and indicated to, well, everyone in the room, all of whom were still watching with their mouths open, that he'd just pop out for a quick smoke. 

"Next up is this fine, bound collection of celebrity signatures," said the auctioneer, as the attendees, one by one, returned their eyes to the podium.

There was a welcome breeze as Amaro stepped through front door of the house, lighting his cigarette, just in time to see a late comer dressed in black, walking up with an obviously heavy briefcase. 

"Hot as hell in there," explained Amaro, stepping aside to let the dark stranger enter the house.

"Not yet, it's not," responded the stranger, who kept on going.

Odd, thought Amaro, but as he walked a bit further into the front garden, the idea of wearing his new Patek Philippe to work next week seized his imagination. Of course, he should be careful with his new heirloom...he wanted it to still be perfect when he left it to the lucky son he favored the most...but part of the myth he would build around the watch would need to include a photo of him wearing it at the office, as if it were the most natural thing in the ...

BLAAA-A-A-A-A-M!!!

Amaro was face-down on the ground....

His ears were ringing so fiercely he felt dizzy. Red-hot chunks of wood and roofing were raining down around him. When he managed to turn over, he looked back toward the house to see gray smoke billowing out what had been the stained glass windows. Far off behind the house, he saw the tall dark stranger, running through the fields.

"My watch!" thought Amaro. 

He stumbled to his feet and ran back into the front door, his shirt pulled up over his mouth as the smoke seared his lungs. The dining room was beginning to clear a bit, but the wallpaper was still burning in spots. The auctioneer's smoldering podium was still there, but there was no sign of the Patek Phillipe.

Blackened, moaning bodies lay in mounds or crawled over mangeled chairs throughout the room. Near the front row, Amaro spotted Srkortoz, rummaging through a heap of something on the floor. He flew over the others and nearly dove into Vice President. 

"Where is it?" Amaro screamed, pulling him to his feet. "Where's my watch??"

Srkortoz, completely deafened by the blast, assumed Amaro was asking him if he was alright. He flung one arm over Amaro's shoulder and leaned in to indicate they should head out the front door. Amaro rifled through Srkortoz's pockets as they hobbled together over the rubble. It wasn't easy going. Three rows of scorched chairs back, they passed Cristiana rising jittery from the floor. Srkortoz grabbed her outstretched arm and pulled her up as well.

The trio finally made it out the front door as other survivors, dazed and bloodied, began to assemble in the front garden. Off in the distance, Amaro could hear the village volunteer fire alarm wailing. 

 Satisfied that Srkortoz hadn't pocketed his watch, but still not ready to give up on it, Amaro headed back inside the house. Cristiana and Skrortoz looked after him in wonder and then in admiration at this heroism. Inside the house, though, Amaro made a beeline for the spot where Herzimao was trying to tighten a tourniquet around his injured thigh.

"Empty your pockets!!" he ordered the badly wounded realtor. Years of practice (so he could tell what couples who were discussing an offer in another room were saying) had taught Herzimao to accurately read lips. Still shaken, he did as he was told, taking out his wallet, his cellphone, some lose change, his keys, and the cast-iron, sword-shaped pen he carried in order to produce with a ceremonial flare for his clients to sign the contracts for their new homes.

Seeing that Herzimao didn't have the watch, Amaro rather absent-mindedly began using the pen to tie the tourniquet tighter, as he scanned the room for other ideas on where his watch might have ended up. Herzimao, who had forgotten this trick from his Boy Scout days, looked up at Amaro with profound gratitude. When the tourniquet began to hurt, he reached out and nodded to Amaro that they should head outside.

In the front garden, Amaro looked at each of the survivors with suspicion. Any of them could have scooped up his watch in the chaos. He had no choice. He would need to search them all.

By the time the first responders and TV trucks arrived, word was already spreading through the front garden about how the earnest young man who had surprised everyone with his extraordinary bid on the watch turned out to be the hero of the day, pulling people from the wreckage and checking on everyone he could. By the end of the day, the legend of Amaro's life-saving First Aid interventions had circled the globe via Twitter and Facebook. An Auto-tuned interview of him confessing to reporters, "I wasn't thinking...I was just acting on instinct" became an instant YouTube sensation. 

It lasted only 15 minutes, relatively speaking, but it would have to do. 

Many years later, when caught grumbling to himself by his wife Cristiana or his fellow VP Srkortoz, whose wife and kids often joined Amaro's family at what everyone in the village would agree was the best cottage up on Lake Wagaravoaka, Amaro would say "Oh, nothing...never mind."  He'd just circle the skin around his bare wrist and shake his head. Everything was fine. He had no regrets.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Dennis said...

You should definitely write more of these - something about teh way it ended reminded me of a Poe or Chekhov story. I would love to read more.

5/13/2013 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger A Rose by any other name... said...

Bravo, and well done, Ed. Is this a one-off, or to be the first in a larger body of work?

5/14/2013 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

a one off

more an introduction to a discussion about narrative than an attempt at becoming a short story writer...

to be continued...

thanks though! :-)

5/14/2013 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Cristiana have Big Tits and a pretty face?

I gots to know Ed.

5/14/2013 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

project anything your heart desires onto any of the characters, Anon...they're there for you...

5/14/2013 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lousy week of trying to buy a used car on c'list. People pulling blantant scams and feeling quite justifiably annoyed with me when I did not fall for them.... I have to go to the Winkleman blog to be sure there is still someone with perspective out there. I loved reading your story especially the the measured unfolding at the beginning which reminded me a bit of the style of Camus. Thanks.

5/15/2013 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger A Rose by any other name... said...

Yay, discussions about narrative! Lead on.

project anything your heart desires onto any of the characters, Anon...they're there for you

This is so true. Once a narrative is told, it belongs to the recipient.

A good story opens many doors in the questions it leaves unanswered, and invites the reader to fill in the blanks for themselves. As in we STILL don't know what happened to the watch in your story, but the more fanciful among us might imagine that somehow it went on to become a key plot device in bringing about the events that lead to the years later happy ending.

5/15/2013 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

@Rose someone on facebook asked a few of those questions:

"Ah, but who is the dark stranger you speak of, and what became of the watch?"

My responses were:

"The dark stranger is fear...and the watch was, of course, time....it goes on without you..."

5/15/2013 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger A Rose by any other name... said...

Ah, good answer. As a sometimes story editor, I find that most new authors can't see the themes that emerge out of their work until someone else points them out, so you are already ahead of the writing game.

5/15/2013 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

...reminds me of the story of Van Morrisons Brown eyed girl. Supposedly the lyrics were actually brown skinned girl, but when singing the song, Ivan couldn't remeber the lyrics and came out instead with brown eyed girl, inadvertantly transforming an almsot racist song into something so much more universal.

Intent versus embracing whom we are? Whom we are, is so often so much more then whom we wish to be.
Though we should always strive, acceptance has its inherent value too.

nice read - thanks

5/16/2013 07:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good deal of the contemporary art world reminds of the children's tale; The Emperor's new Clothes. There are many naked people standing around pretending they, and contemporary art is cool, but really no one is brave enough to speak out and admit they are naked and cold. Case in point; 'art that has no physical form.' wtf is THAT?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/jun/01/tino-sehgal-golden-lion-best-artist

6/02/2013 10:50:00 PM  

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