Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Stat-man: Ritual Meeting
He stooped awkwardly to place his load upon the platform, opening the lid of the tin box and lifting with both hands what seemed like a large scroll, with lines of text written along it. He slowly unrolled it and lingered there for a short while in front of the now silent crowd, his face concentrating downwards, indulging in the script. Perhaps a last check for errors was also part of the procedure? The crowd waited patiently until the giant placed the finished scroll upon the slanted pulpit-like top of the plinth, manoeuvring the stone edifice to face the audience, this last gesture causing a thunderous roar from the crowd, the stone slabs of the square beginning to quake beneath hundreds of stamping feet.
Just beginning to be satisfied with work done, he unexpectedly slapped a hand to his forehead, signalling a false start to the crowd, rushing to the plinth, sliding a pen from behind his ear as he did so and began to hastily correct a section of the text. He eyed the script closely, head travelling from side to side. The giant worked furiously making final edits, aware of the impatient grumbles from the crowd at his rear. Finally he stepped back a few paces to kneel before his finished work, the crowd making fanatical clicking sounds that echoed throughout the square.
The giant then stooped his creaking frame, having to strain all his various joints in order to pick up his baggage and then moved stiffly towards the door, banging his fist upon it whilst clamping his load awkwardly between right hand and chin. A visible gap appeared and the grinding metal door, flashing sparks upon the cobbled stone, at last created enough space for the giant man to pass through.
The towering figure of the giant had disappeared inside, the doors having swung back together, banging closed with a dull thud. The stage was now bare except for the plinth with the scroll displayed there for all to see. The crowd appeared to be steadying their natural impulse to rush towards it, waiting for a sign, a signal or something to mark the next course of action.
The tension in the square mounted again when the church bells sounded the half hour mark, a signal for the first line of figures to take their places upon the steps.
Once inside the doors Darrus collapsed to the ground, his legs falling in a disjointed heap beside him, boots like boulders tumbling across the hallway.
“These bloody stilts are killing me. I’ll have to remind myself to make a new, more comfortable pair.”
After he pulled off the last buckle, he let out a deep sigh of relief and pushed the wooden contraption away, resting his aching back against the wall. “Never again, never again, this is the last time. I just hope that this one goes smoothly than before.”
Even though he was tired and really felt like collapsing upon in his bed up stairs, Darrus kept himself awake with the hope that some person in the crowd outside would at last begin to read his work, having spent so much of his time on it. He would, of course, inevitably fall prey to the temptation of visiting the control room yet again; he had converted it himself from the downstairs toilet, and it did the job well enough, receiving information from a customised treadmill placed just before of the plinth. Readers had to step onto it in order to read the material and then he would reel in information from the dials, watching the red pins nervously flick back and forth inside their dusty windows. He had improvised a wooden board was over the bath, on top of which was piled several graph machines of different sizes, recording the incoming data, their metal encasements rattling each time a new visitor stepped onto the treadmill. Darrus had removed these outdated machines in secret from the local hospital, his previous workplace, having broken in there in the middle of the night, using his spare keys to open the store room in the Electro Cardiac department where there was easy access to the heart monitoring machines and defibrillators. He had linked all the gadgets up with the use of the old wiring and broken fixtures he’d found lying around on the factory floor.
Sitting himself on the toilet seat he busied himself by flicking switches, eyes fixed into the home made periscope that slid down from the ceiling, where upon it tunnelled through the brickwork and emerged along the front side of the chimney, its swivelling lenses spying the visitors, scanning names of figures as they moved up and down the front steps.
Engrossed as he was in drawing up pen portraits of the most regular customers Darrus wouldn't have heard the handle of the door unfastening and the sharp heels of his mother stepping up behind him, only noticing when he felt a hand grabbing hold of his shoulder bone.
“Thought you’d be in here again” she said with her high pitched voice blaring into his ear, making his body jump up, eyes popping out of the service goggles, the periscope tentacle quickly zipping its segments back into the ceiling.
"Are you crazy woman, you can’t just drop in like that unannounced, in the middle of everything, can't you see I’m concentrating. I was just getting into it.”
"If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, don’t bring strangers back to this house. If you don’t get them to go away I’m going to phone the police. The dogs gone missing as well, he hasn’t eaten any of his food”
“You know all about this though mother, as I’ve explained before, these are my friends and they read my writing and stuff, It’s OK.”
“What writing, I never see any writing, all I see is you lazing around, fiddling with these knobs. I’m waiting for you to get a proper job, then we can have a bit of space round here."
“Well, you said I could use the bathroom.”
“Only temporary, only temporarily I said. I thought it best to keep you occupied with something, but this is going to far.”
His mother stood there, hands on hips, all her weight leaning over and pecking her finger down at Darrus’s dwindling form, eyes frowning, her white lips pushed out to a point, scrunching her hook nose, staring at Darrus in the face ”Right, in two minutes and I want you washing those dishes in the kitchen, is that clear.”
“Don’t Oh Mum me; get into the back there before I skin you. Look at the state of you”
“I’ll just have to get some new legs, those old ones are killing me.”
“Don't think you can impress me with your costumes. Remember, I know you like the back of my hand Darrus Floyd Wheelan. You don’t fool me? You and your writing, you're going to start pulling your weight around here right now!”
“But mother, I need to check the plinth, to see if they’re reading it."
“Get in there and do those dishes and I hope your going to put those things back where you found them?"
"Well, they're er… very handy you see"
"Don’t blame me if you get caught, I know nothing.
Now come on…” She stood back pointing the way for him to the kitchen."
"Oh, can’t I do it later? You know, they’re all out there and I’m missing vital statistics, for god sakes!”
“Don’t swear at me.” She said pointing him in the chest area. “Look, you can play on it later for a bit, when you’ve done your dishes.”
”Oh, I wish you would take this thing a bit more seriously, do you know how rare it is to get this many visitors at once?”
”I’ve read your writing and and I don’t know why you bother.”
”I’ve got a good mind to go and tell that crowd to go away. My roses are getting ruined with all their trampling feet”
“Don’t worry, I’ll clear it all up when they’ve gone.”
“What - you’re going to grow my prize specimens back are you Daz”
"Right, come on, out!”
“Oh…if I …I suppose I have to.”
Darrus trundled his aching body reluctantly out from his monitoring studio, hobbling along the corridor and into the kitchen, grabbing a towel to start on the large pile of dirty dishes standing there.
“Here, put this on” She handed him an apron.
Putting the noose over his head, more submissive now that he was inside his mother’s arena, he picked up the first dish in the pile. He stopped suddenly, his ears pricking up and twitching at the sounds in the hallway. He thought he had heard the faint sound of heels tapping up the iron staircase, heading up to the first floor window.
“Mother… Mother, is that you?”
“Just doing what I should have done a long time ago Daz my boy.”
“What, what are you doing Mum?”
“Never you mind, this lot are going to have a piece of my mind”
Darrus 's dropped a dish to the floor, shattering fragments across the stone slabs. Ignoring the mess, he walked hurriedly to the staircase shouting up. “Mum this isn’t the right time, Mum, Mum!”
His mother had scaled the staircase and was inspecting the Square outside through the landing window, rubbing the dust off with her apron, peering out, face pressed against the glass, eyes squinting into the light. “They all look very suspicious to me, and what’s happened with all their faces?”
"They’re just people Mum, just people I’ve contacted through the network. I need an audience, you know, for my work. Mum, close the window; it’s got nothing to do with you."
"We’ll see about that, young man. I notice they’ve ruined my magnolias in the front patch! I’m going to go out there and tell that crowd off. So this is the company you keep.”
“They’re intelligent thoughtful individuals Mum. You can’t just go and barge in, it’s a sensitive situation, and anyway I’m not going to let you.”
”Thoughtful, thoughtful, since when are they thinking about me and my sinus problems, it’s giving me a headache all that humming and buzzing all over the place. Can’t they keep it down a bit?”
”There’s nothing I can do. Once you start these things you’ve got to go with the flow.”
“Well I’ve had enough. I don’t like this going with the flow business, you can’t trust anybody in this world.” She said pulling the window frames out."
“No. Mother no!”
“It's got to happen some time.”
Darrus grabbed hold of his mother and tried to drag her back, pulling at her arms, but she forced him back.
“Get away, get away, are you mad” She said, her sharp tone rising to a hoarse screech. “You’re using my connection and I want to use it too. Let’s have a look at your favourites then. Which one's Rubenavista?"
"No, there’s not one of them there, nothing there. Please mother, Come away from the window, come on, they’ll see you."
“Don’t you come way for the window me. Get down there, go on.” With that Darrus’s mother took a swing at him with her hand bag. Darrus, slow to duck, met with the full force of the fat and bloated bag, full of miscellaneous objects, his head hitting the wall with an audible thud, body stumbling along the corner panelling, holding his head in pain.
“There, that’ll teach you to talk to your mother like that, out of my way. I’m going to give this lot a piece of my mind.” His mother pulled the window further out until she made sure that she was in full view of the crowd, her bright yellow rubber gloves clasping the outside edges of the frame. Sections of the crowd were in the middle of formal proceedings; Rubenavista was just about to step onto the treadmill.
“Now listen you lot…”she shouted, her shrill voice echoing around the open space. Darrus managed to stop her momentarily by grabbing hold of one of her thick legs on the ground and pulling with all his strength, slowly heaving it backwards.
“Mum, you’re ruining everything! It’s taken me ages to get this far. Mum, Mum, come away”
He struggled to hold his her back, hands grabbing at the spotted red and yellow piny, but there was no stopping his mother in her present mood.
“Now listen…he hasn’t got time for all this writing business, he’s got lots of tidying up to do in his room, also there’s the dishes, which he’s just about to do, isn’t that right Darrus?”
“They don’t know my real name, say it’s not my real name!” said Darrus, crouching in the corner.
"Friends who don’t know your name, well I never…you down there, stop drawing graffiti on that wall, this is a protected building.”
"A comment? Hey Mum, out of the way."
“get off me Darrus…this is all for your own good.” She shouted back inside towards her legs where Darrus was pulling and scrabbling about on the floor in desperation. His mother had a tight grip on the window frame though and the more he struggled the more stubborn she was to hold on to the ledge, her squawking voice turning into a high pitched scream. Darrus’s resistance was weakening.
“Don’t you listen to him; he’s a phoney and a crook. You’re all wasting your time; go on be off with you. And mind those roses on your way out; you’ve already knocked over my magnolias. Go on beat it the lot of you!”
“Don’t listen, she doesn’t mean it!”
The commotion by the window was causing a stir in the crowd; Rubavinusta and Deadcat could be seen hesitating near the foot of the plinth.
“Go to bed, your grounded now…the way you've treated your own mother, it’s so disrespectful”
“Please Mum, Get away from the window; they don’t know about, you know, family and everything.”
"What, are you ashamed of your own mother? After all those years slaving away for your education, how dare you! And look what you’ve got to show for it.”
She turned again towards the crowd; “you enter my font garden without asking with all your humming and clicking business, I’m telling you now go away or I’ll call the police…. Darrus… dishes. Now!.”
She swung her handbag around and landed it firmly on Darrus’s left cheek. “Get back and do some housework like I told you…get down stairs, go on."
“They think that this is my site.” he mumbled sheepishly.
"Well it’s not; it’s mine - and you young man, you need to learn some manners."
While Darrus was nursing his wounds his mother leaned out once more towards the crowd; ”See what you’ve done, it’s all your fault, he never used to be like this, he used to be a good boy!”
Darrus ducked from another swing of his Mother’s arm. She shouted down at him:
“This is my house, and I don’t want you taking it over with all this shenanigans, It was alright as a hobby but now it’s just gone too far. I want you to stop hanging round with those strange looking people. Get yourself some proper friends.”
The sound of the thick leather bag hitting Darrus on all parts of his body grew louder and more insistent and Darrus’s retorts could be heard travelling across the corridor and down the spiral staircase towards the kitchen.
Bash Bang…beep… Bash Bang-beep!… ….bang-beep!… ...bang-beep!... …bang-beep! ...ba-beep! Ba-eep!...Beeee…p!... The alarm system that Darrus had set up to alert him when somebody enters hammered away on his desktop. He slowly turned his heavy head over on the stylus pad, shielding his eyes from the red alert sign flashing up on the screen. He lifted one of his left digits and let it flop down over the return button on the keyboard. The customised handbag on the inside of the screen stopped it’s banging, the exaggerated fastening button giving the option of 'snooze' or 'get up'. It seemed funny when he had downloaded it. Darus was barely awake and hardly able to open his eyes to function properly. He half consciously clicked through the windows to the ‘recently visited’ section. He looked towards the pixelated square and at the latest addition at the top of the descending list of data. What he saw enabled his mind to tick off a box etched deep on the inside of his brain. “Right Deadcat, Deadcat, right that’s how many..mmmn?
His head slumped back again onto the computer tablet, hand raking over the keyboard to land on the arm of his chair. His subconscious eye surveyed the remaining boxes in his head, wondering what new data would flow next through the wires.