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2007-02-08 - 9:25 p.m.

Chapter One, continued...

About this time, just as Prolitariat was gargling down his whiskey, in another part of the world, a large Austrian man; a man with a cleft in his chin large enough to hold change; a man for who ‘gun show’ jokes seemed appropriate; about this time, this large Austrian, was deeply, and darkly, considering going to the bathroom.

He didn’t want to. His focus was on the man below him; the one he was trying to circle menacingly. Unfortunately for the unfortunately named Toby, a terrible name for an Austrian mob enforcer, his body often reacted to stress by twisting his bladder into a labrynth of knots that even an Eagle scount couldn’t have unraveled.

It wasn’t like he was doing a bad job of menacing. His sneer-face was known in at least five different fatherlands, and each of them contained at least one mother who had no capacity to love it. He could growl commands without flinching, commanding without loss of control. His menace was his crown glory. Had he attended college he would have majored in it, graduated with honors, and ended up interning for a top menacing firm. (Preferably Disney.) The thing was, today, it wasn’t working. And he was on his game. His lips pulled right into the pocket. He had an odd off day before. There had been a small rock in his shoe, or he’d skipped a meal. Keep in mind, trying to intimidate someone on an empty stomach is almost as dangerous as swimming with a full one. But today his brown leather loafers were empty, and he’d had a very good meal at Pizzeria Uno just before starting this session of terror: A personal pan pie with everything.

You couldn’t blame the sneer. It was picture perfect. It wasn’t working today, because his subject was unconscious.

It was difficult enough, Toby thought, convincing the hospital staff he was family, and now his quary had the gall to be absent for the entire performance. Toby managed his way into the glossy starched hospital room with a hurriedly gathered fake ID, despite some skeptical stares. (Apparently he was from Boise. His pronounciation: Boo-EYE-see.) But that victory was short lived. A bright open window, and a floral print wallpaper do not a good interogation room make. Unless you’re threatening a Northeastern interior designer. The look was extremely outdated. He still did his best, staring bullet holes into the infirm’s forehead, while standing directly between him and the cheery arrangement of daisies on the end table. They weren’t helping either.

The order Toby got from his boss was simply to watch this kid, and make sure nothing happened to him. They needed information, and this kid knew it, and, as his boss put it, ‘God-fucking-damnit this cock-sucker is going to give it up, the moment he opens them baby-blues.’ Toby noticed that the kid had brown eyes, but that was beside the point anyway. The point was, Toby figured he’d cut to the chase. Sure he was just supposed to wait around until this kid’s engine stuttered into life, but why wait?

‘Why rely on modern medicine to wake this kid when I could just menace the prick into talking,’ Toby thought. He knew it would be a challenge, scaring a man out of a coma, but, as he saw it, this could be his Everest. It could be his greatest accomplishment. Greater even than sleeping through the alarm clock and still making it to work on time. This was his moment, and he would take it.

Toby sneered. Sneered again. He even threw in a grimace for variety and shock value. And still, nothing. The kid barely breathed. And all the time, ever present, calling to him from below, the urine sang its siren song. Thirty three minutes in, and Toby was still in it, but finally, in the thirty forth minute, his bladder tugged, and he flinched.. The patient’s room door swung wide as Toby emerged with legs akimbo, and danced down the halls. Giggling nurses would be copying that two-step for weeks.

***************

You see, Toby himself, was a sworn representative of a small sect within a powerful European energy conglomerate. Things being what they were in the business, what with competition being so high, and legislation and environmentalists knocking at the door of their bottom line, new moves were necessary. A change of paradigm. A daring new stance that meant more drastic moves than the usual blaming and sacking of middle management. The printing of new name tags would not be enough this time. A few members of middle management were fired, mainly because it was Tuesday, and upper management wasn’t sure what else to do after lunch. They called it a precautionary measure. Vincent, the VP in charge of marketing was given a small raise for doing the honors.

Eventually, amidst a slew of other proposals, one memo started being passed around the upper echelons of this particular corporate behemoth. It was regarded as bold, inventive, and definitely outside the box, or, as the C.E.O. often put it “outside the circle.” ‘I don’t believe in barriers’, he often said.

The memo was considered and parsed by every assistant, who then passed it on to the sixteen Vice Presidents, who in turn handed it to the Senior Vice Presidents. The Senior V.P.’s mostly handed it then to their assistants since they’d left their reading glasses back at home, and couldn’t make out the tiny lettering. By the time it finally reached the C.E.O., neatly nestled in his in-circle, it was tattered and browned around the edges. The C.E.O. didn’t read it too thoroughly, but he felt he caught the gist of it, and he had an appointment with a young attractive intern who’s circle he hoped to munch, so he initialed it quickly and handed it back to his assistant, who handed it back to the Senior V.P.’s, who handed it back the V.P.’s who handed it to their assistants who were the highest people in the company capable of actually of work. The V.P.’s themselves were quite busy, you see, generating aesthetically pleasing pie charts that precicely illustrated meaningless and mostly made up statistics.

The memo itself was simple; a suggestion from the mail room. It read, roughly translated from the clerk’s native Hungarian, as follows:

“I know a guy.”

*********

Lucky for Toby, that exposition lasted just long enough for him to relieve himself. With a satisfied grunt to cover the delayed zipping of his pants in the hall, he swung open the door and returned to the quandary that was this greased rubix cube of a man.

The paling infirm had been the last man seen with a rogue government agent. Word was this agent was a member of the Intellegence Agency set up under the new Europian Union. In a strikingly faster manner than the Euro, the collected powers had established a powerful group to counteract organized crime in the kind-of-sort-of-allied states. As always, the government hates having competition.

Just having spoken to a confirmed member of this clandestine cadre would have been enough for Toby to be rapping on the door. But his man was beyond that. In fact, this man hadn’t just been in the company of the rogue agent, but was discovered in a hotel room, in a state of dis-dress, with a serviceable erection. Granted he was asleep at the time of said erection, but these mafia bosses had read about Chekhov’s gun. They were after the agent herself, but this man knew something, and that something was worth, at least, sneering over. And Toby was the man to do it.

Even if, at the moment, he really didn’t appear to be doing much.

Walking back in, Toby realized the usual acts of extortion weren’t going to work on this one. No. This one was a tough cookie to crumble, in the sense that he was over baked, and burnt a bit around the edges, and probably tasted like a charcoal briquette. Toby hadn’t checked. But he knew enough to know that he need not taste this man to know he needed to take this to another level. No extremity should be shied from here. Nothing turned from for fear or guilt. This man was better than that. Stronger than that. Mercy was weakness, and even a moment’s hesitation would be an affront to this man’s honor.

‘No,’ Toby thought. He would have to be beyond ruthless, and cull any lingering attachment to sentimentality from his mind. Beyond cruel. Heartless. Toby steeled his gaze one more time over this man. His thoughts and fists clenched. Toby stepped closer to deliver the blow.

Toby poked the vegetable-man. Just below the rib. With one finger.

Now he really had to pee.

***********

It would have been of great use to Toby to know that at that moment, clinging to the underpinnings of the box-spring beneath him, was Annalyssa, the rogue agent in question. She too, took use of the expositional black hole, and swung into the room through the window and visit this poor pawn in a grander game. Her expressions, her words, and the tender touches she may or may not have left on this piece of collateral damage are now lost, due only to the necessity of clarification. It is a loss, deeply felt, amongst the readers who have previewed this manuscript. But such is life.

In fact, the full details of her involvement with this man, her feelings, her thoughts, and her assumptions, may never be known. As I’ve stated this is not her story.

This is Jack’s story.

I lost her story at a drunken poker game.

This is Jack’s story, and in that story, while Toby sneered and Annalyssa clung, Jack, the poor motionless soul in the ill-fitting hospital gown, was, in his mind at least, sitting proud atop a thrown of milk crates. In his mind, he stood, Soloman-like, and held court over a group of ragged peons come to pay homage and ask for his wisened council. They each carried with them strange ceramic boxy artifacts laced with incomprehensible symbols. Jack allowed them to step forward, and after concise overview of the artifact, he applied a refitted boot to the molded clay. In layman’s terms he ‘kicked the damn thing.’ Jostling complete the symbols would rearrange and suddenly become clear. Gasps of delight rose from the crowd each time, not unlike clockwork.

In his mind, Jack Trachel yawned. And since he was already asleep, in a manner of speaking, one can assume it wasn’t physiologically necessary.

Mr. Trachel used to work in I.T.

In our world, Toby continued to poke the poor soul below him. Inside, Jack rose from his throne, tired, and wandered into the errant storm of his mind. A long day of work over, he headed back home.

A moment later, Annalyssa made her move, and incredibly neat looking things occurred while Jack, plodding his back way to his imagined domicile, paused along the path and dropped his outgoing mail into the mouth of a passing bunny.

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