Archive | October, 2013

An Artist Goes to Hell — Excerpt 2

29 Oct

He went and sat down on his bed, examining the polished, white room. Equipment of every touch-screen surface, back-lit blue and pale angularity wrapped around the room in a U. There was a big screen monitor built into the wall, its face blank. Pensivemo sighed.
Dr. Sintek walked into the room quickly and looked surprised to see him. He smiled. ‘How you doing, sport?’

‘Great, just trying to figure out what the hell’s going on.’

‘Oh well, what do you mean?’

‘Oh well, for one, I don’t know where the hell I am.’

‘Oh that, yes,’ he said, tossing his hand as though it were a triviality. ‘I suppose we should get you set up since you’re still somewhat uninitiated.’

‘To what?’

‘Here, how about you come with me? Wait, do you got clothes? You’ll wanna get out of that gown, won’t you?’

‘I fancy I would,’ Pensivemo said.

‘Well here,’ Dr. Sintek said, walking over to the wall. He pressed some small button and the door opened inward. ‘This is your closet. Most of these things should be your size.’
Pensivemo took a look inside. There were rows of shirts, pants, jackets and suits.
‘We’re not going anywhere fancy.’ Dr. Sintek added. ‘Maybe just grab something simple or easy to put on, yeah?’

Dr. Sintek followed him into the closet for a moment and then stepped away quickly as though forgetting that Pensivemo needed privacy to change. Pensivemo pulled on a pair of cold jeans, shimmied into an itchy blue t-shirt and slid into a crumpled, smoky smelling, brown leather jacket.

‘Alright, now, are you ready to go?’ Dr. Sintek said, smacking his hands together and rubbing them.

‘Where?’

‘We just have preliminaries we need to take care of before we can even do anything in the way of fraternizing.’

‘One of the maids said I had to go to the reception desk and when I went to the reception desk, they told me to go back to my room,’ Pensivemo said.

‘Oh well,’ Dr. Sintek began, rolling his eyes. ‘They’re giving you the runaround. But listen, we’re gonna skip that part. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to help you out with—’

The air-raid siren again. The beeping of his watch.

A voice came over the intercom. ‘Dr. Sintek, please report to room C-123-7.’

Dr. Sintek pressed his palms to his temples and grimaced. ‘I just have so much to do.’
‘Do you need help?’ Pensivemo asked.

‘No, I just have to do these things myself. Listen.’ He turned to Pensivemo. ‘I’ll be right back I absolutely promise. Now hold that thought.’

He left the room. Pensivemo went and sat on the bed for a second, looking around again, admiring the polished room. A cell? It wasn’t so bad for a cell.

On the wall was something that looked like a fancy intercom system. He walked over to it and got a closer look. The main buttons were numbered one through nine with zero at the bottom like a standard phone. He pushed the number one for the hell of it. It made a dialing noise and he waited by the speaker to see what would happen.

A voice came on the speaker saying, ‘This is Colbert.’

Pensivemo leaned in. ‘Hey uh … my name is Pensivemo Croce and I was just wanting to know if someone could tell me what I’m doing here.’

‘How’d you get this number?’ Colbert called back.

‘I just pushed a button,’ Pensivemo said. ‘I’m in a room.’

Colbert sighed over the intercom. It sounded like Colbert had turned to someone else as he muttered, ‘Damned patient got a hold of the intercom.’ Back to Pensivemo, he said, ‘Okay, sir, what I’m going to ask you to do, is I’m going to ask you to hit the little red button.’

‘The one that says “end” on it?’

‘That’s the one, champ.’

‘Won’t that end the call?’

‘It sure will.’

‘But I just wanted to ask someone a few questions.’

‘That’ll have to be arranged through your department. That’s not something I can take care of here.’

‘Well how do I do that?’

‘You’ll have to—look, what room are you calling from?’

Pensivemo frowned. ‘Uh, just a second, let me see.’

He stepped outside of the room and looked around the doorframe for a number.

‘Hey,’ a burly voice called. ‘Hey!’

Pensivemo turned to see a large man with pecks like shirted tires and biceps like balloons walking toward him. He had a navy-blue uniform over his dark body and he walked like he weighed a ton.

He shook his head as he said, ‘You aint supposed to leave your room, dude, you aint supposed to leave your room.’

‘I’m on the intercom with someone. I’m just trying to give them my room number.’
‘You aint supposed to leave your room, man, you aint supposed to leave your room. Who you fiddling around with on the intercom anyway?’

‘I don’t know I—’

‘You don’t know?’ He came up close to Pensivemo. ‘Get back in there.’

Pensivemo backed himself into the cell and the man followed him.

‘So let me get this straight. You were fiddling around with the intercom and you got a hold of you-don’t-know-who, who told you to get the room number for you-don’t know-what-reason?’

‘Well, here I’ll show you.’ Pensivemo went back to the intercom. It was off.

‘You tryin to make me look like a fool?’

‘No sir,’ Pensivemo said.

‘Listen, come with me.’

‘I’m not coming with you.’

The man frowned and turned his head a little. ‘What the hell you just say?’

‘I’m not coming until I know what’s going on.’

‘What’s going on is that you in here now because you scum. Don’t you get it? You aint leavin here for a long time. And right now, you comin with me cuz it seems like you need some talking to.’

‘Very well then. I’d like to talk to someone about this.’

‘Follow me.’

Pensivemo followed him into the hallway where the man continued on, muttering about people who break the rules and people who don’t follow orders.

They entered another hallway and a series of doors before coming to a room with a key-in number pad on it. The big man pressed a long series of numbers and the door buzzed to let him in. Inside, there were a bunch of guys in that same navy blue uniform. They leaned on tables. They rested their elbows against walls. They turned their heads, smiling like people who always tell jokes when no one is around.

A man with big, frizzy hair sat at a table in the front of the room, looking up at them above rimless glasses. He said, ‘What do we have here?’

‘This fool was trying to leave his room.’

The old man frowned and turned his spinny-chair to a computer just left of his desk. The other military types eyed Pensivemo with jockish aggression. ‘What’s your name?’ the old man asked.

‘Pensivemo Croce.’

‘Sounds like some kind of faggot name,’ the man who’d led him in said.
Pensivemo shrugged. ‘It’s not for everyone.’

The old man motioned the one bigger man to the computer. He shuffled over there, big biceps and all, and leaned forward, his blue-panted buttocks in the air like a couple of bowling balls. ‘Huh,’ he said. ‘You’re big shit, you know that? Some kind of renaissance man or some shit.’

‘Poetry, novels, essays,’ the old man read monotonously.

‘A symphony too. What kind? Looks like—oh, you did two symphonies.’

‘Translator of classic and epic poetry.’

‘Playwright! You’re pretty hot shit, you know that?’

‘Was involved in … the brass band in secondary school,’ the old man muttered, ‘and then … theater in New York, Broadway, then … Oxford … Rome, Paris, Vienna, Hong Kong?’

‘Hong Kong!’ the big man said, slapping a leg, frowning. He bit his lip and shook his head.

‘Son,’ the old man said, who was probably only ten years older than Pensivemo, ‘how in the world did you find time to do all of this stuff and still compromise your life to,’ (patting his knee at each stress) ‘… Such. A. Degree. That you. Can’t get. Out of this mess?’

‘I’m afraid I don’t know what kind of mess I’m in.’

‘You know damn well, dog, you know damn well,’ the first guy said.

Pensivemo, with a lifted finger pointing at the computer screen, stepped carefully toward it and said, ‘Does it … happen to say on there what I—’

‘Hey!’ the big man said. ‘Step back dude! Just step back!’

‘Alright!’ Pensivemo said.

‘Take a step back, dude!’

‘We really can’t have you looking at the confidential files,’ the old man said through his breath-flicked mustache.

‘Even if you’re reading out loud to me?’ Pensivemo said.

‘Don’t try to play mind games on him. Are you tellin him he’s a bitch? You best not be calling my man here a bitch.’

‘I’m not,’ Pensivemo said.

The big man frowned. ‘Wipe that look of entitlement off your person and step back.’
‘I’m back,’ Pensivemo said.

‘You in trouble.’ He frowned at the screen and shook his head. ‘Ah man. You sick man. What kind of De Sade shit is this?’

‘If you won’t let me see my file,’ Pensivemo said, ‘can you tell me what it says?’

The old man shook his head and turned to eye Pensivemo above his rimless glasses. ‘Son … now I’m a just sort of person. My grandfather was old enough to have worked as a slave in the fields and I am old enough to hear stories straight from his mouth. I know what it’s like to look at criminals with a shamelessly empty eye so that we might do what needs to be done to get that criminal rehabilitated and reformed back into society … And as democratic as I am, I have to say, now, I certainly hope that maybe one day you will be in such a state that you are ready to be reformed and rehabilitated as a functioning human being, but your file here is a perfect example of a man that cares so little about the well-being of others and so much about his own personal jollies that he’s willing to lay to waste all that is good and every conventional reaction to his situation. Are you understanding what I’m saying?’

‘Tell me my charges,’ Pensivemo said.

‘Son, there are certain laws that transcend the law,’ the old man said. ‘Do you understand me? Even if you weren’t in this room, the things that you’ve done wrong would be charged by the very streets in which you live. You’d be charged by all of humanity and all your responsibilities crying out from all the future before you, and which you neglect, by the way.’

‘Well, what’s my sentence? Can you tell me that or how long it is if you can’t tell me my crime?’

‘Hey, listen!’ a voice called from the entrance of the room. It was Dr. Sintek. He marched up, his red jowls jiggling, his lip and right eye twitching. He shoved past the big man, who lifted his hands with an offended frown, and squeezed past the old man to get to the computer. ‘I’m shutting this down.’ He looked down venomously at the old man and up at the big man. ‘You know damned well you’re not supposed to be reading anyone’s file.’ He turned back to Pensivemo and said, ‘Come on. Let’s get back to your room.’

Pensivemo followed him into the hallway and said, ‘Hey, thanks. Those guys are bit antagonistic, aren’t they?’

‘Oh, you noticed?’ Sintek said, walking faster with each stride so that Pensivemo almost had to jog. ‘They’re like that all the time. They’re contractors. Absolute cowboys. Some of them are actually hired right out of a mental institution. Others are just temp workers. Glorified security is what it is.’

‘Who was that old man?’

‘Chealy,’ Sintek said. ‘He’s full of bad tidings of very little joy.’ Back in his room, Sintek frowned and said, ‘Does it smell like pot in here to you?’

Pensivemo frowned. ‘I don’t smell anything.’

Sintek tossed a hand and raised his eyebrows. ‘Could be coming through the vent. Anyway, listen, I’m going to help you out here with your sentence.

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