Man in picture. V2.0 The hospitality of Mr. Tarcisi. (chapter ten)

I just can’t stand it.  Life always imitating art.  The way art endeavors to imitate life.  The circle closes rarely for reasons other than mere serendipity.  It’s never on purpose or for any reason we are able to divine.  We spend our lives looking to make sense of it and it refuses.  It walks away without a word. It could not care less what we think or what troubles us.

I’m sure of one thing.  It reveals nothing to no one.  There is no game and there is no fate.  Everyone you know who thinks they’ve got it figured out is lying to you and themselves.  It is random.  Despite prophecy, religion or dogma.  I’m not sure math owns the show at all.  I think the universe barely affords the concept of time for example.  At the very least, it does so in a way we won’t conceive or imagine for much longer than we’ll be able to conceive or imagine because our time here is at best a mote in the eye of a spectacular and incomprehensible cosmos.  This I believe at the end of the year of our lord, 2009.

Whatever.

That is not to say justice should not be pursued.  Philanthropy, yes.  Self educate by all means.  Aspire to kindness and compassion.  Eat right and exercise if you must.  People should strive to be as good as they can for a reason that is simultaneously as insignificant as it is fundamental; as far as we know we have but one shot.  In that one run at it, we only have ourselves.

I’m really beginning to own that.

The only magic is brains and the only miracle is will.

A train of thought that sounds like a bowling alley in my head.  Or a train.

My legs are killing me.  I seem to be gaining strength, but they go from sore to searing in seconds.  I’m glad I remembered my cane.

“Coffee on the veranda?” His head bobs while the car absorbs the road.  He strokes his beard without looking at me.

I lean forward to look him in the eye and to say things to him absolutely.  I tell Him I’m beyond scared.  I tell him I’m horrified.

I hold his gaze and thank him as sincerely as I can.   I tell him I have questions.

“We have time to talk today.  My villa is not far.”

This is the furthest south I’ve ever been, everything looks tropical. The grounds are lush and manicured.  Gravel and stone paths.  Palms and grasses.  Plump cactus and moss just a few feet away.  Desert flowers. I glimpse a robust stand of cannabis through some trees.  A handful of fountains and sculptures. The air is perfumed with an organic that is damp and sweet.

It’s humid and cool.

I’m happy to be here.   I feel better.

The driver opens my door and it’s the last I see of him.  He’s never looked at me.  Not once.

Carlo walks me to the door.  The house itself is fairly modest.  Like an early twentieth century LA bungalow.  Broad granite steps to a deck of thick hardwood trailing around both sides.  The entire roof, including the deck, is charcoal to gray or in the turquoise of oxidation.  There is copper everywhere.

Some of it glistens and some a myriad shade of greens.

It seems the whole house has a copper exoskeleton.

Must be a riot in a storm.  Maybe he has seances for Nikola Tesla.  I’m smiling.

The twin front doors are heavy and black. Carlo opens them with a little practiced effort.  Ceremonious but subtle.

I half expected a manservant.

Inside is rustic.   A river stone fireplace of water polished rocks with a heavy wooden mantle.   Silver candlesticks, pictures in elaborate frames and brightly colored glass.   A pot boils over a small flame from coals.  There must be a housekeeper at least.  The floors are dark slate and stone or hardwood.  Beautiful, thick rugs and sturdy furniture.  Blankets and pillows.  Plenty of sunlight through giant framed windows, diffused as the the deck wraps around the house excepting the north side.

The fog has not burned off completely.

On the right is the living area with a high ceiling, the fireplace with pot boiling and beyond that, what looks like a book lined den.  On the left is a small dining area and a large kitchen facing north.  The appliances are robust and sturdy but not new. The floor and counter tops are terra cotta.  There’s a pot rack suspended from chains over and island.  Copper and stainless steel vessels glisten.  Blenders, juicers, toasters and processors, none too modern, festoon the counters and gleam.

It smells of smoke and apples and good tobacco.

It feels cluttered but everything shines in an obvious place.

Carlo grinds coffee beans with some hand powered device I’ve never seen.  Wearing some kind of welding glove, he takes the black pot from the fireplace.  We sit on stools at a small but high iron table with a wooden top.  There’s an old glass French press, a small pitcher of cream and a small glass bowl filled with chunky unrefined brown sugar.  Two spoons, two heavy mugs.

My guess is someone forgot about the veranda.

From the device, he pours ground beans into the press and the boiling water over them.  The aroma makes me crave it. He seals the top with the plunger up and says, “Now we wait.”  He is smiling.

He retreats to the kitchen and returns with a small plate of fruit and bread.  Strawberries, melon, papaya, mango, grapes and what is definitely buttered cornbread.

The cornbread is stupid, buttered sweet and crumbly in my mouth.  Lascivious on my tongue and in my cheeks.  It is delicate cake that makes me anxious to swallow.  It’s color is it’s flavor.  I think there are raisins in it.

I ask.  He tells me no.  Dates.

He raises his eyebrows, rushes to the kitchen and returns with a shiny pile of caviar and creme fraiche on a small bone china dish and an actual silver and bone baby spoon.

He tells me he thought about taking the coffee outside but thought better of it.  He nods as he proclaims it, acknowledging his own wisdom.  That’s how he explains it.

I understand he means he’s not sure I’m safe outside the walls of his house.  I don’t know that I’m safe inside the house so his optimism is welcome.

He smiles and says, “Killer with the cornbread.”

He takes off his coat and he’s wearing suspenders.

“Let’s talk now.”  He plunges the coffee patiently.  Slowly.  “You already know, you are in mortal danger.  Beset by a hound.”  Grinning.  He forces the plunger down a little.  “He is mean as a snake.  A doppelganger of sorts.  He is not your double.  He is not your………contrary or inverse, either, as they say.  They’re all a fucking nightmare.”  He leans a little harder on the press.

Just then, he walks away for a few long minutes.  He comes back to stare into the glass of the press a couple times saying nothing.

He finally returns to push the plunger to the bottom.

“Pale and vicious poltergeists will harass and terrorize a man until his heart explodes in his chest like a fruit pie dropped on a stone floor. The good news is, it is not the worst. The bad news is, it is very bad. Almost as bad as I have seen.”  His hands are in front of his face and his eyes are a little wild.  I go cold.

“He is not supernatural.  He is insane and barely human, but he’s no demon.  He’s just as smart as you believe yourself to be and twice as strong.  But he is crazy, and you would do well to remember that.  It is all you can take advantage of.  You cannot out last him.”

He pours the coffee and generous cream into my mug. It’s sweet enough for me to wonder if I missed him adding sugar.  It’s the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life until I think about what he’s saying and what he may be about to say.  He looks at me like he’s gonna tell me I have colon cancer.  Like I’ll bleed from the ass for awhile and then die.

He’s getting real good at looking at me like that.

“He is about you.  He is of you.  You are entwined with this hound.  It cannot last.  One of you must go.  You cannot both occupy this time and place for very long.  I’m confident you understand that?  Do you see this?  Of course you do.  One of you must kill the other.  He will kill you.  He’s as afraid as you are, believe it or not.  But, he intends to kill you.  He’s afraid but he is hunting you.  He’s begun to toy with you.  He’s long since made up his mind.”

How do you know?  How did you find me?  Who are you?

He raises his hand. “You found me. I was not aware of you until I was but a block away.  Well, I was aware of you but didn’t know you were here until you were here.  Really, the rest is decades of me seeing and understanding these things.  You already know, we are not all the same.”

I nod without meaning to.

He offers me a slab of cornbread with caviar and creme.  The bread is still warm and sweet.  The caviar is salty with marvelous texture in the creaminess of creme.  There’s the tiniest bits of sweet red onion.  It’s so delicious, I need to replay what he’s said in my head.  Hash is to pot as caviar is to sushi, all on brilliant yellow cake.

He walks to the other end of the kitchen and returns with two chilled champagne flutes.

We sip a minute.  Blanc de blanc oh banana.

I’m confused.  I come up fighting.  I can’t help but ask what he does know.  I ask him who he is and despite myself I press him hard on just what the fuck is going on.  I realize I’m pleading.  I try to shut up.  But I’m angry and confused and this dude seems to know something I don’t.  Why am I here right now?

“Do not look at me like that.  I’m not some ‘facking’ wizard.  His accent betrays him occasionally.

Our mutual intensity has us sipping from our mugs and flutes and looking down at the table.  The champagne goes well with the caviar, fruit, bread and coffee.  It all works

“Your only chance is yourself, but I think I can help.”

I tell him I was hoping for a wizard.

He flips me off with a sour look.

I tell him I’m tired and I’m a pussy.

He doesn’t smile.  He tells me my humor is inappropriate.  He is angry.  He seems much older than me, but even in this light, his face is unlined.

He walks to the end of the kitchen and back again.  He does this to gather himself.

“Let me put this as simply as I can,” he says. “Do not doubt that the randomness of life is in some way synchronized with all the things that we do not understand about the universe.  It is what we do know that confounds us. All the while, what we do not know blows us along.”

He pushes the plate of fruit at me with the rubied finger.  I reach and so does he.  We chew and look at each other.  We begin to talk like yesterday.  We laugh and point at each other.  At some point there’s not much coffee left and the bottle is empty.  He brings a single malt whiskey to the table in a strange old bottle.

We use our coffee mugs.

The champagne bottle is empty.  Check.

Now and then he alludes to the depth of my trouble.  I sober up some but he makes laugh again and peers inside my mug.

Next thing I know I’m asleep in front of the fire.

Dusk.

I’m on the couch under a thick quilt.  My shoes are off but my socks are on.  Carlo has left a carafe of water and a glass on the low table beside me.  I stare at it with fire on the other side and see that there are lemon slices in it.

His last words to me, “Sleep. You are safe here.”

I look past my feet and he’s in the den reading furiously, his fingers drumming on his forehead. He looks old from here.

I look up to a polished copper ceiling some twenty feet above me with the fire dancing across.

I head back to the party of what I’m dreaming.

There is the ambient noise of a gathering.  Shouts and laughter and the easy rumble of conversation among people comfortable with each other.  Twilight and the warmth of lanterns and candles.

I’m in a kitchen cracking eggs.  White on white and fluorescent lit.  The last one is discolored and it takes more effort to split, the shell is thicker and not so brittle, but leathery and moist.  Inside is thick and viscous.  Blood and short black curls of hair.  Even in the dream I understand this is my sin.  Dread drops my stomach and snatches my air.

Carlo is behind me in a top hat and cape.  A black dog, a hound in deceitful repose at his side.  I look at him over my shoulder as he slides an index finger under his nose.  A yellow to red orange rosebud on his lapel.  He says nothing while looking straight through me.  He flicks long nails through whiskers and I hear it.  With slow motion grace he reveals bird seed from his suit pocket and scatters it on the tile floor.  He blows on his hands and nails and admires them palms down.

He tells me to call him Charlie.

4 Responses to “Man in picture. V2.0 The hospitality of Mr. Tarcisi. (chapter ten)”

  • reiyalight1:

    Its wierd the way the picture of that olive green man with the yellow eyes resembles you, more than like a regular photo of you does.

  • Hey man, what the hell is that guy talking about? Olive skin man with yellow peepers? I wish I had some cornbread.

    Last chapter, 9: I don’t know if you should use the phrase ‘righteous hoovering’ there. It’s ok to use it back in 8, because your drunk and happy and getting wrapped up in some sumptuous lovin’. You are distracted. But using the hoovering line while your all upset and the situation is crashing back down on you is a little distracting. Because it’s funny. Maybe. I’ll read it again…

    Oh well, ask for two cents, you get four.
    Slug you in the arm.

  • admin:

    Don’t mind her. She’s a little advanced.

    Wait, this is Ten. Ok, I’ll try to check on that. Shit. Well is this one working?

    C-H-R-I-S……….

  • Oh yeah, it’s working fine. Sorry I didn’t say so. Sorry too, to comment on 9 at the bottom of 10. Small beans too.

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