In the Belly of Guile
by Pedro Blas González
Part 1 and Part 3|
appear in this issue.
|part 2 of 3|
“You’re making me blush,” I reacted.
“What I mean is that we meet so many cowards every day that sometimes I can’t help but to keep my mouth shut. But, as you know, that’s truly a disadvantage in this world. Oh, yes. Talk, talk and go on talking until you tire them with your words. And when they think they have had enough talk, you surprise them with the written word until they dance to your beat. Man is such a feeble masochist. Don’t you agree?”
“Which part: the feeble or masochist?”
“There’s your sense of humor again. That’s why I like to talk with you so very much,” he said, patting me on the back. “We really must get together more often. There are so many things to talk about. And also, I have to tell you that I know a lot of very interesting people that would love to meet you.”
“Don’t underestimate yourself my friend. Your humility makes me nervous. Go ahead, be proud. Showcase yourself to the world. People love a good spectacle.”
“Spectacle, eh? I’m afraid that I’m not much of a showman.”
“Oh, that’s where you are wrong. Ah, there I go again. Always getting ahead of myself. It’s a bad habit of mine. What I mean is that you need to give people what they want. Our time is not exactly the height of culture. I mean, an honorable, decent man like you won’t exactly dazzle them being reserved and discreet. Oh, no, man. And another thing, too, you better believe that they will not notice your natural talents either. And certainly not your goodness. I say you drop that goody-guy stuff and lash yourself at the world.”
“How does one lash oneself at the world,” I asked, poking my salad with my fork.
“Don’t laugh. You’d be surprised at the rate of success that you will enjoy when you discard your antiquated, old world values. Want me to tell you what were my first impressions of you? Or I’m I being too forward again?”
“I’d love to hear it. Why not? It won’t change what you think of me.”
“Exactly. That’s what I say. Now you’re beginning to understand the game. When I first came here I thought you stood out.”
“Me? How is that?” I interrupted.
“See, I’m used to dealing with high-flying, gambling types, if you know what I mean. The people I deal with all have a biblical complex. You know, they all see themselves as fallen. This, of course, makes their standards pretty pitiful. But here you are, a young man. What, around forty or so?”
“See, I’m a good judge of character. Like I was saying, a young man with a great deal of ability and most importantly, moral stability. Rare gifts indeed, my friend. Don’t think I don’t notice. I do. I notice everything. Remember. Attention to detail, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the thing.
“I’ve seen your work, and I have to say that your thought intrigues me greatly. But you must strive to go further, man. Much further. It’s all in your grasp. Please stop me if I am talking too much. It’s just that I love the musicality of the human voice. It’s quite reassuring to listen to oneself. Don’t you think? It gives us a sense of actually being. I’ve even come to see it, dare I say it, as my own salvation.”
The more that Gusiflax talked, the more I began to tune him out. He loved to talk about his abundant service to mankind, for which he had been rewarded many times. I wanted to finish my lunch and return to my office. I had some unfinished work that I wanted to return to, and besides I was in no mood for a road show. Instead, I began to concentrate my attention on some students on a far-off table.
“Wonderful, eh?” he said, pointing at the students.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Well Gusiflax, I hate to break this up, but I really have to get back to prepare for my next class.”
“Right. Me too. Watch. Before you go I want to show you something. I little trick I’ve learned. Keep your eyes on those students that you were looking at. Watch. See the girl in the red blouse? Watch her put down her drink and sneeze, not once, but twice. Here she goes.”
As he finished saying so the young woman sneezed two times in a row.
“I’m impressed. So you’re a magician,” I said, finding an excuse to buy time to think about what had just occurred.
“Not a magician. A conjurer is more like it. Magicians are merely illusionists.”
“What are conjurers?”
“We make things happen. We deal in reality, not appearance.”
“Not nearly enough, I’m afraid. You doubt me right now. I can tell that’s what you’re thinking. Am I right?”
“It’s not every day that one encounters a witch doctor.”
“Witch doctor? You think that’s what I am? Let’s try something else. Shall we?”
“Why not? I’m not the one to stop you.”
“Ready. Watch the same girl as she spills her drink. Three, two, one... there.”
Just when he finished counting the drink went onto the floor. I was speechless and very perplexed, because I had never met a magician, and thus didn’t really understand what I had just witnessed.
“Don’t try to understand. Just believe. I know you are trying to find an explanation, but remember what I told you about paying attention to detail? This is only a way to sharpen my skills.”
“Shall we walk back?” I suggested.
On our brief walk back he made a car alarm go off, the lights flash, etc.
I went into my office, closed the door behind me and began to prepare my lecture. Several minutes had gone by when Gusiflax knocked on my door.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I want to give you something,” he said, handing me a little statuette about five inches tall of some mythological creature.
“This is Ahriman, the great Zoroastrian conjurer. The great artificer par excellence. I picked this one up in a bazaar in Paris. Poor seller, he had no idea what it was. Anyhow, it is for you. Isn’t he debonair? I think he can be of great help to you in your coy ways.”
“I’m not sure what he looks like. But thanks anyhow.”
The statuette sat atop my file cabinet. It was a rather sinister-looking thing, but I paid little attention to it. Its shadow on the wall grew larger as the sun came up in the sky. For the next two weeks I hardly paid attention to it.
During that period Gusiflax came by often, as he said, “to check up on his statue.” Another one of his silly antics, without a doubt.
On the third Monday after I received it, I noticed that every time that the light reflected by my watch hit the statue, it became reflected over the pictures on the adjacent wall. The first time I took notice of this was during midmorning when the statue’s reflection covered the picture of our dog, Puccini.
But what perplexed me most was that while the sun moved higher in the sky, the shadow remained stationary. Later that evening I came home to find my wife and kids leaning over the lifeless body of the animal in our enclosed yard. The six-year old animal had recently gotten a clean bill of health from the vet.
The next morning Gusiflax came into my office. He began to talk about how some wild dogs once chased him away from a small church in the Australian outback. I found the timing of the story bothersome at best. He then went on to tell me that he didn’t get along with man’s best friend very well.
Wednesday morning I was sitting at my desk correcting some exams when I heard a commotion outside in the hall. When I opened my door there was no one there. The place was quiet, as I and the secretary were the only ones occupying our floor. I expected to see Gusiflax. I couldn’t’ make out the language of the other person.
“Ms. Stevenson what was all that noise a minute ago?” I asked.
“Noise? I didn’t hear anything. When was this?”
“Just now. Did Gusiflax come by here?”
“No. As a matter of fact he left for somewhere in the Caribbean Monday night. He’ll be back tomorrow morning. You want me to leave him a message?”
“No. Never mind. Thanks.”
I went back inside. At exactly 10:27 a.m. I noticed that the shadow of the statuette came over a picture of my black, 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III that I keep as a collector car. The shadow remained over the picture for a few minutes, I couldn’t help but notice.
For the next twenty minutes or so, I was preoccupied with two students who came in to talk about their assignments. I forgot all about the statuette for the time being. But after the students left I sat down to eat my lunch, when I noticed that the shadow had not moved in all that time. I then took the statuette and placed it on another cabinet, away from the sun.
At 11:30 my wife called me. She had gotten a call from a neighbor to inform her that the car had been stolen. I cancelled my last afternoon class and drove home.
Wednesday morning Gusiflax came into my office. He told me about his trip to some remote village in western Puerto Rico. He said he had gone there to study the exorcism rituals of the locals. “You would have liked some of the old cars I saw there,” he said.
“Old cars?” I asked, not being in the mood for any kind of joke. I decided to confront him on this issue. “How do you know that I enjoy classic automobiles?”
“Your picture,” he said, pointing to the picture across my desk.
“There were some gems out there. Amazing how good those cars were, eh?”
“Absolutely. Well, Gusiflax, I have to go to class now,” I said, putting my books and folder in my briefcase.
“Have you thought about my invitation for Saturday?”
“Sure, just give me the time and address.”
Saturday night. 9:00 p.m.
I arrived at the address that Gusiflax gave me. I parked my car and looked around. The place was a strip mall that looked to be somewhat in disrepair. I saw no one there. It was a rather cool night so I proceeded to get inside. I was greeted at the door of the place by a sinister looking old man with a beard. His face was valley-ridden and his expression left a lot to be desired. I knew not what to expect, but I had the vague suspicion that the others present would resemble Gusiflax’s personality. What did I have to lose? I was going to a social gathering that might prove interesting at worst.
Once inside, Gusiflax was summoned by the old man. I sat and waited. A few minutes later Gusiflax appeared. I hardly recognized him. He wore a black tunic that came down to his ankles. On his left wrist he wore a large bracelet with two concentric circles intertwined. He wore a red skull cap, the kind that Catholic Cardinals wear. I didn’t know if to be perplexed by this baroque display or to laugh.
I then followed him into the next room. This was a rather large room. Above the two doors was the inscription: “Abandon All Hope All Who Enter Here.” It only took me a few seconds to realize that this was some kind of temple.
Copyright © 2007 by Pedro Blas González