by Bertrand Cayzac
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 2 : Floozman and the Old Lady
part 1 of 2
Chant de la vieille dame
Tous ceux que j’ai connus sont morts
Les rues retiennent leur tracé
Le ciel s’est sûrement transformé
Leurs enfants y sont occupés
Libère-moi de cette errance
The Old Lady’s Song
All those I knew are dead,
The streets retain their line
The sky has surely changed,
Where their children are now busy
Oh, start the dissolution dance!
A song! How can it be?
Mrs. Maïté is an old woman. Her red hair falls stiffly over her small shoulders. She puts on some make-up and goes out of her dark grim house. She blinks. Outside, the town speaks unknown languages. Electrical signs rise at unnatural angles and the colour of the sky is altered.
Not long ago, she still recognised faces in the tumult, some of her generation. Death took them away, and the memories of the past went with them, subsisting only in her mind. She is charged like a battery with old time, unable to talk about it, rich with money she cannot spend.
Her body decays, her speech gets poorer, and people turn away from her. In spite of her shame, she goes to meet them in order not to sink out of sight: an errand, a walk, a bit of conversation stolen in a shop doorway.
At the end of the road loom insanity and death. Then in a surge of despair, one evening, Mrs. Maïté bends her neck and starts praying. Like a clumsy little bird her prayer gently rises and meets mysterious emanations linked to Floozman’s presence in this world. Finally, it returns in words and flies anew, full of vitality.
* * *
In the cash-dispenser cabin, Fred Looseman opens his eyes. The vision vanishes as his telephone rings.
“Yes, I saw her. A lonely old woman in a small town,” he says.
At her desk, Mrs Marinella does an about-turn with her chair to look out over the rooftops. “Take care!”
The Floozboys take him straight away to Mrs. Maïté’s house. She lives in the church area, at the centre of a village surrounded by new suburbs. In the distance, through gaps in the landscape, a rectilinear countryside can be seen.
Floozman rings the bell. Floozman and the Floozboys wait a long while and watch shiny little clouds in the electric blue sky.
At last, Maïté opens the door. “Good morning?”
“Good morning, I am Floozman and I come to set you free!”
A Floozboy quickly computes Mrs. Maïté in enriched reality mode through his business-analysis glasses connected to the Internet Floozfiles. He breaks the silence. “We are Maurice Desmaison’s grandsons. The International Monetary Fund sent my brother on a mission nearby, and we wanted to take this opportunity to say hello.”
“Maurice! He used to spend entire days at home when I was a child... Goodness... you resemble his mother. But I cannot let you in; the house is in such disarray...”
“Our grandfather told us about your garden. We would like to visit it and take a few pictures. We’ve brought some refreshments and, oh yes, we also have a small present for you...”
“That’s right. Sorry. I’m so absent-minded.” Floozman takes a tiny packet trimmed with ribbons out of his pocket and hands it to Maïté.
“Oh, thank you... Do come in. Please don’t mind the mess...”
While Maïté and Floozman move on to the garden, the Floozboys unload a number of boxes out of the Rolls-Royce, under a neighbour’s scrutiny.
A moment later, Maïté and Floozman are having tea under the willow.
“Do not worry; the boys are just tinkering about...”
Behind them, hidden by an oleander hedgerow, a great shuffle is going on. Gardeners are at work. Alleys are already cleared and bushes are combed. Multicoloured pansies cover the flower beds, and the arbours are streaming with fleshy lilacs. Blue-coated roofers are walking against the deep sky.
Mrs. Maïté is dozing off on the brocaded cushions that fill her large armchair. Walking along the iridescent stitch plaited by the water sprays, a man draws near to Floozman.
“Mr Floozman? Good morning, I am the architect.”
“Good morning. Please sit down.”
“Well. I have studied the most beautiful houses in the area, those which are still intact and those for which we have designs. This one is very simple. We cannot do much without modifying its structure in depth. Besides, in this type of village, no one has ever developed or imported any true style. In truth, Mr Floozman, these houses are common...”
“Can we eliminate the ugly?” Floozman asks almost anxiously.
“Well, that’s a real question... We may certainly increase the interiors, remove corridors, allow more light in while respecting the house’s consistency... As I said, the danger in this approach is novelty, you see. We can avoid contemporary style but we are in danger of building something that has never been done before and that does not correspond to anything, if you see what I mean...”
“Could you have a look at Mrs. Maïté’s pictures? Those of her childhood, when these houses were still lived in. Maybe you will find ideas in them. You may also want to talk to her when she wakes up. She will tell you about beauty.” Floozman reflects for a short while. “And thus, she may see beauty anew. I think she will be pleased.”
“And let’s not be stingy: make the layouts necessary to render the atmosphere of her memories... Make it trompe-l’oeil if you need to! This lady will not attend any better performance in this life.”
Floozman is standing now. He realizes that he has become excited. The architect takes notes...
Meanwhile, on the steps, a Floozboy is talking with two men of the village. As Floozman comes toward them, a second Floozboy makes a sign to move away. “No, don’t get into that discussion, it is too dangerous.”
“But what is going on?”
“They’re city hall and regional council representatives. They want to check the contractor’s papers. The neighbours have complained about the wall. Nothing serious.”
The discussion is becoming heated. It can be heard from the garden now:
“All these workers, coming by helicopter from who knows where! Why don’t you consult local artisans? And the little lady, what does she think? Are you relatives? We want to talk to her.”
As Mrs. Maïté moves towards the door with a light tread, Floozman takes her gently by the arm and walks along with her. “I am strong enough now, he whispers in her ear.”
A moment later, they appear on the doorway, in bright daylight.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I am Floozman, I am rich. Immensely rich. These people work for me. They are my lawyers as well. Mrs. Maïté is a friend. We have come to free her.”
The civil servants look at each other. One asks, “What do you mean?”
“Never mind. I will buy houses in this area. I will not discuss the prices. I will renew them entirely and there will be work for everyone. I will spread rerenewal in the town.”
“Yes, yes, everything is all right with me, they are very nice... They know Maurice Desmaison’s grandson,” adds Mrs. Maïté with a chirp and a gesture of sweet appeasement.
“As regards the wall, I leave you with my legal team. They will help us in finding a solution,” concludes Floozman before returning inside with Mrs. Maïté. “And now, we have to marry someone!” he says as he shuts the door.
* * *
The Rolls-Royce stops in front of the fence of the retirement house. Floozman and Mrs. Maïté come out followed by two Floozboys. Floozman bends down to unlock the gate and sits down by a silent fountain. It’s a nice day, and a few old people are enjoying the sun.
“Long life to the bride!” shouts Floozman. “Yes, long life to the bride and groom, and hurray for the wedding! There is no finer celebration. Our life’s journey manifests itself in the wedding celebration. This is why I invite you all to drink from the loving cup! You will all be invited! You will all be invited to the eternal wedding!
“Now, with the director’s permission, these boys will deliver to each of you one billion dollars. You won’t be asked for anything in exchange. They will also propose their services to prepare the party. Do not hesitate to tell them about anything you may need or anything that might tarnish your joy.”
“But what wedding?” asks a little old lady. “Who is getting married?”
“I cannot walk, let alone dance!” says a small, livid sexless creature.
“My granddaughter will get engaged as well, I think,” says a blind man.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please,” resumes Floozman, “let the idea find its way. Let the event unfold and fly towards the future. Come as soon as you are ready.”
At that moment, a couple of teenagers pass on the street, riding a motorbike. The boy is leaning on the handlebars, giving an impression of speed. The girl is clumsily stuck on his back, her dirty heels dangerously pointing to the inside of the wheel. It is an apparition loaded with energy, suffused with sooty dreams.
“We may marry these two,” proposes Floozman.
“They are far too young,” says the crone. “Let them live. They won’t stay together, and they know it very well.”
“Anyway, they will eventually die,” adds Floozman. “And maybe they have already died and met again. Maybe their souls are older and more composed than ours.”
“This is not a good idea,” interrupts a Floozboy, visibly irritated.
The motorbike is heard again, and then the engine stops, very close by. The two children enter the garden side by side, their helmets in hand.
The girl addresses Floozman. “Sir, we’ve heard about you. I don’t know how to ask, but you have to help us. We must leave town.”
“What are your names? And what is going on? Sit down and have tea with us. We will give you a billion dollars.”
“My name is Quitteria, and he is Basil.”
“Are you Spanish?”
“Our families were from La Mancha. Listen, Basil escaped from jail this morning. He told me we must leave straightaway. It was still dark... My parents don’t want me to see him, but we love each other. If we stay here, they will separate us, and we’ll never meet again.”
“No, no,” says Floozman with a smile. “Take this billion dollars and drive without sleep down to the Rio Grande, to the coast. Take cargo ships, airplanes. Cross mountain passes. Take drugs. Wake up in the city that’s made of light.”
“Thank you but we’ll get nabbed,” interrupts Basil. “We’d better hide for a while.”
“Take them on as part of the team, at least during the wedding. We’ll disguise them,” suggests a Floozboy.
“Yeaah!” repeat the other Floozboys, starting a dance.
Take ’em on the team!” echoes a little old lady.
“Take them on the team!” says Floozman. “The wedding celebration will take place tonight! Go and spread the news at the Central Café and on the market while I inform Mrs. Maïté.”
* * *
Floozman returns in the constant half-light of the small living room where Mrs. Maïté is resting. Decolorized white-blue hair meshes emerge from the squat armchairs, the backs of which are turned towards him. Hoary hands on the armrests. Mrs. Maïté has visitors.
“Good afternoon, ladies...”
In a fluid magic move, the two hosts turn and do not turn to him while laughing the same laugh, unveiling teeth pure and white as a flock of sheep. Dazzled, Floozman faces two lively young maidens dressed in the pre-war fashion. From the bottom of her armchair, Mrs. Maïté is smiling ingeniously.
“I am Clara.”
“I am Vera.”
“We’ve come for the wedding. We are very old friends of Mrs. Maïté. We haven’t seen each other for a long time.”
“Since we died, actually. But Mrs. Maïté does not remember!”
“Or she does not care?”
“Welcome,” says Floozman. “Very cool, but I haven’t seen the wedding couple yet. Unless the two kids...”
“These children will go into space,” Clara says calmly while passing in front of a mirror without casting any reflection. “And their children will be such as I cannot describe. They will not be human anymore, you see, Mr Floozman...”
“They will not get married. They will not see any wedding. They will not see any burial, either, since there will be no more ground under their feet.”
“Not a clod!” says Clara, clicking her tongue for the fun of it. “They will leave the Solar System behind them. And we haven’t even been to Paris in this world!
“Will my money help them?” Floozman asks.
“I don’t know. They won’t have the possibility to buy or sell for generations. I do not know what will help them. Or I do know, but it’s a secret.”
“Not money? Not anything? Books? Memories? Traces of memories? Ideas?”
“God only knows.”
“But which God will they have?” asks Mrs. Maïté from the depth of her cushions. “If they are not human anymore, will they still be in our image? Please have some more tea.”
“The God of the universe!” Vera pronounces while tossing her black hair over her shoulders. “Do you have a Bible, Mrs. Maïté?”
“Oh my God, yes, I think so...” She heads to the bookshelves, shuffling her feet.
At that moment, a Floozboy approaches. “Excuse me, but it is starting! We have a crowd out there, all sorts of people. And journalists as well. We need to organize some activity.”
Copyright © 2008 by Bertrand Cayzac