Steal the painting. You have my consent. But you have consented to become a thief, and your loss is greater.
The souring old woman looks from behind her curtain, alone. Her husband of 40 years is but a fleeting memory. His life snatched away by degrees from Alzheimer’s. She reserves a certain anger over the fate of her limited future. Financially ill prepared, she will wonder about the depleting bank account, quickly sifting her remaining funds to pay for the necessities of life. She no longer ventures beyond the local grocery store. There are too many things she would enjoy. She cannot afford even the slightest trinket, the smallest convenience that would raise her standard of living to a marginally comfortable one. She remains far below that level of sufficiency. Or so it seems to her. It would inconvenience her to think of the plight of others. So it is with the self-indulgent.
And now, from behind a weathered curtain she perceives the world with hampered vision, tempered by the memory of her deceased mate who, in all probability, masterminded his escape by systematically disconnecting every last dentrite that connected him to her, until she was, simply, forgotten to death.
The excruciating loneliness that permeates her soul cries out for revenge. Her mind is inundated with thoughts of reprisal. No one is to blame of course but to those who are delusional, that is of little consequence. She is fully aware of her former spouse’s “trick” of the will. A woefully demure shell of a man whose mistress ferreted him away in the form of death. Eloped, as it were, they fled in the dead of night. Selfish? Perhaps. He is not to be blamed. However, we who remain will provide the recompense. Full payment will be exacted. Loneliness and anger are the worst of roommates. And here they reside in a single dwelling. Inside the recesses of Mrs. Beeznick’s mind.
Several days ago, my doorbell was depressed by an index finger which itself was attached to a most withered hand, belonging to the arm and torso of one Mrs. Beeznick. Whenever I am thus awakened from a most rare and peaceful mid-afternoon nap, I quickly resolve to exact a lasting punishment upon the offender who has forced my return to reality. Hermes summoning Hypnos unannounced. The impropriety.
“Would you mind moving your car,” announced the impolite crone. I knew why the question had been asked. She does not like to see my car parked in the cul-de-sac. No doubt there is a Home Owners Association policy in this regard. The self appointed tyrants, dictators, and evil doers for whom Dante has surely reserved a special level in Hades. I was being visited by their messenger god.
“And why would I want to move my car, Mrs. Beeznick?”
This served as the opening volley in what would be a short, terse exchange of wills. Of course I had a distinct advantage and would have made far greater use of it. Wishing for a quick conclusion to the proceedings at hand, I did not call upon these additional resources. Mrs. Beeznick is simply not worth the trouble. She is probably aware of this. Were she a horse, she would have been shot years ago. But human beings live under a system of very strange laws. Laws that dictate to us that we have no right to end our miserable existences. We have to play our part on the stage, as Shakespeare would have suggested, and then depart. Of course, there have been those who circumvented their small speaking role, courtesy of a .38 calibre handgun, but not Mrs. Beeznick. She is not able to make the intricate connection between the yellowing curtains hanging helplessly from the sagging brackets attached to the crumbling walls of her miserable little duplex. No quick end here, unless, by some miracle that would suggest a divine presence, her home simply caved in around her. But that would be divine law. And divine law operates under many of the same principles as earthly law. They are in agreement as to irony. No. Mrs. Beeznick will have to play her part upon the stage, and critics will assail the fact that she delivered her monologue far too slowly, with dangerously pregnant pauses. A truly repulsive performance. Her life, a living testimony of everything that human beings will become if left to their own devices. She is on stage and, as divine and eartly law (joined at the hip so to speak) would have it, there is no one to close the curtain prematurely. Mercy is appreciated precisely because it is scarce.
“Well,” she admonished, “if there were emergency vehicles that would need the space, your car would be in the way.”
It would end quickly now. I had been supplied with all of the necessary information, a complete listing of the materials needed to end this conversation in an effortless way.
“The reason my car is parked in the cul-de-sac Mrs. Beeznick has to do with the fact that its normal space is currently being occupied by the rather large trailer provided by a local company that is stripping my roof for replacement. No emergency vehicles will be hindered by my car’s current location, a fact that is inescapable to you. You wish for me to move my car because you simply do not like to see it from your window. It obstructs your view of the what?…street? I will move the car Mrs. Beeznick, because it is my wish to do so. And as I relocate it, I will delight in the fact that though I am being inconvenienced, I feel a security in the knowledge that you are a liar and an intermeddling fussbudget with little life left in your calcifying bones.” I bid you farewell, Mrs. Beeznick. Please return to your home and reposition yourself for the next opportunity to nullify your right to live among the civil populace.”
In a last ditch effort to claim what little dignity she might have been able to muster were she speaking to someone for whom dignity had any value, she blurted indignantly, “Your wife is really quite lovely.”
“Nothing at all like me, I assure you Mrs. Beeznick. Nothing at all.”
Those of us with accute hearing, truly miraculous hearing, are able to hear the slightest sounds. In the distance, more that 70 yards to be exact, the unmistakable sound of a curtain rod clanging onto a wooden floor could be heard. A most satisfying sound.
Among the millions of entries on the Internet, there is nothing more or less special about this one. But it is straightforward, and moreover, brutally honest. This alone should separate me from the several thousands of writers who, in an attempt to present the best possible face to the reader, expose themselves through their embellishments, a fancy term, if you will, for lying.
The Internet is a curiosity for any number of readers and writers. Who knows our age, our appearance, or station in life? Indeed we are, or may become, anyone we wish. We are not even constrained by gender. So, you do not know me and, of course, I know even less about you. This forms the basis of our most unusual arrangement, or relationship, if one can be said to create a relationship in such an obscure way.
For now, let us suffice to say that I am a liar, exceptionally gifted, efficient, and I might add, proficient in a most extraordinary way. Even my words deceive even me.
My clothing, usually consisting of shirt and tie to give me a more professional appearance, is also a lie. For I am not a professional. I am only capable of one true and genuine vocation. And that is, to be a sluggard. And this I truly consider to be my proper profession, that is to say, I profess to be a sluggard.
But while you may say that this is far from an honorable profession, it is, nonetheless defining. I may be nothing. But I continue to define myself, yes, even improve myself by doing…nothing. And the rest of you workers who are continually striving to improve yourselves, are always changing. You are thus less defined; less known. And to fill the gaps, you circumvent anything true about yourself because you are not validated. You cannot be fully authentic while you remain in a state of flux. I, on the other hand, have attained my goal. To be nothing, and more importantly, to remain nothing.
Yet, I am not at ease with this. Like the traveler who finds comfort in the journey and is somewhat disappointed upon his arrival, so I am dissatisfied at having achieved the perfection of my state of being. I long for more. But to be a true sluggard, one should not hope for anything for this would mean movement towards a thing. To move towards a thing would require action. A conscious decision to attain a goal. But this is contrary to who I am. And I do not wish to be contrary to myself. Thus, I must learn to remain disquieted.
I have studied the Stoics, who teach us how to remain calm in all situations. They continually remind us that our will is the only thing truly under our control. But to refine the will, again, I would have to take conscious action, to act toward some promise of betterment. To move toward a thing then, is to move away from my true calling, the only thing on which I can truly rely. The truth about who, and what, I am. A Sluggard.