Bewildering Stories

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Conversation at Face Value
or Immortality on a Wall

by Deborah Cimo

You got me wonderin’ why you stepped in here. You seem so different from me with your thick soles, long silk coat and warm scarf. I see you’ve got your case with brass buckles and leather edges. I don’t know, all put together looking like you just returned from some international business conference.

Me, I’m more homespun — leather jacket flaking a bit at the shoulders (keep forgetting to condition it), and gloves bald at the fingertips. I thought it was my need that drove me here, trying to make some effort out of an old attachment (never was and never would be). But it’s like slipping a camel through a needle to try and connect. Are you like that too or am I the only one? Yeah, you too? Weird, it’s not just me. Is it some modern approach to society, this plastic existence, as if everyone is just out of reach? What kind of delirium is it that constantly drives people behind closed doors?

That’s why I stopped in here. Doors were open, plush red carpet strung out on the sidewalk. I mean, just look at the signs hung out. “Welcome home,” one reads.

“Hang your coat on the hook,” another one says. “Come on in.” “No purchase necessary.” (Sick of all these illusions. Feeding you lies as if you were a destitute mushroom in some foreign grove beneath petrified trees.) “Pull up a chair,” a bronzy-colored label states beside a Monet, Matisse, Degas imitation stamped as original, as if you actually could pull a chair up, knowing you’d probably be kicked off before you could plop your bum on the seat. (Isn’t that the way of most things these days anyway ? )

Still, a mellow voice calls out, “Next!” and I grab my things and head for the office door where the voice is calling from; warm, guiding light spilling into the bright hallway. Flooding my weary Faith...

Why? What kinda Faith’ve you got? Come to think of it, you do look a bit singed at the edges. Come from some overseas burn-out do you? See, that’s why I’m here. Among the sandy — albeit, domestic — relics of home. (No matter how out of reach.) What is it they say? Oh yeah, “Home is where the heart is.” Since I have nothing left really, home is wherever I am. Here as well as anywhere.

The slip-sign out front reads, Face Value. No clue as to what was inside, curiosity got the better of me. It was either something new and different (whatever that means), or some cosmetic joint. I need more eyeliner anyway, so I figured what the hell?

But the waiting room just on its own was worth the stop in. I mean, look at that! Not the imitations hanging on the walls, no. Look at that sculpture coming out from the melon-colored plaster. Kinda looks as if it grew out from behind the wall. Different shapes, all melon-colored, some look like faces from some outer void, empty-like (eyes unfilled in, open and staring); some look like bones — femurs, humerus, ribs — crossed over each other at funny angles. And there are these sharp tooth-like combs maybe 3 feet in size, molded out of that same melon-color.

Oh, it makes you shiver? Yeah, I guess I can see why. Looks like those combs are clamping down on the bones. On the bottom a tiny brass name plaque reads, “The Pretty Ones.”

But, like the village idiot I am, I took it all at face value. Behind the door, I could almost see the voice (the mellow voice — the one that called out “Next!”) smiling–sweet and seductive — circling its pink lips with its lipid tongue as if it were flavoring itself with my blood already. I could see it for what it was — almost. But there is that silly thing called Faith. Or hope, maybe; trust long forgotten, but I hoped against hope I was wrong. Figure it’s just my old demons haunting me for all they’re worth — waiting on the veranda with the empty skins, old bones and teeth — the throwbacks. The not-so-pretty ones. (Wormholes of disappointment sucked to a pulp.)

Hey, why’re you gettin’ up? I’m next, got here a hop, skip and a jump ahead of you. Isn’t that just the way? Everyone has to be first, eh? Even you — Oh, wait, I get it. Headin’ for the door, eh? What’ve you got that’s more important than this? What’s better than immortality on a wall? Afraid you’re gonna be dumped on the back porch with the other pulp? Afraid you’re not pretty enough?

Copyright © 2005 by Deborah Cimo

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