Floozman and the Traveling Entertainers
by Bertrand Cayzac
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Vers la version originale
Fred Looseman used to be the head risk assessor at World Wide Credit Corporation and the chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Commission. Now he works as an automated teller machine repairman.
Sometimes he hears voices, and sometimes what he hears moves him to tears. His bank account overflows with the money of deliverance, and he becomes a financial super-hero: Floozman.
Farther away, in the capital, Fred Looseman was feverishly trying to park. A force of generosity that he didn’t understand was demanding his attention. He had to find a place real quick, a side alley or a simple sidewalk corner. Despite his haste, he was not really worried.
A car’s horn sounded behind him. But he didn’t move. In the congested traffic, he made out the strong disincarnated voice of old Zachariah.
Fred recognized him and he knew himself. He was Floozman once again.
We were living by the highways
Leading horses and Mercedes
All along our beautiful destiny
From the Indus via the Limes
Into the flourishing kingdoms
With their magic pumpkin gardens.
Through misfortune and in the winds
We have always thanked the Lord
For giving us this day
Our daily bread and good fortune,
Guiding us all by a hidden way
To keep us from the nation’s slime.
But now the reaper card is drawn.
Grim death welcomes the future,
That belongs to it, for sure.
On our season no new sun will dawn,
When no parcel is found
That will not have to account
For the resources it holds
For its function or its gold.
But we have only our two hands
And our cherished liberty of old
Hard-won on the highways
In the wheel of the Milky Way.
Dying endlessly and transforming,
Is that the end of exile?
Must we then lay down our arms
And lose the meaning of the journey?
It’s now time to tell the children
That their parents have lost their way,
That we are not good parents
And that we are wrong.
* * *
The telephone. Mrs. Marinella’s voice resounded in the cabin. “What are you going to do?”
Floozman opened his eyes. He noticed that some time had passed. Docile traffic was flowing around the obstacle. “I must go right away. I’m leaving the van.”
Floozman slid the door open, but then he changed his mind. He opened the maintenance diary and typed in: “I’ll be back” and smiled enigmatically.
“I’m not talking about the van. I mean the other guy, Handlebar. I picked up another prayer while tracking your return route.”
“Another prayer? I didn’t hear anything.”
“Okay, let’s see. It’s close. The Floozboys are on their way.”
When Floozman finally got out of the van, a motorcycle was heading straight for him. Floozman took the helmet handed to him, put it on, then he disappeared around the corner.
* * *
Zachariah squinted. The child smiled at him. Time passed. Cars zoomed by on the highway. He did not see the man lying unconscious on the bridge above the lanes. The few cars passing by Cyril Handlebar did not stop. A few drivers notified the police and forgot about him.
Opening a way in the beet field, a small troop walked in the rain, let by Floozman. A few umbrellas opened up and swayed lightly to the rhythm of the chant counting cadence on the march toward the interchange.
The next moment, Floozman and his suite picked their way across the embankment to meet Zachariah.
“Hello, Zachariah. I come to set you free.”
“What do you want, stranger? I have no money, if you want a donation.”
“I will give you millions upon millions of dollars, and you will be free, you and your people.”
“Give your money, stranger,” said Zachariah with a smile. “But keep it if you’re one of those who want us to leave this place. And we won’t go to your church, either. In fact, you can leave.” In saying so, he waved him away.
The clansmen who had stood on their trailers’ doorsteps now came up to old Zachariah.
“Zachariah,” said Floozman, “I heard your prayer. You must take my money and save your family.” Floozman made a gesture and a Floozboy opened a trunk. Under a top drawer filled with precious stones and jewels, he uncovered plies of bank notes.
Zachariah was shaken.
“Are you counting on us to dispose of all this? But you are already dead, you and your circus!” shouted one of the men. “If the cops see you with us, we’ll all get thrown in the clink!”
“Just a minute, buddy,” said Zachariah. “Something special is going on here. Bring us some coffee.”
With the coffee, a circle gradually took shape. An aura of hope began to spread. Under the slanting rays of sunbeams that had at last appeared, the beets were taking on a subtle orange hue.
“But what will we do with so much money?” asked Zachariah.
“I don’t know,” answered Floozman. “I have no specific vision. You prayed for others, for the past and for the future. That complicates things. But I must get you out of here. I can help you in following the route of exile or in reconquering your kingdom. Did you know that the little girl is the legitimate heir of the king of Benares?”
In the troubled silence that follows, all eyes turned to Preciosa.
“But,” Floozman added, “nothing in all this will really make you any freer than you were before you came to ground here.”
“I know that you are a king’s granddaughter,” said Zachariah. “Show your ring to Mr. Floozman.”
Little Preciosa did so, and nobody really seemed surprised. Floozman examined the antique jewel on which precious stones formed the image of a white bull adorned with garments.
“Sometimes I dream that everybody climbs up onto wagons covered with garlands,” Preciosa said. “The wagons are all drawn by the same bull, which is very strong and kind, and that we leave for a palace far away...”
A Floozboy pulled Floozman by the sleeve, exchanged a glance with him and stepped into the circle. “Concretely” — he cleared his throat — “we can start by buying this field. Meanwhile, we will arrange to provide you with new trailers and specially equipped American trucks of the same type as those used in circuses.
“In addition, we can put up a complete circus with all the personnel needed to spare you that work. I took some initiatives for that purpose while I was on my way.
“We can also purchase thousands of other fields for you, with water holes and acres of pristine land on every continent. We have also thought of legal assistance and an armed escort to accompany you wherever you go. Of course, this is only a first approach...”
Faced with a persistent silence, Floozman added, “You can borrow all this and rely on lawyers for protection, if you prefer... That’s it! We would be a merry bunch of campers installed right beside you and you...”
“Yeaaaah!” say the Floozboys, “Campers!”
“Yes, but careful now: wandering campers!” Floozman emphasized.
“But what do wandering campers do?” asked a young Floozboy.
“Well, then, how about a circus?”
-”Yeaaaaaah!” chorus the Floozboys. “A wandering campers’ circus!”
In less time than it takes to say it, the troop went back into the beet field and started to settle down. With computers and a satellite antenna, sitting on plastic tubs, a handful of Floozboy were organizing a shopping centre on the embankment. They bustled about under the gypsies’ wary gaze.
“Watch out! Here comes the landowner. And he has a gun!” said one of them.
As a matter of fact, a farmer and his son were coming from the other end of the field, armed with hunting rifles. One was wearing a beet-coloured jacket and the other, a French blue track suit.
“Shall we talk?”
“No, not now. LSD.”
A third Floozboy calmly mounted a hypodermic micro syringe on a rifle with telescopic sight and walked towards the steep path leading to the bridge where Cyril Handlebar was just waking up.
“Dial 911!” Cyril thought when he saw him but was unable to move.
The Floozboy settled down close to him to study his target. Then, discovering Cyril: “Don’t be afraid, I have to neutralize the intruders with a drug, and if everything goes smoothly, they will be happy to join us. You may move along.”
“You... You can’t do that!” shouted Cyril without finding in his voice the tone of authority he wanted.
Irritated by his own weakness, Cyril tried to rush upon the Floozboy. The gun fell. The shot was fired. The syringe flew for a long time level with the ground and embedded itself in the calf of a young woman who hadn’t been there the moment before and who was now standing dumbfounded behind the open door of her car. The engine was running. For a moment nobody said anything, not even the crows.
“MY WIFE!” bawled Cyril.
Incredulous, Petula was rubbing her leg. Nobody paid attention to the police car that had stopped in the middle of the street with all its lights blinking.
In a flash, everyone was arrested.
* * *
Down below, in the centre of the field, the Floozboys had already succeeded in building a few huts made of wood and sheet metal around a trailer. They had hung up laundry, for colour.
A small group had formed around the peasants. After the arguments had cooled, progress was made. The year’s crop was already sold and paid for in cash at ten times market price.
“These beets are terribly isolated,” the infinitely rich man explained to them. “If you agree to contemplate serenely the metamorphosis of this place, you will be able to enjoy wholeheartedly the money I will give you and live on joy to the end of your days.”
“What metamorphosis?” asked the father.
“The grasses, trees and animals will come back. We will create a deep pond where several species of fish, dragonflies and frogs will live. Moles, rats, cats, cows and horses will dwell here in bliss and freedom. Birds will nest in the foliage, and we will see how good that is. Creation will get back on a happier course.”
“I reckon there is too much ground under cultivation,” said the son. “True, if we can leave the land, then so much the better. Especially if it’s good for biodiversity.”
“Exactly. Do you want to stay with us?” Floozman asked him. “Do you want to be free?”
Meanwhile, the first trucks were reaching the centre of the field swinging heavily on the road that ran from the main highway. They were followed by a flock of children. They were red. One of them was hitched to a livestock cart.
* * *
The Mayor of Plouvigny had been informed of Floozman’s presence in the industrial zone and had sent an employee to invite him to come to the City Hall. He reached the camp shortly after the first trucks.
“I accept, but I will not come without old Zachariah,” said Floozman.
Confused, the employee made a phone call.
“Okay” came the response.
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2008 by Bertrand Cayzac