Friday, April 14, 2006

In The Margins Day!

You're about halfway through that Malamud book you bought at the Once Again Bookshop. Today you'll get to around page 181 and you'll see a small note written in the right-hand margin.

It is important that you meet the man at the Degas on Friday at 3.

You check the copyright page and it shows that you bought a reprint published in 1974. That note could have been written any time within the last thirty-two years. Whomever wrote it could be dead already. But you never ever work so you figure what the hay.

There's only one Degas at the art museum. It's of one of those ballerinas (perv). You'll get there a little early and stand before the painting, taking it in. You'll hold the book in your hand at your side. At 3:00 on the dot, a man who looks to be in his fifties or sixties will enter the gallery and when he sees you, he'll stop in his tracks.

"Holy shit! You bought my book!" He'll have a lisp.

Say, "Yeah. Saw the note and I figured�"

"I've had to come to this fucking painting every Friday for the past twenty-seven years! My Christ, I can't believe it! It's all over!"

The man will do a little dance.

"Um, glad I could help," tell him.

"Wow, thank you. Thank you so fucking much!" The man will grab you in his arms and hug you tight. Then he'll turn to the painting and give it an "Up Yours" with a slap to his forearm. "So long you talentless little waif. I hope you get an anorexia-related complication and faint mid- Chass�."

He'll hold his middle finger as close to the ballerina as he can without drawing the attention of the guards.

"So, what was so imperative? Is your life in danger?"

"My life's in tatters, if that's what you're asking. After having to drop everything and come here every Friday for all these years, all the things I've passed on because of this commitment. My life's been a whole lot of false-starts, if that's what you're asking."

"It isn't," say. "Why'd you write that note?"

The man will shrug. "I thought it was a cool idea. To arrange something clandestine like that in the margin of a book. And I came here the first few weeks expecting every time to meet the stranger that bought my book. But I always left alone. Then it became kind of a dare for myself. Like, I've already wasted all this time on it, you know? I even went down to the bookshop every week and checked to see if it sold, but it never did. Until now!"

The man will kiss you on the lips in a "welcoming you as liberators" kind of way.

"So you dragged me up here for nothing?"

The man will hand you some microfilm. "You're not going to leave empty-handed."

Say, "What is this? Launch codes?"

The man will say, "Just a vacation I took in Cape May in 1970. Good snapshots." The man will kiss your lips again. Then he'll dance out of the gallery as if he were that painted ballerina he'd just showered with epithets and obscene gestures.

When you get home you'll examine the microfilm. Instead of vacation snapshots, it will contain evidence of a 30-year old international scandal with proof that President Carter was behind it all along. Get down, they're coming!

Happy In The Margins Day!