With a surgeons touch, Morton adjusted his glasses and gazed into the old mans forehead which resembled that of a manatees’. Preoccupied by the trajectory of his sloping dome, he had difficulty concentrating on the conversation. Morton wondered if this man was good at chess, while simultaneously, he became inappropriately tempted to pet his checkerboard sized brow. He watched with content the mans renegade eyebrow hairs that twitched with the speed of a shotguns recoil. The isolated black and white whiskers were completely on their own in this world. He came to attention and zoned-in to the end of the mans fleeting speech.
“So this is where you can help us young man. Would you like to assist our voyage?” A voyage, I thought my job was to fetch your car. The patrons would create small talk with Morton from time to time. Often he was treated like a simpleton who had just been born. It is quite deflating when the people you provide a service to just assume you are a dope. Morton believed a uniform must be avoided at all costs, however, the back of his jacket read MVP VALET.
Morton responded with the closest phrase we have in the English language to Chinese, “How so?” he spoke it with a perfect Mandarin dialect. “I don’t really know anything about sailing, sir. Are you looking for some type of first mate? Or something of the sort?” Morton didn’t have much experience speaking with the elderly or boating colloquial for that matter, however, something told him the phrase ‘first mate’ was appropriate. At first thought, Morton had no interest in helping a group of grouchy old folks sail across the ocean. He was not a patient person. The idea of answering to the demands of the elderly and being treated like a tether-ball was not all that tempting to him.
“Well, you’d have to help with that too, I suppose, but we’d be more than happy to provide you with a cabin if you would be willing to paint our portraits as we make our way along the trip. The bartender told us you are quite the painter! We’re not interested in photos. We’d like something more nostalgic, something with meaning. We need an artists eye – just a few works in total. I think it might work out for both of us.”
“Ok, I see,” the conversation changed tempo and Morton uttered a phrase with a harmonious ring, “So I’d be responsible for capturing the moment as it were?”
“Yes, it would be a rather worth-while experience don’t you think?”
Morton imagined grandness - the pearly white marble floor kind of grandness. The vision of a paycheck and a crystal tip-jar embedded in his head. The rent was due on his apartment. Morton worked everyday of his life walking on cement, yet when faced with an important life decision, he starred at that very same cement beneath his feet for wisdom. What does a postman do on his day off - goes for a walk. Give him the answer concrete. Lend him your strength. The manatee head came back into focus.
“We would compensate you for your time. No problem, as lets keep this a secret between you, me, and the wall. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with your boss.”
“I might be interested in such a proposal. The people who exited before you, are those the people who will be on the ship? If you don’t mind me asking?” he was too enthused to act manly about it – he didn’t care who the people were, as he asked out of politeness, speaking with the tooting prowess of an eighteenth-century fife.
“Yes, it was the most interesting of dinner chats! That is the hope and if you’d agree it would be a pleasure to have you.”
Grandness. The sun, the wind, he could feel it before he saw it. He wouldn’t trade this gig for the world. This was his chance to hit the three at the buzzer. Walk on the moon. Deep sea dive. Jump from a plane. The type of special you get only every so often as you age. He envisioned his very own corner of the deck with a paintbrush in his palm. He would passionately paint their wrinkles all the way to London.
“We know you might have to take some time and we’d be willing to take care of you, of course.”
Splendid. Morton T. Smiley figuratively rendered a beautiful blossom from the tippy-top of his prickly cactus head. He clutched to the note with the mans phone number, “We will be in touch,” and he slid the paper into his pocket. Morton gave the old man a quasi-serious two-finger salute as he drove away. An opportunity had arisen to leave his current life behind. This was exactly how the artist wanted advertisement in the paper should have read. The more he thought about it, he might just never come back. The rules had changed and Morton was excited. He would cast away his z’s and trade them for s’s. That was his first step toward becoming European. He had to get organised.
We are a species which collects, and often we rationalize keeping items which have little or no value because of the fear of not having at all. A disease that gets worse with age; parting is such sweet sorrow forty-year old arm chair. Morton was not comfortable having an estate sale and exposing his neighbors to his trinkets. That night, Morton T. Smiley threw his possessions in the dumpster behind his apartment. The only witness to his madness was a streetlight.
Arevaderche toaster. Adios couch. Sayonara silverware. Like moving day on a college campus, Morton just permanently lightened his load. He would keep his clothes, and of course his supplies and finished works. Half-heartedly, he kept a picture of Lena, but everything else would go. This was the destruction derby of cleaning house scenarios. He flung his possessions into the street, onto the curb and into the trash; he tossed them high in the air and watched them crash. With each thump and bang Morton reclaimed his liberty and the kings armada could not stop him. He grasped the hand-me-down lime green vacuum cleaner in one hand, gritted his teeth, and three-six teed himself to reach maximum centripetal power. He smashed the vacuum into the side of the dumpster and then tomahawked the remains into the bowels of the container. Enjoy your stay in Saskatoon.
He had left his things behind, but their journey would continue. All of our physical possessions have an afterlife. Nothing disappears for good. Machines can crush and presses can compact, water falls from the sky only to condense and return as fog, but essentially everything just idles in the meantime and waits to alter further, completely indifferent on the path of transformation. Energy was created from a fingertip long ago with the wisdom to know it would never have to work again. A gentle push into eternity, a truly altruistic gesture - give the discarded a fighting chance. We think it ends, but it does not. Wipe the tears away and sleep well tonight sweet darling, for the only thing on this planet which begins and ends is consciousness.
When Morton was finished, he crossed his arms and looked at the stuff in the living room which he had spared from death. He needed a place to store these items of meaning. Morton would call his friend in the morning. Tyler, who at the time was living in a barn in Vermont, was the post-flood Noah’s Ark equivalent of available storage space. Morton should have been able to scrape some sort of car together by this period in his life, however, he could never afford to fix his own check engine light, nor a cars for that matter. Lena would never let him drive the pick-up truck (probably a good decision). He was a long brisk walk away from the rent-a-car center. Morton would take the bus instead. After he rode his bike, to catch a bus, and drove his rented car back to his apartment, he realized he had entered into unchartered territory in commuting efforts and was still over three hours from Warren Vermont.
His car was packed with his belongings and the accelerator pedal awaited his right foot. Before Morton closed the red door to his apartment for the last time, he gave the space inside one last look and thought about all that had happened inside those walls. It was sad, but something told him it needed to happen. It was one of the best periods of his life – Morton T. Smiley wouldn’t have traded it for anything. He knew what it meant and he knew what it did not. As the door shut behind him, so had an era of his life that he loved. Like a swans neck, it had become slippery and steep at the end, but he was hopeful. He permanently left his key on the counter and put his faith in a new one. A rented key which might leave him destitute and spackled with failure, a collector of dead-end maps, and possibly homeless, but ultimately he felt he needed to take that risk. Grandness. Elvis had left the building.
The old mans forehead which resembled that of a manatees
He permanently left his key on the counter and put his faith in a new one. A rented key which might leave him destitute and spackled with failure, a collector of dead-end maps, and possibly homeless, but ultimately he felt he needed to take that risk. Grandness.