Digital Ischemia

19/09/2018

Oddbodanov 2: Sokol Fanfare

Mr Oddbodanov: The Wandering of a Little Soul begins at postcard 1
An inert protagonist modelled on Goncharov’s Oblomov sends surreal intimate postcards of unrequited attention from the Brno landmarks of Janáček’s Sinfonietta

September 19, 15:45
My dearest Ryksa,
My eardrums still echo those infernal horns. At last I am extracted from the contortions. My spine is twisted all the wrong way and my hair stands out in every direction. You will not recognise this spiral Oddbodanov! These being-friendly people press themselves all upon me and fold me into inhuman shapes. How I wish you were with me to show them your so wonderful curves and bendiness. The very thought of being so pressed—but luckily I have not space. Tomorrow I go to Špilberk Hrad (Castle) – if it pleases you, write to me there.
In tender bruises, your Strachan Scrachich

…continues tomorrow

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Oddbodanov 1: Sokol Fanfare

Mr Oddbodanov: The Wandering of a Little Soul
An inert protagonist modelled on Goncharov’s Oblomov sends surreal intimate postcards of unrequited attention from the Brno landmarks of Janáček’s Sinfonietta

Rubbish pencil sketch of town square and funfair carousel

September 19, 11:30
My dearest Ryksa –
Here I am! Already I find the town has a noisy funfair. The citizens parade about wearing winged helmets! With beaks and horns! These ‘raptorheads’ make such terrible screeches my blood travels backwards in my pipes. My head tingles with the drumming and stripes of my hair have turned white! It will not sit down. How I wish you were with me to make sense of these cultural themes and the accompanying peculiar physical contortions…
Yours with everlasting affection, Strachan Scrachich Oddbodanov.

…continues at postcard 2

16/09/2018

Signing Your Life Away part 2/2

A workplace relationship is a casualty of lame criminality, but by-catch can come back to bite.

Signing Your Life Away began at part 1.

SCENE 12
ALICE: There’s just one problem.
GEMMA: (D) Why’s he employing clerical staff rather than business consultants?
ALICE: Lawrence and I have a history.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I’d forgotten about that. Deliberately.
SOUND: BG PARTY CHAT, MUSIC
ALICE: You see animals as resource production factories, not people.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Early on in the festival project, we had a cheesy meet and greet at one of the venues. Lawrence gave a lengthy, self-aggrandising speech which wasn’t up for discussion. He’s far too important to be harangued by some lowly contractor. He rolled his eyes and went to walk away.
ALICE: Please! I listened to your perspective; have the courtesy to listen to mine.
FELIPE: (V.O.) There was a man unused to being trounced.
ALICE: You speak of whales as if they were production facilities. One hundred years ago you would’ve said that about women. Two hundred years ago you would’ve said that about other races. My perspective is not an aberrant idealism; this is western society reawakening to what some other cultures have never lost: that other life has its own rights or entitlements, which are to be respected. And that doesn’t mean killed ‘humanely’.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She wasn’t impressed to find out that this pompous arsehole in charge of the festival committee made his money through various exploitative businesses, including whaling. She reeled off all sorts of research, observation, just a whole different perspective. I thought he’d just walk off but something caught him. He looked pretty nauseous. She finished him off.
ALICE: Don’t be afraid. What you’re experiencing is cognitive dissonance. That’s when new information conflicts with what you believe. Be open.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He pulled some weird face – sort of uncomfortable defiance and fled. I was gawping like everyone else. She just stood there trembling, watching him go, till somebody—Therese, I think—scooped her up and took her to get a drink. When I came back to life, I caught them up.
THERESE: Felipe! This one of yours?
FELIPE: No. But if I behave myself and am incredibly fortunate, I hope to be one of hers. Bravo, Alice.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She was pretty stunned. We’d not long been together. It turned out she’d seen my face at the end and thought I was horrified, that she’d gone way too far. I had to explain.
ALICE: I’m so sorry. That was just ego out of control.
FELIPE: I am truly awed. I could see you! Totally master of that landscape. Letting him lead you around while you set traps. Then you went back around every single one, collecting his bones.
ALICE: I forgot about everyone else! I couldn’t see anyone but him and his killing.
FELIPE: You were utterly brilliant. I mean, I knew you were intelligent and knowledgeable and passionate. I just didn’t know you were that good.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I went on like that for a good while: complimenting her and appreciating her right up till I apparently sacked her and she left.

SCENE 13
FELIPE: (V.O.) I make a rubbish ‘clandestine operative’ or whatever. I have no confidence or patience.
FELIPE: Have you heard from Alice?
GEMMA: (D) Not in the last forty-three minutes.
FELIPE: Have you arranged some sort of…security cover?
GEMMA: (D) Yeh, she has a bodyguard with her at all times.
FELIPE: Isn’t that a bit—? Can you be serious, please?!
GEMMA: (D) Felipe, I’m always serious, this is a serious business and your fretting is helping absolutely nobody. Haven’t you got a run?
FELIPE: You’ve sent her into the lion’s mouth!
GEMMA: (D) She’s having a conversation with a prospective employer. Do you have any respect for her ability?
FELIPE: (V.O.) Meaning do I have any respect for Gemma’s ability.
GEMMA: (D) I know where she is. She’ll let me know when she’s done.
FELIPE: Maybe she’s trying to call you right now!
GEMMA: (D) That would be ironic.

SCENE 14
FELIPE: (V.O.) Will he be so puffed up he’ll believe she’s that desperate for work she’ll accept a dodgy PA job? Of course he will; because of that very trouncing: he wants her to renounce all her morals and integrity, to admit you can’t be ethical in the real world. I hoped.
SOUND: EXTERNAL DOOR OPENS
GEMMA: Alice? Are you alright?
ALICE: I think this might be what you’re after.
SOUND: FABRIC RUSTLING, DOOR CLOSES
ALICE: (D) I was surprised you didn’t sack me for that.
LAWRENCE: (D) I’m not like that. I don’t mind being challenged.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He totally does.
LAWRENCE: (D) I like to let everyone have their say.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He absolutely doesn’t.
ALICE: (D) That’s decent of you.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Alice played humble very well.
ALICE: (D) So here I am, jobless.
LAWRENCE: (D) I’m sure we can find something for you. Although it won’t be professional grade.
ALICE: (D) I’m not fussy. Office work is fine.
LAWRENCE: (D) Paula said you were open.
FELIPE: (V.O.) He actually said “open”. Just letting her know he hadn’t quite forgiven.
LAWRENCE: (D) Paula’s been helping me out with quite a few of my businesses. We pop her in, prune out the fixed-term contracts—you know, so many of these young, under-experienced managers pay silly money for short-term employees they don’t really need.
FELIPE: (V.O.) That would be me.
LAWRENCE: (D) You’d be surprised how many we trim before they notice.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Yeh, never under-estimate how much the evil kingpin wants to tell the hero exactly how he committed his crimes. Especially when he thinks he’s getting vengeance for the wench’s earlier disrespect.

SCENE 15
FELIPE: (V.O.) Some of the audio was cringeworthy; some of it was really difficult to listen to. I hoped Alice was acting.
ALICE: (D) His explanation for sacking me? Apparently he didn’t know what he was signing! Unbelievable. Sorry, but that’s what your signature means: I have read and understand this and agree to it.
LAWRENCE: (D) The man’s a puppet.
ALICE: (D) You must be regretting appointing him.
LAWRENCE: (D) Actually, no. His trusting nature has proved very useful.
ALICE: (D) Surely he’s a liability?
LAWRENCE: (D) That appearance will make him easy to let go when the time comes.
ALICE: (D) You sound rather devious.
LAWRENCE: (D) It’s executive business management. I’m not in it to make friends. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. If one area isn’t performing well enough, other areas have to support it, or get cut loose.
ALICE: (D) Ah, so you’re cutting the project loose? I’m not surprised; festivals can be hit or miss.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Are you hearing those regular clicks? That’s Alice setting her traps, one by one.
LAWRENCE: (D) No, it’s actually another area that’s underperforming. the whaling, actually, but not why you’d think.
ALICE: (D) My principles seem to be lost on the rest of the population.
LAWRENCE: (D) It’s not a lack of market. These hysterical pressure groups are making politicians touchy about the cargo passing through European ports. That’s just nonsense: they’re not selling, they’re not even unloading, just refuelling. It’ll quiet down after a few months, but meanwhile the confusion causes delays in supplying Japan and cashflow.
ALICE: (D) Rotten whale meat?
LAWRENCE: (D) It’s deep frozen! Stuff lasts for years.
ALICE: (D) So long as you have fuel to keep it frozen while you float around no-man’s sea.
LAWRENCE: (D) Not a problem. This hiccup’ll pass. Meanwhile we have to run a tight ship, keep the shareholders happy.
FELIPE: (V.O.) “A tight ship”? The man’s off the chart.

SCENE 16
SOUND: MUG ON TABLE
GEMMA: He has no idea about your relationship with Felipe?
ALICE: I get the idea his business success is more luck than skill. He doesn’t bother with facts.
GEMMA: Now he’s on the record saying he instructed Paula to terminate the contracts, but continue paying the employees into the same account. Felipe will be stoked!
FELIPE: (V.O.) I was ecstatic. For a moment.
ALICE: OK, good. Can I go now?
FELIPE: (V.O.) Then I realised I had a lot more work to do.

SCENE 17
SOUND: PAPER RUSTLE
FELIPE: Is this enough to indicate the account the money was going to is his?
GEMMA: I think it’s clear enough; either that or he’s being incredibly stupid trying to lord it over Alice.
SOUND: PHONE TAP
LAWRENCE: (D) You can always check with Paula if you’re not sure of anything. Just terminate as many fixed-term contracts as you can, but continue budgeting for those costs and paying the employees.
ALICE: (D) Because I’ve changed all their bank account details to the same account?
LAWRENCE: (D) Spot on.
ALICE: (D) Should I be asking: where is the money going?
LAWRENCE: (D) I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.
ALICE: (D) I mean, I don’t want to end up working for another amoral, incompetent liar.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Ouch.
LAWRENCE: (CHUCKLE) We’re just redistributing between businesses.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Did you notice how she lures him into her traps again?

SCENE 18
FELIPE: (V.O.) Did she notice I’m still in her trap?
SOUND: CLOTHING ZIP, GRABS BAG
GEMMA: She doesn’t want to see you, no, sorry.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I went underground then. The festival staggered on and fizzled out. There was lots of legal stress, a court case. It was alternately dull and nasty, as these things are. Alice didn’t look me in the eye the entire time, never mind speak to me. When it was over, I was completely drained: I had nothing left in my life. I even stopped running. I shut down.

SCENE 19
SOUND: DOORBELL, EXTERNAL DOOR OPENS
FELIPE: Hey Gemma.
GEMMA: You look awful.
FELIPE: Thank you. I feel worse. Comes of total life failure and emptiness. Can I help you?
GEMMA: I can help you. I have some nice letters to wind up the case, which we’re going to read through together before you sign—
FELIPE: Does my signature have any meaning now? That judge was pretty fierce.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I take a painfully long time reading and questioning everything before signing now. Lesson learned.
GEMMA: I also have this note.
SOUND: PAPER CRACKLES
FELIPE: (V.O.) I recognised the writing. I nearly ripped it out her hand.
ALICE: (V.O.) When I got the letter I should have spoken to you. I’m sorry. My world crumbled so fast; everything I thought you were and we were dissolved. This investigation gave me some explanation, some reassurance. I hope it gives you decent hope of vindication. I’m on a terrifying knife edge, but I think I’m less afraid of never being with you again than I am of not loving you anymore.
FELIPE: (V.O.) My head melted. I couldn’t decipher that last bit. Afraid of trying and failing? Or finding out it’s over? Or was she saying she knew both were already the case?

SCENE 20
FELIPE: (V.O.) A few weeks later, Gemma called.
SOUND: STEPS ON PAVEMENT, BG TRAFFIC
FELIPE: I thought we’d finished all the paperwork?
GEMMA: (D) There’s just one thing outstanding.

SCENE 21
FELIPE: (V.O.) She invited me to meet her for lunch. Only it wasn’t her I met. I never asked how she did it. Too fragile to risk ruining it.
SOUND: BG CAFÉ CROCKERY CLINKS, CUSTOMERS CHAT
FELIPE: Thank you and sorry aren’t enough, but they’re a start. All your efforts with the investigation and the legal— It’s an understatement to say it was my salvation: it proved I was set-up. But I still shouldn’t’ve signed anything without reading it!
ALICE: I could’ve trusted you a little bit.
FELIPE: Probably safer without personal relationships in the workplace.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Meaning: please tell me we’re not better without.
ALICE: It bombed my life—I guess you know about that—but perhaps without it we wouldn’t have unpicked all the…fraud business.
FELIPE: OK, so, I’m really glad to see you’re picking up the pieces.
SOUND: CHAIR DRAGS, RUSTLE
FELIPE: (CONT’D) Do you have to go? I was hoping—
FELIPE: (V.O.) She stayed, we talked, we even laughed a bit. We met again every other evening for a fortnight. I started running again.

SCENE 22
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING, BG BIRD CALLS
ALICE: I know this is mad, but I wonder if something like this was going to happen anyway – as if we needed a major jolt and if it wasn’t this it would’ve been something else.
FELIPE: That is mad, but if it means I get to court you twice in one lifetime, I’m incredibly lucky.
FELIPE: (V.O.) I know; I actually said “court”.
FELIPE: Although maybe not as incompetent director Felipe.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She smiled that smile. She said—
ALICE: Do you have any other sexy identities?
FELIPE: (V.O.) All my tension just went. Most of it, anyway.

END

15/09/2018

Signing Your Life Away part 1/2

A workplace relationship is a casualty of lame criminality, but by-catch can come back to bite.

SCENE 1
FELIPE: (V.O.) Never have a personal relationship with a colleague. (PAUSE) Not even if it’s the best thing to happen in your life? Is it worth the price? See what you think. One day I came home to no-one.
SOUND: EXTERNAL DOOR BANGS
FELIPE: Alice?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I was organising a local crafts festival. If you’ve heard of it, it will be for the wrong reasons. In any case, it barely ran once and it doesn’t exist anymore. She—Alice—was designing the artwork: brochure, leaflets, posters, signage. Straightforward except that I kept changing not just the participants and the timings and the locations, but the whole atmosphere and the audience profile. I was over-reacting. I was under-experienced. She was—
ALICE: You’re certainly challenging. I suppose this is good exercise for me: I do the work five times over and eventually you come back to where we started? (CHUCKLE)
FELIPE: I’m sorry. Artists keep dropping out; they don’t like how it’s shaping up, so I change it, so others change their minds. It’s like herding bees.
FELIPE: (V.O.) We didn’t meet through work; I didn’t employ her because I liked her; we just discovered—
ALICE: Are you stalking me? Oh! You’re Director Felipe and also Hill Runner Phil!
FELIPE: I have multiple personalities.
ALICE: I think it would be sexier to say ‘multiple identities’.
FELIPE: (V.O.) She said “sexier”. I was hooked. I rented a flat to be on site. She stayed with me whenever she was up to consult on the project. She made everything easier, more fun. She made me less of an idiot. Then she vanished.
SOUND: TABLET, KEYS DROP ON COUNTER
FELIPE: Alice? You here?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I called her phone.
SOUND: TAPPING, PHONE RINGING OUT
FELIPE: (V.O.) By eight o’clock I was calling colleagues.
FELIPE: Is Alice down there? I thought maybe she was taking photos of the aqueduct? (PAUSE) OK, she must be on her way back. Cheers.
FELIPE: (V.O.) By ten o’clock I was calling everyone, anyone.
SOUND: TAPPING, PHONE RINGING
FELIPE: Hey, it’s Felipe. Is Alice with you? (PAUSE) No, I called him already. (PAUSE) She’s not answering. (PAUSE) She left there…six hours ago. (PAUSE) Yeh, I’m getting worried.
FELIPE: (V.O.) By two AM I was calling the nearest hospital, the police.
FELIPE: Her clothes?
FELIPE: (V.O.) They had me check in the wardrobe, the bathroom. Most of her clothes were gone, her toothbrush, her special bread without the wheat. She had planned to leave. I just felt like a twat as the officer tactfully explained they don’t get involved when it seems to be a relationship issue. A ‘relationship issue’? How did I not know? Was I that much of an idiot?

SCENE 2
FELIPE: (V.O.) I didn’t sleep. Next day I went to work. Somehow I thought I’d see her there.
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING
THERESE: Not seen her. Maybe she’s working at home?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I barely took in what people were saying to me. I was totally focused on Alice.
THERESE: Felipe, go for a run, go home. Maybe she’ll surprise you?
FELIPE: (V.O.) I went. I got a surprise.

SCENE 3
SOUND: STEPS ECHO IN STAIRWELL
FELIPE: Carl, can you work from my flat this afternoon?
CARL: (D) No bother. You got workies in?
FELIPE: Alice has apparently fucked off without bothering to speak to me but she still has keys and I can see she’s been back this morning taking stuff.
CARL: (D) What?!
SOUND: EXTERNAL DOOR CLICKS, BANGS. BG WIND BUFFETS, TRAFFIC. STEPS ON PAVEMENT.
FELIPE: I mean her stuff.
CARL: (D) Doesnae seem like her. Is she alright?
FELIPE: Well, clearly she’s fine. But I need to be on site this afternoon so I need you to sit here in case she comes back again.
CARL: (D) You want me to keep her there?
FELIPE: No, I think that would be illegal. Just ask her what’s going on.

SCENE 4
FELIPE: (V.O.) So he did.
SOUND: PACKING BOX, SLIDING BOX ACROSS FLOOR
CARL: Apparently I’ve no’ to try to stop you leaving, but could you no’ just speak to him?
ALICE: You’re his friend; I won’t try to turn you against him. If he hasn’t told you what he did.
CARL: He says he’s nae idea, and I certainly dinnae ken, so you may as well tell me.
ALICE: Sacked me.
CARL: Eh? But that’s no reason to walk away fae him, fae this.
ALICE: I think lying to me is.
CARL: Aye, come to think of it, was he no’ saying last week everyone was getting extended?
ALICE: How could he say so to my face then sack me?
CARL: Here; have a wee seat. I’m no’ surprised you’re a’ rattled.
SOUND: CHAIR FOAM HISS
ALICE: I’m horrified! I feel constantly sick! He totally betrayed me. How could he be so cold? Even just professionally? So I’m finished here. Not well managed but nothing illegal.
CARL: And personally?
ALICE: Who have I gotten involved with? Someone who could consciously mislead me?
CARL: Dinnae look at me. I’m baffled. I’d swear he doesnae ken, but. Where are you staying?
ALICE: Sorry but not your business.
SOUND: GRABS BAGS, BOX
CARL: I willnae tell him. I just— Something feels wrong about this…apart from the obvious. If something kicks off I’ll maybe need to get a hold of you.

SCENE 5
FELIPE: (V.O.) Then he told me.
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING, BG TRAFFIC
CARL: Apparently you sent her a letter?
FELIPE: Why would I—?!
CARL: I dinnae ken! The whole thing’s daft!
FELIPE: Well, after you called I checked her file and there’s nothing weird there.
CARL: No copy letter?
FELIPE: Did she seem…at all…delusional?

SCENE 6
FELIPE: (V.O.) Other wheels were coming off too.
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS CLOTHING, BG BIRD CALLS
FELIPE: Therese!
THERESE: I thought we were meeting an hour ago?
FELIPE: I know; I’m sorry. I got held up with…everything. Just tell me your little snags are under control and aren’t getting worse.
THERESE: Felipe.
FELIPE: Please tell me you haven’t got a staff issue? (PAUSE) Therese?!
THERESE: Can’t lie. I have a staff issue.
FELIPE: (V.O.) Therese’s team move display furniture about between sites. They’re a well-oiled machine. When there’s enough cogs.
FELIPE: What is going on?!
THERESE: You tell me. You sacked three of our contractors. We can’t just stretch to fit whatever workload. A heads up would’ve been nice.
FELIPE: (EXASPERATED EXHALE) How did I allegedly do this?
SOUND: PAPER CRACKLES
FELIPE: OK, that is my signature.

SCENE 7
FELIPE: (V.O.) I was teetering on paranoid hysteria. If that’s a thing.
SOUND: PAPER RUSTLE
FELIPE: What’s still to be filed, that Nancy or her replacement left?
GREG: Nothing.
FELIPE: There must be record of changes somewhere?
GREG: I don’t have a password for the system yet.
FELIPE: Right, we’ll use mine. Can I just check: have you had a letter saying you’re sacked?
SOUND: TYPING
GREG: Hope not. Only started yesterday.

SCENE 8
SOUND: TYPING, INTERNAL DOOR OPENS
GEMMA: Felipe?
FELIPE: Thanks for coming over so quickly, Gemma. I don’t know where to start. I think something is seriously wrong in the admin. I need someone completely independent to investigate.
GEMMA: How wrong? Do we need to alert lawyers?
FELIPE: I don’t know. Probably. Can you just take a look first?
GEMMA: Walk me through.
FELIPE: Several of the contractors received letters, apparently from me, telling them their contracts aren’t being renewed. We just do it on a month-to-month basis for—
GEMMA: “Apparently”?
FELIPE: Signed by me but not agreed…I don’t know. That’s just the start of it. There’s no record of any changes but when I looked at all their electronic files, just by chance, I noticed one had a new bank account. I happen to know because…because she’s—she was—my girlfriend.
GEMMA: Still not exactly high treason.
FELIPE: Until you see that everyone who got let go has the same bank account.
GEMMA: Why would they share an account?
FELIPE: Well, obviously they don’t.
GEMMA: Obviously?
FELIPE: Sorry, I mean I asked one guy who hasn’t stormed off in disgust yet. Someone changed it without his knowledge. His wages aren’t going to him.
GEMMA: Not if he’s been terminated.
FELIPE: That’s the thing: on the system he’s still live—still a current employee. They all are—all the folk who’ve been written to.
GEMMA: So they stop working but their wages are all going into one pot somewhere else? It seems pretty amateur as an embezzlement scam.
FELIPE: Except for the scaling. This is happening right across the project. And I wouldn’t have put it together nearly so fast if it hadn’t been that one of them was…my—

SCENE 9
FELIPE: (V.O.) I know Gemma from college. She’s always gone at things with her teeth.
GEMMA: Alice? This is Gemma Cairney. I’m auditing the Canal Festival administration.
ALICE: (D) How did you get this number?
GEMMA: It’s one of the accurate pieces of information in your file. There appears to have been an abuse of…procedures.
ALICE: (D) I don’t work there—
GEMMA: I know. That’s part of the issue. Can we talk?

SCENE 10
SOUND: BG CAFÉ CROCKERY CLINKS, CUSTOMERS CHAT
GEMMA: (CONFIDENTIAL) I can’t give it a legal label, but it appears to be a clumsy attempt at fraud.
ALICE: Yes, I missed that personality: Felipe the Fraud.
GEMMA: I’m aware of your relationship. Felipe brought me in because he noticed the anomalies.
ALICE: I think it’s called dissociative disorder. He can get professional help.
GEMMA: I understand you feel aggrieved – justifiably. Can I explain where we are? I’m hoping you’ll feel in a position to help.
ALICE: (SPLUTTER) To help him out of being incompetent and slopey-shouldered?!
GEMMA: We need more evidence before we can get a legal intervention – the bank won’t give out who the destination account is registered to. Apparently you can put any name on a cash transfer – I could put your name beside my account details and—
ALICE: Yes, I think I experienced this already.
GEMMA: Of course, but what I mean is: banks don’t verify that the label matches the account holder. The money just comes in and they shunt it according to the account numbers.
ALICE: And yet they’re so hot on security when it suits them to hassle you.
GEMMA: We’re…examining actions taken by the temporary PA who covered after Nancy left—Paula—Felipe says the Chairman—Lawrence—brought her in.
ALICE: Did she fake Felipe’s signature?
GEMMA: No, he thinks he did sign them, just—
ALICE: (SPLUTTER) You know, I am really quite busy now, with trying to find a new job.
GEMMA: —but this is the point: he was misdirected. Obviously he realises he should’ve given them his full attention—
ALICE: I think this is what your signature means?
GEMMA: —but Paula— Felipe feels he was rushed—coerced. She had some fluster about a broken printer and catching the post.
ALICE: And we must take his word?
GEMMA: We’re hoping to—hoping you can help us get some evidence. We want to ask some questions (FADE)
FELIPE: (V.O.) Gemma said Alice was pretty hard work—hard to convince. I don’t blame her. I looked like a complete shit from where she was. But luckily for me she hadn’t totally stopped caring. That gave me a tiny bit of hope in the midst of the tornado. Not just about saving my professional credibility.

SCENE 11
FELIPE: (V.O.) Alice agreed to play bait to try to entrap the chairman, Lawrence, so long as she didn’t have to speak to me. She started spending some of her new-found free time at the local gym, because the only thing we knew was Paula the temp. was a member. It wasn’t much of a stretch for Alice to say to anyone who would listen that she was desperately looking for quick work after getting sacked. I appreciated that; I know how she hates ‘networking’.
SOUND: STEPS ON PAVEMENT, BG TRAFFIC
ALICE: Gemma? This is exhausting.
GEMMA: (D) Just think how fit you’ll be!
ALICE: No, the making conversation with everyone. These people are not on my wavelength!
GEMMA: Have you met Paula?
ALICE: I was so pissed off I think she believed me. She gave me details to meet this guy with some vacancies for office work.
GEMMA: (D) Lawrence?
ALICE: She said he has all sorts of businesses and some need…streamlining.
GEMMA: (D) That’s an interesting word.
ALICE: There’s just one problem.
GEMMA: (D) Why’s he employing clerical staff rather than business consultants?
ALICE: Lawrence and I have a history.

concludes at part 2

21/08/2018

Wratislaw part 10 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

While Wratislaw scrabbles for a way to triumph, he must survive the obligatory probing by Kamila.
“Seven, eight years ago, in your interviews, you were…funny. Lately you are awfully serious. Are you overwhelmed by the complexity or the challenge of your many projects? The responsibility of your various roles?” She’s been listening. Inspiration strikes. A question lures. Can he steer toward it?
“Going by this evening’s performance being underwhelming? What could possibly be missing from my life?”
“Time to yourself?”
“Nope. Too much time with myself.”
She ponders. Or perhaps she leaves space to draw him out. Obligingly he fills it.
“Not all interviewers are as intelligent and insightful as you. You always made me think and feel.”
“Often I am told I interrogate people.”
“No, there’s no judgment. You seem genuinely interested. Your questions… Do you remember your ultimate question?”

Kamila’s eyes glint and widen. “My meta-question?” Jackpot.
“How did it go again?” Wratislaw asks even though he’s utterly sure. He needs to hear her say it.
“‘What is the question you would most like me to ask you, and how would you answer?'”
As her voice sounds through his skull he closes his eyes. She muses.
“I remember you cheated; well, you deferred.”
“I couldn’t say it out loud! It was inappropriate. It would’ve changed things…us.”
“So I let you off the hook.”
“You asked if there would be a time in the future when it might be…appropriate.”
“And you said you hoped so. That was exquisitely intriguing.”
“Do you still have it?”
“Of course.”
“Did you ever open it?”
“No! We agreed: not until we both agreed it was appropriate.” She wrings him out with that blasted virtuous integrity.
“How about now?”
They commit, like teenagers goading each other to escalating dares.

Kamila picks and rips at the tightly sealed, worn folds of paper. Eventually the grumpy origami acquiesces and gives up its secret. She jerkily scans his wished-for question. Something is awry. This paragon of calm control is overcome with convulsions of emotion. She pushes it at Wratislaw to read out. He recognises his writing, his wishing, as if he needed any confirmation of consistency.
“‘Would you like to dance with me…for the next fifty years or so?'” The answer is unnecessary. He chuckles cathartically. The image of the unattended piano in the foyer thuds into his mind. “I think I’ll have a bash that Janáček now. Will you listen?”
Her maelstrom mind will manage only one word. “Always.”

Epilogue

Kamila leans on the sturdy chapel door, closing it with a reassuring squeaky clunk. The sudden, silent, dark dankness is refreshing. She glides between the pews, gratified by the decent turnout and stimulating discussion. Nothing is awry.

“What does ‘Wratislaw’ mean to you?” The question curls out from behind a pillar. She was asked during the event, and she gave answers about place, character, then let the participants add their own responses about marketing stunts and student pranks. This is different. This is the questioner she hoped for. She approaches and peers into the gloom.

Wratislaw’s shoulders fill the pew; his talented hands are clasped, resting contemplatively on the next pew’s back. He flicks those blue eyes sideways to her approach. She has his answer ready. But not just yet.
“You got my message.”
“Most of Edinburgh and quite a portion of the world got your message.”
“They see the word but not the message.”
He exhales a laugh. She waits for him to respond.
“‘Love Wratislaw’? It’s a social media meme now.”
Disappointing. He’s prevaricating.

Kamila returns a petulant truism. “They can circulate it and interpret it all they like.”
“You could’ve just called to say you would be here.”
“Not interesting.”
“Unlike walking from the hotel to the venue seeing my secret nickname chalked on every other lamppost? On thirty-eight random paving slabs? On railings and bins and benches and bus shelters?”
“It took me only two hours. I woke early.”
“You didn’t answer my first question.”
He’s learning. She alights on the bench beside him, just pressing the side of his body, and tilts her gaze. He pulls her on to his lap, and touches her face. She leans into the next fifty years.

END

Incidentally… it all started with a minor character described by John Buchan:

Wratislaw “was to the first glance a remarkable figure. About the middle height, with a square head and magnificent shoulders, he looked from the back not unlike some professional strong man. But his face betrayed him, for it was clearly the face of the intellectual worker, the man of character and mind. His jaw was massive and broad, saved from hardness only by a quaintly humorous mouth; he had, too, a pair of very sharp blue eyes looking from under shaggy eyebrows. His age was scarcely beyond thirty, but one would have put it ten years later, for there were lines on his brow and threads of grey in his hair.” John Buchan, The Half-Hearted

…which led me to research the name (and its pronunciation!):

Wrocław [Vrotswahf] (or Wratislaw [Vratislav] in Czech) is the largest city in western Poland. It lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands. The city is believed to be named after Wrocisław or Vratislav, Duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia.
Wrocław is the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. Today, it is the capital of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. The history of the city dates back over a thousand years, and its extensive heritage combines almost all religions and cultures of Europe. At various times, it has been part of the Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Bohemia, Kingdom of Hungary, Habsburg Monarchy, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire, Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Wrocław became part of Poland again in 1945, as a result of the border changes after the Second World War, which included a nearly complete exchange of population.

20/08/2018

Wratislaw part 9 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

Somehow Wratislaw has relaxed a little. Perhaps Kamila listening quietly alongside him has something to do with it. He is addicted. He tries not to sound petulant.
“What did you think of me?”
“I was disappointed.”
“OK, thanks. Well, that’s that then.”
“What happened to the Janáček project?”
“Shelved. Total loss of…everything.”
“That is disappointing.”
“Apparently that’s me.”

Kamila shifts position slightly. Perspective.
“You said you wanted to feel unrequited passion, like Janáček. Perhaps I flatter myself, but is this not why you call me Kamila?”
“Now you sound like you’re trying to argue that you left me for the sake of my professional—”
“Exactly.”
“So I could play Janáček with true unrequited passion?!”
“You were disappointing. For me and your other audience.”
“You keep saying that! I was depressed! You should’ve told me!”
“That would have defeated the experiment.”
“Experiment?!” Wratislaw no longer cares if he sounds hysterical. “And how did that work out?”
“Apparently your psyche is not the same as his.”
Wratislaw’s own disappointment and frustration are neck and neck.
“Well, this has been a tremendous waste of time, and actually a pretty cruel and unethical psychological game, just to prove two people aren’t the same.”

Kamila’s composure indicates there is a solid explanation in his near future. He hates that. She’s back to questioning, luring him toward her cursed superior understanding.
“Tell me this now, completely truthfully: are you not glad you had the experience? Felt those things?”
“The anticipation is better than the actual thing?!”
“The anticipation is better than nothing.”
“I can’t possibly know without reliving my life differently.”
“What do you want to happen?”
“I want you to behave normally—no, not ‘normally’; I don’t know what that means—authentically.”
“Are you sure? Be careful what you wish for, Wratislaw.”
He smirks as the heady rush pours through him again.

Wratislaw lays back on the cool, damp ground and finds, at last, a shred of confidence. A question.
“What do you want to happen?”
Kamila looks away and breathes.
“I want to feel the precision, the clarity, the quiet confidence of your playing again. I want to feel that you will take me on this dangerous journey through the dark, enchanted forest, but that you know the terrain, and you relish every landscape feature you navigate. You will wrestle and vanquish the wild beasts. You will take me on an exhilarating adventure and give me new understanding. You will bring me safely out the far side of the forest without falling over the precipice. The full, unsanitised, emotional journey with a wise guide. Most of all, I want to feel that I have somehow been part of the event, that my presence has affected you too, that I have been involved and have enhanced your experience.”
“Is that all?” He notices he’s clutching her hand. When did that happen? After six years it’s surreal.

Suddenly he understands what he was doing thrashing around in the undergrowth. Conniving harpy. He’s so pathetically susceptible. He was never in any danger. She’s just shown him, let him experience directly, exactly what she wants. All he has to do is deliver. Simple.

…concludes at part 10

19/08/2018

Wratislaw part 8 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

The closeness of Kamila’s voice is startlingly. “Still in the dark, Wrati?”
“Utterly.”
“Feel better for clawing at things?”
“No! How do you do that silent flitting and pouncing?!”
“I just walk carefully.”
“You pounced on me this afternoon in that…Schrödinger’s egg carton! And you’ve been teasing me all around this…”
“I promised you would see me.”
He curses himself for forgetting. He could have played a much cooler game. As cool as his sopping arse. Never too late.

Wratislaw switches topic. “Should I be concerned that you’re in Glasgow?”
“I’m not stalking you.”
“Evidently I’m stalking you. Badly.”
“You are not difficult to see: you look like a tattie-bogle!” Bless her, she speaks every blasted language better than him.
“Nature has not been kind to this suit. I just thought you might be fomenting revolution…type thing.”
“At the BBC?”
“Or through the BBC? Why are you doing whatever with the BBC?”
“It factors into a project.”
“That’s super-clear.”
“How is this your business?”
“I remember after Wrocław all sorts of citizen movements, democracy protests, suchlike, suddenly got turbo-charged.”
“You were not there.”
“I read newspapers! I was too scared to go back!”
“I thought there might be another reason, like you got your research.”
“You know I didn’t.”

Kamila wavers. Wratislaw feels a rush of desperation.
“Don’t vanish again!” He sounds panicked. His arse is soaking. Eels are probably on the verge of penetrating.
She continues softly. “Where did you get stuck?”
“You questioned my fundamental motivation for making music. ‘Because humans always have’ wasn’t enough. Neither was ‘because we need it’. Or ‘because it’s glorious’. You always came back with ‘why?'”
“I had odd ideas about our most profound learning being through relationship. Music somehow came into that – a way of engendering empathy…something like that. I could not get traction with it; you were no help.”
He can certainly empathise with mental free-wheeling.

Wratislaw refocuses on his stuckedness: the sheer tonnage of his inertia. “I probably shouldn’t say this, it being my livelihood, but sometimes music isn’t enough. Sometimes you need words as well. Even though music is raw emotion and travels straight to your heart and the primitive parts of your mind, still people interpret that emotion differently according to their individual biases.”
“We need song, opera?”
“Just sometimes we need to talk.”
“What do you want to say?”
He has run right into her trap. Again. Entangled in the cat’s cradle of his personal hydra. How to disempower it… What does he want to say?
“That I was enchanted…by you. That I thought you felt…something… And then you vanished, like a…dryad in the mist!” As ever, Janáček floats just beyond his grasp.
“I thought this was what you wanted.”
“To be abandoned?! In the midst of a rush of passion?!”
“Why would I want to attach myself to a comet?”

…continues at part 9

18/08/2018

Wratislaw part 7 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

In this dense web of stalks, cloud-reflected metropolitan light is inadequate. The ridiculousness of Wratislaw’s predicament, however, is plain to see. Pursuing an as yet unseen woman through some eccentric philanthropist’s forgotten wilderness. Easy to explain.

To continue his form, at this point, he wonders whether his unintelligent next move should be more blundering about in vicious thickets, or to hunker down. His stinging forearms and shins, and his throbbing arse, beg for respite. Hunker down and wait. How long should he wait to extinguish all doubt that Kamila has gotten utterly bored of his disappointing efforts and abandoned him to his mortifyingly un-man-of-the-woods-like fate? Mortified. Unmanned.

Wratislaw gazes about, trying to subdue his creeping anxiety. Is he more bothered by losing her or himself? Once again his brain loses visual traction on the shifting shades of dark. Frantically clawing in complete stillness. Instead he becomes highly sensitised to the tickling, the crawling, the scurrying, the rustling. A clear whistle pierces the fog, inside and out: a bird’s alarm or a guiding signal? Or just a rusted mental circuit venting dangerously high steam pressure.

Will anyone miss him? BBC Ben and his glowing orb would be a welcome lighthouse right now. Wratislaw would offer some professional enticement for… That sounds sordid. Plus his stock probably isn’t so high after that performance. So long ago. That other so civilised world. Not out here in the jungle.

Regardless of Wratislaw’s existential crisis, clouds drift along their journeys. Yet somewhere, something powerful grows impatient with his lack of progress and grants him a boon. A fortuitously timed shaft of moonlight spotlights a stone edge: a carved edge: a building. A purposeless ornament, which, as it turns out, finally has use.

Folly. How perfectly apposite. Wratislaw lunges for the stonework, pushing mercilessly through the knives and forks and razor wires, stumbling and slipping, arms scissoring across his face in a violent dance. He does not appreciate the overgrown path Janáček allusion. Emerging from the malicious vegetation, he hauls himself to a cool stone pillar and hugs it shamelessly. After tactfully clouding his trembles for an interval, a further moonbeam benevolently shimmers across the river and delicately lights the blindingly obvious path thither.

Wratislaw bravely departs his safe haven and careers jelly-legged to the water’s edge. He yanks at the infernal luring willow and swipes wildly at illusory clothes. The rippling water and the thrashing twigs have messed up the acoustics. He plonks on the first stone that seems big enough. Unfortunately it’s just another shadow so his landing is lower and wetter than he expects. His battered coccyx complains. He exhales forcefully.

After a few moments of bewildered and moist stillness, he imagines he feels warmth on his arm, a faint breath on his cheek. Probably some rebound sensory effect from the thrashing. Or, just possibly, hiding in plain blindness.

He conjures Kamila in his mind, slides his hand across and is shocked when he connects. Electricity crackles through his skin.

…continues at part 8

17/08/2018

Wratislaw part 6 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

The initiative must be seized else-how. Wratislaw calls out. “What is your fixation with forests?”
Kamila’s reply echoes from elsewhere. “Fourteen trees is a fixation?”
He swerves before refocusing. “The question there was ‘fourteen trees is a forest’ but let’s not get diverted. In Wrocław, when I asked where you wanted to go next, you pointed at that Białowieża forest.”
“It wasn’t Białowieża; that is the opposite part of the country. And considerably bigger.”
“Where were we then? I thought I was in a world-renowned forest.”
“Why would this matter?”
“It was magical.”
“Maybe the air was polluted with hallucinogens! Poland had a big problem with toxic smoke. People kept trying to get rid of illegal plastic waste imports by putting fire to waste dumps.”

Wratislaw’s whole body focuses on keeping her talking, to try to work out where her voice is. “Or maybe your picnic was spiked!”
“Maybe we were dehydrated or hypoglycaemic.”
“Maybe our bodies were just in shock from walking more than twenty metres at a time.” His had been.
“Maybe it was a midsummer daydream.”
“It was magical.” He’s already said that. Call it emphasis.
“You think it was the place and not…us?”

There it is: the tiny uncertainty. She isn’t one hundred percent. What is he certain of? Nothing, except she isn’t in the sneaky pine. Still just glimpses and shadows of nothing. And the small matter of his enduring infatuation. He lets the beleaguered birch swish back to upright…ish.

He has to explore her uncertainty. To explore the terrain. Instead he blunders. He launches impetuously down the ridge and finds himself accelerating beyond leg control. He chooses arse over head to lead the descent – meaning he sits and slides, rather than tumbles. Important to have that point clear. He can argue the relative wisdom with the physiotherapist who will have the enviable challenge of enabling him to sit comfortably again to earn his living.

After its premature start, Wratislaw’s slide takes longer than he expects. He puts this down to the time-expanding powers of adrenaline. When he finally halts he is at the disgorgage of a burn into the river. This small-scale estuary with picturesque miniature mud-flats is a welcome coolant for his friction-savaged arse.

He rises carefully, finds his limbs reassuringly responsive, and turns about. There are more than fourteen trees. Something new is awry. With river at his back, he has a panorama of perpendicular inclines, paved with leaf litter. With no idea whether he is up- or downstream from the original position, he crawls up the least precipitous wedge, grasping wildly for those beleaguered young birches.

Several branches slap wet leaves resentfully at Wratislaw so he closes his eyes for much of the ascent. When he reaches a level where he doesn’t immediately feel his feet sliding backward or other discouragement, he cautiously raises his lids. With his eyes mildly attuned to darkness, he focuses on a fleeting movement, slipping between trunks. Through his frantic, fruitless scramble he thought he heard a ripple of laughter. Or was it the river? She’s taunting him.

He leans his hand on the nearest trunk. He withdraws it instantly from something unexpectedly soft and slimy. He thinks of insects that mind-bogglingly disassemble their bodily integrity back to primeval goup, then rearrange themselves structurally into something quite different. Except for the unfortunate individual he just plunged his fingers into. No longer to emerge and reach its full potential. Now destined to mutate horribly into chimaera with himself. Rather like The Fly. The Wrattisfly. What a Frankenstein’s monster that would be: his shoulders giving it wings like a pterodactyl, a weak abdomen of no use but as a prop, and yet remarkably dextrous legs and antennae. Somewhere in this hallucination there must be a metaphor. All skilfully choreographed. She’s manipulating him.

Something warm brushes his cheek. The reverie dissolves. Glancing up he sees the flicker of things with wings the wrong way about. Bats. Not bothersome. But why no bird calls? Probably silenced by his threatening crashing about.

Wratislaw resumes his disoriented weaving between trees. The ground level helpfully lowers then rises. He lurches around a larch and snatches another just in time to prevent himself re-launching into Arse-luge Ravine. He pivots daintily upon the precipice and sags into an elastic coppiced hazel. Noting its rarity among a cluster of hawthorn, holly and dog-rose, his luck may be changing.

…continues part 7

16/08/2018

Wratislaw part 5 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

Why had Kamila been talking to Wratislaw, back then? Her answer had been brilliant. She gazed out across the cityscape. First, of course, she asked him what he saw. He stated the obvious. Then she explained it.
“Buildings, streets, green space, activity, movement, travel, glitter and shadow… Zoom in or out, pan across. This is a vast and deep fascination. I see infinite interest in finite space, a fractal psyche.”
It was him.
“You think of me as a Mandelbrot set?” He had been pleased with himself for dredging up that reference. Until she hit it out of the park.
“I think of you as Wratislaw.”
He was unable to resist grinning. As always, she took it further than he could have imagined. “So, I know who you are, obviously, and you know who I am, for what this is worth. Can we please not talk about professions and partners and parenting and all this cliché competitive life shit?”
“In favour of?”
“Interesting things!”
“And interesting names?”
“Yes; what will you call me?”
“Kamila, obviously.”

As Wratislaw crouches in the darkening jaggy shrubbery, tickled by leaves and probably things on legs, that memory still warms. He recalls taking several moments to regroup. He gestured the cityscape.
“Where would you like to go next?”
“In the real world or in your head?”
“It’s your metaphor.”
“There.”
She pointed decisively to a tree-clad eruption a few miles north-west. He had only one move.
“May I take you?”

Wratislaw decides that Kamila, for all her superiority, is probably tactically stuck at this point. Probably because he isn’t behaving as she expects, i.e. intelligently. He’s feeling tingles in intimate places, and not all of them can be attributed to invading insects. He’ll have to move. Any move will gain the initiative. For no reason other than his innate perversity, he sets out vigorously from the rhododendron in the opposite direction.

Too late he remembers how she ended her discussion at the fateful event. “Go out now, go away, go back to your lives. Don’t think any more about this. I don’t ask you to think about any of this stuff; I only ask you to think.” Drat.

Surrounding the ensemble of quaint river bank, shady willow, shadier pine with possible occupied perch, and bruised rhododendron, is a band of thicker mature trees. These turn out to be planted on a ridge. The ridge turns out to be ideally suited for pretending you’re in a tree when you’re not. Now they both are. Pretending.

One slender birch sapling suggests to Wratislaw a cunning wheeze. He manoeuvres around to its ‘safe’ side and triangulates his target. With careful force the birch curls over beautifully. A couple of thrashes sweep the perceived vantage point and several small pine cones hit the ground. Why no squeal or proclamation of acquiescence to his masterful offensive? He detests a silent audience.

…continues at part 6

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