Roseland, 2.B.4, 1100 words

Chartreuse streaks in the air where chartreuse tennis shirts strike a stream of shuffling gesticulations through the sunken soup of the hotel lobby’s sunkenmost dry grotto. Franchisees stumble out of a ballroom flank, every tenth in a paper crown, the ‘crazy guy,’ each alternating tenth a self-diagnosed convention rabble-rouser, microcosmic emcee, ‘bürgermeister,’ king among kings. Two conferences share the hotel in the following days. Convention-goers of the other ilk, in blazers and light scarves rummage in cloth attaché cases. Badges on fabric ribbons swing or are kept in the armpit when bending over. It is early yet for both. Jack, in attendance for the blazer and scarf convention, watches the hall floor from above. Inaccessible vestigial hallways haunt the atrium. From high above the carpet at the bottom of the hotel is a perfect lake surface in a colander of a rainstorm with centers whose concentric rings obliterate each other in unresolved geometries. He touches his temple. The airy taste of skulls exploding like hollow tomatoes one at a time between his molars as they soar forty stories to the long unseen concrete beneath peeled back carpet, body first becomes ooze inside, and then the head snaps down and the skull and its secrets poof instantly and finally as dust from a shut book scatters. His skull never stops exerting pressure outward to stiffen itself into this tireless shape of bone. Secrets. Thousands inhaled, though mostly disappeared and black on black. Jack mostly could not remember his own. He checks in at a modestly pleated table where languid staffers still arrange their supplies, scan the tiny distance, and sit idly in anticipation. The table is in rigorous order. “Jack Trefry.” She, a felid young lady, pony tail and home-tailored smock tending to black and white in the virid tears of anxiety slicking his eyes, shuffles and shuffles leaves of stapled papers. She sighs. She clears her throat and pulls her seat back at first to look beneath the table then rising to point across the landscape to a verdant bosk of franchisees. “I think you must be with the chartreuse convention.” “No. I am here for this conference. I’m a keynote speaker.” “Yes, of course. Trefry. Let me look with the speaker packets.” “Yes. Please do.” “Still nothing. Perhaps you’ve already checked in.” He fingers his chambray for the edge of an absent silk scarf. “I’d think I would recall that. Could you provide me with a badge and one of those cords?” “I’m sorry. The badges are all premade. Lanyards come with the badges. We should be able to acquire one before the conference is over.” “I see.” “If you can wait.” “I am certain it won’t affect my access to the keynote address. Once my colleagues arrive of course they will allow me to access the proceedings with them.” “Perhaps.” “Of course. I’ll wait.” He stands against the nearest pillar watching over the silly girl’s shoulder. She eyes him deformed in the cellophane of the deciduating integument of badges. Men in tennis shirts eye him. After several shift changes at the table he drifts, always in movements slowed by hesitancy, appearing to occur and transpire just in the past, between pillars backed up to and orbiting little clustered klatches. In one outer shell he encounters the girl from the table yet again. She is jostled into facing him and watches over his shoulder where promenading peers pirouette about a looping staircase to the hall floor. “I look forward with hesitant anticipation to my address tomorrow night. It isn’t the marquis night of course, but it should be rewarding. The full contingent of the conference will still not have arrived yet or those that were just arriving from late afternoon journeys will mill outside the breakout rooms or the ballroom reconnecting, a distracted gregarious taking hold of eyes looking for eyes like rail yard switches that would linger just through my introduction as they filter in with ‘Well I suppose we should see about this.’ I won’t blame them for their ambivalence and ignorance. The complex system of canonization, you no doubt are currently scuttled by, impossible to describe to one outside of this mindset, but tacitly regarded by each of us, has managed admirably for so many years to keep the community from knowing who I am. Only fortuitously, and almost like a daydream, were some of my unpublished writings passed above the noses of some of the correct folks and having made small rounds in their splendor and reach, they were able to secure me possibly a fissure in the cloak through which to whisper. Whether the garment opened wide to me I wasn’t concerned. I was quite certain that I wasn’t for the world. Yet I carried seeds. Seeds don’t take long to plant. Has my lanyard been found yet?” She is not aware of him speaking. He stands in the lobby through the opening breakout sessions smelling coffee and oranges from appointed hospitality tables. The afternoon smolders and evening dim settles like torchlight rising. The carpet has worn to white strands of smoke between the small meeting rooms. “This first night is always throwaway.” The building itself pulses. In an upper floor hallway Jack is overcome with vertigo as though standing in a wheel. He falls back against a wall where he sits and doesn’t sleep that night. In the morning he returns to the table where the same young lady attends. “I’d really like to have a badge.” “I’m sorry, I told you yesterday that I don’t have one premade for you.” “But I’m a speaker today, its been known for months I’m sure, how am I supposed to be admitted to my own talk?” “Well I’m sure that has all been arranged and you can just go in with the person who you have coordinated with.” “Do you at least have a blank card that you can write on?” “Yes. Here.” “Can you write on it so it is more official?” “I guess. Here, give it to me.” “Write: John Trefry, Omaha, Speaker.” “Oh, OK Mr. Trefy, I’m sorry, here.” “Do you have a lanyard?” “No, just a sleeve, we ran out of lanyards yesterday at main registration” “What am I supposed to do with it then?” “Well you really only need it to get into the breakout sessions, the main addresses, like yours, are open.” He spins around and attempts to tuck the card in his breast pocket just enough that the surname and the word ‘Speaker’ are proud above the welt, then takes five steps before it falls to the carpet.

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