“Melissa?” Dr. Zeker lightly stroked his chin between his right thumb and the crook of the forefinger. Brugh Joy told me that gesture invokes the Sage, with his wisp of white beard on the chin, which he pulls in contemplation. “She gave you the good review? Then by all means, shoot somebody in the third act.”
“Jim gave me a good review also.”
“Two good reviews, then.” There was an inflection of humor in his voice, but he sensed he was close to a line and took a more earnest tone. “I like it, myself,” he said, “the narrative exploding into a collage after an evolutionary leap. But, midgets and trolls and Indians ... it’s about as politically correct as panda fur ...”
“Are you an art expert on top of everything else?” I asked. We were drinking Fat Tire outside the Bohemian Cigar Store, watching four Chinese boys playing frisbee in Washington Square. On the other side of the park the spires of Saints Peter and Paul elevated my gaze toward the northern sky, causing images to dance in my head.
To amuse himself, Dr. Zeker transformed into a distinguished old art expert confronting a curator. “What do you mean, in my opinion? I don’t have an opinion; I know. That’s why you should call me before you buy instead of after. The question you must ask yourself is, do you wish to build on a foundation of opinion, or do you prefer a foundation of knowledge? It seems like an obvious choice, doesn’t it? But then you do the price comparison.”
Once he is in character it’s not him anymore. His creations are authentic and seemingly autonomous. On the other hand, he conjures or dismisses them at his whim. He dismissed the art expert with a chuckle and a gesture of his right palm, the gesture of releasing a captured bird back into her sky.
When we’d finished with drinking ale we crossed Union, and wandered, dressed in our gray suits and carrying our walking sticks, through sunbathers and jugglers and gaggles of children and parents, toward the northeast corner, where a group of students were being instructed in Kendo, the way of the sword, by an old man whose eyes were diamonds sparkling in the early afternoon sunlight. “The old Kendo Master looks like you,” I said. “I mean, if you were Japanese. Your hair is the same as his.”
“Maybe the eyes, too,” he said. He was pleased with my comparing him to the old swordsman. Dr Zecker isn’t impervious to flattery. I noticed that his right hand was continually pulling the sword from his walking stick, just a little ways, as if he was practicing drawing it, then returning it fully to the sheath.
I felt a sense of foreboding. I had written myself into a corner, having assumed I could make Dr. Zeker stab another character on my whim, but he was on to me. I’d said if a gun is introduced in the first act it has to go off in the third, but it wasn’t a gun in the first act. It was ... two identical swords ...
He advanced for a quick kill but I anticipated him and parried the thrust. We circled each other, looking for a flaw in the defense.
“It’s the third act,” he said, “and you aren’t going to make me stab some random bystander just to find closure.”
“Closure? You want closure?” I lunged, but he was nimble as a wasp. We were so evenly matched neither could press an advantage without its being turned to retreat. Our new suit jackets were being reduced to rags as the blades tore the fine wool and cotton, and sometimes the flesh, until the blood soaked into my black shirt, rouge on Aida, and bloomed scarlet on his white one.
“Show off,” I said.
“Bloviator,” he shot back.