How many short stories do you have tucked away in the hard drive? At last count, I had seventeen. Somewhere between novel writing and this new thing I’m trying called “blogging,” these little gems got lost. Time again to trot them out. Presenting: ISCARIOT. Written in the fall of 2012, it began more as an assignment in a creative writing class. Tasked with making a reader “taste the page,” I had no recourse but to wax poetic about fresh produce.
Rowan Ican’s preoccupation with writhing bowls of fruit had become irksome. For one thing, he had taken to talking about it, slowly at first, then compulsively, texting with a zesty enthusiasm more commonly found in illicit love making. In the beginning it was cute. He would go on at length about his unusual observations convinced that he was on to something new and interesting. His friends accepted this. Everyone was texting, after all, and at all hours too. But Rowan was especially taken with the CrackBerry and the cheap and immediate mode of communication it afforded.
“I was mute,” he wrote, “and now I have voice and am given to speak.”
Christ, he spoke. And wrote. And spoke. For example, if the pomegranates in the fruit section were especially communicative, then he’d text his compadres and tell them so in minute detail. What they looked like, what they said and how they made him feel went out in real time, across space and into the buzzy devices on his friends’ belts. Next came the website and then the e-chat where he indulged his penchant for plums and figs and dates. If it was purple, he was on it, speaking unselfconsciously, red-faced with childish joy.
His friends, grey with middle-age and weighty-responsibilities, grew concerned. Rowan’s unusual predilections were well-known to them, even funny, and were hugely entertaining as long as they remained under wraps. But he was overt now, naming names, and posting photographs, claiming kinship on line with oddities that hid behind avatars with contrived names like “Jack Bunny” and “Rocketman”.
“If he keeps on this way, he will expose us to ridicule and cause us harm,” Gordon Ogden Davis – Rowan’s oldest friend – warned from his corner office on the seventy second floor. He wore a suit, drove a Porsche and, as a pillar of society, knew nothing of fruits purple or otherwise. It was G.O.D. who summoned them and together they hatched a plot on-line. They were business associates, college mates and lovers – the wellspring of Rowan’s literary genius.
“There are rules, and he is breaking them,” G.O.D. continued in Times New Roman. “I will not be his muse.”
Gisela Schonfeld threw back her mass of corkscrewed clavicle-length hair with a deliberate heave; her luxurious breasts, locked in a losing battle with gravity, followed, nearly knocking her off her ergonomic medicine ball. Her physicality had been the subject of Rowan’s most recent blog. A thinly disguised roman à clef, it was as unwelcomed by her as it was celebrated by his enchanted followers.
“I prefer private messaging over face to face,” she typed back in Old Century Schoolbook. Her hands were cold. “It is the way now, isn’t it?”
“Only if you are a coward, which you aren’t,” replied G.O.D. “And he trusts you. He will not see it coming.”
Rowan’s house was a stately pile of ancient stones inherited from his father’s side and was as intimidating to Gisela this day as it had been decades before. Entering the hall she expected kiwi-coloured walls and raspberry tapestries in keeping with her old friend’s new life in e-colour. She found quite the opposite. Muted tones of slate and umber flowed over chocolate walls dramatically framing a man at home in his chilly foyer. Rowan greeted her with arms outstretched.
“I was expecting someone sooner or later. I’m glad it’s you.” He smiled at her and she at once remembered summer, and vinyl LPs and whispers in the backseat of his GTO.
“Damn you,” she melted. Gisela longed for peace, privacy and safety in the surety of what ought to be. “If you knew it was coming, then you knew it was wrong.”
He shrugged. “We don’t smoke anymore. We don’t go out without a helmet. We don’t make a move without asking for permission. Comme ça?”
“Don’t be dramatic Rowan,” she said pushing a misbehaving ginger curl behind a peach-toned ear. “There are other ways to leave the house.”
“Ipso facto, my clever girl.” The years separating them fell away and she longed to take him up again. “Now come closer. My wheels are locked.”
Rowan Ican’s chair was chrome and rubber and leather and she had a mind to re-imagine it with a Bimmer logo; a vehicle “For One™”. Funny, how it took nothing to cross the floor and everything to pick up a phone when he needed her most.
“You’re not locked, my love,” she said at last, her peach lobes dancing softly with every undulation of her cherry lips. “All it takes is a flip of a switch and you can move in any direction.” Gisela motioned to the toggle control at his right hand.
“Yes,” he said raising his hands to eye level. “And a mere flourish on a keyboard to bring you back.” Gisela knelt before him. “No. No,” he whispered softly stroking her lined face. “You have to do it. I betrayed you. All of you. Your stories weren’t mine to share.”
“And your accident was ours to ignore. Forgive us?”
Rowan nodded. The computer, buzzing compulsively in the far corner appeared to vie for their attention. But plums and figs had lost their lustre. In the whorls of Gisela’s glowing locks, he was warmed. She was real. Three dimensional. In the round.
“Pull the plug on that damn thing, will you?”