Town & Country, Ch.4: Truth Is A Dubious Concept
The new Mayor, Mayor Avery, walked steadily from stage left to the podium, where he was to deliver his ceremonious talk underneath the California sky. His right fist, hidden from his audience by a vessel of guts within a sack of skin, he held clinched. As he approached the podium, on the front of which was the club’s shield, he placed his left hand on the podium and slowly turned towards the mob of eager soon-to-be-shoppers and took a deep breath, for today the club was to open its mall.
“What a shame the weather couldn’t be much better, more representative of the world’s finest region,” he began beneath a sheet of gloom. “Today we are gathered here to celebrate a day I know I’ve been waiting for. A day that will be looked back upon as a milestone in the history of our club: the opening of the new Seraville Supermall. The Supermall will act as a keystone hub of commerce within our town, inflating an economy inside our realm, so that we all might prosper. Here children will be supplied with back-to-school clothes, mothers with medicine for their sick children and the husbands, the masters of the house, say, a new set of clubs. My fellow members—it’s morning again in Seraville.” In borrowed originality he spoke.
“Regular sales will allow Seraville shoppers the unique opportunity to gorge themselves in luxury at unheard of discounts. Who said there was a shortage of resources? Not so, if only you’ve got enough capital. Well, enough capital we will have, especially when all you dedicate yourselves to The Cause of making Seraville sustainable and self-sufficient…
…One way to help us do that, of course, is by spending your hard earned money—money you earned at jobs at the forefront of their particular invisible trades—here in Seraville. From such a habit, we would all most certainly benefit. We also offer the Seraville credit card. Why go outside of our jurisdictions when your debt can go towards upkeep and improvement here at your home away from home. In a nice gesture, the club will even be giving its workers free Seraville credit accounts, so that they may go shopping at the Supermall with fair-interest loans. Now, by no means do we want to waste anymore of this nice Saturday. So let’s begin! What we dearly want, is for Seravillians to do what Seravillians do best: to go out and spend money.”
The legions entered the new mall, replete with accoutrements and first order stuff. Landon and Ana had agreed to make a date of the celebration and so they walked, hand-in-hand, from shop-to-shop. In the midst of transactions, acquisitions and the like, the tops of shelves and in-between cracked and popped with the dance of inspections. People evaluated clothes and toys and associated price tags in a spendthrift web, whilst a dichotomous complex—with battle lines drawn where store and customer met—prolonged its inheritance.
Made resilient by consumer choice, the Seraville Supermall absorbed by stochasticsm its temporary residents. Personalities were nurtured in the four walls of different stores, all tailored to wants and desires supposedly already there. Change evoked by exchange made new people out of the old ones, for sentience blossoms and multiplies according to whereabouts, and mental isolates are simply a matter of stints being here, there or anywhere.
“Do you have anything specific in mind?” Landon asked Ana.
“No, I don’t think so. We don’t have to stay here too long. It is such madhouse on the first day.”
“Well, let’s look around at some shops, see what movies are being shown in the movie theatre on the third floor and then see where we stand.”
“We’ll be standing on the third floor at the movie theatre if we go there to see where we stand, Landon.” He looked at her and grinned. He had to hand it to her.
“Are we going to bicker like a married couple at the mall?” Landon asked. Ana laughed at the thought, and then replied:
“That was not bickering! A married couple? You hush! All right, let’s go into this clothes shop. I want to get you a pair of pants.”
“Which clothes shop? I don’t see a clothes shop,” Landon looked around, purposely overlooking the clothing store directly in front of them.
“It’s right in front of your face. God, you’re so difficult.”
Landon and Ana walked into the bustling store. Ana browsed the rack of men’s pants, whilst Landon stared at the ceilings and the walls. He was curious, periodically thumbing through a rack here and a rack there, but, after twenty-four years on earth, had yet to pinpoint his own fashion and was rather indifferent as to whether he’d ever find it.
“Here, Landon—go try these pants on. They should be your size. Actually, here,” she said, handing him the same pair but one size bigger. “Bring these ones back there just in case.” Landon took the hunter green pair of slacks and looked them up and down. They felt soft at the touch.
“She has good taste,” he thought to himself, remembering again something he had already known. He mused over the connection. “What does that have to do with our love?”
He carried the two pairs back to an empty dressing room stall—surprised that he didn’t have to fill out any dressing room registrations or contracts before entering—and shut the thin door behind him. He looked at the two pairs of pants, each identical to the other, and set them on the stool provided. He unbuttoned his pants and hung them from a rack opposite a mirror. He lifted the first pair of pants and began guiding his left foot through the pant-leg and then his right. With both legs in he began to pull them up towards his waist when the plastic, ink-filled security tag fell straight to the floor. Landon looked at it lying on the floor before buttoning the pants. They fit and were rather comfortable, he promptly noticed. He moved the superfluous pair, hanging them next to his own, and sat down.
“This place is packed, I bet there is a good chance I can just leave with these suckers on,” he thought to himself, his left hand covering his mouth. He jumped up and took his cell phone from his former pants and opened the stall.
“How do they fit?” Ana asked.
“They fit great,” Landon spoke softly.
“We should leave—the security tag fell off and nobody in a million years is going to notice amidst this racket.”
“Oh, Landon, give me a break. The tags are still hanging from your waist with the price on them. Plus, they’re only what—seventy dollars?” She whispered.
“Only seventy dollars!”
Already the two were walking towards the store exit weaving path in-between scattered persons. Their breath quickened as they walked through the electronically monitored front door, but on them they had nothing which might sound the alarm. Landon turned to his right and Ana turned to the left.
“Landon! That’s the direction we just came from! Will you follow me for Christ’s sake?” He obeyed obsequiously.
As the distance between the petty thieves and the victimized store lengthened, conversation once again revved its engine.
“Nice,” Landon eventually said.
“I can’t believe you had to do that. I thought you stopped doing that!”
“I had. But somebody ought to have put the security tag on a little bit more competently. I mean, the place was basically begging for it.”
“Oh, there you go justifying…”
“What?” he defensively interrupted in a high voice so as to convey his innocence.
“If I were trying to justify this I would argue that I was doing some upright and moral thing, like Robin Hood would do. I would say, I am bringing down civilization one petty theft at a time. Anyway, I thank you for wanting to buy me the pair of pants. I am going to buy us some lunch.”
“All right, that’s on the third floor, too—just like the theatre,” she said, letting bygones be bygones.
They headed towards the escalator and rode it up to the third floor. Once upstairs, they peered around at the potpourri of foods from the world over, from McDonald’s to Japanese buffet. Alas, they selected sub sandwiches. After they ordered, Landon reached into his pants to pay, but his search for cash was abbreviated. He felt his blood rush to the periphery of limbs. His wallet was absent. He looked at Ana who was looking at the cookies next to the cash register, and said to her:
“My wallet is in the pants in the store.”
She long-windedly turned her head: “What?”
“Yeah,” is all Landon had to say.
“Well, I’ll pay and then we’ve got to go back down there.”
She paid and Landon felt a fool. Rather than rushing to the store, which was Landon’s immediate plan, Barbeque—Landon’s colleague—called to them from a table in the cafeteria. Barbeque sat with a woman, overweight just as he.
“Let’s go sit with those two,” Landon mumbled under his breath to Ana standing by his side. “I don’t see me living this down, if we don’t.”
“All right, let’s go,” Ana said. They made their way to the table, trays of subs in hand.
“Hey you two,” Barbeque greeted enthusiastically, “Excited about the new mall? Been doing some shopping?” All empty questions. The same thought was shared by Landon and Ana, but neither uttered the truth of the matter.
“Definitely,” Landon said. “We just got this pair of pants for me downstairs.” Landon stood up, but left his knees partially bent to show off the pants.
“Wow man, and you’ve even put them on already,” Barbeque was impressed. “I like them—nice color.”
“Yeah, me too. Ana picked them out.”
“What’s the deal with the tags still,” Barbeque wondered aloud. Landon glanced down at the tags he was sporting.
“You know, it’s the in-thing,” he said slowly and without confidence, trying not to recall the haste in which they departed the store. “It’s like the kids with the hats. They don’t take the tags off until the hats get dirty—same thing, man. I’m proud of these jeans and I am going to wear the price tag proudly until they get all beat up.”
“Seventy dollars, eh?” Barbeque posed the question earnestly. “That’s pretty steep.”
“Yep, I know. That was the problem,” Landon said. The inside joke went over the uninitiated Barbeque’s head.
With Barbeque and his lady friend halfway through their meal, Landon and Ana dug into theirs. For the most part, silence divorced the two couples from each other, as neither could muster much to say. For Landon, a disinterest in Barbeque’s predictable expressions, at a moment as stressful as now, focused him instead on his turkey sub, made whole by lettuce, tomato and onions. Barbeque happily took verbal stabs at the silence, asking questions and making blanket statements. Despite a depreciation of answers, he kept at it. After five minutes of sitting together, Barbeque excused himself and his friend. They were fast eaters. Thereafter, Landon and Ana sat alone in silence, and silverware in the kitchens formed a chain of chimes.
“I can’t believe you left your wallet in your pants.” Ana was clearly irritated with Landon’s juvenility.
“I know, I know—I’m sorry. What are we going to do?”
“Well, you can’t walk in with those pants on and you can’t walk in with your boxers on, can you?”
“Hmm, do you really think just in my boxers would attract too much attention?” Landon posed the question as Ana took a bite of her sandwich. She laughed and began to choke a bit. He hit her on her back gently—a bit worried—but she was okay.
“And so once-a-fucking-gain I have to bail your dumbass out of a stupid, stressful situation. You take years off my life, Landon. Years!”
“Okay, so you’re going in? That’s great,” he said.
“You know what, Landon, I don’t really think we have much of a choice.”
“Yeah,” he said downtrodden. “Well, what are you going to say to them?”
“That you left your wallet in the store and you had to get to work after we left, you idiot.” “You’re the best,” and he kissed her on her cheek. “I hope it works.”
Without looking away from her sandwich, she said:
“Yeah, well me too. And I hope they don’t figure out what you’ve done.”
For the remainder of their lunch, they sat eating in silence. Once Ana was finished with her sandwich, she stood up without announcing her departure and walked to the trash. Landon sheepishly followed.
“Don’t be mad at me, it would have worked if I hadn’t forgotten my wallet,” he pleaded.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever—I’ll get over it. But, I’ve got to do some method acting to get into my role.”
“What role is that?”
“Well, I don’t have many options available to me—thanks to you. I’m thinking desperate and frazzled young woman.”
“I guess it will work. Depends on who you ask.”
“I ask the boy with long hair.” Landon was surprised at her organization.
“What!? Did you notice him when we there or something?” She smirked, but answered not. He was on thin ice, she figured, and so she’d let him wonder.
Once on the first floor, they approached the store from before. Landon took a seat at a fountain and Ana maintained her course. She entered the store, still full of activity, and took a look around to find a co-star for her lie. She walked up to him and got his attention.
“Yes, ma’am—I mean young lady—um…may I help you find something?”
“Well, yes—yes, you may. My friend and I were in here earlier and we bought a pair of jeans. But, he is a little bit of a space cadet and left his wallet in the dressing room. Do you know if, by chance, it was found?”
“I don’t, but I can certainly check.”
“Thank you so much.”
The twenty-something with the long hair walked away from organizing the racks and sought Landon’s wallet. Ana looked around, thumbing through the shirts displayed right where she had found the seemingly naïve and sheepish employee. After awhile, he returned.
“So, we found the wallet, but my manager won’t let me give it back to you. We’re going to need your boyfriend to come in and claim his wallet. You said he was at work?”
“Yes, he is at work. There is nothing else you can do for me?” she said, scrunching her forehead, cocking her head, and extending it forward.
“Afraid not,” he answered.
“Well, thankfully, he works very close to here and I think I can get him to stop by.”
“Ok, excellent then.” Ana smiled and turned around, her head reeling for solutions. She returned to the fountain only to find Landon in new garb. He sat looking up at her from the edge of the fountain, his eyes hidden behind aviator glasses and his hair covered by a black beanie.
“Where the hell did you get the beanie and aviators, Landon?”
“I took them from the store right over there. It was really easy. People have no clue what is going on around them.”
“Dammit, Landon! You’re going to get yourself fired at least, if not arrested. You work here for Christ’s sake. I can’t believe I still date you.”
“Woah! Low blow Ana,” he said, as he moved his upper half back away from her and lowered the aviators with his right hand.
“You should have seen how easy it was. Plus, sitting here exposed in broad daylight without a costume will get me just as fired as anything. I stole those jeans and now I’ve got to hide myself. Did you get the wallet?”
“No, I did not get your wallet. They want to talk to you.”
“Do they know about the jeans?”
“I don’t know, I don’t think so.”
“All right, I’m going in—cover me.”
Landon stood up, unbuttoned his pants and slid them down to his ankles. Ana buried her hands in her face and peaked around to see if anyone noticed. Some did, but nobody had the audacity to confront the two there in the middle of the mall. Landon fell over as he slid the pants over his shoes, landing on the edge of the fountain. He continued undressing his lower half while sitting. Once the pants were off, he rolled the pants up in his hands and put them into Ana’s purse. She didn’t seem to entirely mind. He nodded once at her; he in his red boxers, white sox, black t-shirt, new aviators and beanie.
“Are you drunk?” Ana asked.
“No!” Landon replied.
“You look ridiculous in that beanie in summer,” Ana said.
“But I look damn good in my boxers, right? All right, Ana, let’s be serious here—no playing around. So, I think you ought to just leave the mall and wait in the parking lot—just in case. I will meet you out there, I’m sure in no time.”
“Fine by me,” she said. “See ya!”
She left promptly and he stood still. He took a deep breath. He headed for the store. He walked in and was the center of attention. He walked with his chest stuck out. He followed the advice of Ana and approached the boy with the long hair.
“Yes, hello,” he began. “My name is Landon and I am the one who lost his wallet in the dressing room earlier. Fell right out of my pants.”
“Oh, of course. We do have it, let me go back and grab it.” The long haired young-man turned around and headed for the register. Landon stood in the middle of the store, shooting dirty looks at shoppers disgusted by his disguise. They were blank shots, though, for his eyes were hidden behind glasses. He saw an employee next to the long haired young-man approaching him, Landon’s wallet clenched in his fingers. The employee spoke first and to the point.
“Excuse me, sir. My name is Oswald and I am the manager here. It has come to our attention that you left your wallet at our store.”
“Yes sir,” Landon answered him positively.
“Well, it has also come to our attention that not only did you leave your wallet here, but you left an old pair of jeans here. And not only did you leave your wallet and an old pair of jeans here, but we are missing a pair of pants from our racks. It is also quite evident that you’re not wearing pants.”
“Haha, pantless eh?” Landon said, rolling back and forth on the balls of his feet. “Wouldn’t I be wearing pants if I had stolen pants from here?”
He swiped the wallet out of the manager’s hand and booked it. Once out of the store, and in the main hall of the mall, he had a straightaway until an exit. He was in a dead-sprint. On the same floor, a call came across Tim and Marlon’s walkie-talkies.
“We’ve got a twenty-something, in his boxers, alleged to have stolen a pair of pants, running for the north-gate. Can anyone meet him there?”
“Marlon and Tim are right there—we’ve got him,” Tim said over the airwaves.
As Tim finished the sentence, Landon came darting around the corner staring straight ahead, save for the occasional peek behind his shoulder. Marlon and Tim took off for him and Landon started to slam on the breaks. The three ran into each other, and the security guard’s aggressively grabbed at Landon’s clothes.”
“What the fuck! Landon?” Tim rhetorically asked, while Landon was on the ground. They picked up their culprit and threw him into one of the nearby security rooms.
“What are you thinking?” Tim asked. Landon kept his eyes at the ground
“Well?” Tim repeated his question.
“I don’t know, man. The pants were nice.”
“Where are they now?”
“They’re, they’re in the mall,” Landon said meekly.
“Where in the mall, Landon?”
“All right, Ana has them and Ana is in the parking lot,” Landon’s lie evaporated into nothing. “But please don’t go get her. She had nothing to do with this. All I’ve got to do is ask her for them and she will bring them in.”
“Damn straight she will!” A smile began to crack Marlon’s face, who stood at Tim’s side, and then onto Tim’s.
“Man, you’re pretty stupid,” Marlon said, trying to hide the smile, but it was too much. “You’re awfully lucky it was us who caught you and not some of the fat security guards. The fat security guards are the worst. You’re like dinner to them—a skinny white boy and shit.”
“Yeah, man,” Tim concurred. “Their mouths water whenever there is even a small possibility they might get to do something or arrest someone. It’s sick.”
“So, what, you guys aren’t going to report me?”
“Of fucking course you idiot,” Tim’s voice was raised. For a second there was silence, and then he and Marlon laughed again. Tim said: “Naw—what’s the point? Then we’d just have to fill out all this paperwork and shit—don’t even get overtime. Plus, you won’t be coming here much cause you’re like a Marxist or something.”
“Yeah, an anarchist,” Marlon said, under the impression he was somehow agreeing with Tim.
“And you guys are Black Panthers,” Landon said.
“Or something,” Tim said.
“We will just escort you and drop you off with your lady friend. The exit is right there anyway. I mean shit, you almost escaped! It’s probably better we caught you, though, because,” Tim paused a second and looked with a smile on his face at Marlon, “we’ve got a ton of security cameras all over this joint. We’ll just tell the store we got your information and banned you or something. Just keep that beanie and those stupid aviators on and you’ll be fine.”
“Thank you so much you two, you’re the best. I owe you some beer or pot or something,” Landon was genuinely thankful. Standing up in his boxers, he motioned to shake hands, but the two preferred to avoid a handclasp, as Landon was, after all, partially attired. There was an awkward pause.
“You know,” Landon began again slowly, the new pants I got are nice and all, but those jeans I left behind at the store are some of my favorites.” Marlon and Tim stood staring at Landon, not registering what Landon wished to imply.
“Yeah?” Tim asked, his eyes wide open with a slither of impatience.
“Well, maybe you could like, I don’t know…”
“Go and get your pants? You want us to go get your pants for you. You can’t be serious right now,” Tim yelled.
“Well, if the cameras catch me leaving in my boxers, everyone will know that you just sort of let me go,” Landon shrugged. Tim’s look expressed that he could not defy the logic.
“All right, man, if that’s what you insist.”
“I’ll go,” Marlon heroically volunteered.
“You’re gonna go?” Tim said in near disbelief, looking Marlon up and down. “You’re actually going to do something?”
“Actually do something? Brother, did you see me take down this villain, this scum?” Marlon said, pointing at Landon.
“No Marlon, I did not,” Tim said, raising his voice to match Marlon’s. “That’s because I was the one who took this perp down.”
“Yeah, whatever. He ain’t even that big anyway,” Marlon gave in.
“Look guys,” Landon interrupted. “It’s really cute listening to you two bicker, but I have feelings, too. And, to be honest, I think you both took me down equally. It was great teamwork; a real sight to behold. You couldn’t have done it without each other.”
“Yeah, you know, I guess you’re right,” Marlon said, patting Tim on his back. Tim returned the reassurance
“And we couldn’t have done it without you,” Tim said to Landon.
“I’m going to go get your jeans,” Marlon said.
“Cool, thanks,” said Landon.
Marlon left the small room where the three were and headed for the victimized store. Once inside he sought out the manager, the one who confronted Landon about the blatant shortcomings of his wallet story, and asked for the pants.
“Yes, hello, are you the manager?”
“Yes, I am, did you catch the perp lowlife, terrorist mother-fucker?”
“We did, and we are handling it. Listen, I was wondering: do you think we could get his old jeans from you—for evidence?”
“Of course, of course, no problem at all!” The man turned in a rush and came back quickly with the old jeans.
“Thank you very much, sir. This will make the investigation run much smoother.”
“No problem at all. Thank you for your hard work! Holy Security is the best security firm I’ve worked with.”
“Thank you, sir.” Marlon smiled at the manager and returned to where Tim and Landon awaited him.
“Here are your pantalonies, homeboy,” Marlon said upon his arrival.
“Awesome, thanks. Now I can vacate the mall by stealth.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Marlon responded.
“I guess that does sort of help all of us,” Tim said. “Now, get the fuck out of here before we change our minds.”
“I am out of here.”
Tim looked at Marlon: “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
“I know you have.”
Landon left. He entered into the liquidity of mall-life and walked as an atom to the exit for which he originally had groped. Outside, the sun warmed his skin—made leathery from the heat of the preceding series of moments—and he saw Ana sitting in the car, the roof reflecting illusive white rays. He exaggerated the swing in his arm and the bend in his knees, looking like a proud and undefeated man. Noting Landon’s prance, Ana peered through the windshield, looking unimpressed. She unlocked the car doors and Landon got into the car one foot at a time.
“What took you so long?” Ana queried, going for the jugular.
“Well, funny story.” And then, Landon commenced his sinister, tall tale.
While the buyers in the supermall went to their fantasy, the sellers remained outside. Mr. Avery and Clemens Roger, owner of BEST News, sojourned through the club. A rare walk it was, as Mr. Avery seldom ventured away from the center of the club into the affluent and surrounding suburbia. Not all who lived in these homes were members of the club, for the house was all that they could bother their net worths to afford. They could always dream, however, of one day becoming members.
Leaved trees twitched and the wind lagged aimlessly, while the two men—joined by a third, a General Alvarado—chatted. Incapable of divorcing from their old ways, they moved along—as they had—a path sodden with indifference. Their hopes and dreams, made goals by the ultimate cliché of history, that thirst for bottomless power, quickly waned like candles in a burning house. In each others company, they clung to the only way they knew.
“So, Mr. Avery,” began General Alvarado, the son of a member’s son of a member’s son of a member’s son or something of this sort. “I understand that you’d like to make innovative upgrades to the club here—to truly be at the forefront of country clubs in the region.”
“Indeed, General. I am interested in helping our members reach their full spiritual and entrepreneurial potential. I think that Seraville can be more than a place where members come simply to relax. But, instead, a place where they come to, perhaps, do their most important business. I want the members here to be safe and secure, while having access to the resources which really can make them reach the next level in the world.
Over generations, few people ever enjoy the benefits of spare change: money—sprouted from luck, the past or work—they can spend on the comforts of leisure,” Mr. Avery played his hand, an eye towards the future.
“What you’re looking to do, Mr. Avery,” said the General, “is to evolve the club to keep up with the pace of global change. Mcmansions across the country will be substituted for cardboard, but here the amenities will be tucked safely away for the privileged.”
“The best way to achieve all of these goals is to separate Seraville—that is, ourselves—from all the rest,” Mr. Avery said.
“I couldn’t agree with you more fully, Mr. Avery. I don’t think it would set you too far adrift of your goals if you constructed a mote around the club. Better now than in, say, ten years. If you started building today, you could argue it was some sort of environmental project.”
“How do you mean, General: some sort of save the Great White campaign? Are you meaning to say we could farm Great White sharks in the mote in order to protect the species?”
The neighborhood through which the three walked was quiet, as California neighborhoods tend towards. Inside homes, televisions told fairy tales like clever mothers of some nether worldly past.
“There are so many different approaches to running something like a club, it really fascinates me,” admitted Mr. Avery. “I must admit, until recently, I was rather behind the times in respect to these sorts of things; that is, mass psychology or whatever you prefer to call it. Group-think is a stupefying feedback loop—something so difficult to understand except in the most simple of terms. That is precisely why it is so easy to get a handle on it once you do begin to ponder for the first time.”
“You’re right, Mr. Avery: something as complex as this, when scaled back to the vaguest of generalities, is really quite simple and understandable,” the General said. “And when people aren’t on the lookout for where their very own opinions originate, it is child’s play to develop a virgin mind through suggestion. I do, I must admit, although somewhat shamefully, find myself thinking—to be sure, less-and-less over the years—from where does this cupid ideology for greed and power stem? This need to court groups of people?”
“I don’t want you to think I am doing this to get my own jollies off, because I am not. At least I don’t think that is why,” said Mr. Avery. “I want my club to be affable to the way things are. We all have to make sacrifices in life and I think that is something the three of us understand.” Each nodded, Mr. Clemens included.
“You simply desire to tread the warpath motivated, depending on how you look at it I guess, mostly by greed—a greed hovering beyond the edge of the finite,” the General philosophized. “A philosophy has appeared at the centerpiece of life on this earth that has been used to justify the greed. It is the philosophy of law and order. Our minds need to be able to predict. Men before us have tasked themselves with disrupting the forces of what’s natural and, eventually, the recreation of man’s perception of reality and himself. It is this path, that we too tread.”
“Yes, this seems to me to be an accurate portrayal, General, and I think this is something at which Mr. Roger’s news stations excel,” Mr. Avery opined, looking at the quiet Mr. Roger. “And the remolding of perception begins when the individual starts to doubt himself. The unconscious knowledge that we are only products of interaction with others, and the realization that all others are so imperfect, as they seemingly are, causes us to doubt ourselves, our loved ones and our best friends. So, everything of which we are a part—everything our ancestors helped to realize—is a chimera that does not necessarily deserve to be revised or protected for that matter. Or so we begin to think,” Avery said.
“Well, of course not us,” the General quickly added. The General was on the same page, and picked up exactly where Avery had left off:
“It’s called denial and we are all to a great extent products of its working,” the General ranted, as if matter-of-factly. “It’s unconscious and meant to be in our self-defense, protecting us from guilt, anxiety, and the other disturbing feelings aroused by reality. The act of denying can be both on purpose and completely subconscious,” he paused for a second and the three walked in silence on the gravel of a path, crunching rocks beneath their soles. By now, they were far removed from the supermall, where club members turned shoppers were doing what they did best. The General, after thinking over where he wished to take his shared thoughts, followed sequentially the prior train of reflection:
“Greed is an open invitation for deliberate and intentional denial of actions through lying, concealment and deception. Greed, for the greedy, is a blinder just as television is for the run-of-the-mill folk. Christ, even Jesus’ injunction to love others as you love yourself, in the logic of greed, translates to an argument for total self-interest,” the General explained, shaking his cocked head with a smirk wiped across it. “But, as far as the general public of naive humans is concerned, people who behave like this are not endemic to society. Most people simply don’t think people like this have as much influence as they truly do. Madness is on the fringe, not the driver, they tell themselves, in search of comfort. It’s no wonder they sleep so well at night, while their ancestors grab at their dreams, doing all their ghosts can do to warn the contemporaries.”
“Well, it’s either that or sleeping pills,” Mr. Avery joked. The three laughed.
Up ahead, children played basketball with a hoop. They took a mere partial notice of the three courtly club members, but had not the experience to distract themselves with such celebrity. The three men did not share their acknowledgement of the bubble of youthful energy blown around the radiant kids. It lighted a weak flame deep inside Mr. Avery, the General and Mr. Clemens. The chirping laughter of the children was broken by the roar of a helicopter overhead.
“Quite blatantly,” Mr. Clemens started up, finding occasion to chime in, “civilization is madness. Pragmatism within this context—well, pragmatism within this context doesn’t exist. What truly amazes me, is the across-the-board sentiment that humans are totally screwed, and the fact that, still, even then, people don’t talk to their neighbors.”
“I could agree with that,” said the General. “But, more to the point, there is nothing we can do about it. That is something we, as three successful men, have to remember. We must tell ourselves: things couldn’t be any better; they simply are as they are. We have to work with what we’ve been handed. I’d like to touch on denial once again, if it’s okay.”
“Yes, yes,” Mr. Avery insisted. “Naturally.”
“Ok—so, ordinary lives are crafted by that subconscious sort of denial, and therefore—unknowing and insecure—are easily organized and institutionalized. Everyone deep down knows the matrix of lies about which they joke, truthfully, impinges on their understanding of themselves and the sights around them. They, nevertheless, allow themselves to be crafted. Institutions are nothing, but where our inner-habits and our collective, unstated—or sometimes stated—agreements meet. From there, the route of belief is simply that which comes down the pike. Funny thing is, people can go on believing something while simultaneously believing there is no such thing as truth.”
“Truth is a rather dubious concept, so they get caught up in truth-games, yet truth is a byproduct of power,” Avery offered after the General’s winded allocution. “And to deny there is a way to truth, like so many subconsciously or consciously submit, is effectively disbelieving in your own ability to find answers of your own.”
“Yes,” the General agreed. “And there is little possibility, then, that the subject will be able to see the source of most phenomena in our social world. The invisible hand is no hand at all, but just a series of loosely related and out of control actions and reactions—transcendent and indefinable—or so many people choose to tell themselves.”
There were minute smiles across all three faces. Avery and the General each walked with their hands crossed behind their backs, but neither had noticed who assumed this position first. Mr. Roger walked with both hands in his pockets.
“And so it is convenient for those who see beyond this, and for those who can’t resist the opportunity for enrichment, to play the role of shepherd. To take advantage of the situation,” the General said shrugging, before carrying on. “Now, I am no historian, but I have an inkling of the past in mind. The lasciviousness can be extricated from the beginning times of recorded history. Sure, greed seems to be pretty persistent in most times and places, but these days technology has given it a whole new frame of reference. Now, fiefdoms, towns, municipalities, cities, frontiers are not the ultimate prize. The ultimate prize is life its-very-self. From all the apparent disorder and change—man becoming in all earnestness overwhelmed, too much for even himself—a static idolatry of power, disrespectful of national borders, ballooned and engulfed the wide world.” The General could not prove this, although he did, after all, dabble his spare time in history. He had never seen combat—no, not even in Vietnam. “Democracy is unaware of its own limits. It no longer suffices.”
“You’ve made a career out of this idolatry have you not?
“I wear a uniform for a living, Mr. Avery, just the same as you.”
“Yes, this is true. But the persons can rest assured it is in their best interest.”
“Always in their best interests,” the General said. “As I say, there is no reason not to trust a man in a suit. Anyway, I’ve got to be going, Mr. Avery and Mr. Roger, as I told you earlier I could only meet for a short time after your speech. Great speech, by the way.”
“Thank you, General. Enlightening talk. Next time we ought to focus a little more on club affairs.”
“Yes, excuse me for that, won’t you? I have a proclivity to get off track.”
The parties agreed to be in touch and Mr. Avery and Mr. Clemens walked together in the opposite direction of the General. An animated sun tore the absence of light asunder, and gossamer clouds filled the void, acting as the carpet of heaven. After the speech had fallen on Seraville ears, the crowd promptly dispersed and shopped into the night. For the most part, individuals went their own ways, toward their own favorite stores. A kernel of members, however, stayed put outside the mall. That is when one, Umberto Navardi, approached Danny. Umberto had made his fortune quite simply. He had bought gold in the early seventies and become a trader in South African gold and jewels. Of he kept to himself.
“So Danny, what do you think of the new Seraville, the New Freedom?”
“Well, Umberto, Seraville is no island. It’s a reflection of the city of quartz. Some of the new features seem useful for some—you know, the people running the joint. But it’s not like Los Angeles or the country is much different.”
“I agree. It’s too bad. Not much two cells on a serpents tongue can do about it. Freedom saunters on the breeze, on out to sea, outta reach. Freedom is an ideology, it seems, phonemes prescribed and imagined in a time and place.”
“Yep. You ought to talk to Landon about these sorts of things. Interesting young man, that Landon.”
“Landon, the caddy and waiter?” Umberto replied, seeming surprised.
“Yep, Landon the caddy and Landon the waiter.”
“Hmm, he never struck me as being curious or much interested in club affairs.”
“Maybe it’s the club’s caddy uniform.”
“Maybe so. But, I’ve often thought in the last weeks about revoking my membership and perhaps looking for a smaller, quainter club. You know what I mean?”
“Yep, I’ve had similar thoughts, but I’m not so sure about it. The club is but an emerald in a vale, a dying fish with little direction except for what the tides do around it. The terms and conditions seem to be hooked to a steady I.V. of steroids—getting stricter all the time—but, again, there is not much we can do about it” Danny mused. “And I don’t see it as much important. All that is important is to do whatever we are doing and do it well—if even just for the hell of it.”
“How well-tempered and patient of you. It could even be that, since freedom is imbued unto us by nature, we can feel it, breathe it, and therefore never truly lose sight of it,” Umberto’s optimistic side shone through.
“But, there is more truth to the fact that the terms and conditions are to us, what a puppeteer is to a puppet. The strings align the purview, they get pulled tighter, and the ripples are eradicated. It is then when even non-conformity conforms to its own previous, tested and failed standards.”
Danny blew air out of his mouth and his lips flapped. He nodded and shrugged. Danny knew well the road which his once humble and homely club had set out upon, for the code of the future was encrypted in the present. It was simultaneously liberating and alienating not to lie to oneself, for then—and only then—did the obfuscations and insinuations crack like glass bombarded by its own resonant frequency. The question, nonetheless, of why all others indulge in the lie thereafter begged. As well as the question, should he remain? For it is here his closest relationships had been formed. Plus, he had not many relationships. Danny and Umberto talked for a short while longer before finishing. Neither entered the new super mall.
Danny went home. He sat on the roof of his home that evening atop a hill in Topanga Canyon. The sun dipped until it met the ocean like the tongue of a parched animal meeting a wayside puddle. On his roof, Danny had tubes for his rainwater catchment system; despite that it rarely rained, he still collected a fair amount of water, on average. It made him nervous—just a bit—when helicopters flew overhead.