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Story, by Barry Grant.
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The Mysteries of His System
The Verses in His Life
A Love Story
by Barry Grant
there is too much there there
"Professionally designed and installed closet organizing devices are only a partial solution to the problem of domestic disarray," Audie observed as he burrowed through the scrum of dry goods that lived in the network of poles and racks and bins in the bedroom closet. "Whenever I put something in the closet, everything is fine. Whenever I look for something, everything is a mess. How can that be?"
Audie pulled a striped sock from the patch pocket of his blue blazer. "My mind is like the bedroom closet," he said to himself. "Self and system, noise and music, time and spirit all tossed together omnio-gathero. The linguistic philosophers say metaphysical problems arise from the misuse of language. . . Can proper conceptual organization alleviate mental muddles?" Audie plunged his arms into a thicket of sweaters and scarves. "Any organizing system is arbitrary, not arbitrary exactly. . . artificial, pragmatic. One solution to a problem that has many solutions. Socks here, but they could be there. Handkerchiefs with shorts, while they could as well go with the tee shirts. Didnt Wittgenstein realize this in his later philosophy?"
"Pruuuuue," Audie howled into a heap of caps, gloves, and wool socks laying higgledy-piggledy on the top shelf. "Have you seen my gray sweater? The one I always wear?"
"Is it in the hall closet?" Prudence answered from the kitchen where she was making sandwiches for the plane trip to THE Show. Audie and Prudence always took homemade sandwiches on domestic flights.
"Never mind. It was . . ." Audie yanked the sweater from under a pile of cellophane-wrapped shirts and stuffed it into the old sea bag he used when he traveled. "Damn," he said glancing at his watch. "Prue," he yelled, "weve got to get going."
"Whats this?" Audie exclaimed, spying a scrunched up piece of paper stuck between a suitcase and several shoe boxes. "The closet is a mess, but its not a waste bin."
He carried the crinkly ball to the kitchen, pressing it into the grain ridges of the oak table from Edith as he flattened it. "It seems to be a test. Printed on that paper the nurse pulls across the examination table. The Mysteries Quiz. Strange."
Prudence put the last aubergine and onion sandwich into a canvas carrying bag and glanced down at the paper. "Its a perfect name for a quiz, Audie," she said.
"Prue," Audie exclaimed. "Its about us! All progress comes from uncertainty. I said that to you, or to myself. I dont remember. I remember thinking it could serve as the basis for a theory of history. A theory only needs one good idea. The rest is exegesis. . . And you said this about Mr. Bell and birds. And this about perfect things, the most wonderful and terrible idea I have ever heard. How did it get there? Where did it come from?"
Prudence grasped Audies hand and pulled it to her lips. "Who knows where one thing ends and another begins? Everything connects. The closet has an opening in the bedroom and one in a room in another city or suburb."
"Like that man in the movie with a hole in his head?"
"Like that. Or maybe we are not alone in this apartment. Maybe someone enters and leaves messages in obscure places. We think we are the authors of our lives, but who knows. There are mysteries everywhere."
"Like that man who shaves and paints and coats and covers CDs for better sound? Its not just ones and zeros and no one knows why."
"Like that, a mystery. There are many reports of objects dematerializing in one place and rematerializing in another. Most people dont take them seriously."
"The dominant ideology precludes awareness of these phenomena?"
"Yes. The surprise theory of reality at workif it would be a surprise if it were true, it isnt!"
"Ha!" Audie said, his eyes lighting with pleasure at his beloveds cleverness. "Thats great, Prue! Sure, people say, Id be surprised if this amplifier sounded good with these speakers and believe it wouldnt. Or they say, Id be surprised if there was an international banking cabal, and believe there couldnt possibly be one. Or they say, Id be surprised if there was a cycle of birth and rebirth and continue their egoistic ways. It explains a lot."
Audie bent forward. Prudence gently kissed the top of his head. Audie loved it when Prudence kissed him like this. He felt as if all his sins were forgiven.
"Prue, sure everything connects. I was just thinking that, sort of. But arent you afraid? Who wrote the quiz. Who put it in the closet?"
Prudence brushed the side of her hand across Audies cheek. An arch smile spread across her face. "Didnt you once say at a certain level of analysis all theories are absurd?"
"I guess I did."
Prudence took the paper from the table, pressed it against her cheek, and laid it down. "Whoever put the paper in the closet," she said, "a spirit, an occult will, or a being beyond our understanding, is friendly and means us well. Im not afraid."
"OK, I relax."
Audie grasped Prudence by her shoulders and gazed into her soft brown eyes. He pulled her toward him. His lips met her lips soft moist lips tender comforting lips sweet loving lips. Audie and Prudence loved to imagine that the faint indentations of their lips meshed in a numinous harmony.
"You are always right, Prue, about the important things. Most things, actually. Almost every single thing, really. But, you were wrong last week about the concert. One hundred and four washing machines in simultaneous action make a majestic sound."
"Oh Audie, I love you," Prudence said. " I liked the concert too. Only I couldnt help thinking about one hundred and four women loading the machines hundreds of times in their lives."
"Look! How could we have missed this?" Audie pointed to a sentence at the bottom of the page. The person with the most correct answers wins a prize. A John Cage CD of zir choice. Zir? Did we miss a liberation movement? You send your answers to email@example.com. Do you think bgrant has a hand in this, or is it a drop box address? And why John Cage? Cage believed in freedom and people making up their own minds, not in right answers and sneaking into closets."
"Audie, weve got to catch our plane. If we miss this flight, theres not another until tomorrow, and weve got to find Mr. Bell."
Audie looked up at the Cyclock dangling from the kitchen ceiling. "Its a beautiful thing Edith made, but I still dont see how can you read a clock that shows sidereal time simultaneously in twenty-four zones?"
"You look and you see," Prudence replied.
Prudence carried the canvas carry-on and her suitcase to the front door.
"Whatll we do with the quiz?" Audie asked as he set his sea bag next to the suitcase and pulled on his jacket.
"We shouldnt enter the contest. We know all the answers, or most of them. If we leave it on the table, someone who wants a John Cage CD may find it and win the prize."
"Prue, that is a sweet idea," Audie said as he grabbed the bags. He bent his head and lapped at Prudences neck, smiling as he recognized the familiar taste, bitter from perspiration and residue of olive oil soap.
The apartment door closed with a gentle snap. Audie and Prudence departed for the fertile valleys.
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