Friday, April 13, 2007

Chapter Nine: Eat Up the Plagiarism

The janitor's mop swirled back and forth along the messy tile. It didn't seem to clean anything, only smear it, the mop only pushing the filth further into the grout. He watched the mop as it neared his feet - when it did, Todd looked up into the eyes of the cleaning woman. She feigned a smile and then slowly shook her head - her eyes closing for effect - as she continued on her way across the room towards the stage. Once their gaze had broken, Todd's eyes fell to the floor once more as his hand brushed away more wetness on his face.

How could this have happened? He asked himself with anger and disdain.

How are we going to recover from this? The memories of the night again began to flood into his consciousness...

***

He was running around like a madman, and he knew it. It just didn't matter. It was only thirty minutes until the reading was to begin, and his reader had called out. Understandably, the death of Kurt Vonnegut had taken a toll on the literary community, and they were all taking the night off to reminisce and honor Mr. Vonnegut's genius with closed-door readings between authors - no public allowed. This had placed Todd in a terrible position. He didn't want to cancel again, because he had to do that two weeks ago. Instead, he was running around talking to every patron, trying desperately to find an author before show-time. So far, no dice. He was beginning to lose his mind when Todd spotted a young man enter the Lit Snob. He looked to be college age, was freshly shaved, and certainly dressed the part with his brown blazer, pressed slacks, and professional-looking shoes. Todd approached the young man and asked him rather directly,

"Sir, are you an author?"

Apparently, the young man thought that Todd was talking to someone else, only realizing that he was on the spot when Todd tapped his shoulder.

"Who me? Ah, um, yeah, I'm an author - why?"

Todd's face lit up with dual excitement and relief. He eagerly shook the man's hand and began to explain to him his predicament. Once he had finished, the young man looked a little nervous.

"Gee, sir, I just don't know. I haven't done a reading in a long time. And besides, I don't think I even have any of my work on me at the moment."

"Please man, you've got to help with this. If I don't find a reader before the top of the hour, these people are going to leave. And they're never going to come back. So please ... and I'll even make an exception." Todd reached into his back pocket and removed his wallet. Examining the contents, he withdrew a hefty amount of money.

"Here, one hundred dollars. It's yours. Try to remember something - make up something off the top of your head - anything! Just put on a great reading!"

The young man eyed the wad of cash eagerly; then, realizing his obvious stare, he regained his composure.

"Well, if you put it that way, maybe I do have something in this bag of mine ... it's a deal."

The relief showered over Todd like a wave of heat. Handing the money over, he gave his new friend one last piece of advice.

"Be ready in five minutes. And be ready for a tough crowd."

The young man looked at him with an easy and casual demeanor.

"Don't worry, I can handle them. I've got pure gold."

***

The stage was set, and Todd has just explained the situation regarding the expected reader of the night, and had just introduced his newest friend and the night's new reader, Mr. Jacob Idlier. As usual, the claps and snaps came sparingly - this young grasshopper has not won their approval yet. Jacob climbed onto the stool, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a lone piece of paper - it looked like a page from a small writing journal. Clearing his throat awkwardly, he began.

"Hello everyone, this selection is from my poem, "She Ate a Bad Apple" - I hope you all enjoy it."

In the day we eat
Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die!
How dies the Serpent? he hath eaten and lives,
And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,
Irrational till then. For us alone
Was death invented? or to us denied
This intellectual food, for beasts reserved?
For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy
The good befallen him, author unsuspect,
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? rather, what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: What hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat! --

Jacob was going to continue when he heard a noise. A noise that he immediately discerned was the sound of people gasping and in all other ways entering into shock.

Then a coffee cup hit him square in the face - luckily, it was only one-quarter full.

Then the obscenities began...

***

Looking down at the small piece of paper in his hand, Todd was faced with his own stupidity.

It was a page from the Norton Critical Edition of John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Jacob had instantly bolted for the door, taking his burned face - and Todd's $100 - right out there with him. When the police arrived, they were unable to find any trace of the young con-man All they found were upturned tables, coffee-stains on the furniture, and a hell of a lot of liquid on the floor. The same liquid that was now being driven into the tile by the janitor's mop.

Todd looked around at the pig-sty that had been the reader's corner of the Lit Snob. He realized that he had one week to come up with something big.

It was the only way that he could save his - and his business' - reputation.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Oh, no! Not only did he pick from Paradise Lost, but he chose the most recognizable part. Well, outside of the ending.

And that man has your jacket. You should get that back!