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Where is Beckett Stone?
The Lambertville House Hotel, 32 Bridge Street, Lambertville, New Jersey
Beckett was seated comfortably, in a plush, comfy chair, within his large, premium suite, as a manicurist rubbed his submerged feet; sunk in hot, bubbly water. He was reading the local paper. He was growing fond of reading the local newspapers in the morning. And if his comfort could not get any better, a gas fireplace kept the winter chill off the back of his neck, which was being massaged by the hotel masseuse.
And as the manicurist applied a clear polish to his toenails, an envelope sailed underneath the crack of his door.
Standing in his boxer shorts, with foam separators between his toes, Beckett tore open the envelope to find an invoice twenty-five pages in length. He flipped through the document, not believing what he was seeing. Every purchase he had made since landing in New York was captured in full on the invoice. Beckett didn’t know what to make of it. However, there was a little note at the bottom – in the tiniest print:
Please see Concierge, at your earliest convenience, to settle this matter. Beckett thought that one over as he looped the rope chain with the hanging stone around his neck.
As Beckett put on a burgundy, Burberry coat, looking handsome as ever in grey cords and Rayban sunglasses, a poster caught his attention just outside his window. Two men in blue jumpsuits, on two separate tall ladders, were pasting a gargantuan poster on the side of a brick building. In bold, black letters – across a white expanse on the building, read: “Who is Beckett Stone? Who IS Beckett Stone? Tell me, who is HE?” The men stopped pasting, removed their caps and just stared in Beckett’s direction. Beckett, dumbfounded, backed away from the window and hurried out of his hotel room to the lobby floor. Barreling through the front doors and onto Bridge Street, he looked up at the brick building; no poster existed: no men, no ladders – no bold letters.
Flummoxed = √
Taking a stroll down a slice of Americana, Beckett walked 49 feet before stopping at the entrance of The Artist’s Gallery – at #18, Bridge Street. A painting, Beckett could see from the street, caught his attention. As he walked through a bevy of customers and art enthusiasts, Beckett could feel the power of this piece of work, as it riveted him. The piece was far less flashy, far more muted in color than the others hanging on the walls; but something about the painting hit him in the solar plexus.
For whatever reason, luckily, no one was standing near it. He felt as if this fortunately composed piece of art was hanging up on the blank wall for him and him only. The painting, simply titled “Desert Heart” by Robert Deybers, depicted a Valentine’s Day-type-of-heart, sitting smack dab in the middle of a rough, desert terrain. The heart, however, was a mirror, and it reflected the sand and sky and brush. Beckett looked about himself to see if anyone else in the damn gallery were having the same type of epiphany he was having…but no. Not a one. Beckett turned to the curator – an elderly man wearing a Panama hat and leaning on an ivory cane:
“I have to buy this painting.” Beckett then turned his head back to the painting, stared right through it, “I have to buy this painting, because this is where it’s all going to end for me. It’s all going to end right there and I dread the thought of it.”
The curator nodded his head in amusement. “Well, okay …that’s as good a reason as any, right?”
“And …and …” Beckett was pondering hard on the painting and the magical qualities of it. “And …I have to send this painting…I have to send this painting …to…” It was then that Beckett produced a business card, looked it over, and handed it to the curator.
The curator read the details of the business card aloud: “The Furnace Creek Resort, Death Valley National Park. Okay. Hmmm…”
“Money is no object, Sir.”
I think this can be arranged,” said the curator as he walked around behind his desk and had begun typing on his computer.
“How much is this painting?” Waiting for an answer, Beckett had begun eavesdropping on two middle-aged women admiring a trio of paintings depicting The Rape of Persephone.
“It’s a brilliant set of paintings, aren’t they,” Beckett asked the two women – both with ruddy complexions and sandy hair. They looked like twin sisters.
“Oh yes, very much so,” said the one sister, who was noticeably different from her twin in that she had a scar that ran horizontally under her nose.
“Very powerful!” said the other.
“They’re yours,” said Beckett.
“Excuse me? What?” said scarsister. “What did he just say?” said the other.
“If you love these paintings, I will buy them for you. Right here, right now, no strings attached.”
Standing up slowly and leaning across his desk, the old curator squinted his eyes – stared at Beckett. “Are you Bill Pike?”
“Bill who? Pike? No. Why?”
“He too had a very similar experience with a Monet painting.”
“Is that right? Sorry, not me. How much for the painting – and you can add this series as well.”
“Oh, no, no, no, no,” exclaimed the sisters in unison.
“I insist! I do insist. Please. I have lots of money and would love to buy these paintings for you.”
“We like the painting, but not enough to own it. We thank you …really. That was a very generous offer,” said scarsister.
“Is there anything else in the gallery I can buy for you?”
“Excuse me,” said a man wearing a Philadelphia Eagles winter coat and mirrored, policeman type sunglasses.
“Who’s that?” asked Beckett turning around and seeing the rotund man pointing at a painting.
“I like this one of a dog taking a shit on a fire hydrant.”
The football fan pumped his arm. “Score!”
Beckett smiled just then, casually looking at the “Desert Heart”. The organ – the undefinable something that separated him from them. There it was – as a metaphorical symbol – with all its limitations and finiteness. Beckett was the desert. Lacking that muscle magic that motivated people; that drove them each day, knowing their heart could collapse and stop thumping at a moment’s notice. How beautiful and tragic to be a part of that. To love and excel knowing that.
Envy = √
Defiant = √
Beckett was at the hotel bar, map of ol’ glory before him, on a cell phone: “I need the storage of the painting to be open ended. Money is no object. I can overnight a bank check to you. Name the price.”
The bartender placed a cherry seltzer down before him. “Because I don’t want to put it in a storage facility, I want it at the hotel. What? Yes… that’s right.” Beckett found Death Valley on the map and pressed upon it with his index finger. “May I speak to a manager on staff? I seem to be getting nowhere with you and this is a grave waste of my time.” Beckett grinned at the bartender and took a swig of his cherry seltzer. “Thank you, refreshing.”
“You’re very welcome, buddy.”
“Just so you know, I plan on sitting in this seat until something wonderful happens. I am not going to move a hair off this seat, until something of great importance happens.”
“It’s a slow day, fine with me, bud.”
Beckett is intensely looking over the map when the bartender walked over: “Someone to see you at the concierge desk. Maybe something wonderful is about to happen.”
“Maybe…watch my seat for me…”
As Beckett left the bar, he remembered that the concierge wanted to “settle” the invoice with him. So he took his walk slow and casual, remembering that the Concierge was someone who was delightful enough, and had been kind to keep a steady stream of Vantage Cherry Seltzer bottles arriving at his suite. So there shouldn’t have been anything to worry about. That is until he approached the desk and noticed the life and color fade from the gentleman’s face. It was as if the soul had been temporarily removed, and a ventriloquist’s hand installed through the concierge’s back. They were the eyes of a dummy. Gone. Lifeless. Beckett placed both hands gently on the desk: “Yes? You asked for me?” Nothing came from the mouth. No sound. No information, but Beckett was hearing him all right. “Would you please just speak in English?”
“You’re a fool, Beckett. A fool! You are becoming just like them,” said the concierge, who was not the concierge. “Weak. Desiring. Gluttonous!” The voice was moving far quicker than the mouth. “Have you seen the expenditures? Where does this come from, huh? You are being watched. You are detailed. You are failing. Pedicures? Pedicures! Really…Beckett? You are an observer. An observer, or have you forgotten that. If you continue to cling you will die empty like the rest of them. This project will fail if you continue to act like them. You are not them. Act like it!” screamed the horse, shrill voice. “This mission is not being looked upon favorably and they just may decide to test you. You better hope they are lenient. You won’t soon forget being tested, I can assure you.”
“Is that all?”
“Don’t be smug! You are in for a hell. Have you heard of their hells?”
“I’ve heard some talk about the hells…yeah…”
“You couldn’t handle it. They will have you screaming. Nothing is as horrible as human suffering. You had better stiffen up, Beckett. This is a warning. A final warning, Beckett Stone. I had said my peace. Get out of my face!”
Beckett just nodded his head. He felt schooled, as he backed away, noticing – as the blood and life returned to the face of the awfully wonderful and serviceable concierge. And as he approached the bar, walking backwards, the man was back to his full glory, smiling, completely unaware that his body had been borrowed.
Beckett returned to his bar seat and waited and observed and waited. Glass after glass of cherry seltzer. If the bartender were a betting man, he would’ve drop a week’s pay that he hadn’t once seen Beckett get up to go to the bathroom. He must’ve had 14, 15 glasses easily of that fucking seltzer, the bartender thought to himself.
At the twenty-third hour, a burly man and a voluptuous woman sat on the stools just to the right of Beckett. Both ordered beers. After the bartender had dropped the suds on coasters, the man – wearing a black vest, bolo tie and cornrows for hair, turned to the woman: “Damn it to hell, I forgot to hit the ATM. I’m out of money.”
“Don’t you have a credit card?” said the woman, who was a middle-aged, attractive, buxom woman with a jet black, Buster Brown haircut.
The man stuttered a bit as he felt about himself for money: “I, uh, I uh…don’t carry credit cards.”
“I’ll take care of it,” said the woman as she dipped in her purse.
“I wouldn’t think of it! Put that away. Bartender, is there an ATM in the lobby?”
“No, Sir. I’m afraid it’s out-of-order, but there is a Wells Fargo across the street.”
“And pay a fee? Never!”
Beckett, who had been staring at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar, woke up from his void. “I’ll take care of their drinks, bartender.”
“No, no, no, Sir. I appreciate that highly, but I couldn’t have another man pay for my date’s drink.”
“Stop being silly. You can ask the bartender. I have been sitting here all day waiting for something to happen, and here it is. You both happened, and for that I am a very happy fellow. Worth two drinks.”
“Are you even old enough to drink? You don’t look more than sixteen.”
“On the contrary, I am an old, twenty-one years of age.”
“Old, eh? Well, this is very embarrassing…but, Okay. I’m going to have to pay you back somehow.”
“Think nothing of it.”
“My name is Val Smith, and this here is my female friend, Miranda.” The three shook hands.
“I’m Christopher. Christopher Kelvin. A pleasure to meet you both. What brings you here to this marvelous hotel?”
“Well, I am a record dealer. Deal mostly in 1980s, rare, vinyl records.”
Beckett turned in his seat, a peaceful look on his kisser. “Oh, I love 1980s music!”
“See, right off the bat, we have something in common.”
The three of them carried on for more than an hour, Beckett paying for all of the additional drinks.
“If you’ll excuse me, Christopher, I have to use the men’s room,” said Val.
Beckett was left alone with Miranda. There was a feeling raging inside him that he wanted to see her without her clothes on. “What brings you here to the hotel?” asked Miranda, “We don’t know a thing about you.”
“Well, I was born on the Roosevelt Island tram and I am wondering around like a nomad.”
She smiled. “I see you have a sense of humor – and your good looking.”
“Other than that, I am just observing. Observing humanity one person at a time. Taking mental notes.”
“I’ve noticed you’ve been observing me as well,” Miranda said, pushing up her bra from the shoulder straps. Beckett didn’t answer. “Why haven’t you had any liquor? You’ve ordered three seltzers since we’ve been here.”
“I don’t drink.”
“Friend of Bill W’s, huh? Yeah, I was a friend. Not anymore.”
Val was inside a cramped bathroom stall, with index finger in his mouth, vomiting violently. “Arrgghhh…get out of this body…ahhhhh…” Val garbled, as he choked, coughed and hurled some more former beer into the toilet. He clicked and clicked and clicked his remote for assistance. “This business is sick. I hate it. Ahhhhh rats this is awful…” Val sticks his finger down his throat again and more of the hot lava poured forth.
Val exited the bathroom a new man, full of spring and zing. “Okay, would do you say we hit our room and I show you some of the vinyl I have.”
“I don’t think so, Val…”
“Please, it’s the least I could do…you’ve bought so many drinks. Look through the records, maybe there are a few you’d like to have – on me.”
“Okay, Val – just for a little while. I need my rest.”
“No you don’t,” Val said with a smirk, as he smacked Beckett on his shoulder as the three headed to the elevators.
Beckett was seated on the bed, glass of seltzer in his hand, looking through vinyls of The Smiths, The Cure, Cheap Trick, Soft Cell…so many records. Beckett was enjoying the artwork, looking intensely at the records themselves, the sheen, the grooves.
“See any you like in there?” Val asked, as he flipped through channels on the television. “Where are those damn music channels? Miranda likes to dance, don’t ya Miranda.”
Beckett was not looking up, just studying the albums. “Yes, I like many of the albums you have here.”
“Take what you like. Ah, here we go…” Val said, as he stopped on a Music Choice station. Some type of Luther Vandross song was blaring from the television as Miranda began swaying, moving her curvy hips. “She’s got some type of body, this one – huh?” said Val, as he slapped Miranda on the ass.
For some reason, the images on the albums were beginning to become nebulous, changing shape and becoming blurry. Beckett sat up on the bed and held his head in his hands. As he looked up, he tried to shake the grogginess from his head, but it was of no use. Miranda, with her large, hanging breasts swinging near his face, was crouched near his center. Massaging his thighs. He wanted to feel good about this. The moment was definitely stirring something in the loins, he might even say his heart was beginning to thump – but his head felt so damn heavy and he shook it again. He leaned back for a moment and stuck his hand in his pocket to hit his clicker remote.
It was gone. His remote had vanished, and his weariness was becoming more pronounced.
“Hey …Beckett… or should I say 290411301715. Are you looking for this?” Val held up his remote clicker. Beckett was too weak to do anything about it. “We’re going on a little trip my friend.”
“We are?” asked Miranda as she turned around to face Val.
“Not you, dear.” Val touched the back of her ear with the tip of his right index finger and she dropped to Beckett’s feet – passed out. “She won’t remember any of this. Sad. Someone here would actually have sex with that thing, could you believe it?” Val said, pointing to Miranda. “Anyhow, you won’t be getting this back for a while,” Val said, putting Beckett’s clicker in his back pocket. Beckett could hardly make anything out. Val removed his vest and shirt, revealing – not only a hairy chest, but a rope chain with a stone at the end of it. “You want to be one of these people, ‘Beckett’,” Val said, leaning over Beckett, who was now fully prostrate on the bed, “well, this will be your opportunity.”
The lights, the glorious lights, went out after that.
Passed out = √