I have spent every day since I was nine years old following a man of my own creation.  He is the sum total of all the oddities I collect. I acquire my targets, mostly bits of personal flotsam, cast out by their owners in order to maintain some manner of psychic buoyancy, with absolute certainty and mechanical precision. I know what he wants me to get. A single question is posed, whispered from the aether, when I am faced with some odd item—“Quel horreur! What kind of person would own this?”  This man, Eli Black, is the sort of man who would own ‘that sort’ of overcoat, with ivory buttons and belt ‘n sash fastening system too complex to claim civilian intent.  Each element in my extended and ever-expanding collections, whether obtained by force at a flea market in Canton, TX or via velvet tongued soliloquy at an estate auction, gives me a whiff of the elusive chap. His tastes, lately, tend toward the pastoral, explaining my most recent acquisition—a pocket watch whose open face reveals a bull elk in full relief.   

     He hides in roadside fruit stands which also sell, to the polite peso-bearer, handmade rope swings and braided table clothes. He ducks, as I pass, into a church bazaar and draws me toward a near-mint collection of Son of Samson Playing cards, featuring, instead of numerals, portraits of the heads of formerly democratic republics now deposed. On an otherwise uneventful spring afternoon, he calls me from Puyallup, WA. He is sitting with a trio of elderly sisters wishing to sell their matching pairs of prosthetic hooves, bearing the autographs of Klaus, Carter, and Stephanie von Bulow, respectively. Under his spectral tutelage, I have cultivated international contacts representing every aspect of personal exchange—garage sale specialists; auctioneers; art historians; appraisal barons on loan from the Sarbonne, trained to spot substandard merchandise by scent alone[1]; German expatriates hunkering in relative safety, south of every border, spending their days in mnemonic reverie, lulled into eventual madness by the the hornet's breath of long terminated Swiss Account Codes; Cabbalists lost in the infinite regress of forgotten alphabets and Sorcerers in the employ of numerous dark lords who contact me with messages concerning forbidden items made newly available thanks to some manner of thaumaturgic abandon. I will continue to develop these connections as long as he requires me to divine his will via my collections.

     Since my first purchase[2], years ago, I have been gaining insight into this gentleman’s character, learning his tendencies and preparing to engage him in some manner of conversation. When he comes for his belongings, I will be ready.



[1] One such acquaintance, Monsieur Salvador Renaud, could locate forgery, in documents and in paintings, by “the way the colors whisper to one another. “ I asked him once whether he considered his job difficult, since he spent every day attempting to outsmart the finest forgers in the world. He thought for a moment and said. “For me, the false pieces are liars. I will not be lied to.” Then a smile creased his cheeks and he offered, “To me they are obvious. I would more easily overlook a turd in my soup bowl.”

 

[2] The gun.