Friday 19 April 2013

'While Sitting at Caffeine Oasis Next to a Man Who Talks Incessantly' by Fred Longworth

I overhear that his artist friend, Nikolina, who lives in Bulgaria (and earns a meager income applying cloisonné to bottle caps) was ripped off by one Seamus O'Malley. Pretending to be a consulting curator for the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, O'Malley told Nikolina that, as a sideline, he tours Eastern Europe looking for marketable arts and crafts. O'Malley hoodwinked Nikolina into consigning to him six months worth of her cloisonné. They drew up a contract at a cafe in Sofia, and she handed him a jewelry box filled with her creations. Two days later, O'Malley vanished.

Nikolina has sworn she will find O'Malley, take back her artwork, and gouge out his eyes. But of course she is nearly destitute. The dreams of recovery and revenge are as empty as the shelves in her tiny studio. Only a good, kind, virile American man can help.

Like the man sitting at the next table. A few months ago, he met her on the internet. He listened to her deepest sorrows. He was pleased when she sent him photographs in a letter laced with perfume. Now he's obsessed with her. He pulls out a packet of photos, and hands them to his companions. They pass them around. When they come back to him, he realizes I've been listening in, so he shows them to me. They reveal a pretty young woman dressed in a bikini at a resort on the Black Sea.

He tells us all that he sent her $2,500. Alas, the recession has set him back terribly. He can't afford to pay the rent. He's had a painful broken tooth for weeks, but there's no money for a dentist. Now he has no choice but to ask the people sharing his table, as well as the guy listening in, for contributions. Twenty dollars would be generous, but even five dollars would be a godsend.

His friends avert their eyes, but he won't let up. He keeps on begging. One of his companions ponies up five dollars, and then all of them stand up and leave. He turns to me. I am his only hope. I tell him no. He begins to cry. I go to Plan B. I open my briefcase and pull out a copy of Watchtower.

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