An innocent enough question I suppose, but coming as it did from one of a pair of squeaky-clean teenagers wearing bright pastel-orange polo shirts (complete with matching, embroidered, institutional logos) and holding tell-tale clipboards, well it rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’d just been the long week I’d only moments before began trying to put behind me.
“Do I support the Arts” you gleaming-toothed little twit of a solicitor? What exactly is it you want? To pry some of my hard-earned lucre from my wallet? What are you trying to get at with your seemingly guileless but culturally loaded opening salvo? It’s money right? Why not just get yourself a tin-can and a cardboard sign like any respectable beggar? Do a little dance at least. Sing for your non-profit’s supper.
Course, I didn’t say any of that. I like to at least pretend at civility when it comes to my fellow humans. Don’t want to rend the social fabric after all and send us tumbling backward into public defecation and cannibalism. What I said was simply:
And it was true. I do.
“Wow, that’s great. May I ask how?” the twit responded in his carefully rehearsed solicitor’s version of familiar speech, betrayed, as it often is, by the inclusion of the the overly polite, or overly formal. These guys just can’t seem to nail realistic dialogue.
“Well, actually, it’s funny that you ask…” I began.
I often like to stop cold after a statement like “it’s funny that you ask.” The person your speaking with knows full well that something is to follow, that’s the whole point of an old chestnut like “it’s funny that you ask,” and they’ll generally wait patiently for the punch-line, allowing an unnaturally long pause in conversation. Seeing how long is the fun part. With solicitors an awkward pause in conversation is like a glimpse into the slavering maw of Death. In this case I managed a full 6 seconds before sensing an interjection, and continued.
“It’s funny that you ask because I only just left a doctor’s office who gave me some test results. Coincidentally they answer your question better than I ever could. I’ve got some pictures here taken with an electron microscope. Would you like to see them?”
Before letting him answer I produced the images and brandished them right up in front his oxy-cleaned pores.
They looked like this:
I saw a mixture of confusion and revulsion in his eyes. He looked instinctually to his identically dressed cohort who was, unfortunately for him, busy accosting someone else, and unable to offer cover fire.
“I’m not sure I understand. What are they?” he bleated.
“They are Art of course! Art seen at 1,000,000 times magnification. You asked whether I supported the Arts and as you can see clearly from these I do. Art is a parasite and we are embraced in a mutualist waltz of sorts.
Art has lodged itself in places throughout my body. Since childhood, when I was initially infected, it has spread everywhere. It’s in my bowels, my heart, and my brain. It nourishes itself on my insides and It floods me with chemicals. Had it not been for this infestation I might have gone into the sciences! But Art wouldn’t allow it. It influences my decisions. It’s disgusting little flagellum run over every inch of my guts. It’s eggs are buried in me. It takes everything it needs to survive from me.
In return it offers me occasional delusions of grandeur. It tricks my mind into perceiving some kind of purpose. It keeps me from putting a rifle in my mouth or in yours. It keeps me from building bombs in my basement. It keeps me from disemboweling people on the street. It offers me some kind of hope. You see? Art and I are engaged in a symbiotic relationship. I keep it alive, it keeps me relatively sane. Get it?”
“So yes, I support the Arts, bodily, as a host.”
“Well that’s not really what I was asking Sir.”
“I know. You want money. ‘Can ya’ spare a dime for a cultural institution that’s down on it’s luck?’ I understand. Well how about this, I’ll just keep the money and cut out the middle man. How’s that? Easier, don’t you think?”
I walked away from the shiny-toothed little shit-head then, happy to have given him a small taste straight from the teat which he harassed people on behalf of, and I could swear, as I eased on down the road, I heard him say to his coconspirator:
“God! I hate Artists.”
Note: The original microscopy images used to make up the “Art parasites” above were taken from here and here. Both very nice resources.
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