Idea for a Movie: Notary Public

Justice Minotaur proposed the following ideas for a movie and commanded that they be recorded here.* Minotaur saith: “The first part of the film follows a man, let’s say a notary public,** as he struggles with learning how to plug in a computer. It’s a humor piece–he plugs it into the toaster, into his ear, etc. Maybe at one point he goes to a gas station to buy some gargle–you know, to break up the action a little. At about the hour mark he is felled by, say, a lightning bolt that materializes on a perfectly clear day. This character out of the way, the director is then free to explore some of her idiosyncratic theories about marine life in the Adriatic for the remaining four hours.” Further Minotaur saith not.

*The justice evidently does not intend to develop the ideas into a script or to pitch them to an agent; rather, he wants them recorded so that “when” the film is made, he can sue for treble damages on a copyright infringement action. “That it [a movie with these ideas of Minotaur’s in it] will be made is as inevitable as Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson making another lousy buddy film,” Minotaur declared.

**Minotaur said he would be open to changing the profession of this man, as long as the modifier follows the noun. For example, it would be acceptable if the man were instead an attorney general or a surgeon general.

Journal Entry: Christmas Gifts

Journal entry, 11/23/13: In New Salem, Christmas is celebrated much as it is in the United States, except in the former a statute forbids any discussion or imagery that would lead anyone to believe that St. Nick enters the home through the chimney. The law was passed in January 1977 by the New Salem Considerable Legislative Band after an extraordinarily slender man named Txbm Smrgcrm (the only person in the history of New Salem who evidently had no vowels in his or her name) perished when he tried to play the jolly elf to his grocer’s first cousin. Smrgcrm made it down the chimney all right but had not foreseen that the family would be preparing their annual holiday breakfast over open flame.

This afternoon Justice Minotaur proposed that those in his employ or generally in his sphere of influence limit the number of Christmas gifts they give to one another. The purpose of this limitation would be to “starve to death the corrupt retail network in this region of the land, especially purveyors of citrus.” Taking tips he learned on “mommy blogs,” he proposed that each person receive only three gifts (in the following list the epicene “they” will be used):

-Something they need, preferably in the cutlery family.
-Something they hate.
-Something that makes them look fat.

Journal Entry: New Card Game

Journal entry, 11/12/13. Justice Minotaur spent most of the day exulting about how thrilled he was to live to this day where the numerals representing the month, day, and year are in sequence. He also spent some time this evening in the parlor finishing the rules of a new card game he has been working on since the Apollo moon landing. Mr. Cornwall here reproduces the official game rules as Minotaur typed them this evening on his old Smith Corona.

Circles of Demise (c) by PlayTechs (R): Ye Olde Official Game Rules

The game is played with one or more decks of playing cards that are ordinary in every way except that the jacks are modified so they appear to be wearing plaid dickeys. Any number of players can play at one time, so long as none of them is still wetting the bed.

The dealer is the player who has spent the most time at sea. The dealer selects a number of cards to be dealt. This can be any prime number. The chosen number of cards are distributed so that each player has an equal number of cards; any excess of the prime quantity not distributed are put into a food processor. The remaining cards not dealt or shredded are called The Hermitage and are placed into the dealer’s front shirt pocket.

Play begins to the left* of the dealer except on Bastille Day, in which case the player to the left of the dealer is subjected to a mock beheading and replaced by her or his oldest male heir, and play then commences with the player to the left of the heir.

The player to the left (as determined in accordance with the preceding paragraph) either describes the Citizen Genet Affair or plays a card from her or his hand and states the value of the card. In the former case, if the description is determined to be accurate by an Independent Adjudicator,** in the Independent Adjudicator’s sole discretion, the player has won and the game is over. If a description is attempted and fails, in the sole discretion of the Independent Adjudicator, the player who failed at the description must drink a quart of buttermilk before dusk of the same day. If a player elects to play a card rather than describe the Citizen Genet Affair, the value to be stated is the number on the card. For face cards, the value of a jack is 11, a queen 12, a king 13, and an ace 2,695. If the value is an even number, play reverses to the opposite direction. If the number is odd, play continues in the same direction. If the value is neither even nor odd, a Universal Event*** has occurred.

The next player must play a card whose value is higher or lower than the one played immediately before. If the card value is higher, play continues in the same direction it was going. If the card value is lower, the direction of play reverses. (Here the earlier rules concerning even and odd numbers also apply, such that a higher number that is even reverses play, a higher number that is odd keeps play going in the same direction, and so forth.) If neither a higher- nor a lower-value card can be played, the player draws a card from The Hermitage. That player’s turn is then over for that round. Play continues in the same way, moving from player to player in the established direction of play.

If any two cards of a black suit or two cards of a red suit are played in sequence, the game starts over and each player must name her or his favorite Burt Reynolds film.

Players of more than one-quarter Scottish ancestry may make a motion for a writ de ventre inspiciendo against any player of any gender at any time or times during the game. The results of the inspection have no direct bearing on the game but it is thought that the threat of the writ can intimidate other players and prove a useful tool.

The winner is the player who runs out of cards first.

Alternative game ending: An alternative method of determining a winner is, at any point in the game, to tabulate the value of cards played by each player. The winner is the one with the second-most points, as in the 2004 United States presidential election.

Game cleanup: At the conclusion of the game, the cards should be scrutinized for accretion of ear wax, blue cheese, or other foreign matter. Any matter found should be removed with a cloth and mild soap or a sandblaster.

Warranty: Playing cards and card case are warranted to be fit for ordinary use in the manner outlined in the game rules. If you are not satisfied with these materials, please send your name, birthday, taxpayer identification number, mother’s maiden name, and checking account number to Dr. Brian Midnight, PO Box 29-C, Nassau, Bahamas. Please allow 6-10 years for processing.

*As players often choose to sit in a rough circle or sometimes even in more of a rectangular pattern (as when seated at a rectangular table), “left” here can be a rough approximation and does not necessarily mean on a true parallel with an imaginary plane bisecting the player into a front and a back half.

**An Independent Adjudicator is either a panel of seventeen currently serving Mormon bishops or all of the living relatives of the first, second, and third degrees of those playing the game.

***A Universal Event is one in which something occurs that is more significant than the outcome of the game itself. Examples could be a discount being offered on gym memberships or the coming to life of Corazon Aquino. If a Universal Event occurs, play is suspended until the following vernal equinox.

Review: Fortinbras’ Acapulco Adventure

This evening Justice Minotaur and Mr. Cornwall dined at a restaurant called Fortinbras’ Acapulco Adventure, which purports to “reimagine what would happen if Fortinbras the elder, king of Norway, had, rather than being slain by King Hamlet, crossed the Atlantic to ancient Mesoamerica and ultimately arrived in the environs of what is now Acapulco after a long overland journey.” (Who had originally imagined this scenario is not identified.) The establishment also “invites Christians of every nation to celebrate, in cuisine, the triumph of Western Europe over the savage inhabitants.” (Reverse of dinner menu, (c) 1992.)

It was unclear whether a sign on the door was intended to evoke pity or relief on the part of the patron: “No longer associated with Human-T Interregional Pet Hospital.”

The two diners, after being seated on a wheel-less tandem bicycle that had been mounted to a sawhorse, were met by a waiter named George Armstrong Custer Piles who offered a complimentary bowl of baked beans. Minotaur refused, saying he did not “want to be tempted to blow unkind wind later in the evening.” Without looking at the menu, Minotaur ordered the El Presidente Burrito with black licorice as a side dish and lukewarm bactrian milk in a paper cup to drink; Cornwall preferred the roast duck a la mode. To save money, Cornwall ordered no drink, figuring he could rinse as needed with melted ice cream.

Minotaur assessed his meal as follows: “When Hannibal crossed the Alps it was positively not for this dish. I imagined the fare would be fit for the president of at least a medium-size nation but it seemed more tailored to someone with more local talents at best–maybe the head of a guild or even a knitting club. The Christian element was helpful, I must admit; as I imagined the men of Cortes massacring the Aztec it seemed to help me work up the needed frenzy to consume the gargantuan but otherwise mediocre offering. Who knew Fortinbras liked so many carrots in his burrito? I was disappointed that when I hoisted the wrap and bit into one end, so many of the nutrients fell out the other end, like druggies scampering down the fire escape when the police knock at the front. I did not know their policy on leftovers, so I surreptitiously pocketed the escaped remnants and intend to mail them to my cousin in Prague as a birthday gag.”

Mr. Cornwall adds the following observations on his own meal: the fowl was cooked in water, not roasted as promised, and within arm’s reach. This transpired in a large hot tub occupied by a hairy man wearing a knight’s helmet, surrounded by several women in 1920s-era swimming trunks. Though no signage explicitly stated as much, apparently this was the alternative ending imagined to the tale of the Scandinavian monarch. The duck was only one of several deceased animals cooking in the bath water, and the kitchen staff was probably not aware of some of them being in there. After an adequate time in the whirlpool, the bird was prepared by being spun about in a large blender and was served chopped feathers, bill, feet, and all–under the rationale that this is the same way the lion or the bear consumes a bird. The ice cream was not bad.

Journal Entry: Music Recital

Journal entry, 11/8/13. Justice Minotaur has been taking piano lessons for about four years on a haphazard schedule. He fluctuates between intense practice for hours at a time day after day, to other periods where he bangs on the keys with a straw broom or a garden rake for long stretches, and to other phases still where he will have a thick burlap cover put over the piano in order to, as he said once, “recuse it from mine mind and heart.” In the last-mentioned periods, he also not infrequently calls the piano “the wench from whom I must be divorced.” Minotaur’s instructor is Ms. Magdalana Shiv, a real Amazonian specimen with huge arms, a galloping giraffe’s giant and awkward stride, and a strict habit of refraining from the use of all modern beauty products (perhaps the result of some kind of Samsonite bargain whence she derives her great physical strength?). A really attractive woman, she is still not quite on par with the current Venus of Mr. Cornwall’s heart, Lady I. Dorothy Cottonmouth.

Today at three o’clock in the afternoon a recital was held in the compound at Minotaur’s invitation for all the students under Shiv’s tutelage, with many of their family members and other associates in attendance. It should be said that Shiv teaches dance, voice, and most musical instruments (traditional and of more recent invention, including homemade), which resulted in a real bazaar-like atmosphere as the various guests showed up with their instruments and acts at the ready. Also of note was the melange of both sweet and pungent smells that wafted out of this mass of people whose families come from every rank and file of society–tanners, hoteliers, falconers, money counters, swains, wrights and smiths of all types, chambermaids, protonotaries and attorneys at law and surgeons and so many others. Mr. Cornwall took minutes of the proceedings, which he here reproduces.

Shiv: “Welcome to our fall/winter recital. We will proceed in the order outlined on the printed program. My thanks to Justice Korbin Minotaur for letting us use his home for our recital. He asks that if any of the children need to go to the bathroom, they ask for an escort, as this home contains more than one hundred fake toilets, which children are generally just as happy to use as real ones.”

Student 1, male, about 10 years old: “Hi. My name is Chiam Tokerly. I am the son of Pat and Pat Tokerly. Neither of them is my natural parent, as I was adopted. I will be playing ‘Attack of a Dangerous Serpent,’ an experimental piece for snare, harmonica, and this giant barrel that I kick with my foot while I am playing the other two instruments.” [Plays for 12 minutes with no apparent end to the performance in sight, after which Shiv literally removes him with a shepherd’s crook.]

Student 2, female, probably mid-40s: “I am Barbara Tarbear. You know me from the general store. I know my name is stupid, so shut up already. I will be playing ‘Spooky Pumpkin Patch,’ by Tami Associated-Lockerbee.” [Plays very basic tune on piano for 30 seconds; stands and bows; receives applause; trips on way back to seat, drawing jitters, and stands up to full height quickly, yelling, “Shut up already!”]

Student 3, Justice Korbin Minotaur: “I wanted to say a few words before my performance. The earliest pianos were little more than wooden frames filled with tight-strung wires that would make different sounds when struck with ‘hammers’ operated by different ‘keys’ arranged together. And now look how far we have come. I express my thanks to Ms. Shiv for her instruction over these years–lo, has it been four years already?–and for the sometimes-edible treats she has delivered at holidays in a tandem attempt to show genuine friendship and to place me psychologically in her debt so that I will continue to take lessons from her as a paying student. Please, if you need to use the water closet, raise your hand and indicate 1 or 2, and Mr. Cornwall will assist you further. Now, for the main course for this sumptuous repast, I will play my own composition, which for some reason I like to imagine was the last thing that went through the head of Julius Rosenberg before electricity coursed through his organs on that June night in 1953. It is not yet formally titled, but it will probably end up as either ‘The Hoping Not to Die’ or ‘Adagio.'” [Plays piano for about 45 minutes, most of which consists of running one hand across the keyboard from left to right while the other hand is running the opposite way, in a kind of neverending criss-crossing pattern; then stands up and pulls a hatchet from under his sweat-soaked robes, which he strikes forcefully into the top of the upright piano, splitting the wood cleanly in two–apparently as a planned part of the performance; bows before flabbergasted audience and then returns to seat.]

Student 4, male, probably almost 100 years old: “Well, that was something even I have not seen in all the hard years I have lived. When I was 17 I joined the merchant marine. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that there is not much to do in the merchant marine in New Salem, since we are entirely landlocked and have no navigable rivers. It has been said that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and my experience confirms that. I did things, I saw things, I was part of things that if I described them here it would have every one of you ghost white and a precinct full of policemen headed here to lock me up forever. I ruined a lot of lives, and–I have to be careful what I say here because I never know who is listening–a lot of people did not spend as much time on this planet, shall we say, as they might otherwise have had I not come into their lives. But what they say about karma is right, and I have had to take as much as I dished out. For example, my grandson was unjustly jailed by Justice Minotaur. But that was long ago now and somehow I have grown calloused to the pain, though that grandson’s children have not forgiven Minotaur to this day for depriving them of a father for some twenty-seven years and thereby consigning the family to the state’s welfare rolls, all of which they believe sent their fair mother to an early grave. I know what awaits me on the other side. I take the Bible literally and think there will be roasting-hot fires that will sear the pads of my feet for an endless period of time. But that is not yet . . . I’m still alive.” [As he says “I’m still alive,” four-piece rock band that Mr. Cornwall had not noticed before starts playing loudly, and the centenarian, using prearranged microphone and sound system, sings very stirring, on-pitch rendition of a rock-and-roll anthem apparently titled “Alive” or “I’m Still Alive” by a band who call themselves “Pearl Gem” and hail from the forests of the American Northwest; bows to initially scattered applause that crescendos to almost a roar; returns to seating area, sitting in Shiv’s lap for the remainder of the recital.]

Students 5 and 6, a pair of fraternal twins, one girl, one boy, late teens: “We are the Camworthy twins! I’m Cam Kepler Camworthy and this is Kris Canty Camworthy, and we are the Camworthy twins! She’s Kris Canty and I’m Cam Kepler. Or is it he’s Cam Canty and I’m Kris Kepler? Or am I Kris Keplerworthy and she’s Cam Cantyworthy? [Mr. Cornwall’s note: this repartee in which the twins suggested a near-infinite variety of name combinations for themselves went on for roughly 8 minutes, and it was impossible to capture comprehensively or accurately. They invoked at least the following other names: Kayla, Karl, Kato Kaelin, Kelly, Kenny, Kerry, Kent, Keisha, Kim, Kaitlin, Kiersten, Kit, Kyle, Kat, Kevin–and, surprisingly–Richard Plantagenet.] But seriously, folks, to bring down the house for a minute, did you know that every day in this country, right here in New Salem, three children die from being eaten by tigers, bears, and other large predators who have escaped from unauthorized zoos? That’s why we are starting our third-annual ‘Camworthy Marathon’ tomorrow, to raise money to promote awareness of this travesty. We will be soliciting pledges from you after the recital today, so please stay around for that. We will be asking you to pledge five dollars for every hour that both of us sit continuously in a 125-degree hot tub between this coming Monday and the following Monday. Now, to our performance. We call this ‘Life before Bread Boxes.’ And hey, don’t forget: he’s Kepler and I’m Cam. Or is it I’m Kane and she’s Kasey? Thanks, folks!” [A fast-moving song and dance routine with lots of jazz hands, about 3 minutes; both bow to loud applause; return to seats, pointing at one another smiling as if to prolong the joke about which of them is which.]

Shiv (after pushing the old man off her lap): “Mr. Justice Minotaur is telling me we are out of time, and so it appears that was the last number. I suppose it is not the worst one to end on, considering what we have seen and heard this afternoon. My apologies to the other 23 students who practiced so hard but could not perform.”

Journal Entry: Baby Naming

Journal entry, 11/6/13. Christmas-Eager Thomerson, a local construction contractor afflicted by evidently incurable halitosis, was here yesterday installing another fake door, bringing the total number of fake doors in the compound to twenty-seven. Justice Minotaur believes, as he has said many times, that “fake doors are the key to stopping a burglar.” They can also make life difficult for the inhabitants of a home, for at some point it becomes difficult to remember which doors are real and which are fake (fake toilets are even more confounding, and the compound has one hundred and eleven of them–these are real toilets, but they are not connected to the water or sewer system, and both bowl and tank are filled to the brim with cement). In any case, the contractor was drawn to Minotaur’s charisma and asked if Minotaur would name the former’s son who was born within the last week and has been going by “Jube,” the nation-state’s default name for otherwise unnamed children. Minotaur accepted the assignment and said he would announce the name the following morning (which was earlier today). Taking the task quite seriously, Minotaur neither ate nor slept and reread as much as he could of the Will and Ariel Durrant eleven-volume The Story of Civilization. At six o’clock this morning, Minotaur climbed to the highest point on the roof of the compound wearing nothing but a pair of authentic boxing shorts and a wig and, turning his face to a brisk wind blowing in from the east, declared in his loudest voice what the child was to be named. His words were completely inaudible to Mr. Cornwall, who stood in the pasture looking up at Minotaur and was the only witness to the event. Minotaur safely made his way back down to the ground and repeated the name (which he also spelled), which is “Grandpa Tomerson Thomerson.” Mr. Cornwall then wrote up an official announcement conveying this news to the contractor and sent the dispatch by a diminutive courier borne on llamaback.

Later in the day, Mr. Cornwall found a large discarded sheet of notepaper in the kitchen wastebasket (underneath a heap of wet gourd innards) that appears to provide further insights into how Minotaur arrived at this name. The note, when uncrumpled and flattened, measures approximately 27 1/4 inches high by 23 3/4 inches wide. It was inscribed on only one side, evidently with the use of an ecru-colored golf pencil with red lead, which was found affixed to the verso of the discarded note with cheap electrician’s tape. The inscription on the note reflects a kind of grade-school mentality, with the first word roughly horizontal in the center of the page and the continuation of the text being written in a spiraling clockwise pattern (assuming a regular, functioning clock and not some kind of broken or trick clock). The diameter of the spiral at its outward edges is approximately 22 inches. The golf pencil, which is roughly 2 1/2 inches in length with a dull point, has three lines of tiny gold block lettering: “Mike’s Car Repair and Wig Laundry–and Also We Do Dog Shampooing–Call Us or Burn in Hades.” The text on the note, all of which is in Minotaur’s handwriting, reads as follows (artificial line breaks have been inserted for reader convenience).

Bam Bam Mikey Ablerson (hyphenate to Bam-Bam?). Not bad. But implies father’s name is Abler. Maybe Adlerson instead? No, also has false implication.

Paul Bunyan Thomerson. An insult to Bunyan.

Morgue Thomerson-son. Not bad–clearly shows he is the son of Thomerson. Not sure about “Morgue”–kid might become macabre in thoughts and we already have enough spook alleys.

Stevie Cash? Too American. Same for Charlie Soundtrack. Tommy Steele. Ricky Sunshine.

Instance from scripture–“his name shall be John”. But then maybe thinks he is the Baptist and we get the same problem we had the other day with that out-of-control redder drowning sheep.

Tomerson Thomerson. I like very much. Gives higher chances that one of names is spelled right. Simplifies–people only have to remember how to say first or last name, not both.

Big Sheila Thomerson. Would be great girl name. Reserve in case child turns out to be girl upon further inspection.

Here Comes Thomerson! (exclamation point is part of name) a little unusual, admittedly

Waterboard Thomerson. Kind of cool now because of connection to torture but might become outdated with inevitable spread of humanitarian impulse.

Kirk’s Speedy HVAC Service–No Job Too Small. Starts OK with the Kirk part but then seems like it is turning into a business name somewhere in there, which is not necessarily bad I guess.

Korbin Minotaur Jr. This is probably not the time to reveal that I am probably the boy’s father. Maybe wait until some benefit in it, such as if child wins all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica that he can’t use.

O.J. the Killer Simpson-Johnson. Solid–but law requires surname to be same as father’s surname. Other names that would be good if any surname could be chosen: Christmas McAllister, V. Hamburger Monday, Warrior Butz, Colonel Richard C. Plumworthy IV, Tables Pain, Kaleem Abdur-Jabbal, Officer Aligned Powers, Calves Wilson, Burke Chocolate-Watson.

Uncle Thomerson. Very nice–makes it easy once he has nieces and nephews. No one has to remember the title “uncle” plus the name; just have to remember “uncle” and they are livin’ easy b/c “uncle” is his name and his title/role.

OK, idea for a catchy one-word moniker like Noah, Charlemagne, or Shakira. Idea is “Holybadge.” Fabulous name–even fantastico!!! (Reserve name for self in case I have any more children–do not mention aloud.)

Lightning and Tides? Promising start here but not sure where to go with it. Maybe more of a magic act than a person’s name.

1-2-3-4-5 Thomerson. Would help me remember combination to my luggage.

Story from Ivanhoe Half-Abram: House of E. Tuilerie Gewitz

Justice Minotaur has a cousin named Ivanhoe Half-Abram who works as a shirt folder for Lysander & Duck, the near-bankrupt clothing outlet specializing in plaid and gossamer. As a young man Half-Abram left a promising apprenticeship as a hayward so that he could instead take a “stress-free” job that allowed his mind to roam and compose stories as he worked. Occasionally over the years he has had one of his compositions delivered by homing pigeon to Minotaur. The first time this happened, Minotaur felled the messenger with grape shot, and both pigeon and (we must imagine) story were eaten for dinner (covered with a festive prune sauce, if Mr. Cornwall’s memory has not turned Benedict Arnold on him).

This morning, the pigeon dropped his parcel in a pond where the sheep were getting their wool shampooed by the redder (this is only required once a year, but the redder is overzealous and does this twice a week). The redder salvaged the moistened document and, though as illiterate as a rusty anchor, evidently attempted to read it. Interpreting the message as a command from God to slaughter the herd, he, weaponless, set about drowning the sheep one by one. Minotaur happened to look on the scene as he was riding by on a donkey. Initially he thought the redder was baptizing the animals for salvific purposes and congratulated the redder. Then, realizing what was really happening, he questioned the redder and then slew him with a scythe. The three martyred sheep have been butchered and the meat frozen (Minotaur is also planning to erect a plaque to their memory). The redder’s corpse was launched out of a catapult in the general direction of the north-northeast. Half-Abram’s story follows.

THE HOUSE OF E. TUILERIE GEWITZ

The world of haute couture is a world of high-priced names—Yves Saint Laurent, Miuccia Prada, Alexander McQueen, E. Tuilerie Gewitz . . . That my name is found among this list of immortals is no surprise to you now, but it may interest you to learn of my beginnings in this glamorous industry.

The son of a French farmer, fashion was as foreign to me as store-bought vegetables or regular dental work. Indeed, my father’s idea of a good outfit was anything that could keep hay out of his underwear. Still, daytime television with its stylishly dressed divas and American tourists with their casual baseball caps triggered in me a desire to design elegant yet comfortable clothing, and I began dabbling in textures and patterns in my early teenage years. I spent one summer studying the spots on our cattle, and when fall came, I tried to bleach matching spots on our horse. Old Voisin resisted the bleaching, leaving me with a surgically repaired stomach that prevents me from ingesting more than a teaspoon of brandy in one sitting. I never repeated the experiment.

The following summer, prisoner to a surge of creative juices, I smeared lotion on our sheep to see if I could improve their look. Their shimmering fur quickly became the envy of the other animals. I would later design an evening gown that very much approximated the look of our furry models. Ironic that humans, the most intelligent of creatures, would dress themselves as animals! As hard as I have tried, however, I have never been able to imitate the look of our rooster. He had a very smart set of feathers. Feathers have always been my favorite texture both because their beauty binds the tongue and wets the eyes, and because I have always been an early riser and feel an affinity for my two-legged fowl friends whose beaks are as angelic bugles to the sluggish farm quadrupeds.

Eventually, I was spending all of my time with the animals, learning their tongue, their culture, their fashion secrets—and they had so much to offer! The kitten, with its silky coat and slinky walk; the dairy cow all proud, round, and timid; the billy goat with his sleek jaw and rebellious mystique—all supermodels in their own right. My father interpreted my heavy involvement with the animals as perversion rather than art and banished me from the farm in my seventeenth year. My art, a perversion! Like telling Napoleon not to conquer! I left the farm dejected and took my few possessions and patterns to the bus station. Boarding a bus to the city, I deposited the required ten-Franc piece and cried out, “To the eighth arrondissement, à la rue Faubourg St-Honoré!” It was now or never. Like Hugo’s Valjean, there were but two choices, forward or backward, angel or devil, haute couture or nothing.

My idealism soon gave way to guarded optimism when one door after another shut in my face. Christian Dior was not impressed with my portfolio of egg sketches, and Nina Ricci’s place had a “No Coveralls” sign posted on the front entrance. Simply put, no one would give a farm boy the benefit of the doubt.

During this spell of bad luck, I spied a passerby who was distributing announcements to an upcoming fashion show. I do not often accept charity, but my father once told me to welcome anything that is free. Is charity free or does it indebt us morally to the giver? While contemplating this paradox, I took an announcement.

AMATEUR FASHION SHOW
Time: 19h00, next Wednesday
Place: Centre Georges Pompidou

Just as a sailor’s hunches tell him where to cast his net and when to curse at his first mate and when to cast a mutinous comrade overboard, my hunches told me that the amateur fashion show would be my big break. For the next four days, I neither slept nor ate, save it were scraps of a dress or wrap or pantsuit or cummerbund that I was designing. I had only four days to do what other designers must have started months before. But I had started years ago on the farm, yes, that summer when my proverbial wick was doused in gasoline and set ablaze.

Finally, Wednesday arrived, and finally it was my turn to show my wares. The principal pieces in my lineup were cowhides shaped into capes and dyed in the four majestic hues of printing—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—to honor my uncle, who spent the better part of his life running a sheet-fed press in Lyon and whose headstone bears the name Gutenberg despite his given name of DuMouton. The capes, most agreed, were a brilliant and forward-looking idea, hinting toward space travel while recalling superheroes.

However, the House of Gewitz logo that appeared on the capes was not well received at first, although it has since become more recognizable than even McDonald’s glorious golden arches. The actual design of the logo was inspired by a Thanksgiving dinner that my family enjoyed during a visit to the States. My aunt Monique and her husband Withersby, a botany professor at Amherst, invited our family to their home to give thanks for what they called “football,” a sport in which eleven men wage tactical warfare on eleven others, using a series of ploys, blocks, throws, and runs to move a leather oval into a rectangular box known as the “end zone.” That Americans would gather each year to give thanks for this event is a testimony of America’s greatness—they can take a day off and still have the highest GNP of any nation. Our hearts full of gratitude for a sport that enables men to touch each other without sexual implications, we sat down for dinner so as not to return to France hungry. I remember the meal vividly and swore then that if I ever became famous I would pay it tribute.

The Gewitz logo is in fact a mirror image of my plate at the beginning of that fine feast. In the twelve o’clock position of the plate were the mashed potatoes topped with a delicious, viscous gravy. Directly underneath, on top of, and to the right of the potatoes were the pickled asparagus niblets, which lay dangerously close to the Hawaiian salad, positioned at three o’clock. Because of these aspargo-Hawaiian tensions, two sticks of peanut-butter-topped celery had carefully been inserted. But all the caution in the world could not prevent the Hawaiian salad from infecting the adjacent ham with its sweet flavor. The turkey was stacked on top of the ham, but not so directly on top of the ham as to prevent the ham from being seen, and therefore eaten. Continuing to nine o’clock, the three-bean salad formed a type of intercontinental divide between the turkey and the biscuit. The biscuit had been treated with a thin layer of butter, a thick layer of jelly, and a slice of cranberry, of which the juice had soaked through the bread and stained the mashed potatoes with a hint of crimson.

Such was the meal that I ate that Thanksgiving, such was my logo, to scale, centered in the middle on the exterior of the cape for all to see. To emphasize the gravy, the model also wore a pair of tall brown boots that been marinated in a beef bullion broth. The remainder of the outfit was immaterial inasmuch as caped persons are generally seen from behind. Although, as I said, the Gewitz logo is now standard, it was admittedly a little ahead of its time, and the audience was not prepared to accept it. I don’t recall if it was the model or I that got belted with tomatoes first, but it doesn’t matter now—I’m famous.