(IN A SENSE) Lost & Found
It was a perfectly ordinary Saturday morning when Mr. Blowingsdale’s daughter discovered that her innocence had gone missing.
Her entire body seemed to radiate some emergent evolution soaring from her loins up to the the lobes of her tingling ears. Mariette got up and stumbled into the bathroom, half-dead beats of the party tormenting the soft wobbly matter.
No sign of human contact of the crude genre. However, a startlingly different Mariette was gingerly returning glances from the mirror. It was all too vague to pinpoint and too obvious to ignore. Mariette sat on the corner of the tub and reached her hand down to check: yes, it’s certainly gone. A paraequilibrium escorts her back to the bedroom.
Right, she though, it might still be somewhere around. Mariette looked under the bed: nothing there. The wardrobe, shoeboxes, all 40 of them, not a trace. The windows were shut tight, so was the door, hence no chance of a voluntary escape. She went through each drawer of her vacant desk, browsed through the innumerable earrings and postcards, emptied the vanity case, reached deep into the pockets of her winter coat and even moved the sofa to check under the heater. Lost & Found then. She grabbed her notebook, dipped the quill and started writing. “Missing. Innocence. Description:..” She sat puzzled for a moment, realizing that she’s never seen the damn thing, tore out the page, crumpled it into an elegant sphere and launched it at the bathroom door.
Perhaps it never existed in the first place. After all, how can you trust something you never get to see? What if it’s sitting somewhere on the corner of the 3rd and Last boulevard? Mariette herself would’ve never recognized her innocence in a horde of strangers for its appearance was as mysterious as its departure.
The maid came back, rapping at the door and whining in a subdued tone. Tea would be great. Advil too. Mariette did her toilet and got dressed in a hurry. Hesitated to turn the knob, ran back into the bathroom, gave the mirror a long assiduous stare and rushed downstairs, chanting industriously spells of confidence and composure.
The table was neatly encased with Mariette’s sisters and Mr. Blowingsdale himself in the middle, greedily biting into a red onion. As soon as his youngest daughter entered the room, he hastily swallowed the minced mess and let out an indignant shriek:
“My god, Mariette, where’s your dignity?”
She examined her dress, hands trembling, lips catching up. “It’s... Oh god, I forgot it upstairs! I’m such a mess this morning. Please forgive me, father.”
“Well,” he said buttering another onion, “better go and get it. Coming to breakfast a whore in front of your poor sisters, not to mention your father! Shame!”
The sisters all turned to Mariette and roared in harmony casting their her upstairs dishonored and embarrassed.
She shut the door of her room and rushed to soak the pillow in salty fluids. Mariette cursed everything she could think of and when there was nothing left to curse she fell asleep.
The door was rocking again, much harder this time. To be precise, “this time” was 9pm and the source of the monstrous noise was Mr. Blowingsdale himself, bored from lynching his colleagues and anxious to sort out his daughter’s downfall.
Mariette followed his stately figure into the study. His lumping footsteps resonated in her ears and distorted the hall into a trembling vortex. Father didn’t say a word but he endowed the linoleum with such a generous dose of audible distress that the perspective of unavoidable scolding muddled Mariette’s already unstable conscious into a state of utter shock.
“Now then. No need to be solemn. Who was it, dear?”
She had no recollection of the night except for the ugly techno beat that still refused to leave, now enjoying the company of Mr. Blowingsdale’s footstorms. The man sensed his daughter’s honesty as clearly as her impurity and sent Mariette back to the room, forbidding her to leave the house until the matter is taken care of.
At this point please hand over your empathy for young Mariette to her poor father, who was indeed going through some major stress. A respected citizen, owner of the Factory, 12 daughters, each in top-10 of the annual purity contest, all that gone to hell in a night. If news of this kind leaked, according to the traditions of our town, Mr. Blowingsdale would have to be eaten alive in front of his remaining offspring. By 1am the maid was already strangled in the cellar and the secret remained within the family. Killing every one of his daughters would be rather troublesome and suspicious, on top of that even such a radical act would still leave out father himself, so he’d have to commit a suicide, thus leaving young Mariette to starve alone in her room, grounded for eternity (3-5 days according to unreliable sources). Frightening thought.
No, that’s not an option. The proper thing to do is reunite Mariette with her innocence, maybe chasten the thief as well (righteous, note). He opened a heavy dust-specked tome of the Great Encyclopedia. I. Innocence. No, that’s all too vague, no graphic description, as if the investigation wasn’t complicated enough!
The party then. Factory employees naturally wouldn’t dare lay a finger on one of Mr. Blowingsdale’s daughters. So it must’ve been the valet! Of course, the curly-haired boy was eyeing Mariette all evening long before old Blowingsdale collapsed to his Rum-fueled slumber.
Let’s see, the Book of Fallknowingness says tonight he works at the Belgian Bar.
It was an excruciatingly long day. Every other moment Mr. Blowingsdale let fantasies take over and drooled over crimson imagery of upcoming bloodshed. His penis was raging violently and helplessly under the spell of these illusions. As soon as first bells echoed through the Factory, Blowingsdale hid his sawed-off shotgun in a flower bouquet and called a taxi.
He watched the crowd drift slowly through the misty veil of a rainy evening. The steady muffled noise seemed to distance the overheated cab from the outside world. Blowingsdale said it felt like he was trapped in a deep-fried plastic egg. The driver agreed.
He headed straight for the restroom where his flaccid manhood was given a decent thrashing. After a brief testicular detour, the righteous vigor of revenge found its way back to Blowingsdale’s skull and pulled his bushy eyebrows together. Fitting his impressive bottom on the barstool was a challenge, but it did the job of attracting the curly-haired suspect right away.
“You all right there, sir? I can bring you a pillow.”
“Shut it. I know what you did.”
“Do you, sir?”
“Cut the crap and give me back my innocence.”
“I wouldn’t hold on to something that large and important even if I had it. I’d store it in a bank, naturally.”
“My daughter’s innocence. Mariette. You stole it from her at the party. You must not even remember, you little shit. You’re too fucking... pubescent to care for consequences, aren’t you?”
“Right, sir. Don’t you find it amusing, the word “pubescent?” Does it come from “scent”, no? Sort of the time when a scent you would normally find repellant suddenly drives you wild. I mean, who’d think we’ll see bald men stealing our granddaughter’s underwear to smell them, what? And they do it, alright. Saw it on the telly! One of those perverts, he hunted only...”
The curly-haired boy was rudely interrupted by a couple of bullets from Lord Blowingsdale’s shotgun, which blew his cranium to bits staining the entire bar with blood and remains of the proprietor’s brain.
“What the hell are you people looking at? He stole something from my house, now piss off and let me search the bastard!”
The rummage was almost entirely fruitless. There were two innocences stored in tiny glass jars in the left pocket of his pants, but none of them belonged to Mariette. Suspiciously enough, they looked completely identical, as if both of them came from the very same person. Blowingsdale examined the little glass jars and shoved them in his pocket. He gave the blood-stained arena a disenchanted glance and kicked the corpse around a couple of times. It gave him enormous satisfaction. He disliked curly-haired men. Or women.
“Am I good? Well, one of the best in the field I’d say! Certainly, there are those who might do a better job and to be frank, I’m not much of a confident fellow anyway (my mother’s words, those are) but rest assured, I will find your daughter’s innocence! Probably.”
Mr. Blowingsdale floated wearily through the market. Detective Keeper seemed to be alright. Who needs confidence anyway. The curly-haired monster had plenty and that didn’t prevent him from soiling the bar with his insides. Timid and nervous, Keeper was comically unfit for the job, but he was the only licensed purity-theft detective in town and leaving a case like that to the police was of course out of question.
Three tomatoes and an avocado, something frozen for the week and a loaf of bread. That should last Mariette till next weekend. Oh, and a sharpener for the nail-polisher. Blowingsdale was slowly realizing what it means to be a woman and he wasn’t enjoying the sensation, not one bit.
Meanwhile, Detective Keeper paced back and forth in his motel room rearranging scarce clues on a foam board. A party flyer, a badminton team photo, Factory pass, two identical innocences (a case for the Museum of Gynecology rather) and a pair of Mariette’s panties. He carefully lifted the latter piece of evidence to his crooked nose. The faint scent of Miss Blowingsdale’s intimate parts rushed into Keeper’s hairy nostrils dodging sharp interwoven locks, made its path to the brain only to turn back and lunge deep into the groin, pushing a few cubic millimeters of blood to the vital organ, enough to give it slight excitement, not enough to call that excitement a full-blown erection. Keeper appreciated the preview and started breathing in the limited genital data panting like a blown horse. Soon enough his feeble attempts inspired a certain motivation to solve the case. Perhaps the fatso would be kind enough to let Keeper try Mariette’s innocence on himself and oh, then he’d let himself go! He’d have to remove his own innocence somehow and for the past 38 years that proved to be somewhat troublesome.
The maid caught Keeper with his eyes closed, underwear clenched in hands and an imbecile smile painted over his unshaven face. An uneasy moment for him, not an uncommon one for the maid. She handed him a card, her features stretched in the opposite direction.
“The Forbidden Shrine,” it said. “A smelly boutique.”
Oh great, she must’ve imagined Keeper to be one of those underwear-sniffing deviants! Well, that’s one more clue though, he thought and pinned the card to the board.
In fact, all other leads were so pathetic, that he decided to head for the shop right away. It was getting cold, so he put the two innocences into his mittens and it worked like a charm. Their inviting warmth spread across the wool cradle and tingled Keeper’s trembling hands. Largely unaccustomed to the warmth of human contact, he thought of the practical use one could find for innocence.
In fact, if you think about it, innocence is almost entirely useless. Sure, it serves some vague purpose within the first few months, but so does everything around the child in its sick twisted perception. Well, people might find that notion disagreeable, so it’s best be left on the shelf along with the ever-spreading array of Keeper’s radical ideas. But wait, there’s male innocence! Now that’s an utterly pointless thing, the masses have to agree. The male portion of the masses at least. It may very well be a sick conspiracy of the better sex against Keeper’s kind. Their innocence is protected, sought after and discussed in hush tones at late night parties. Our innocence is an unwanted seal of inexperience, a strange and wonderful gift we’re so eager to throw away at first opportunity. A man never finds himself longing for his lost innocence, rarely regrets the experience and doubtlessly fails to notice where his innocence slips between fits of agony. Keeper envisioned weekly gatherings of local women discussing the newest additions to the library of Male Innocence, laughing sardonically and playing badminton with his, his very own, dear and precious innocence.
Slightly nervous, Keeper opened the door of the shop and slipped in trying to look as perverted as possible. With his slovenly shaven chin and enormous glasses it was quite easy: the shopkeeper even seemed to admire Detective’s excessive perversity that seemed to be oozing out of every pore this fat clumsy body could broach. The short bald man stepped down to greet his customer with a handshake, paused for a moment, feeling Keeper’s suspiciously warm mitten and bestowed him with the most disturbing smile a man of his profession could hope to produce.
Soon enough, Keeper was lead through the locked door into the realm of perversity that stretched far beyond stolen underwear and sperm-soaked socks. The hidden room appeared to be an industrial freezer, packed with hundreds of small boxes, jars and cans, all labelled with names and dates.
After a standard intercourse between a married couple, the shopkeeper explained, their innocence is filed in the National Reserve along with milk teeth and failed childhood aspirations. However, cunning thieves of the Smelly Boutique manage to snatch innocence from unsuspecting teenagers at loud crowded parties and bring it to this sordid cellar where it’s sold to the Boutique’s perverted clientele at a hefty price.
Keeper found himself genuinely shocked by the story and plunged his glasses as far as they could go without entering his flesh. Reassured by the ritual, he inquired about a certain Mariette Blowingsdale. Her innocence, in particular.
It was of course there, trapped between rows other innocences in a small glass jar. The price was steep, no doubt the Boutique had a keen grasp of Mr.Blowingsdale’s finances and valued the trophy accordingly. Keeper wrote a check and multiplied the massive sum for the expense list. The jar seemed to resonate with Keeper’s mittens, giving out a cautious glow as it disappeared in the pocket of his coat. The shopkeeper grabbed Keeper’s hands and forced a passionate double handshake, telling him how much the modern world needs people interested in canned innocence. Suddenly, the owner broke his monologue and squeezed the mittens hard.
“You sick bastard. You’re one of the copiers! Get out of here before I call the cops!”
Keeper hurried to the motel trying to make sense of the events this morning hailed upon him. Apparently, there are these infamous innocence-vendors he encountered just now and then there are those who make copies of stolen goods! That would explain the two identical innocences warming Keeper’s sweaty palms. He suddenly felt vulnerable and scared and thought of his mother’s pastries.
Keeper called Mr.Blowingsdale and they agreed to meet at the post office next day. The alarm clock, set awfully early by all standards, saw Keeper equally confused and agitated as he stumbled into the bathroom scratching his buttocks and yawning in tune with the garbage truck’s clatter. Bathroom noises joined in, far too familiar and humdrum to describe. Keeper thought of a fine fortune coming his way and four innocences he was encumbered with and how far apart their values rested on the scale.
Factory men savored their cigarettes and kept watch for female body parts, which they observed with remarkable appetite following the slender lines until they blended in with the lurid distant mass in front of the metro. There were whistles and laughs and intimate details, then there were rumors and speculations. Keeper hurried past them hoping to merge with the crowd and let its soft warm noise mute out words of disrespect and ridicule that he often gathered from manly men.
The metro crowd gathered Keeper with welcoming indifference. He loved morning commuters; they were all hurrying to work and didn’t have enough time or caffeine in them to strike up a conversation or stretch on a smile. He almost dozed off if it wasn’t for a oven-shaped lady who pushed him rudely out of the way.
In front of the post office, the copy center caught Keeper’s attention. He came up to one of the machines, looked around cautiously and slid Mariette’s innocence into the tray. Pressed the color copy button. An exact replica of Mariette’s most valued possession came out in its full glossy glory. Astonished, he grabbed the copy, shoved it into his pocket and let out a contained laugh through his teeth.
The post office was alarmingly empty with the lone, but sizable exception of Mr.Blowingsdale, who managed to occupy two and a half seats with the same air of superhuman confidence that never seemed to leave him for a moment. Keeper was half expecting a trap, a dozen of policemen jumping out of the mailboxes to arrest him or something equally unpleasant. Apprehensively, he walked towards Blowingsdale.
A note of relief in a heavy grunt, flawless transaction, a cordial embrace.
Mr. Blowingsdale spent half of the day shining with elation like a 4000-Lumen lamp. He payed Keeper twice as much (that would make it 4 times) and presented him with a 600$ bottle of red wine. Keeper kept a shy grin, but his rotten heart was quaking with sinister laughter as he felt Mariette’s original innocence tremble in his pocket.
Resuscitated, Mariette could finally come downstairs to have breakfast with her much-missed sisters. They talked of the latest trends in nail-polisher sharpening and had deep-fried onions with raspberry butter. She was rejoiced in the comforts of the mundane, her innocence fit perfectly and illuminated her rosy cheeks with a healthy blush.
Keeper was puzzled by the burden of three female innocences that loomed over him unbearable in their inutility. Once the apartment was overflowing with every exotic delicacy one may wish to find, he couldn’t even figure out what to do with the rest of the money. At least the first two innocences were lost soon enough when he left the mittens in a bus. As for Mariette’s innocence, any grand schemes of blackmail faded shortly. There was little point, he was filthy rich already and the prospect of dealing with Blowingsdale as an enemy was a frightening one.
The very sight of mittens and glass jars inspired sheer terror in Keeper. Within a month he abandoned his detective work and moved into a quite affable neighborhood, untouched by suspicious boutiques, post-offices, copy machines or any vicious artifacts of the immoral kind. On top of that Keeper’s new apartment was located conveniently 20 minutes from his dear mother and a grocery store (triquetrous in any direction), so all his passions in life could be satisfied within 30 sickteaseconds afoot.
On Mondays all lower Factory workers would gather for drinks at the Belgian Bar. Tuesday marked conceptual badminton sessions between popular and collective consciousness, Wednesdays brought burlesque picnics on the roof. Newcomers had to relieve themselves by the parking lot with dozens of headlights shining in their eyes. Thursdays, sale at the Papal Garage, mild drinks in chalices. Friday, casual Friday. On Saturdays the local radio station hosts the weekly Earthwink, an attempt at an intergalactic wink with the binary onoffulness of the residential light switches. Sunday is the state laundry day, the day when neighbors become friends, friends become lovers, lovers become roommates and roommates turn to strictly POST-ITian discourse.
Keeper avoided this dangerous slope by doing laundry at his mother’s house. All was well and delightfully boring until one dark and wintery night a young girl of no more than fourteen twelvemonths came up to Keeper and unostentatiously offered him a blowjob for a criminally low price. Keeper shook his head and hastened his pace. After a few blocks he stopped and headed back. The girl was lying on the pavement, her face frostbitten and haggard. Keeper carried her to his apartment, inspiring undisguised repugnance and curiosity in his neighbors and their guests.
The girl woke up next afternoon before a cup of coffee and home-made pastries that Keeper neatly arranged on a tray. He felt rather cold after sleeping on the floor and went to the kitchen to grab some vitamins, followed by the fading munching sound of his flip-flops. The girl was done with all the treats faster than a handful of yellow pills reached Keeper’s empty stomach and he invited her to the kitchen, where pastries and sweets of every kind were piled up between jars of jam and untouched cookbooks.
The girl developed a habit of coming to Keeper’s apartment every evening to cook him a decent dinner, help around the house and spend the night. He bought a second bed and before long sordid rumors, diligently crafted by the neighbors became positively unnerving. To put an end to these awful speculations, Keeper filed for adoption and to celebrate the occasion he presented the girl with Mariette’s original innocence.
It was a perfect fit. A few drops left Keeper’s nasolacrimal canal and for the first time in his life no shame or deprecation followed them. Call me Daddy. No, that line can (and really ought to) be misinterpreted. I’m you father. Fuck no! We are a family. No no no, oh no. Some drivel did emerge from his shaking lips, but there’s no need to go into details, for words couldn’t add a note to the perfect harmony that settled in Keeper’s sombre apartment. And then it was quiet and peaceful again.