I walked through the Solitaire Museum. It reminded me of the place my high school art teacher used as a gallery. After telling us that our artwork should “look its best from ten feet away,” she used both sides of a six-foot wide hall to display it, so it could never be seen at its best.
My boot heels hit the floor; the confined space compressed the sound waves and made them tinny as they rose up to reach my ears. What was more notable was what didn’t rise up from the floor.
“Hello, Bogglesworth,” I said.
“You knew I was still here, sir?” said the old man as he walked up behind me. The lanky ring of hair from which his shining pate rose like a mountain was a little whiter, a little longer. His eyes shone with a touch more rheumatism over the aquiline beak of a nose which dominated his face. But he was the same old Bogglesworth, the Curator.
“Of course,” I answered, waving a hand at the shiny slate floor. “No dust. Somebody had to be cleaning the place, and I knew it wasn’t me.”
“You’re not upset?”
“What for? That you didn’t leave when I fired everyone? Hell, you didn’t ask to be paid, so why should I be upset?”
“Indeed, sir,” said Bogglesworth, his liquid eyes drooping just a fraction.
Once, this building was all Solitaire Museum. I’d blown it up and rebuilt it several times. I switched focus a couple years back and built a Temple instead, relegating the gallery to this back hall almost as an afterthought.
“You know, Bogglesworth,” I said, “when I built the temple complex, I fell prey to the ideas that I should choose an image, to be just one thing, and that I speak my message in a neutral manner.”
“Those would appear to be contradictory concepts, sir.”
“Most astute of you, old friend. It’s so obvious. So apparent, in fact, that it only took me three years to realize that I’m not just one thing, other than myself, and that nobody listens to anyone else without making some sort of connection. If I don’t speak from myself, if I try to make my message all about the you that hears it, that connection can’t be made and nobody’s going to hear a thing. “
“Everyone makes mistakes, sir.”
I smiled at the old man. “Not true. There are no such things as mistakes. No such things as failures. No such things as successes.”
I turned to look at the work clogging the walls. “There are only lessons. Not a single moment of my life has been wasted, and that is really what I’m trying to say here, because I know what it feels like to think that you are wasting your time.” I tapped my temple. “That feeling is all in your head. At the risk of seeming egoistic, if I’m going to use myself as an example, this place has to be about me.”
I waved at the objets d’art, narrowly missing two of them with my fingertips.
“I don’t just ride a bike and sit in a half-lotus posture, I do this.” I looked at the Curator. “And this, don’t you see, is every bit as much Zen as anything else could ever be. This is a meditation, this is focus and life and it is not separate from everything else.” I looked back at the paintings and drawings. “It needs to be more forward again.”
“Making them more prominent might improve revenue flow in the Gift Shop as well,” said the old man in a voice like ancient papyrus.
“There is that,” I grinned. “Philosophy is free, gasoline is not.” I looked around again. “I had such ambitions when I first built this place,” I continued. My smile reached for my ears. “It’s so nice that the world and I have finally caught up with one another.”
“I am gratified, sir,” said the old man.
“So!” I cried, clapping my hands together. “We’re going to rebuild again!” I waved at some of my older work. “I flagged a few that I wish to keep on display. As for the rest, I still like them–” I looked in a corner–“well, that one’s a bit crap, but I like most of them, they’re just no longer a suitable indication of my abilities. Put them on the fridge.”
“The fridge for the bison, or the fridge for the free-range pterodactyl?”
“Eh, I was too broke to work large-scale, the bison fridge will do fine.”
“Very good sir. I take it there will be some new pieces to replace those destined for the kitchen?”
“Oh, yes, my friend. I’ve not been idle. I’ve become quite prolific. And my skills have much increased as of late.”
“Indeed, sir? I look forward to learning your new work. When does reconstruction begin…” He took a small breath. “…again?”
I grinned and put my arm around the old man’s chitinous shoulders. With my free hand I pulled a detonator from an inner pocket and pulled out its antenna with my teeth.
“Ah,” said Bogglesworth.