Part 6 November 17, 2013Posted by Sobek in News.
Dario was back at his desk. His feet were up and he was leaning back. An old, sad song crackled faintly from a cheap cassette player (they were too far underground to get radio or television reception). He had almost forgotten about the problem in the rat room. Ciro was nowhere to be found, which made everything even better.
But there was that accursed dog.
Ciro owned a stubby little bulldog named Efesto. It was a wrinkled little meatball with deep jowls and a face so collapsed that he grunted when he walked and oftentimes woke himself up with his own snoring, looked around confused, and then collapsed back into the folds of his skin. His fur was a soft brown color, save for a white face and chest, and two perfect circles of white on his sides. Whoever sold Efesto to Ciro said they looked like the shield of Achilles – a reference that was totally lost on Ciro, but the name stuck, and now he was Efesto.
The dog had just waddled into Dario’s office. He looked around through rheumy eyes. He wanted to find Ciro, but instead there was Dario, feet on the desk, looking at the dog with undisguised contempt. Efesto turned his body to face straight at Dario and just stared. It was a challenge. It was an affront to Dario’s dignity. The dog somehow looked both placid and hostile, as though his hatred for Dario was somehow the most natural thing, even soothing to the brute creature.
“What the devil do you want, you miserable thing?”
Efesto made no reply, just stared at him.
“You know I don’t like you. You should just stay out of my way. Do you know what would happen if I drop-kicked you? You know how much that would hurt? It wouldn’t hurt me at all, just you.”
Efesto was unperturbed.
“I’m way bigger than you. You can’t even bite properly. Look at that underbite of yours. I don’t believe you could get those malformed jaws around anything. I’ve seen you eat. It looks like you’re snorting it all through your nose, which is the only reason you don’t starve.”
Efesto turned his butt hole to Dario and pooped on the tile floor. Two big logs, then a smaller chunk. His expression never changed for even a moment.
“You stupid …” Dario stood so fast it seemed to defy physics; if you had seen the movement, you would swear that he never even took his feet off the desk before they were flat on the floor. Quantum mechanics tells us that electrons, somehow, can travel from point A to point B without ever being physically present in all the spaces in between. As hard as that is to imagine on the scale of atoms, how much more difficult to believe about a portly Italian’s stubby feet? “You did not just do that! There is no way I just watched you turn your little dog ass to me, on purpose, and drop that foulness right before my very eyes!”
The smell of dog crap filled the stuffy room instantly.
Efesto turned around and resumed looking at Dario. Can bulldogs smirk? Probably not, and yet that’s exactly how it looked to Dario. A shower of expletives filled the air and mingled with the odor.
“Ciro!” he called, but there was no answer. “You stupid, miserable…” he sputtered, so angry that he couldn’t think of how else to insult his tormentor. His pudgy face was so red it was nearly purple. “Oh, God, what a smell! Oh, I’ve got to clean that up or I’ll suffocate. I hate you like God in Heaven hates the sin of Lucifer!”
He grabbed a plastic Crai bag and put his hand in it to grab the nasty little landmines. But Efesto dropped into a low crouch – even lower than a bulldog’s normal stance – and started growling.
“So, what, now you won’t even let me clean up the mess? It’s not enough that you do this in my office? How about this – how about I give you the bag and you clean it up?”
Efesto was unmoved. He stared at Dario like he was protecting his own puppies.
“Why do I put up with this?” He was silent for a long time, looking at his shoes more than anywhere else. “What’s the point of even trying with you? You’re not a dog, but some dark spirit sent to drive me mad, like poor Orestes. Oh, wise Athena, I accept my judgment, for whatever evil I’ve done!” He called his impious prayer up into the buzzing florescent lights above, but no response came.
If Efesto heard anything from Athena, he kept the communication to himself.
Dario smiled bitterly. “I’m going to put poison in your food. I’ve said it before, but I mean it this time. You won’t know it’s coming, because you’re too stupid to realize what I’m saying. Because you’re just a dumb dog. Just an animal, and when you’re dead I’ll be perfectly happy and content.”
The dog had no response, just his low, steady growling.
“Fine. I’ll go get Ciro, and he can deal with this.” And off he went into the hallway.
Now he had a different problem. How to find Ciro in the maze of hallways and unmarked rooms? Immediately outside the office door was a long passage stretching left and right. There was no sign of Ciro, or indeed signs of any kind down here. Just opposite Dario’s door there was a small painting, a highly-stylized number, as though done in mosaic rather than oil, showing a young man leaping over the top of a charging bull. It was probably some Spanish artist. How it ended up down here, Dario would never know.
But it was lucky that it was here, because it was the only decoration of any kind on the otherwise empty walls, and Dario used it to find his office after those rare occasions when he left it. The only two places of any interest to Dario were the elevator and his office, and he knew how to get from one to the other, and that was all he needed under normal circumstances. Ciro was the only one who liked wandering down here, but Ciro didn’t know his way, either, and so there was no way to know which direction he might be, or when he might be back.
Dario turned left and started walking. There was nothing else for it but to guess. He definitely couldn’t just stay in that fetid office until the mess was cleaned up.
But some strange stroke of fate, Dario chose well that night, because he bumped into Ciro at the first intersection he came to. Ciro was holding a pencil and a piece of graph paper on clipboard, and he looked hopelessly perplexed.
“You need to do something about that wretched animal, Ciro, or I won’t be responsible for the consequences.”
“Sorry Mr. Dario. I’m still trying to figure out how to find it, but I think it’s probably in the ducts.”
“In the ducts? No, not the rat, how are you still thinking about it? It’ll die in there and no one will ever miss it.”
“I can’t figure out this map, Mr. Dario.”
Dario laughed. “What, you’re still trying to work on that hopeless project?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t make any sense.” He turned the clipboard to show Dario. The graph paper showed an attempt at mapping out the snake-like hallways of their floor, with the office in the middle. It was covered in eraser marks, overlapping lines, and question marks. At least it showed how to get from the elevator to the office, and that was all that was important, right?
“It doesn’t make sense because you’re a fool. Whoever told you how to make a map?”
“No, look at it. See, the hallways overlap.” And indeed they did.
“You measured them wrong. Where’s the mystery?”
“No, I’ve measured four times now. I start here, at the end of this hallway.” He stuck his index finger on the page. “I walk a hundred and fifty meters, then turn right. Then I walk three hundred meters, and I turn right again.” He moved his finger along in two straight lines. “This hallway is four hundred and fifty meters long, but after only fifty meters, there’s a side hallway to the right. So that’s three right turns. If I take that side hallway, I should only be able to get three hundred meters before I hit a wall, right? Because then that’s a full rectangle. It’s three hundred meters by fifty meters, and it should join up right here. But no, look, that side hallway is actually four hundred meters. They overlap.”
“I see that.”
“It’s like there are two hallways in the same place, going different directions.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know, that’s exactly my point. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“No, what I mean is it doesn’t make sense. So you must have done something wrong.”
“I already told you, I’ve measured four times.”
“What did you use to measure?”
“I brought in a tape measure.”
“Yes. When I started to make the first map, I just used my footsteps to get close enough, but I kept running into this problem, so I brought my tape measure to see what I was doing wrong.”
“And you still haven’t figured it out? Maybe you should just quit.”
“Why quit? It would be pretty helpful to figure out where all these hallways lead, wouldn’t it?”
“Useful for who? There’s your real problem, and it’s nothing to do with tape measures or right angles. You’re trying to do something you aren’t being paid to do, that isn’t part of your job description, and so you run into things like this. If we hired someone to map out the lower floors, I’m sure he’d do it right the first time.”
“I guess you’re right, but it shouldn’t matter, should it? I mean, distances should be the same for everyone, right?”
“Ciro, you’re completely worthless. You ever hear of relativity? Quantum addition and angles? Of course you haven’t. You’ve never been to college. You don’t know things like this.”
“You need college to measure a hallway?”
“Well, strictly speaking, no. It’s more subtle than that. Suppose you build hallways for a living. If the architect gives you the plans, then you don’t need to go to architecture school to follow those plans, because he’s already worked out all the numbers and whatnot.”
“Sure, that makes sense.”
“But who ever gave you any plans?”
“No one, I’m trying to make my own.”
“And that’s exactly the problem. You’re just not … how do I put this delicately, so your simple brain won’t be offended? You’re not the type, you see?”
Ciro gave Dario a long look that the latter didn’t understand, so he ignored it. Besides, all this map stuff was just a distraction.
“Listen, Ciro, you have to do something about that dog of yours.”
“You weren’t mean to him again, were you? He’d be nicer to you if you were nicer to him.”
“I’ve always been perfectly civil to that stupid mutt, and he knows it. When was the last time I crapped on his floor?”
“Don’t be gross.”
“And then the flea-bitten monster has the nerve to growl at me. You really need to do something.”
“I’m trying to do something. I’m trying to get you to be nice to him so he won’t be mean to you.”
“You see? You admit that he’s mean. He’s a bad dog, and I swear to Ares that I’m on the verge of war with him.”
Ciro dropped his arms to his sides and accidentally dropped his pencil skipping to the floor. “Yes, boss. He really is a good dog, though.”
“To everyone but me, and I’m the one who’s in charge around here. If the dog doesn’t get that, he has to go.”
“Yes, Mr. Dario.”
“Now come clean up his mess.”
“Yes, Mr. Dario.”