Saturday, June 09, 2007


The shoddy banquet hall had been made to look elegant for one night only. The room was awash with gasps--one heavily-chinned woman letting out a poorly-timed chortle--when she stepped into the room. All eyes were on her: Malva Farnsworth, recipient of the coveted McGurk Prize. Her arrival had been anticipated for hours, prophesied by pairs of bellboys hanging out on their pile of injured baggage carts around the Plaza's service entrance. Everyone awaited her speech, to hear precisely who she was prepared to thank. She stepped into the room amid the swishing of restless legs below plastic turquoise tablecloths. Much taller than many had predicted, Malva walked a perfectly straight path. Her bulging cranium swaddled in a tightly-wrapped mauve scarf, she had recently ordered a small compass implanted in her left ocular socket. It was concealed by a brown velvet eye patch and always pointed her in the right direction. Seated at one of the round tables nearest the stage was her husband, Reginald Dupree, who had gained some notoriety several years back when he ingeniously suggested the use of neckties as tourniquets in the middle of the office massacre at the Brewer building. All table wear ceased clinking as Malva climbed to the podium, her compass needle undoubtedly ticking with the magnetism in the room. The next day's papers featured a picture of her on stage, arms spread wide, expressing her gratitude primarily to two people: the fellow at the copy shop who had stayed open an extra fifteen minutes for her to finish running off her application, and an unnamed, narrow-faced, violinist in an Italian restaurant in the West 50s, who did Malva the extreme courtesy of not playing over her table one evening.

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