Summer 2008, #15
       "Convenient Acts of Human Behavior"

and then it was like she could see another Scott inside the Scott in front of her

     by Diana Adams

Why are you here?

Muriel hates to see anyone in their pajamas, which is probably why she dislikes the man across the room so much. His shirt, a rich silky pajama-like paisley has one button undone at his middle chest, revealing a pale, red-haired fleshy torso beneath. Taking a sip of her mint cocktail she looks around for someone to talk to, but there is no one. The party is full of strangers; strangers who seemed to know each other well. She regrets coming to the party, but she is in a deep, garbage strewn gutter of a personal rut and willing to do almost anything to get out of it.

For some reason everyone wants to talk to the man in the paisley top. He has a continuous circle of nodding listeners, mostly women, and it doesn't take too long before Muriel finds herself wanting to go and join them to see what all the interest is about. But she knows that she will be repulsed by his open button, and most likely won't be able to do anything but stare at his chest hair until she eventually tells him about his open button. Just like when Uncle George came to live with her family after his divorce, and Muriel at 16 was forced to view his open pajamas every morning at breakfast, before her mother told him to 'For God's sake cover that up'. The minutes, half hour, until he covered it up however, Muriel tried to look away, the feeling of menace creeping up her neck.

'How long have you been doing Sudoku? '

The voice comes out of nowhere. Muriel hadn't sensed the strange man by her side and wonders how long his thin, oily haired presence has been there. He holds his glass close to his chest, and has a piece of mint stuck to his upper lip.

'Oh, I don't really do Sudoku. I just visit the Puzzle Club website and happen to know Zelda. She invited me.'

'I see. Well, just between you and me, I didn't even know what they were before yesterday. ' He laughs and doesn't seem to care that he has spilled his drink down his front.

'Why are you here then?'

' I don't know, something to do, I guess. My brother knows Zelda, she wanted me here to put some zip into this party. I'm Scott by the way'

'I see.' But she doesn't see. How he could put zip into anything? 'Well I'm off…' she says walking slowly away. Scott trails closely behind her.

Muriel scouts around the hallway for the washroom. Zelda's house is a large red-bricked mansion with so many doors and rooms it is impossible to guess which one might be a washroom.

'Do you know….where the loo might be?' She asks him, hoping he takes her question as a dismissal.

'The what?

'The washroom?' She says, and then cringes at the thought him following her and perhaps listening at the door.

'Third door down…there's some interesting reading in there.'

The washroom is occupied, she is forced to wait. Luckily Scott has disappeared down the hallway and is now looking closely at the art on the wall. When the door finally opens the man in the paisley shirt stands before her, his shirt still gaping open.

'Hello there! I hope you haven't been waiting too long. Shouldn't keep beauty waiting, I always say.'

'Well, I don't know….'

'Look if it isn't my younger brother lurking around the halls.' His voice booms down the hallway. Scott looks up, gives a weird grin, and then resumes looking at the paintings.

'You've got to watch out for those types…what's your name?'

'Oh, I 'm Muriel.' She shook his hand, it is wet and cold.

'Ahhh, the bright sea. Lovely name.' He leaves without another word.

Muriel enters the washroom and is surprised by the fact that the toilet is black, and also surprised at the stack of dog magazines called Toto's. Strange magazines of dogs dressed in ballroom dresses, going shopping, and posing on small pink silk beds with black collars. Some magazines have fallen to the floor, pages open and folded over at centerfolds. She can't help but look at a few out of curiosity, they make her laugh and then she feels uneasy. Something is twisted about them, almost too strange. She wonders why anyone would leave them out for all to see at a party.

Scott is waiting for her in the hallway as she closes the door behind her. She tries to ignore him, looking the other way.

'Did you see them?' He chuckles.

'No. Oh you mean those. What are they doing there.' .

'I put them there.' He says with a wink.

'I don't understand…'

'I'll try to explain. I like to mess with people's expectations. That is what I do, you see, I see it as my job actually. Let's get another mojito. ' She follows him to the living room. They sit down on the brown leather loveseat and Muriel shifts to keep their knees from touching.

'See my brother over there?' He passes her another drink. 'He's wearing my pajama top. Well, just look at all the women around him…they are completely drawn in just because it looks a little dislocated.'

'I don't really follow.'

'No, you are probably too hooked into the path of your life, your own thoughts and your profession to even know what I am talking about. What is it you do?'

'I'm a florist, actually. '

'A florist! Then you know exactly what I am talking about: mixing the odd yellow flower in with the red, the red with the purple, the pink with the orange…you do it all the time then.' He moved in closer, his breath close, hot and minty.

'I guess I do…'

'So that's what I do. Of course I do it in my own work; oil, mostly large canvases. But it is a social function as well. I see it as a sort of larger canvas. This is my role in life.'

She could see how serious he was about this, as he spoke with conviction. And then it was like she could see another Scott inside the Scott in front of her. His hair may be scraggly and he is poorly dressed, but somehow she could now envision him with a haircut, shave and wearing the outdoorsman clothes from the mountaineering catalogue that arrives promptly once a month for the previous occupant of her apartment. It is the same Scott, but in a sense she has tidied up the edges and put him in a different frame. An ideal Scott emerged, and Muriel imagines him reading the newspaper barefoot on Sundays in her sunny bachelor apartment, discussing art and maybe even doing a sketch or two before they went for long airless walks through art galleries.

'I think I get it now.' Muriel moves in closer. Something in her has lifted, but then she remembers the magazines.

' So you hoped that those magazines would shock…like performance art?'

'No no, shock value is highly over-rated. I just want people to look at the pictures, and disrupt their sense of equilibrium a little. We live in an age in which we are inundated with images from television and magazines. Just a little experiment of mine…'

'How strange.' She had to think about it for a moment. His strangeness makes her squeamish but also faintly excited. 'You are very interesting .' The roomful of people had moved elsewhere and now they are alone. She can hear high pitched party laughs coming from the kitchen. 'Do you think I have a role too?'

'Of course, you have a very inquisitive nature, and judging by our conversation,' As he squints his eyes pick up flecks of light from bright lamp behind him. ' I gather you are here to ask questions, and more importantly, locate answers. In fact, you are probably very good at puzzles.'

He speaks with authority, and she has to admit that his summation somehow makes her feel good. Suddenly she doesn't mind the fact that their knees are touching, or that he has started to trace a triangle on her upper arm with his soft fingers. The rut she had been living with is slowly filling up with murky green mojitos, and the little sparks like flies that fly out of his eyes right into hers.