Office escalator

The following is an excerpt from the writings of Aaron James Franklin, a budding author.  Mr. Franklin’s  text describes a trip on a Metro an escalator.  Was Mr. Franklin inspired by the novel Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker?

On the surface  The Mezzanine deals with a man’s lunch-time trip up an escalator in the mezzanine of the office building where he is employed, a building based on Baker’s recollections of Rochester’s Midtown Plaza. In reality, it deals with all the thoughts that run through a person’s mind in any given few moments if he or she were given the time to think them through to their conclusions. The Mezzanine does that through extensive use of footnotes, some making up the bulk of the page, travelling inside a human mind, through the thinker’s past. The footnotes occasionally are detailed and rambling to the point of Baker consciously digressing within the footnote, and towards the end of the book there is a multi-page footnote on the subject of footnotes themselves.


 “Ah. I see. Well, right-ho then. Cheerio, Cutie old boy. Busy tonight, but tomorrow I’m off to buy a bomb.”

I pull the headset off my ear. I gaze down the escalators into the maw of my Metro stop, a cement gullet with two rows of grinding metal teeth, waiting to swallow me. Sorry about that – I tend to get a bit poetical when I’m on the verge of losing my rag.

I stand. I ponder. Something grabs the back of my left thigh, and I jump a bloody mile. “Great fucking Scott!” I scream at the little girl with the undead cat, who has apparently followed me all the way from Little Oblivion. “What the deuce are you doing here? Go home, before the House of Voices decides I’ve kidnapped you!”

She narrows her big Valrhona-chocolate eyes at me. She scratches Kittystein’s rump with one hand while she waggles a finger at me with the other. “That is not a word you say to a culandera,” she scolds.

Not much to say to that, of course. In any case, she doesn’t give me the chance. She sets dearly departed Mr. Tom down on the sidewalk, reaches up to grab my shirt, and pulls my face down to her level. “I am not a real culandera yet,” she whispers, “but I can do the cards, and the knotty strings, and the eyes in the smoke. I can do the spider that laughs, and I can do the holes in the sky. Thank you for making Rosa bring back Guapo for me. Mamacita says I may not play with souls until I am ten.”

She looks petulant at this last bit. I feel for her – Pater never let me drive the Rolls until I was eighteen.

The little girl gives my shirt an extra tug. She presses her lips to my cheek, and suddenly my bally face is on fire. “Fuck!” I shriek, leaping up and backward and nearly going arse-over-teakettle down the Metro escalator.

She shakes her head sadly, and makes a don’t-say-I-didn’t-warn-you sound. “I cannot make you not be dead if you become dead,” she says. “But I have given you a kissing-ghost. He will love you. Goodbye.”

With that she giggles, scoops up the yawning feline Lazarus, and skips off back down the street. I shrug. I shake my head and jog down the escalator.

My cheek is still tingling as I wait for my train. Shouldering my way onto the car, the little witch’s lip-prints flicker through a range of temperatures as I race an old lady for the last empty seat. Leaning back, I look up at the ceiling of the tin can that’s dragging me homewards.

I am in a little, brightly-lit, nicely air-conditioned bubble hurtling through darkness. As usual. What worries me is what will happen when it stops hurtling. I’m very concerned about what may be waiting to get on at the next stop.

I sigh, and stand to get off at Dupont Circle. No sense in giving up on a metaphor that’s still got some use in it: what old Spex needs to do is talk to the driver, or one of the drivers. Even if he is a smug, insufferable bastard.

I head back to the flat and change into the suit I got from Rosa. It just goes to show the state this whole affair has put me in – I barely even notice the luscious weave of the fabric, the effortlessly superb way in which the jacket hangs, the understated elegance of the waistcoat buttons. The lip-prints are still chilly on my cheek.

I pull Rosa’s blood-black rose from my discarded shirt and slide it into my buttonhole. I have to go meet somebody who is somebody.

Picardie is usually jam-packed of an evening, but the place is empty when I arrive. Empty, that is, except for one waiter and a chap in a pearl-gray morning coat and ivory cravat. This chap’s hair is black and careless – not careless the way mine is, but careless in a way that takes forty-five minutes and a trained specialist to pull off. Those aren’t rubies in the chap’s cufflinks. You can tell scarlet diamonds by the refractive index of the gleam, or if you know the prick who’s wearing them.

Fucking Adrian. Should have known he wouldn’t meet me in a place he didn’t own.