Are You Alienated: part ten
The library’s architectural style was modern. It was of the 1960s, the building’s spare outer walls segmented into stunted rectangles of concrete composite, offset by ranks of recessed, tinted windows.
But in the ’90s, an environmental project had added a disharmonious piazza of sorts to the library’s front. A sculpture—rusted, corrugated sheet metal bunched in cylinders—spoke undoubtedly to the tension between rural simplicity and urban sprawl. And radiating outwards from this, patterns had been laid in the paving blocks; along the borders were trees that flowered in the spring, ornamental grasses marked with bronze tags on little wire props…finally, benches, bike racks, a hut of trash receptacles and recycling bins.
Minta wore a dress. The dress was sleeveless, as she didn’t know whether the library would be over or under-heated. She’d added a cardigan, boots and her good herringbone coat. Something about her interview with Cammie had made her want to assert her adulthood, on this next visit to the university.
The library had, arguably, two main entrances; it had, as well, a dozen floors—but Minta had faith in Emmett’s voodoo. She looked for an empty bench. Only the one close to the hut, overhung by a tree and puddled with water, remained forlorn. The outdoor space was popular despite the winter weather. Most students here (and faculty) had their faces turned towards the landscaping, or they rocked back and gazed at the sky. They were on their phones. Minta lit gingerly, scooching onto the bench’s only dry corner, her eyes, as she was digging out her own phone, on her coat pocket.
“Emmett,” someone said, “ought to be along shortly.”
She knew his face, though until this moment, she had never heard his voice.
Rising, she offered her hand. And taking hers in both of his, while looking into her eyes with a sympathy, perhaps tinged with pity, Torbay said, “Minta. Well, I’m afraid your name has come up.”
This time, he wore glasses: the lenses rimless, the earpieces made of some spectacular high-tech metal, reflecting light at certain angles in such a way as to seem invisible. Emmett’s ascetic black was accented with style points too esoteric for the commonplace shopper: the glasses, the glossy Italian wingtips, the tiny, unidentifiable red, white, and yellow logo on his watch cap. All this made him appear, once again, alien to his environment.
“Why don’t we,” he said, having been there when Torbay stepped aside, “stroll about the campus green, such as one finds it in early winter, and discuss financial wizardry?”
Torbay strode off ahead; Minta scrambled, catching up. Emmett trailed. She turned to him. “John, I thought…” How odd it was for these two to be there depended, she guessed, on who they were. “Are you and Doug colleagues? Did you fly over together?”
“You suspect me of putting across a canard. You may guess I have lied about my identity, knowing that if I provide you with a piece of information you yourself are able to verify, you may unquestioningly accept the rest of my story.” Here Emmett paused, and smirked. “But really, I could show you my passport. You would be reassured on one or two points. I do dislike Doug, and we are far from doing the same sort of work. However, strange bedfellows, and all.”
Emmett gave Torbay the intimate look his last words demanded.
Torbay shrugged. “Nonsense, John. At my age, I am not susceptible to the vapors.”
They descended a flight of steps divided by a center railing. Traffic flowed indifferently up and down both sides, and Emmett, now moving ahead, regarded with distaste the sidewalk squashed over with sycamore balls. “All right then.” And acquiring Minta’s eye, he went on:
“A company has obtained a robust capitalization. Let’s say, upwards of three hundred million dollars. What does it do? This company is not a manufacturer of products. Its engineers, if one calls them as they call themselves, ‘conceptualize’.”
Quentin’s word. She must assume it was to Tin Art, LLC, that Emmett referred. The name, as Minta thought of it, represented Quentin and Art’s seedy little marriage. But also (she could hear them earnestly explaining), this idea of the pioneering mind…
Are You Alienated
(copyright 2015, 2017 Stephanie Foster)