Monday, January 28, 2008

January Assignment: "A Blank Room, A Window and a Chair..."


I sat back in my comfortable leather chair and waited for my visitor to begin. I’d invited him to sit down but he’d given me a troubled look and said he preferred to stand. Now he was hovering over me awkwardly while I enjoyed the craftsmanship of hand-made British leather. I had commissioned the suite of leather chairs to match those of my London club; I saw no reason to explain this to my visitor who I suspected had no appreciation for the finer things in life. He was looking down, shuffling his feet uneasily, unsure of how to begin.
“It is a Persian carpet, in case you were wondering,” I said, to break the ice and put him at ease. “But it’s only the traditional design which is Persian; it was actually made in Turkey. The quality is determined by the number of knots per square inch: the denser, the better. The carpet craftsmen invariably go blind –”
“Could we discuss more mundane matters?” he said, interrupting and confirming my fears about his tastes.
I shrugged and decided not to offer him a drink: my 30 year old fino sherry would have been wasted on him and he would probably have been nervous handling the irreplaceable crystal-ware. “The sooner we get it over with, the better,” I said.
“Quite so, Sir. Where were you between the hours of nine and eleven yesterday evening?”
“I was here, practising - Chopin nocturnes and etudes, some of the less challenging pieces of Debussy. You could be forgiven for thinking that magnificent piano over there was imported but it was made here in Australia, from Tasmanian old forest timbers – such a wonderful tone –”
“Can anyone verify that, Sir?”
“The tone?”
“The time you were playing – the piano.”
“My neighbour might have heard: she has been known to complain.” I turned away to show what I thought of philistines; I seemed to be surrounded by them. I studied one of my favourite Vermeer portraits on the wall, enjoying how the light from my window revealed the Dutch Masters’ use of sunlight for their own effect to intensify the yellows and subdue the blues.
“I’m afraid your neighbour won’t be able to help us, Sir. My colleagues were prepared to charge you with her murder but, under the circumstances, I shall be making an alternative recommendation.”
“I should think so too,” I said, still admiring the Vermeer.
“You see, Sir, there’s nothing here except a blank room, a window and a chair…”


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