The Seven Five Nothing

The Seven Five Nothing are a collection of hyper-short stories, each written in a single sitting with no editting.

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6. The Smartest Guy.

When the phone rang, I was asleep. I heard it ringing, but I didn't want to do anything about it. Fortunately, Laura got it. Unfortunately, we'd been sleeping in separate rooms for the past week, so the tension between us was pretty big.

'It's for you.' She dangled it right above my head.
'Oh, okay. Thanks.'
She walked out. I watched her ass, sneaking out from under her slumber-time T-shirt. Damn I missed laying next to her.

The call was from a stranger. He told me he wanted me to do an interview with him. I asked him how he had my number. He said he knew everything. We arranged to meet.

Gary was not what I was expecting. You know when you form an image of somebody in your head based when you've only ever heard their voice? Often times, they turn out to be completely different. This was one of those times.

He had the voice of a man twice his age and three times his size. Too many smokes I was to later conclude. He sucked them down to the filter in his one good hand as his crippled, claw-like fingers on the left, hung bowed, almost involuntarily.

'I didn't always look like this you know?' He'd caught me staring. 'It was stroke. A fucken stroke, can you believe that?'
Actually, I could. His wild hair, unkempt, like a bullet had passed through his head and ivory skin made him look like a man who was dying. He looked like he'd been dying for a while.
'I used to do magic,' he continued.
'Really?'
'Card tricks, you know? I was pretty good at them.'
'Right.' And then I waited. But he seemed like he was done on that story. 'So, you're the smartest person in the world.'
'Yup,' he snapped, no hesitation in his affirmation. 'That's me. The one and only.'
'Excuse my ignorance, but I don't know of your work.'
'Nobody does. Not anymore. Only them.'
'Them?' I was probing for a story worth my time here - and so far, I couldn't see one. 'Who's them?'
'Governments, science people. Big companies. You know - the cats that have the power. Or the ones who want to wrest the power.'

We talked like this for hours. Or rather, he played mouse, I played cat. He was hard to nail down on anything, but yet, everything he did say was dipped in intrigue. I guess I found myself looking to answer one big question - was he truly the smartest person in the world?

I interviewed him seven times over the course of three months, always at his home - a fucked up loner-ville type of place, the kind where you are surrounded by stacks of old newspapers and dusty old jars that have nothing in them - just sat at his kitchen table, talking. I would scribble down in shorthand, he would chain-smoke, filling the room with an uncomfortable fog that left my clothes stinking.

'I'm moving out,' the note read. 'I can't do this anymore. Laura.'
I had been expecting it. Nothing weird. Nothing new. She wasn't too pleased that I'd sunk my attentions into this oddball guy rather than trying to resolve whatever it was we had to talk about. I screwed up the paper and threw it away.

'I lost a woman once.'
I hadn't mentioned Laura to Gary at any point, but I was used to him just knowing. After all, he was the smartest guy in the world - this much I was now sure - and he just knew. A killer instinct, I supposed.
'Yeah,' I picked up. 'What happened.'
'I was a prick - like most guys. I might have a head like a supercomputer, but I've still got the emotional afflictions of everybody else. The human problem - it'll be the thing that kills us all.'
'You try to get her back.'
'Of course.'
'And?'
'And what? Look at me?' He held up his bent hand. 'You think she'd want this? I'm a fucken loser.'
'It's about more than that.'
'No it's not.' He was more angry than I'd ever seen before. 'It's this. This is why she won't come home to me.' He slammed his weakened hand down.
'What makes you so angry about it?'
'I had everything you motherfucker. Everything. But he took it away.'
'He?'
'Don't bullshit me. You know what I mean. He.' He leaned back, a shit-wide grin on his face. 'What? You think that it's just me, you and science on this fucken planet. Go fuck yourself.'
'He? He did this? Why?'
Gary laughed. 'Why'd you think? Because I know. I know the mind of him. And I make good fucken money trading off it. I'm a parasite to. He doesn't like that - had to teach me a lesson, you know?'
And then it hit me. I'd been fooled. Fooled by the delusions of a madman. A lunatic. A loner.
'I'm not sure I agree.'
'Well fuck you,' he proclaimed. 'I know shit that you'll never get. So go, fuck off!'
And with that, I left.

The dovetail to this last meeting - and it was our last - is that when I got home that night, Laura was back. She'd been wracked with pain, with guilt and confusion. We talked. For hours, and hours, and it was the best we'd communicated since we first met. Tears and laughter and hugs and kisses and resolution. She stayed.

I went to see Gary one last time. And yes, I know I told you that we'd had our last meet, and it's still true.

When I got there, the door was unlocked. It'd been a month since things went sour, but I had to wrap this all up. And as I walked in, I saw his paralysed hand hanging down from the table, blood dripping from his cribbed fingers, and the knife on the table. He was still, head on the kitchen table, bowed forward. The same spot I'd last seen him.

The note he'd left for me read, 'I know you'll be back. I even know when, because I know everything. I've been dead a couple of hours now, but don't worry, I didn't do this to upset your week. I did it because I couldn't handle the confusion anymore. I've gone to meet him - we've got a couple of things to talk about. Your friend, Gary.'

And that was the end. I don't know if anything he ever told me was true, but I never published the article. I couldn't. This is probably as close as I'll ever get to recounting his words. The words of a crazy man who might also have been the smartest guy in the world.
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