Tuesday, 29 July 2008

MULTIPLY Pictures to Words: Faces Week 5


I will never forget the day I met George. I was on one of my special shopping excursions to Zürich. There are so many stores there with such a wonderful variety of special items. If you want the best perfume then go to Zürich, they have everything. So where was I? Ah yes, I went to Zürich to buy something special. I was temporarily out of work, nothing different really, I always seemed to be out of work, but if you do not look for a job you will not find one.

So I entered the perfume department of the best department store Zürich had. Just off the Bahnhofstrasse, but near enough to be able to get lost in the crowds. I made my way to the perfume department and a young lady behind the counter asked if she could be helpful. I named about six of the most expensive perfumes and told her I would like to try them. She engulfed me in vapours with such exotic names, chanel No. 5, poison, Bulgari BLV, Lagerfeld, you name it they had it. I then started asking questions about how much was in the various flacons so she took them out and showed me the different sizes. It was then that my perl necklace broke (I did a quick unnoticed tug on it) and we were on our hands and knees picking up pearls. I left the assistant to it and I was helping myself to a few flasks of perfume slipping them into my handbag while the assistant was busy.

We eventually had all the pearls and I thanked the assistant for her help, looked at the time with astonishment and saying I would be back the next day, but had to go to catch my train I hurried to leave the store. As I was moving towards the door a scruffy looking old man brushed up against me. I will never forget his watery eyes and he smelt as if he had spent the night sleeping at the side of a sewer. Just as I reached the door to the store I was grabbed on my arm by a young clean shaven man dressed in a smart suit telling me to make no fuss, but he would like to examine my hand bag. The scruffy man pushed past me and said he will be waiting outside and winked with one eye.

Things were happening fast and furious. My perfume trick was discovered and I was in deep trouble.
“If you would like to come with me Miss” said the man in the suit being followed by the lady from the perfume counter and he lead me into a small room just next to the entrance.
“I think you might have something in your handbag that has not been paid for.”
“Yes she has” said the shop assistant “she distracted me with the pearl necklace trick and now there are three bottles of expensive perfume missing.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about” I said, playing for time, but before I could stop them they had emptied my bag out onto a table and I don’t mind saying I was very surprised to find that there were no stolen perfumes in my handbag. Just the usual necessaries that we women carry around with us - lipstick, comb, purse. The young man went very red in the face and looked at the shop assistant with an annoyed glance.
“I am sure she stole the perfumes” said the young lady
“The next time you should be more exact before you call us for assistance. We store detectives have enough to do without going on a wild chase for no reason. Madame, please accept our apologies for this disturbance. Miss Smith” he said looking at the shop assistant “you will now fetch a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume as compensation for the trouble we have caused our customer.”
I was naturally thrilled, the stolen perfume was not found, I had been given a bottle of my favourite and everyone was full of apologies. I then left the store remembering the strange smelling individual that told me with a glance to wait outside. I had no intention of waiting anywhere and decided to disappear as fast as possible. I left the shop and turned the next corner and bumped into the old man once again.
“You were really not as clever as you should have been” he said in quite an educated voice. “The pearl necklace trick is an old one and you should really work with a partner. I must say you do have quite a talent for leading people up the wrong path.”
I was a little bit annoyed, but astonished when the old man presented me with the stolen perfume especially as I now had two bottles of Chanel No. 5, the stolen one and the compensation.
“Now you are surprised. Only professionals can take something without it being noticed” and his similing face was accompanied by a laugh that just did not seem to fit someone showing his age.
“I think the least you can do is to invite me for a drink” he said.
Now although I was pleased to have my hard earned perfume, I was not actually prepared to have a drink with such a smelly old man.
“Of course you can invite me back to your place” he said with a sly laugh.
I had no choice. I had parked my car at the station and told him to accompany me, but he must sit in the back seat – he was still on the smelly side and was carrying two or three plastic bags. Tramps always see to carry their life with them in plastic bags.
At that time I was living in one of those villages at the edge of Zürich where the working population lived. Not bankers, but more factory workers – sort of working class, but my apartment was clean, although small.

When I arrived home I told him to take a seat and I would make some coffee and whether he would like something to eat. After all I had my freedom and honour to thank him for. Surprisingly he said he must go to the bathroom. I told him to leave his plastic bags in the kitchen, no-one would take it, but he replied that he never leaves his few possessions unattended.

So imagine my surprise when fifteen minutes later (I was astonished at the time he spent in the bathroom) a tall clean shaven man, some two or three years older than myself, appeared wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a sort of hair style similar to that of Brad Pitt. Even his eyes bore a likeness. They were no longer wrinkled and watery, but clear and laughing eyes. It was a complete rebirth and no longer the scruffy tramp individual I had brought home with me.
“I hope you don’t mind” he said, “but I borrowed some of your eau de cologne from the bathroom just to improve my scent. After all sewer smell is not the sort of thing that makes an impact on the ladies. If I may say so I was very impressed with your small show in the shop, I think we might make a good team.”

“A good team” I repeated “can you explain that a bit more in detail.”
“No problem, how do you think I caught onto your little trick so quickly. I was doing that five years ago, but naturally not for perfume, more for clothing. There are so many things I could teach you and together we would be strong.”

Well I suppose he must have made a impact on me somehow as he did actually stay the afternoon at my apartment, and even saw the inside of my bedroom. Well I mean I was old enough to look after myself and you have to take what you can get. He seemed to have the same impression. He left my place around five in the evening but two hours later he was back, complete with a suitcase full of his possessions.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I had a little trouble about paying the hotel bills. I thought I could lay low at your place until things cool down.”
Well to be quite honest after our afternoon of getting to know each other it did not really bother me in the least that he stayed.

He stayed actually forever more or less. I learnt his name was George and that he grew up in an orphanage where he learned to look after himself. Yes there were no flies on my George. Ok, I am now speaking in the possessive language. We were a good team. I would enter the shops, using my various tricks and he would wait as I left taking the goods off me each time in a different disguise. George was a master of disguises. He seemed to be reborn every day. Sometimes I thought I was living with many different men, although my George was unique. Who cared about being out of work, you just did not have to work for your living with a George in the house. You needed clothes, go to a shop and take them. George always had a plan. If he needed anything then it was my turn to play the innocent bystander and between us we did well.

Of course life could not go on forever like this, now and again we needed cash. That was when I discovered that George had a talent for forging signatures. You just had to look in the computer, there were enough signatures there to imitate, and with his gift of disguises, he was a different person all the time. We even got rich.

Then one day, after working together at least a year, he proposed to me. It was so romantic in our favourite restaurant at the Dolder Hotel. The hotel was perched on top of a hill overlooking Zürich, so romantic and so expensive. We loved it there and I think it was the only place where we paid with a cheque that didn’t bounce or a credit card that was valid. I mean there are some things that you just do not do.

So we were married and then he had a brilliant idea. Well, he thought it was brilliant. He decided to kill me. Now things would have been so wonderful had he not thought of that. I noticed he had bought (well I helped him to buy them with a trick) some books about insurance and said there was a lot of money to be had if one of us made a life insurance for the other. We could put our hard earned savings (hard earned?) together and it would cover the costs of such an insurance.
“George, who is getting insured?” I asked
“Well, you of course, after all it is my idea.”
“But don’t I have to die for you to get the money”
“No, not really, I have a plan. You will have a car crash and the car will burn. Then the insurance company will pay out.”
“Yes George, but what if I do not want to burn and die.”
“Oh that is just a way of talking my dear. Of course you won’t burn. There are enough bodies in the local morgue I can make a fire with. A can of gas and a lighted match work wonders on a corpse.”
“Sorry George, please explain.”
“The local newspaper is full of burials when and where. I will sneak in the crematorium and steal one. It won’t be noticed and they will burn a coffin with someone else. After all we will be saving a family money for a burial and all the trimmings.”
“Are you sure George?”
“No problem.”

And so it came to pass that George took out a life insurance on myself and it was decided that I would die two months later. What I just did not know was that George really intended for me to die. I was going shopping and took the car. He had cut the break cables and as I was approaching Zürich I put my foot on the breaks at the traffic lights, the car just carried on. Well I must say everything was over in five minutes and even the ambulance with its horn blowing could not save my life. George looked quite chuffed at my funeral. I was watching him. You could almost believe he had real tears in his eyes.

I should have known better. If George takes out a life insurance, then it was for I, me and myself and never intended sharing it with anyone, but I was not finished with George yet. Now George decided to move away from Zürich to the South of France. As I had not yet decided to move on in my new life, there is always a waiting room somewhere, I was watching him attentively.

He lost no time, my George, and soon had another lady in tow. One of those brainless women that was glad to have such a good looking man at her side and with money to go with it. By this time George no longer needed his tricks, he had his own bank account and with investments and perhaps a little bit of crookedness he was his own man. Now in this place where I am at the moment, not being final, there is a chance to return. I just had to make sure that his new lady had an accident the same way I had mine and my unearthly presence was in the right place and the right time. No problem. Just imagine how she felt when she was on a shopping trip in the car and suddently I appeared on the seat next to her – not a pretty appearance naturally as driving at 120 kilometers into another car with your head going through the front window did leave a few scars and disfigurements on my body. Anyhow new wife took one look at this ghostly apparition sitting next to her in the car and took her eyes off the red light showing in front of the car. Naturally I had planned everything well. This time the ambulance got her to the hospital to be able to save her. Or did they? I now have my George again and his new lady, well she went on to better pastures although he still has a lady looking the same, but it is what is inside that counts.

I quite enjoy my life now with George. No more stress about stealing your way through life. We have everything we could wish for. Money, our own home, holidays in the Bahamas, and yes, a little George junior to complete the picture, although I am not sure about George junior, he just does not sleep well. He drinks well, but he sometimes has a sort of reddish glow in his eyes.

Rebirth is not really difficult if you know how.

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