Sunday, July 24, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Finis)

As Murphy neared the end of his time in reform school, he had acquired a reputation as -- paradoxically -- both feckless and fearless; keenly intelligent, in a rough untaught sort of way; and above all observant -- people would joke that he might have made an excellent Private Eye. Yet to all appearances, he nursed, neither that, nor any other ambition.
One day the head of the entire reform school -- Director Miller himself -- unexpectedly called young Murphy to his private office.
Murphy knocked; heard nothing; knocked again; let himself in.
The Director, hands clasped behind him, stood before the broad expanse of windows, his back to the room, his dark shape a shadow in the light. The blinds were down, though slightly canted; whether he was peering out through the slits, or sightlessly consulting his own private reflections, was not readily apparent. In any event, he now turned.
“Door behind you please.”
Murphy shut it.
“You may sit down.”
He remained standing.
Not pausing to take notice, the Director launched into what he had to say. “So, Master… Murphy: you have been with us for some time.”
“Sentence almost served, sir.”
“Yes. Right.” He frowned, and consulted his thoughts. Murphy stood silent.
“Bit of a weakness for automobiles, eh?” resumed the Director, attempting to strike a jovial note.”
“Yes sir.”
“But you won’t go ‘borrowing’ any more of them, once you are out.”
Murphy was silent. The Director looked up sharply; then resumed his discourse. “You’ve built a certain reputation here, during your stay.”
Murphy did not contradict.
“Deserved, I have no doubt.”
Again silence. Commentary seemed uncalled-for.
“Pluses and minuses, the good with the bad. But on the plus side -- a keen eye.” The Director himself fixed a gimlet orb on the young man standing there; Murphy shrugged.
The Director went on.
“There is always call -- always a market, for a keen eye.”
Murphy said nothing, yet considered this well; the idea was new.
“Keen enough -- plus perserverence -- name your own price, y’know?”
Murphy did not know; but he would learn.
“And the fact is -- the fact of the matter -- I could use a keen eye, just about now.”
Murphy said nothing: but now, not from reticence, or tact: he truly had no idea what this man could possibly mean.
“A keen eye and a good observer: who observes, without being observed.”
Murphy could not really parse this. As part of the furniture, he had never been really observed, or taken notice of; though, occasionally, nabbed red-handed.
“Who can observe, yet who, observing, can keep his own counsel: sharing his observations only with the appropriate employer.”
These words meant nothing; Murphy’s mind was alive with moths.
“Who knows the value of observation, and of discretion; for observation is of no value, unless discretion can be assured.”
Moths crazed by the echoes of reflections of flame.
“You are, I suspect… such a man.”
“Yes -- a man, I say -- for you have outgrown your short pants! You are coming in to a man’s estate: and there, there are those who would befriend you.”
“Further your career.”
(Now leaning forward confidentially.) “Lend an ear, lad. I have -- your Director -- as your Director: I have concerns.”
“About, well, for instance: the teaching staff. Your teachers. Competence and preparation and -- all that. Personal matters, too -- personnel, matters, ” correcting himself; and, meeting no response, he continued with grim light-heartedness. “Staff and all that. Custodial, and, as remarked… educational. Your…geography teacher, for example. Mrs. … what is her name, now…” And, meeting no help, he himself supplied the answer. “Mrs. …. Miller. I believe that is her name.”
“Yes, sir; Mrs. Miller, sir. Geography. -- Any relation, sir?”
Suddenly flustered, histrionically outraged. “No! No relation. None at all. Common name, that -- Miller. Common as … dirt…” The expression seemed connected with bitter reflections. “Common as… the dirt in the courtyard. Anyone might be named that.”
“Yes, sir.”
Forcing forward. “Anyhow -- this Mrs. … Miller … she is good friends with the mathematics master, I believe -- is that not so?”
A certain suggestion about the shoulders, though they did not actually shrug.
“Exchange -- the occasional joke, the old office gossip, that sort of thing; and perhaps, the occasional box of candy? Or flowers?” And, getting nothing: “The occasional… kiss?”
Murphy was now the bronze statue of Murphy, standing unseeing unhearing forever, where pigeons might nest.
Suddenly both practical and conspiratorial. “There’s something in it for you, Murphy. And -- by Beelzebub! -- you need a bit of something, you do.”
“Nothing to it, really; just keep your eyes peeled.”
Massively nothing.
“Of course -- got to back it up, you know; can’t go on just your say-so; wouldn’t stand up. But I’ve got a… little present for you, which you may keep, when this job is over. A tiny camera.” Nothing. “Fits in your palm.” Nothing, nothing. “And a little dictaphone….”
And suddenly that Nothing burst, like an ulcer, like a bubo -- like the original cosmological bubble that gave birth to the world. As Murphy, rearing, roaring, leapt over the desk, his arms suddenly strong with the strength of ten -- straining and screaming and strangling at the throat of this man.
I don’t do divorce cases! I don’t do divorce cases!!!”

It took all within earshot, to pry the lad off.
For this, he was not beaten, nor even admonished; but summarily escorted from the premises, and expelled, legally a week short of expiration.
Municipal records are silent on his further career.

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