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Don’t kiss Isabel
prose [ Science-Fiction ]

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by [regius1000 ]

2007-01-04  |   

Literary Translation - Translations of classic and original poetry and other materialsThis text is a follow-up  | 





Don’t kiss Isabel




The party must have been a real success; at least this is what I could hear from those invited and who were able to express their opinions coherently till its end. I was seeing a group of noisy and merry guests off to the front door when I saw Isabel making a discreet sign to me.
“The maestro wants to talk to you before he goes,” she smiled charmingly when I managed to come closer to her.
“Would you think…?” I asked her, quite unsure, and I looked towards the armchair in the corner of the room where old Norris, a sort of special guest of the evening was waiting for me, looking right into the bottom of a glass which I believed to be empty.
“Darling” Isabel started spoiled, “I don’t believe a word! But if you ask me nicely I could calculate for you the probability that he is the one we are looking for...”
I made an impatient gesture, so she continued:
“Fine, you can go then! I will take care of the guests that have left… And, really, there’s no use to be so tensed, the party was great!”
I went to the armchair in the corner, where Norris was waiting for me, after I took two glasses from one of the tables around. I offered him one of them and sat down near him.
“Well, young man,” Norris started after toasting, “I would like to talk to you for a couple of minutes. As a matter of fact, I wanted to approach you earlier but you were too busy to receive the congratulations that I hope you won’t make the big mistake to believe them to be as sincere as the ardor they are spoken out with.”
I looked towards Isabel, who was seeing off to the door the last guests remaining, and then I turned towards the man in front of me.
“I am listening to you now”, I said, hoping that Isabel will manage without making any blunder.
Norris, noticing my worried expression, probably interpreted it in his own way, as he could not help himself adding, hiding a malicious smile behind the glass:
“This is only between us: I think you are envied by your fellows especially because of your young, charming and particularly obedient wife, rather than because of the ephemeral literary success.
“People are gossiping, sir” I replied revolted. “They are up to anything except recognizing the genuine cause of my success and, implicitly, of their envy: the talent”.
“Quite possible” he added, tolerant. “But allow me not to ramble about that… I’d like to warn you regarding a great danger that is waiting for you.”
“You mean danger?” I asked him, amazed. “The only danger I am aware of came from my wife’s tailor. But owing the success of my novel, I hope I can finally settle that.”
He smiled kindly:
“I’m talking about a danger that I didn’t know how to avoid, just because at the beginning, far from appearing a danger, you would imagine it to be the manna from heaven. You start by losing your personality of a writer, then your art will become the servant of some aims you won’t be able to understand.
I probably looked bewildered, because he continued:
“I will tell you everything from the very beginning… Thus you will understand better what is all about. About thirty years ago, shortly after the publishing of my first novel, unexpectedly, I was contacted by a man that I had never seen before. His name was Baffin and he told me he was the representative of a highly appreciated publishing house and he had an offer for me. The money I had got for my first novel had disappeared extremely fast, and the inflation isn’t really a reason to put forward nowadays, so I listened carefully to his suggestions. To be honest, I was slightly put down by the terms of the contract, according to which I was bound to give up the manuscript of the novel to the publishing house whose name was not even mentioned, in exchange for an amount of money that I found more than appealing at that time. The publishing house was therefore free to publish the novel whenever and under whichever name it wished…”
“I hope you did not accept” I interfered.
“I wish I hadn’t” he said, sighing deeply. “Unfortunately, I could not resist temptation. Because a weak person always finds his own excuses, so I told to myself that I had the chance to secure a relative material independence, in which case I could be free to devote myself to the really important things that were my concern, and not the commercial trifles, like the publishers wanted me to...
But the money I took as a result of this odd contract ended up sooner than I expected, so when Baffin visited me again, instead of showing him the door, I gave him a warm reception. In order to get a better price, I started to invent all sort of scruples and remorse, feelings that I never had anyway. I think he predicted that, he told me that he understood me, after all I was a writer and I wanted to see my name written on the books’ cover, to be appreciated by my colleagues and my readers. As a consequence, he offered me in exchange for my new novel the same amount of money as first time, plus the right to publish under my own name the manuscript of a fairy good novel. I accepted again, although this time I did not understand anything of what was going on. A long time passed before I found out the truth, due to an event. Baffin was nobody else than a common dealer, even if he was coming back from future. He had come back from a remote future where the computers, now naïve babies in front of the artistic fact, had replaced man even in art, the last field to be conquered by machines. They were able to offer so many facilities in the field of creation, that there is no wonder how the writers, just like the other artists, had become an extinct species, but highly appreciated and honored, so that many of them were ready to pay huge amounts to become a well known writer…
Just like the way any demand creates an offer, guys like Baffin were created to deal with this particular type of smuggling. This happened because in his future, in order for a novel to be published, it had to be checked by a so-called human creations detector that would issue afterwards a certificate to confirm that the text was written by a human and had not been published ever in history. And probably these detectors were impossible to cheat on, otherwise Baffin wouldn’t have got involved in such a dangerous smuggling like that along the course of history. I believe it is not necessary to mention that what he offered me were works of art written by his own computer; I found out afterwards that it was able to write about three per hour...”
He remained silent for a while, thinking. Then, noticing that I did not say anything, took a sip from his glass and continued:
“You might ask me, maybe, why I did not give up after a while. As you can probably imagine, Baffin started to blackmail me, saying that if I gave up, he would disclose the whole truth or at least part of it… meaning that my glory was based on some texts written by a machine… Whilst I was feeling too old to start everything from the beginning. I was famous, I was the prisoner of the celebrity I really cared about, even if it had been gained by some novels that had been written by a machinery…
He stood up with difficulty, placed the glass on a table nearby, and then shook my hand.
“I have to leave you now, but I would be really happy if you believed me, although the whole story might appear so weird…”
I shook his hand as well, ensuring him that I found everything he had told me real enough and I also promised him that I would be careful if I ever were to meet Baffin. Then I saw him off to the entrance hall, where, for the past few minutes the whole place was covered by a suspicious silence, forecasting nothing good. Then I noticed that everything I had prayed the whole evening not to happen had actually happened: he tall, moustache guy had been continuously following Isabel with his eyes, had done in such a way to be the last one to remain with Isabel. When Isabel, instructed by me to be a nice host, stretched her hand to say goodbye, he had probably tried to kiss it. Now she was squeezing his hand without even showing a sign of effort on her face, but the moustache – guy had become red in his struggle to free his hand. I hurried up Norris’s leaving, after he had witnessed the whole scene with the tail of his eye, but a gentleman like him pretended he hadn’t seen anything. Then I turned towards the other two.
“Isabel, let him go!”
Usually, she would follow my orders immediately, and that was the reason why all my mates envied me, as Norris had confirmed it. But this time she hesitated for a moment. Even more, I had the feeling that before letting his hand free, she squeezed it even harder, making the poor man in love to heave a groan, while his phalanxes were cracking in Isabel’s delicate hand. After the moustache-man scampered away, looking back in anger, I went to her, furious:
“What is going on with you? Do you want to ruin everything now, in the end?”
Well, there were many other happenings in my pretty adventurous existence. But none of them surprised me more than Isabel’s answer to this particular question:
“You, fool! Was it better for you if he had kissed me?” And she turned away, pouting, literally striking me dumb.
When I came back to my senses again, I made an attempt to follow her and ask for further explanations, but the doorbell stopped me. I opened the door and a short, middle-aged man entered the house, who, after looking around to make sure that I was alone, apologized himself for the inappropriate tie of the visit.
“I am Baffin”, he said afterwards, “and I am the representative of a prestigious publishing house. Due to the late hour, allow me to come to the point…
“No use” I interrupted him. “I think I know what is all about.”
“I should have imagined” he smiled, satisfied. “Old Norris has already brought you to the knowledge of it… My task is now so much easier…”
“Mine is easier as well, Baffin… The Temporal Offending Tribunal has been waiting for you for quite a while…”
He made an almost unnoticed gesture towards his heap, where he probably kept the temporal generating set or, who knows, even the disintegrating gun. The same moments his eyes met Isabel, who had entered the room through the door behind me. Baffin froze with his hands wide apart…
“This cannot be possible!” he whispered, terrified, turning pale all of a sudden. “You are using Cobra androids! I will report you; you know that after the accident on Sitis they have been banned in the whole galaxy…
I shrugged my shoulders, impassive:
“Tell that to those that sent me. Until then, I advise you to control your moves.”
I really don’t know what is wrong with her lately. Few moments ago I found her torturing a poor guy that had the bad inspiration to kiss her. Probably it’s the influence of the era…
“What are you waiting for? Program the generator and let’s go. I can hardly wait to get there and hire a good lawyer and be free again in three days…”
I looked straight in his eyes:
“I am sorry, Baffin, but I think I have been influenced as well by this epoch in which I’ve been waiting for you for more than one year. The epoch in which I had to write a miserable novel to draw your attention… Now, for instance, I feel like writing a report on your capturing. Isabel, take care of him!”
Before closing the door I looked both at Baffin’s terrified expression and Isabel’s radiant face while walking towards him with her hand stretched to say hello:
“Till he comes back, let’s introduce ourselves. I am Isabel!”























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