Friday, February 1, 2013
Care of Wooden Floors, by Will Wiles
Oskar, a brilliant composer, has asked the London-based narrator to housesit his beautiful apartment (where "taste and money" have met) in an unnamed Slavic country for a few weeks. The two men have known each other since university days when they were like the original Odd Couple, the narrator being Oscar, and Oskar being Felix. "A room is a manifestation of a state of mind, the product of an intelligence . . . We make our rooms, and then our rooms make us," explained Oskar as a student. For the narrator, the years that followed would bring other messy "rooms, then shared houses, then a string of one-bed flats. I have regarded them all with the same dissatisfaction. This was Oskar's gift to me," he ruminates. (Note to self: hang up clothes piled on bedroom chair; be more vigilant hunting down dust bunnies).
As a house sitter, the narrator is deluged with notes from Oskar. In one of these, Oskar's script warns in all caps, "PLEASE, YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF THE WOODEN FLOORS." Then in softer lower-case, he explains that "they are French oak and cost me a great deal when I replaced the old floor, and they must be treated like the finest piece of furniture in the flat, apart from the piano of course." So once the narrator stains the floor with wine, can a calamity with the piano be far behind? And how will the narrator fare with caring for Oskar's cats, which run "full pelt" through the apartment? And what will transpire with the stern housecleaner he nicknames "Batface"?
But leading up to true catastrophe, the narrator spends a night out, drinking with Oskar's friend and fellow musician Michael. It's a wonderful telling of a night too fueled by drink, when the two men talk about Oskar's LA-ensconced wife and his plans to write a symphony based on the Dewy Decimal System. Does that seem to you to be an odd thing to write a symphony about? If your answer is 'yes', Michael would tell you, "You are completely wrong. It is a system for the organization of all knowledge. It is educational, dialectical. Every piece of knowledge that man knows, every fact, is given a number, given a place. . . The Dewey system arranges everything. It is the perfect muse for Oskar. He will arrange the world. A symphony of everything. A Grand Unified Symphony."
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Posted by Maureen at 2:05 PM