Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Perfect Plan

Among my friends and I, we have a running joke. A prank. We have all been Geested at one time or another.

Professor Fred Armstrong Van Geest works in the political "Sciences" department at Bethel University. He also, on occasion, is one-fourth of a Christianity and Western Culture, a standard class for freshmen. He is the most boring teacher alive. Not being a poli-sci major, I don't know what it could be like to take a three-hour class with him and I never wish to know.

In Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) there are four professors, each teaching a week or so and then switching out. A great deal of information is presented in the class, so that by the end of the semester there are many terms and ideas related to it. We play a game at the end of the year called Before or After.

The class would be divided into four teams, and professors would hold up cards with terms, people, or events. Teams must guess, as the name suggests, before or after. Say you get Martin Luther. He was 500 years ago, but we started in Greek history so it would be safe to assume the next term is before.

500 years young

My team got the term Declaration of Independence. A term at the cutting end of the class, so we confidently guessed "before." Our team's professor held up the next card.

On it was "Professor Van Geest."

We were livid. We cried foul but he was technically part of the class. Because of that trick my team lost the game and Van Geest's won.

I told my roommates about it, and we started "Geesting" each other by changing the backgrounds on our computers. It moved to physical pictures printed off and hidden away for a certain person to find. Once I hid it under my mattress but above the springs, so that my roommate, in the bed below me, would look straight up into Geest's eyes at night. Danny 1, roommate 0. The next day roommate took it and taped it to the back of another roommate's shampoo bottle, resulting in him finding while in the shower.

I got the good idea of placing Geest's face inside Faceinthehole pictures, resulting in things like "The Mona Geesta," "Osama bin Geest," and "Edward Scissorgeest." We did things like put his face in video or send pictures over the phone, but not until last night did we get the best one of all.

It started when Gabe and I went to Heritage to visit friends. I brought along "Gheestbusters" and taped it to a wall when they weren't looking. Before they found it, we discussed the possibility of Geesting Michael, my roommate. He was, at the time, working the graveyard shift at Fountain Terrace (an off-campus dorm) security. We pasted Mike's face into a Canadian Mountie and four of us piled into Rob's car. Along with Gabe, Rob, and I was Lenny.


We drove over discussing strategy. Would it be silent, allowing him to find it on his own time? Or would it be a Geestkrieg, slapping the picture loudly onto a window of his security car? So many options. We spotted his car idling at the end of the lot and parked on the other side, with the Fountain Terrace buildings in between us. We moved toward him, still trying to figure out what we should do. We came to the consensus of a slap-and-run, and I said it would be a good idea to test sticking the sheet of paper onto a window. We started back to Rob's car.

Around the corner came Michael in his white security car. It wasn't close, but it was coming closer. We screamed and scattered, running in the opposite direction, around the side of the buildings and behind a dumpster. I got a cramp. Much to our dismay, Michael coasted past twice within a matter of minutes. We were sure the game was up.

But he moved on and we got back to planning. His normal idling spot was on the other side of a wooden fence from us, and so we split up. Rob and I went to Rob's car as the getaway; Gabe and Lenny stayed put to launch the attack.

Rob and I got to the car without trouble, but couldn't find Michael. We craned our necks, trying to look behind us, when he rolled past. We snapped forward, keeping ourselves stock-still until he was out of sight. I called Lenny quickly and told him Mike had just gone past. "He's right next to us, on the other side of the dumpster. It's the perfect time," Lenny said. I agreed and told Rob to get the car started.

We motored to the pick-up-point and looked at the situation. Michael's white security car was indeed mere feet from the dumpster, pointed away. I called Lenny again and told him we were set, and hung up.

We waited on hooks.

One minute later, Gabe and Lenny come tearing around the corner, full tilt. We shouted at them and they made a beeline for the car's open seats. As soon as they were in Rob punched it, as much as a decade old Saab could be punched. The story was, Gabe had lifted a windshield wiper and smacked the picture down.

As we roared away, Lenny got a text that was only this: GEESTED! Lenny called him and Mike was placed on speaker phone. We laughed and reveled, and of course Mike was a good sport about it. We returned to the main campus and went to Lenny and Rob's dorm.


Then they found "Gheestbusters."

Monday, September 13, 2010

That Hideous Throne

Man once looked at the sky and wished he could fly. The man -- men, really -- who realized that dream realized it for only 12 seconds and a distance of 120 feet. Yet their triumph would lead to the creation of Boeing, NASA, and Northwestern Airlines, as well as the comfort and speed of air travel.

Did Man ever look at the ground and wish he could sit? No, because he already could. But did man ever look at the ground and wish he could sit in fear?

Again, no.

Regardless, that dream has been realized now, and the creators are unknown. It was my mission to find who achieved history with a combination of a squat denim easy chair and a barbecue-sauce-red cover. My own history of the chair is simple.

We needed chairs, that much was obvious. With no place to sit, how could we do anything? No way to eat, or read, or entertain guests. Our many, many guests. However my confederate Michael revealed he knew the possible location of a chair. Splendid. He told me the path was fraught with danger, traps and gourds at every passage, and guards for the gourds.

They needed guarding, you see.

However, our need was dire, and we set out. Clearly my friend had over-emphasized the danger, as it took us a mere 62 seconds to reach were the chair was. Blocking us from the chair was a door. So, naturally, we knocked. Behind the door was a muscular man with spiked hair. I wished to flee, but Michael told me that the man (who reminded me heavily of a gorilla) was a friend of his. The brute waved us in and shut the door behind us, peering through the peep-hole for any watchers. When he was satisfied, he turned to us.

I mentioned that I saw no chairs in his abode. There were, however, couches without end. Stacked on one another, turned and twisted with all manner of colors and styles. This auditorium of comfort went beyond sight. The gorilla-man smiled and spoke.

“The chair you seek is behind the secret door here,” he said, motioning to a panel by his side. It didn’t seem like a secret door.

That’s the point, I suppose.

The man dipped a hand into the door and pulled a hidden latch. It folded open, giving us a good look at the space behind it. A long corridor focused down to a single speck of red flooded with light at the end of the tunnel. We walked.

Some magic was at work, because the walk took us hours, even though it should have only taken minutes. As we drew closer, the red point swelled. It was impossible to look away.

When we reached the point, it was indeed a chair. Such a chair. The gorilla-man smacked a paw on it. “Bit dusty, but Febreze will clear that up. Need any help getting it to your place?” Michael and I both nodded, but when we grasped the chair and began the trek back, we found the exit to the corridor only a few feet away. And the chair was light; we could carry it without breaking a sweat, much thanks to the gorilla-man’s brutish arms.

When we had placed the chair…the throne…in our room, we thanked the man and he left us with words. “There is a reason I was eager to rid myself of the thing.” He pulled on his tweed cap and walked into the night. We never saw him again.

Now it. It was short, one meter perhaps. About the same of width and length. It had a red cover, already described as barbecue sauce, but that may be inaccurate. The color was more akin to dried blood. I know that now. We wondered where to place the thing, and our options were many. We had no other chairs, remember. Finally, we placed it near my mahogany desk, on the other side of the wastebasket from my bookshelf. Michael had another adventure scheduled so he was away and I was left with the chair. After studying a bit of the commentary on Romans by E.H. Gifford I decided it was time for a sit.

I shall never forget that night.

Chopin was playing lightly on the piano, and I switched on the lamp overhead the bureau for mood lighting. I sat down, and my core, in its entirety, relaxed. I became a sack. A deliciously comfortable sack. I came to realize I was tired from the day’s escapades, so I closed my eyes for a spell. How apt that word seems to me now.

Next thing I remember, Michael was shaking me awake. It was many hours later, almost the next day. Somehow I was ejected from the chair and I rolled onto the ground. Chopin had run his course hours before and other than my heart the room was silent. I looked behind me at the chair and its appearance was unchanged. No, that’s not right. It looked hungry.

The following weeks it remained there by my desk, awaiting me to plop myself down in it and dream. I couldn’t help myself, the thing had drugged me, and I needed the drug.

I always dreamt in the chair, and the dreams were always fitful. Flashes of light from just outside my vision or a keening sound that I could not recognize. I would always wake up feeling bent. Not sore as I might expected but almost as if I had been squished into a position that did not agree with me.

Here is where I realized the power that the chair holds over me, and where I resolved to find the source of its power. At first, I threw off the red cover. But underneath was soiled denim, and you just can’t have something like that in your house. So, back on went the cover. I turned it over. There used to be legs that hoisted it off the ground a few inches, but it appeared that they had been sawed off. Its physical appearance offered no clues to its power, so I decided its history was the next option.

I first tried to find the couch-enthusiast gorilla-man, but his home had been abandoned. There was no sign of him or anywhere he might have gone, so I inquired with the landlady of his building. She had no idea the man was even one of her tenants, telling me that the room I asked about had been vacant for months since a chemical spill in the room above, so it was back to the drawing board.

We had a drawing board, I forgot to mention that.

Like a police analyst, I put up what I knew. So very little went up. Facts about the gorilla-man and the chair, and its appearance. Michael entered the house at that point, his coat wet with the recent rain. He studied the information alongside, and had something to add.

“I met the chair’s previous owner through another friend of mine. She might know something,” said he. I agreed and got my overcoat.

This walk was longer than the one to the gorilla-man. It was a flat on the other side of town. The place was cheery when she welcomed us in; a warm fire in the corner was smoking up the chimney. She took our coats, and I was introduced by Michael. The lady’s name was Elsie. We asked Elsie about the gorilla-man, and if she had any knowledge of the chair in question. When she heard it’s description her smile dropped and she turned away.

“You have it now? Shame. I thought he had destroyed it.” She took a deep breath. “The last time I saw my husband was in that chair. Just as you describe it. I gave it to that fool to dispose of, not keep.”

“He disposed it on us, it seems,” Michael commented.

“Yes. And now you are aware of its influence and power.” Elsie went into the dusty office room where, we presumed, her husband had toiled. She came out with a bill of sale. “Nicholas refused to throw anything like this away. It comes in handy know, I suppose.” She handed the bill to us. “This is where we got the chair.”
She turned to the fire and added a piece of wood. “I must ask you to leave now.”
“We are sorry to have bothered you,” Michael said as we dressed for the weather. She escorted us to the door.

“Be cautious,”she said. “Lest you become like my husband.” She shut the door and we were left standing in the rain.

The bill of sale led us to a place by the name of O’Connelly’s. It was a small shop in a squat building. The proprietor was an elderly man named, aptly, Brian O’Connelly. We asked him if he remembered the chair and where he had gotten it from. He did remember the chair (it seemed no one was able to forget it) and told us, after some prodding, that he had gotten it from a shipment of furniture and other goods from down river.

“But,” he said, “It sat in my shop for nearly 20 years before Mr. Anderson and his wife came in and bought it.” He pointed to the bill of sale I held. “Until then, not a soul took any more than a first glance.” We got the date and place of the shipment, and excused ourselves back into the rain.

The shipment had dropped on the docks September 13, 1983. The boat that had carried it, the Dipperstein, had been decommissioned and taken apart for scrap. After that fact, the trail went cold.

There is not much else to tell, I’m afraid. Michael and I returned back home and, for a time, talked about the chair. After that, Michael left the room and returned with a bottle of Febreze. “The chair vendor may be right. It does smell a bit.” He aimed the bottle and fired several squirts of liquid. They misted out and fell over the

Michael 'Calvin' Coolidge

All at once the dragging strength of the chair waned. After only three sprays, it was little more than a simple chair. Now I sit in it whenever I want, reading and listening to my Chopin. A more comfortable chair I have
never found.

A more comfortable chair I never want to find.