A short story – the city of lovers (& madness)
‘Welcome, welcome to the city of lovers!’ exclaimed the Ringmaster.
‘Hem, hem. Excuse me, is Auckland really a city?’ a lady said, looking down her nose.
‘I love it how you say ‘welcome to’, as if we are really going there when we are all just sitting in a movie theatre!’ came a cynical voice.
‘Let me explain myself,’ the Ringmaster bowed apologetically. ‘You are going to be shown a range of scenes that are going to immerse you in the city of Auckland, as if you are there yourself!’
Here, he started hopping excitedly, from one foot to another.
‘I hope it is not too grey,’ a man said forlornly. ‘Concrete, concrete, everywhere. How I wonder where to step?’
‘ARE THERE SHEEP?’ a man hollered from behind.
‘There’s nothing special about Auckland. It’s not as if there has been an earthquake,’ glowered a woman from Christchurch.
‘Well now,’ the Ringmaster bristled. ‘We are just getting acquainted!
‘Before you start waving your #JAFA umbrellas at me,’ he continued. The woman shifted uneasily, placing the umbrella behind her seat. ‘Let’s let the show begin!’
And with a wave, the curtains swished open.
The Ringmaster stood there, rubbing his glasses with his pocket handkerchief.
‘We now find ourselves in a little bit of… ah… a crowd,’ he fumbled. ‘Hang on a minute while I figure out how to walk through it.’
‘It takes a bit of an Aucklander’s skill, which I admit I still do not have,’ he grinned sheepishly.
‘There we are! Right beside the bright orange sign that screams AUCKLAND WRITERS’ FESTIVAL. What a poetic little city we have here!’
‘Now before you get me sprouting limericks and sonnets, (What’s that, whispered a woman from the middle row.) let me find someone to interview.’
‘Aha! This young child over here! He bent over a little girl, who was almost beside herself in the queue.
‘What exactly are you queueing for, little girl,’ the Ringmaster asked kindly.
‘I am so excited!’ she squeaked. ‘Books, and books, and books galore!’ She spun around, and fainted on the floor. When she got around (the Ringmaster fanned her repeatedly with his white gloves), the Ringmaster decided not to press her too hard.
‘Ah uhm, do you think I can enter this door?’
‘Certainly!’ the girl’s pitch was now feverish. ‘You have the honour of meeting the greatest, bestest author on earth!’ She almost threw herself into a fit.
‘You can have some of my pens,’ she piped, in between her shivers of excitement. ‘I brought a hundred so that she could sign them!’
‘On the books? Or on the pens?’
But the girl had slipped into the door and the Ringmaster followed hastily behind.
Two ladies, well dressed, were sitting on stage. A glass table separated them, on which sat a book that the lady on the left placed a hand casually on. The lady on the right was perked upright, eyes charged with mesmiration.
‘The intellectual work of writing begins with a feeling,’ Gornick said.
The crowd swooned.
‘Everybody, everybody seeks a connection.’
A saxophone started playing in the background.
‘Every human being longs to make some connection that could give courage for life. I wanted these stories to be received.’
And with that, the crowd broke into a rendition of ‘Take Me to Church’, arms around shoulders, hips swaying… Tears of joy were streaming down the little girl’s eyes.
‘Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?’ the Ringmaster asked the camera man cheerily.
The camera man grunted in reply.
‘Jeez, look! It’s cold outside! And we had thought Auckland was a boiler pan.’ The Ringmaster pulled on his black coat.
‘Quick! Take a few shots to show the audience that Auckland isn’t that warm.’ (A snort came from Row K).
The camera man obliged. Snap, snap went the shutters.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, the Ringmaster noticed a youthful girl, strolling in deep thought. He tipped his bowler hat at her and said, ‘G’day.’
She smiled and replied soulfully, ‘What a beautiful day indeed.’
She stood there, watching him in a meditative state.
‘Er. What is it that is making you happy?’
‘I am not happy,’ she spoke slowly. ‘Just at peace.’
‘With the world?’
‘Yes. I feel the transformative powers of my soul rising from within me. I could change the world.’ She was blissful as she spoke.
‘What brings you so much peace?’
‘A documentary?’ the Ringmaster almost spat out his chewing gum.
‘Yes,’ she replied simply.
‘It is about social architecture, community, the concept of a village mountain and oh, design!’ she said, as if in a daydream.
‘Wow. Sounds like I should have been there,’ the Ringmaster said, not knowing how to react to her deep thoughts.
‘Yeah, I wish you were,’ she said wistfully.
‘Here, have a ticket. There may be another run at The Civic.’ And she walked off, humming.
‘The Civic she said?’
The camera man was still scratching his head. Those concepts are downright weighty, he thought.
‘Let’s go there now!’ the Ringmaster exclaimed, rushing forward and nearly tripping over his feet.
The camera man broke off his reverie and trailed behind.
As they approached The Civic, they stopped. They had to because they could not move further. A crowd was marching out from the doors, crying out in unison, raising signs that shouted ‘FREEDOM! LIBERTY! TYRANNY IS DEAD!’
‘They look downright respectful these people,’ chewed the camera man on his tobacco. ‘Theatregoers… why are they marching?’
Over the din, the Ringmaster tried to start a conversation with a marcher.
‘You see! We just watched To Kill a Mockingbird’ and got darned worked up!’ the marcher said breathlessly.
‘We want to protect the justice of the people! Court rulings shall be overturned, fairness restored!’
‘I’m sorry, I have to move on. You can’t keep up and we just got to keep marching,’ the marcher bade his farewell and rushed back into the throng of swarming humanity.
The Ringmaster said reasonably, ‘I figure the actors would know what’s going on.’ And he walked into the theatre.
Peering backstage, he saw the group of actors and crew sitting on props, having their celebratory supper.
‘You reckon you triggered something outside?’ he probed.
‘Ah that’s fairly normal. The result of our spectacular performance, I must say,’ the director came to the front, chest swelling with pride.
‘It ain’t the curtain call nowadays. It’s the rallying call.’
‘But they’ll be fine,’ the director added hastily, seeing the look on the Ringmaster. ‘They’ll all be hitting the pubs before even making it past the Sky Tower’ He peered into the Ringmaster’s face.
‘I don’t see why you are so concerned,’ the director frowned. ‘You look like a radical yourself.’
Not wanting to be dragged into a discussion on politics, the Ringmaster extricated himself from the audience seats and exited.
‘Aw man,’ groaned the audience.
‘Isn’t there more?’ they sighed as the words ‘THE END’ appeared on screen.
‘Nope, though you could come back another day,’ the Ringmaster hopped out from behind the curtains and bowed his head regretfully.
‘I was just beginning to enjoy it,’ whispered one in the audience to another, though loud enough for the Ringmaster to catch it and look pleased.
‘Not as much wind as Wellington though,’ the lady pronounced in distaste, as she shuffled out of her seat. The Ringmaster couldn’t help but notice that she discarded her #JAFA umbrella when she walked past the bin though.
‘Well, well,’ the Ringmaster sighed pleasurably. ‘What a pleasant crowd.’
The camera man started to dismantle his tripod.
Sprawled out on his seat, the Ringmaster gave one last contented glance at the audience slipping out of the door.
‘They say, if you don’t find love in the city of lovers, you will fall in love with the city itself.’
‘So it is true.’
This is a hodgepodge, fictional mish-mash of my times at the Auckland Writers’ Festival, watching To Kill a Mockingbird by the Auckland Theatre Company and two films at the DocEdge Festival hosted by Q Theatre. It is up to your literary fantasy to deduce the meanings behind this piece of writing. The quotes from Vivian Gornick are true (and the swaying, singing is not).
And if you are still puzzling over the title, Auckland is considered the ‘City of lovers’. Google it to convince yourself. *cheeky smile*
I must say thank you though, to Simon and Catherine from the University of Auckland’s Marketing Department. They sponsored my ticket to the Auckland Writers’ Festival, an insightful and delightful encounter with Vivian Gornick, queen of personal narratives and author of ‘The Odd Woman and the City’. I add a few more photos here for your viewing pleasure.
Auckland Writers’ Festival, with blessings from Catherine. More details on the event I attended, ‘The Odd Woman and The City: Vivian Gornick’ here: http://www.writersfestival.co.nz/programmes/event/the-odd-woman-the-city-vivian-gornick/8035/
the mad hatter and her ticket;
Before the start of To Kill a Mockingbird;
The poster that attracted my attention and that successfully solicited $39 out of my debit card;
My ticket for From this day forward. More on the film here: http://www.fromthisdayforwardfilm.com/ (Highly recommend!)