Originally written in 2014, yet still up-to-date this year!
Part 1 : It’s all about meeting the right people
On my way to work, it seemed to grow darker instead of brighter and by the time I arrived, the sky above the office building was as black as a moonless winter night. The light in the hallway was burnt once again.
As I felt my way blindly through the hallway, clutching at my laptop and sandwich, I didn’t see the object over which I stumbled until I lay flat on the floor tiles.
It was a broom. An old fashioned whisk broom with a gnarled handle. I picked myself and my belongings off the floor, kicked the door open. “Who the (…!) left his (…!) broom in the hallway!”
The heartfelt “good morning to you too” smile froze on Nellys face (our receptionist) as she gazed surreptitiously in the direction the waiting area with its stack of glossies. Her lips silently formed the word “customer”. On the white leather sofa sat a lady dressed in all black who was, to put it gently, of a certain age. To be specific: an ugly old hag cloaked in thrift shop rags. Not our typical clientèle. She looked at me with a smile
“Ma’am”, I said.
“Sir”, she rasped with a voice like a chain smoking crow.
Part 2 : An interesting technique
‘What can we do for you, Madam Duvessa,’ I asked after introductions had been made and we had sat at the conference table.
‘Would you like something to drink? Coffee, soda, water with or without?’
‘With or without what?’
I’d prefer something strong.’
I looked up from my laptop, which still seemed to work after my little mishap in the hallway.
‘I’m afraid we don’t stock liquor, ma’am.’
‘Never mind, I’ll strengthen it myself.’
‘Water, no fizz.’
When Nelly placed the glass on the table in front of her, she fluttered her long bony fingers over it and mumbled something that sounded like ‘bluot zi bluoda.’ Then she put it to her mouth, emptied it in one gulp, smacked her lips with a pop and let out a satisfied sigh.
I pinched my arm to make sure I was awake and not dreaming one of those dreams you have after a night of indulgence. What can we do for you, ma’am,’ I asked again. She pointed at my laptop. ‘You do SEO.’ It sounded like an accusation.
Part 3 : Patience is a virtue
That’s right, ma’am, we specialize in search engine optimization.’
‘With spiders and stuff, right?’
‘You could say that.’
She nodded like I had confirmed her suspicions and started digging around in her rags. Apparently she couldn’t find what she was looking for, because her hands sank deeper into the layers of cloth and she mumbled agitatedly.
‘What’s the URL of your website, we could take a peek,’ I said, in lieu of something better to say.
She looked at me with astonishment. ‘Website? Are you mental boy, what would I need a website for?’
Keep calm, I said to myself. Keep talking like everything’s fine. I opened Google and with one finger I typed “emergency psychiatric help”. Meanwhile I kept looking at her and asked her in my most professional consultant voice in which industry she was active.
‘A bit of everything,’ she said absent mindedly – her arm had now disappeared up to the elbow in the fabric – ‘liquor, aviation, neuro-linguistic programming and spiritual business in general. ‘Ah, there they are, the rascals.’And with these words she fished out a
dark brown leather pouch.
Part 4 : The Rascals at Work
‘The rascals’, she said again as she opened the pouch and emptied its content on the table. Out fell a black lump that burst apart once it landed. Instantly the white maple tabletop teemed with hundreds of little, black, hairy and very lively spiders. ‘Watch this’, said Madam Duvessa. And I did, backed up against the wall, wide-legged above the chair which had fallen over when I jumped up from it.
‘Sunna era soussa’, she said, or something that resembled it. The teeming stopped magically, the spiders formed a tight formation and started marching on the tabletop in a straight line. Left, right, about-face. Leaning against the wall, I stared with fascination. I felt my fear dissipate, because I now knew I was still asleep and would soon wake up under my jaunty floral spread to the smell of fresh coffee.
‘At ease’, Madam Duvessa said and the spiders stood still and dropped slightly at the knees.
‘Thu biguol en friia’, the old woman said and as an afterthought, added ‘Tango.’ The hairy monsters on the table formed pairs and started dancing. ‘One, two, three four, five six, seven, eight and spin,’ she lisped and with a long, crooked nail, she tapped a beat on the tabletop.’Very good, children. Now listen to this, step a little closer’. The latter was addressed to me. I carefully took a step from the wall.
Final Part 5 : Starting to get it
‘Suma heri lezidun’, Madam Duvessa said and her grin told me something special was about to happen. The spiders formed a long line at the head of the table, their faces turned towards me.
Then they started singing. It sounded soft and sort of rustling, but there was no doubt about it; first they sang the Star Spangled Banner and then the Brabançonne.
‘Ça suffit,’ said my visitor after a while and she snapped her fingers. The spiders all bowed in perfect synchronicity, first towards me, then to the left and to the right. They turned and in a tight line marched into the pouch that lay open on the table.
Madam Duvessa tied the cord and sank the pouch back into her rags. She looked at me cheerfully from across the now empty table. Her eyes were black diamonds in a cobweb of wrinkles. ‘I can make them do whatever I want, boy,’ she said. ‘ALL spiders, get it?’
At that moment a dull thud sounded from the hall, followed by the sharp sound of something breaking, followed by a door that slammed open and a heretic cussing that was embarrassing to endure in the presence of a lady. ‘That would be my colleague,’ I said with a cramped smile.
‘Case of the Mondays,’ Madam Duvessa said jovially.
Then I got it.
I put my chair upright and sat on it. I folded my hands over my stomach and looked at my visitor over the hood of my laptop.
‘Ma’am,’ I said, ‘I think we’re in business.’
Happy Halloween !