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E.N. Pápel  
RICHARD RAG
 



While most people below a certain age have become accustomed to, and quite comfortable with, receiving information through screens of various types and dimensions, there is a lot to be said of printed, photocopied, or otherwise hand-worked pieces of paper, advertising, announcing, promoting, declaring this or that. In other words, posters. Different courses, performances, tutors, babysitters, union manifestos, movers, furniture sales, missed connections, lost pets; to name a few of the this-and-thats which make up the content of these posters. They find themselves surrounded by others, on walls or corners which, by some power of their own, continuously attract more and more. No one remaining for longer, or appearing, until deemed necessary by the logic of that specific corner or wall.

*

He, a rather flat character in this story whose name matters little, so it may as well be Richard Rag, found himself staring at a wall such as this.

His attention, and following closely behind, his eyes, were being dragged in several different directions. Hadn’t he had the urge to take guitar lessons as a kid? Or was it piano? No matter; Hail Satan? Certainly, a question he had never asked himself so directly. When next he moved, would he hire a Man with a Van? He knew for a fact that this specific moving operation was no longer solely one man with one van, but instead a number of Men with a number of Vans. More likely a number of men with vehicles larger than Vans. Why didn’t they change the name of the company, then, to Men with Van’s? As soon as he asked himself the question, he had his answer. What about a dog walker who claimed they would only walk dogs under 10 pounds? That, he thought, was the small yappy variety and a great inconvenience. As he had some time to spare, he had no real intention of letting his attention settle in any one place, on any one poster or piece of paper. He was quite content to be carried along at the whim of the wall. He began to consider how bigger text didn’t necessarily entice him more than smaller text; how a bad reproduction of an image didn’t attract him more than one where the objects were clearly distinguishable; how the papers that drew him in most had no discernable organizing principle; they simply did. Then he asked himself: When was the last time I saw someone putting up, or taking down, a poster? Have I ever seen anyone near a wall in a capacity other than observer? A strange thought, no doubt, but he could only answer these questions in the negative.

As he was searching his memory so as to answer in the affirmative, he kept returning to one poster in particular. It was one of the hand-wrought types, which on closer inspection proved itself to really be one-off. The lines of its text lacked that subtle pixilation which is one of the defining qualities of photocopied papers. The text looked to be letter-pressed, or perhaps stamped, regardless, a delightful fact which Richard spotted immediately as he had an affinity for all types of printed matter. In fact, when he got close enough to touch it, and touch he did, lines smudged, his fingers coming away marked with the ink. This only added to the delight but made him wonder how recently it must have been placed on the wall, as he had already been standing there for what felt like a considerable amount of time, and ink, as is well known, does not live wet for much of its life. The two questions which he had, not a minute earlier, formed to answer in the negative contributed to his wonder, if only briefly. The text read Obfuscated Obscene Obscurities, below which there were six images. Each image being equally unintelligible, bearing no apparent relation to the last. Some looked as if they could be animals, some as if they could be people, some as if they could be places, but none looked like any of these things unmistakably. They suggested these various things to him but did not show them outright. He thought that the alliteration as well as the vague images were quite an amateur attempt at, well, he did not quite know just what they were attempting to do, but of this they were certainly novice.  Where other posters on the wall offered contact information in the form of an email, littledogwalks@gmail.com, a website, trivialtutors.edu, or a phone number, 646-318-9485, repeated on multiple strips cut into the bottom of the paper for ripping and taking, this one had an address. It was the last remaining strip, the other ones, he guessed, had already been taken. While debating whether to rip the address from the bottom of the paper, and really it wasn’t a debate–for whenever he felt drawn to spend more than a few seconds at a wall such as this, he always did take either a whole poster or a single strip–the thought that he should get going to where he needed to go interrupted his once diffuse, now focused attention. He raised his wrist as if to look at his watch, his eyes remaining fixed on that paper which now seemed to exert an even greater hold on him. Why use such a juvenile alliteration! Richard was no writer, but his high self-esteem, coupled with that great joy he found in looking at posters allowed him to make this judgement. Obscure Obscenities? What was Obscene anymore when with a few strokes of a keyboard and a few clicks of a mouse, the most graphic images were at anyone’s disposal? And to Obfuscate what was already Obscure to begin with is redundant, no? When the face of his watch finally met his own, he realized his time to spare had come to an end some time ago. He ripped that strip which contained the address and forcefully removed himself from the wall.  He decided not to take the whole poster as he felt it was too beautiful to be denied the experience of being seen by others. With the strip, he had enough memory of it to sustain him.

**

Later that evening Richard Rag opened that special drawer of his which contained treasures from his previous encounters with walls full of posters. He felt a deep happiness; these really were the finest examples. Most times, posters and papers on walls are nothing worth keeping, their design being so determined by the haste of their creation and the end goal of conveying something clearly, not beautifully, that they turn out eyesores. This was not the case with the contents of his drawer, carefully curated over the course of however long it was that he had been amassing them.  One would think it strange that he opted to keep his treasures out of sight, in a drawer, quite coffin like, instead of hanging them about his walls. He did not feel it was his position to transplant these posters to walls which were not their rightful homes, his walls being his rightful home. He could only offer them the dignity of a solid metal, thrice reinforced, double locked, climate controlled, dust-free resting place. Quite coffin-like, as was just said, that is if the expectation was that the dead would someday rise, and all measures had been taken to prevent such an unholy resurrection. He had his eccentricities, that is sure, but in answer to this I can only say that they must be allowed for, as we all do certain things our neighbors would consider erratic which in turn, we find great comfort in. Having finished his work for the evening, he took that strip of paper and spent a good deal of time looking at it; holding it to the light, examining it; ruminating throughout on what it was exactly that attracted him so. He found there was a growing desire to pay visit. Without his noticing, this desire had eclipsed the practical step of figuring out who or where he would be paying visit to. Consulting a map, he found it was close. Naturally he decided he would extend his evening walk by a block and see what lay at the address. This was indeed not as natural as it may seem, as Mr. Rag did not usually follow up with the posters, or their corresponding strips, which he brought home. Their being brought home had nothing to do with the services they offered, the manifestos they declared, or any useful reason whatsoever. The only follow-up necessary was laying them to rest in that special drawer of his, with an allowance for occasional visits, of course. At times, and these recurred often, he found himself thinking that posters were brought into this world with the sole purpose of making their way into the safety of his drawer. He set out on his walk.

Having seen the sights which usually accompanied this variation of his walk, he arrived at the address. The building was large. It was dark. The street was tolerably empty, and Richard Rag felt little hesitation about trying to enter the building. From what he could gather it appeared to be a print shop. He confirmed this by looking to the fading sign which read CARTE & SONS PRINTS—Yes, Richard was no detective, but his eye sight was just fine. What a delight! He said to himself. Even greater than before! As he scanned for a suitable entrance, notions of business hours made no appearance. When he found the entrance and approached it, he felt a cool calmness impress itself upon him. The doorknob was turned. The door pushed open. He entered…

***

Richard Rag found himself with his back to the wall which some days prior he had been so contentedly absorbed by. Better to be clearer and say some time prior, for of the exact quantity which had elapsed he was not sure. Assuming this opposite position, it was not now posters which caught his eye, but people, moving in this way or that. All headed to different places with different intentions and surely all busy, as no one was stopping. He found himself unable to move, which was nothing new, for when deep in thought every fiber of his being seemed to forget about movement all together. But this was slightly different. He felt wafer-thin and pale-like. Hadn’t he somewhere to be? This proved a difficult question to answer as currently, his whole constitution felt rather lacking in dimension. Before he could even attempt an answer, a long-forgotten memory emerged with a force hitherto unknown to him. He was young, in some room of the house standing transfixed, adhered, to a spot on the wall. His mother was calling to him, but he was not responding. His mother entered the room and said:

“How long have you been here? Don’t you want to go outside and play? It’s a beautiful day! Oh, son, you really are the poster-child of stillness.”

He came back from this memory still quite unable to move. These words of his mother continued to run round as people passed by and by, not one stopping to have a look at the posters on the wall, which found themselves there by some logic quite difficult to discern.

Oh, how he longed to be in his drawer!