Illusion of Upward Mobility | The New Engagement

Illusion of Upward Mobility

By Tricia Vessey

As she moves toward the dining room, the cleaning lady feels Mr. Enzo take her in, furtively, concealed behind his opaque black Ray Bans, drinking his morning kopi luwak, wearing byssus silk argyle boxers and an unfastened qiviut robe, pretending, she knows, to read Forbes, but he is plotting. Today, she thinks, today Mr. Enzo will reveal who he is, what he has been planning to do to her, like the devil pulling up in that terrible black Volga to take children’s blood and organs to cure the rich orlike King William who kept poor Barbara Zdunk inRößel dungeons for sex then burned her at the stake for being a witch. Mr. Enzo will keep her locked up, probably in his “safe” room, for his Bonesman orgy parties or blood feasts. His decadence is sinister; it erodes Godliness. She snaps out of her reverie. Her brother always said. “Never let your guard down.Do you see what happens now when you do? In one way or another, they will get you.” 

With vigilance, she slides past the silent Mr. Enzo and over to the Jacobean credenza at the far end of the room. Carefully she dusts, with eyes in the back of her head, the Creamware plates that are inlayed with gold Masonic symbols, one with a grail inside of an eight-pointed star, another with an eye inside of a square and compass. She shudders, thinking about the secret societies throughout time. What did they do, what do they stilldo in those private ceremonies? The Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg – men in masks doing unspeakable things, controlling economies, drinking the blood of babies, Satanic rituals. It is as old as time. Even the Roman plebs were used as sex slaves by the dignitas. As Musonius Rufus once said, “Every master has full authority to use slaves as he might wish.” Mr. Enzo, she knew, planned to snatch her and use her as hewished, whether for blood or sex or black market organ trade, he would wield his power and strength to have her. But she would be ready. 

She pulls a spray bottle and rag out of her supply bucket and begins cleaning the windows that overlook the newly constructed Vessel, a hexagonal staircase of copper and steel that go nowhere, stairs with no purpose, you walk up and you walk down, or maybe driven insane, you jump off. She calls it The Illusion of Upward Mobility. “Stairs that go nowhere, for the people!”

Mr. Enzo raises his eyebrows, “What’s that?” 

She turns with hesitation and faces him, meeting his eyes, “The stairs, a waste of money.” 

“It’s art. Something for the people to admire.” 

Her body tightens with restraint, “They might prefer food.” 

“Food is a temporary pleasure.” He says and turns away, ending the exchange. 

She watches Mr. Enzo as he saunters over to his prized Harrington Commode, near the entrance to the kitchen, and clicks the Tivoli radio on to an AM right-wing station, the host bellowing like a madman, barking, rabid, “An attack on a good family man like Kavanaugh…well,  it’s a left-wing conspiracy paid for by the Clintons, anti-Christian, anti-white, pro-abortion agenda, an end to sanity, an end to the sanctity of the elite Ivy League educated public servants, an attack on family values, a blatant pro-slut campaign…where do we draw the line?” 

“So true. What’s the world coming to?” He turns to her and smiles, shaking his head at the thought. 

She sets the spray bottle down and studies his face; the Chort can’t help but to reveal itself, eventually. It will appear like fog or a dark aura at first, then rough skin, lustful eyes, a ghostly boner, and finally the horns. 

She has been preparing for the day. She always took the stairs to his penthouse, never the elevator; she needed to be strong. She did intense exercises to build her stamina. She practiced Krav Maga from a book she got from the library – tactics to disarm a knife or gun, to get out of a chokehold or bear hug. She knew the proper way to make a fist, to punch. Concealed on each leg she always strapped switchblades. She wore a survival bracelet that contained wire, a lock pick, a razor to cut through zip-ties and the bracelet itself turned into twenty feet of cord – she could tie up Mr. Enzo with it. She can turn the tables. She kept brass knuckles, a stun gun and mace in her purse. She is ready. 

If Mr. Enzo moves toward her, tries anything, without hesitation she will swiftly lift her skirt and from a strap, she will pull out a blade and with a flick of her wrist the six-inch “monster-killer” will spring from its sheath. Like a spring-loaded scythe, it will release fast and efficiently and cut through Mr. Enzo’s neck. You have to remove the head. 

One at a time,she thinks,one at a time

Mr. Enzo, walks past her and into his bedroom. She hears the shower turns on. 

She showers in city water, drinks city water with its fluoride and chloride and piss and anti-psychotics and Vicodin and boner pills and birth control and oil spills and factory run-off… 

Not Mr. Enzo.      

She runs the duster over the antique wood engravings depicting scenes from 1800’s Wall Street that hang in the living room. One entitled, New York Stock Exchange, shows a horde of mustached top-hats, inside an ornately carved interior; and another entitled, Deal With Debtors, in which a woman in a stained and tattered dress, a sad Charlie Chaplin character, is dragged into the debtors’ prison by keystone cops, whilst the top-hatted men watch, jeering or laughing, some, off-screen, outside the frame, shecan see them, have their pistols ready, craving a man-hunt, waiting to make an example of her. 

She studies the out-of-frame people, the Top-hats with the pistols, some in chauffeured Benz motorwagons, leaning out of open windows brandishing their weapons in one hand and in the other holding snifters of brandy. Others are on horseback. On White stallions, as if they are heroes. And though they are in tuxedos with tailcoats, cravats and vests, wing-tipped shoes, gloves and holding canes, they also have shot guns strapped to their backs and pistols in their hands, faces twisted with a desire for blood. They scream obscenities at the woman in the stained and tattered dress as she is wrestling free from the cops. With two fingers she pokes one in the eyes, turns and hits another over the head with a sock full of rocks and just in time swirls around to find a third sneaking up behind her with handcuffs, whom she kicks smack in the mouth. Side to side she swings her sock of rocks in front of her to make her way through the crowd, “I’ll crack your goddamned heads wide open,” she says as she bares her yellowed teeth and then begins to sprint through the square. 

The Top-hats kick their horses into gear, “yahh!” and cock their guns. They’re on her tail. She can feel the horses’ breath at her head. The sound of their hooves are deafening. But she has been training. She knows she’ll outrun them. She takes the stairs up to Mr. Enzo’s penthouse apartment every day. She does exercises that increase her stamina. She knows how to make a fist, to punch. She knows how to get out of a chokehold.

Tricia Vessey is a writer, director, and actress who lives in New York City. As an actress, she has co-starred in the feature films Trouble Every Day, directed by Claire Denis, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, directed by Jim Jarmusch, Town & Country, opposite Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty, Nobody Needs to Know, directed by Azazel Jacobs, and Bean with Rowan Atkinson, amongst others. She studied writing at Brooklyn College. Her experimental new media project ITPO premiered at The International Film Festival Rotterdam. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and an animated series.

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