Monday, August 31, 2009

Advice ignored

"Don't go there."

"It's just a golf course. What's the worst that could happen?"

The cashmere hound's tooth pattern on his Toscano jacket flashed briefly.

In a few hours, he was on a plane for India, not knowing what he would find.

After landing and checking in to his Hilton he slept for a few hours after taking some of the new pills that woman from the Financial Times kept talking about. And to his surprise he awoke refreshed.

He met his partner on the course, still feeling the long trip, the warm air of Bangalore only hurting his limbic system's ability to adapt to the time zone.

They chatted idly, catching up on old topics that interested neither of them.

But then the man said something that caught Friedman's ear: "The world, you know, is flat."

Considering the implications he was unable to concentrate on the game, the greens, the space he was in. But was it? Was it true?

The announcement

"It's flat."

No one moved.

Tom... Tom

It was cold. Not bitter, actually a refreshing change.

The flat plain laid out in front of him, neither forbidding nor actually of any interest. It would be hot, but he could handle that. At least the crowd has dispersed. Much easier without that.

And so he stroked his mustache unconsciously, thinking hard, while starting to drive his diesel Volvo, navigating his way forward without many thoughts of what was to come. He had more than enough to occupy him already.

But the thoughts of her kept creeping in anyway; it was unavoidable. The woman from Jerusalem would never completely leave his mind.

Even after what had happened in Beirut.

"Tom" she said, " Tom. You don't understand the world anymore. You don't understand me."

Without acknowledging her, he had walked off.

Now he drove.

My purse

In a snap he was out, her Gucci bag trailing behind like an unneeded accessory.

Three quick turns later, he was deep in the medina: his environment.

But then he saw a blinding light and nothing but darkness. When he regained consciousness the woman started to question him.

"Where", she asked in a mix of a grumble and a roar, "is my purse?"


Once she woke up and he was just gone. No obvious explanation.

She pulled out her iPhone checked her first email account; the rest would require using her Dell laptop sitting across the room, charging.

She found his email, read slowly, and finally was able to process the contents.

He was gone.

After a trip to Starbuck's and with a Venti arabica blend in her hand, she set off to walk.

It turned out he wasn't that hard to find.

When she found him, he was brief with her but still affectionate.

Well, in his own way.

"Yes, I'll come back. I need to finish my book, after all."

She accepted it. "What's it about? You never told me."

"Nobody sees it", he said, "but the world.... The world is getting flat."

She just stared at the sky.

And it all made sense

Slowly, he reached into his Balenciaga travel bag, searching for something; he didn't even know what. The man had come up from nowhere and he didn't know what to do; he was almost paralyzed.

The man, vaguely menacing, wore a trench coat that Friedman almost envied, the stitch count density indicating an ability to wield immense power, power well beyond Beirut. But the man wasn't sure of himself.

And that was the moment Friedman had to pounce. He did.

The man collapsed, his coat crumpling with him in an odd way, not entirely natural. But as he fell he croaked: "I'm with you."

Friedman warily helped him back to his feat, carefully concealing the thing he had retrieved from his bag.

But then he remembered where he'd seen that face before. Of course. The golf course.

And it all made sense.


The man took off on his feet, desperately running but seemingly without direction, his longitude changing seemingly on random chance.

She stood, finally, and watched him go.

Her attitude would have her chase him, but to what end?

She returned, quietly but with purpose. He would know her. She was sure. She stretched her fingers.


Friedman, said his name badge, the identity that would allow him access to the building.

No one knew when he had arrived but they all knew he was there now, his Lexus carefully parked in a prime spot in the garage. Outside the world; beyond the world of his staff. Beyond even his own world.

The man walked up to Friedman. A sudden pain; his world became flat.


Beirut was hot. Nothing like Jerusalem though; it's open spaces showed the marks of a civil war that had never been properly patched up and it was right there on the faces of the people in the street.

Crowded. Too many people.

So he left. The flat land before him expanded to the West. He didn't know why he was going, but he went.


He stood still. The man across from him, mustached and perhaps a bit academic, was clearly an unknown, his Banks and Biddle suit slightly crumpled but still respectable enough to get by in the eyes of his intended audience.

The man might be dangerous, he thought. But there was no way to know for sure.

So he moved.


She awoke the next day. He was still moving, IBM Thinkbook in tow.

"But how many levelers are there?" he grumbled. It sounded like a Volvo tractor in low gear, grinding along a field of Monsanto-modified soy beans.