Payne sought clarification. 'Vertical or horizontal?' 'Horizontal, of course.' 'Sorry but I can't help you.' 'Will you pipe down for a minute? Naturally she was dead since I work at a cemetery. Her face struck a chord though. So, I rummaged around in the old Rory memory bank, and Emily is what rings a bell. Didn't we go to school with an Emily? Tenth or eleventh grade, if I recall it correctly.
I rummaged through the drawers in search of a strong poison. I thought of nothing as I looked; I had to get it over with as quickly as possible. It was as if it were an everyday task I needed to do. All I could find were things of no use to me: buttons, string, thread of various colors, notebooks-all strongly redolent of naphthalene and none capable of causing a man's death. Buttons, thread, and string-that is what the world contained at this most tragic of moments.
Frank stared at her. "But you throw Ding Dongs at monsters." Iris looked horrified. "Oh, they're not Ding Dongs." She rummaged under the counter and brought out a package of chocolate covered cakes that looked exactly like Ding Dongs. "These are gluten-free, no-sugar-added, vitamin-enriched, soy-free, goat-milk-and-seaweed-based cupcake simulations." "All natural!" Fleecy chimed in. "I stand corrected." Frank suddenly felt as queasy as Percy.
We'll have to see, " Belbo said. He rummaged in his drawer and took out some sheets of paper. "Potio-section... " He looked at me, saw my bewilderment. "Potio-section, as everybody knows, of course, is the art of slicing soup. No, no, " he said to Diotallevi. "It's not the department, it's a subject, like Mechanical Avunculogratulation or Pylocatabasis. They all under the same heading of Tetrapyloctomy." "What's tetra... ?" I asked. "The art of splitting hairs four ways. This is the department of useless techniques. Mechanical Avunculogratulation, for example, is how to build machines for greeting uncles. We're not sure, though, if Pylocatabasis belongs, since it's the art of being saved by a hair. Somehow that doesn't seem completely useless." "All right, gentlemen, " I said, "I give up. What are you two talking about?" "Well, Diotallevi and I are planning a reform in higher education. A School of Comparative Irrelevance, where useless or impossible courses are given. The school's main is to turn out scholars capable of endlessly increasing the number of unnecessary subjects.
At home I walked through a haze of belongings that knew, at least vaguely, who they belonged to. Grampar's chair resented anyone else sitting on it as much as he did himself. Gramma's shirts and jumpers adjusted themselves to hide her missing breast. My mother's shoes positively vibrated with consciousness. Our toys looked out for us. There was a potato knife in the kitchen that Gramma couldn't use. It was an ordinary enough brown-handled thing, but she'd cut herself with it once, and ever after it wanted more of her blood. If I rummaged through the kitchen drawer, I could feel it brooding. After she died, that faded. Then there were the coffee spoons, rarely used, tiny, a wedding present. They were made of silver, and they knew themselves superior to everything else and special. None of these things did anything. The coffee spoons didn't stir the coffee without being held or anything. They didn't have conversations with the sugar tongs about who was the most cherished. I suppose what they really did was physiological. They confirmed the past, they connected everything, they were threads in a tapestry.