The set-up

“Hello-o, am i talking to 1-2-1? Emergency services?”
“Hel-lo sir, good evening! How can we help you sir?”
“Well, i’ve got a slight problem…”
“Slight problem you say, sir. Then you dialed the right number sir. We’re the emergency services. 1-2-1! Tell us sir…”
“I’m drowning.”
“You’re drowning, sir. Drowning.”
“Yes, that’s correct. I’m drowning.”
“Well sir… That’s quite surprising if i may say so sir. Most people…”
“Plea-ea-se… It’s urgent…”
“No need to panic sir. DON’T PANIC! Now what i’m asking myself – and so is Pete here, who’s sitting next to me – say hello, Pete-“
“… thanks Pete. So, what Pete and i are asking ourselves is this: the man is drowning, okay. But where exactly is he drowning in?”
“The washbasin. I’m drowning in the washbasin.”
“The washbasin. The washbasin he says, Pete. And you can’t get out, sir?”
“Ooowkaay sir, ooooowkay, “can’t get out”. Write this down Pete? How big is this washbasin sir?”
“Not very big. Bit bigger than my head.”
“Bit bigger than his head, Pete. (Sighs.) Paragraph 31, Law of ’72, drowning in washbasins. Sorry sir, just talking to Pete. Is everything okay, mister…”
“Edwards. Yes i’m okay. Apart from the drowning.”
“No need to get sarcastic mister Edwards. So you’re drowning in a basin not very much bigger than your head. Good. I mean: not good. Is it at least twice your head, sir, this basin? Sorry i have to ask.”
“It’s smaller.”
“Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch, sir. Smaller. That’s a real pity, sir. Because we’re not allowed to intervene when basins are less than twice the head, sir. Law of ’85, preventing people with large heads and small basins making improper use of emergency services. Hope you understand sir.”
“I’ve got a hernia.”
“He’s got a hernia, Pete. (Sighs.) Wait, sir, this is a new element. (Takes out the Book.) Hm. It isn’t your evening tonight, is it sir. Computer says no, and what a pity that is. Hernias are not in the Book sir. We’re so sorry. Don’t have by any chance a fire going on? Or electrocution? Even a minor one would save us here sir.”
“No fire, or no electrocution, sir?”
“Both. Can’t move. Please.”
“Then we’re so sorry. You see, with a bit of electrocution we could have passed intervention services on to you sir. That’s impossible now i’m afraid… Even 500W would have done the trick… Are you sure, sir?”
“Do you see any remaining possibility here, Pete? Sorry sir, talking to Pete. (…) Is there anyone with you, sir, in the room we mean? Pete’s asking.”
“Yes, there is…”
“All righty sir! All righty! We’re back on track! Then can you ask this person…”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible, sir.”
“Now wait. Wait! Don’t give up that quickly. Keep on breathing… Just ask this person…”
“He’s dead.”
“Dead you say. He says the person is dead, Pete, write this down! Dead. A ‘d’, Pete, not ‘th’. Why? Well, you… because it’s an adjective, you idiot, not a noun. Talking to Pete, sir. Now, what was the body doing there mister Edwards? I mean before it died.”
“Painting you say. Painting. Okay, at least we’re getting somewhere. And what was he painting? The walls? (Pete laughing in the background.)”
“Yes, he was painting me.”
“A moustache, sir? Under your nose? A black curly moustache? (Pete laughing in the background again.)”
"No. He wanted to paint a man with a hernia…”
“… a man with a hernia…”
“… bent over a washbasin.”
“Well, well. One of these figurative guys again, Pete. Talking to Pete again, sir. Are you sure he’s dead?”
“Dead as a mouse. Heart attack.”
“And was the painting finished?”
“I guess so... Yes...”
“Is it yes or is it no sir? We’ve got a file to complete sir. A painting is finished or is not finished. A man is dead, or not dead. So what will it be, sir?”
“Says who, sir.”
“The photographer.”
“The photographer says the painting is finished, Pete, have you written that down? … the photographer?!?”
“He was photographing the painter who was painting the man with the hernia bent over the washbasin. Me.”
“Okay! Then ask this photographer…”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible sir…”
“He’s dead too?
“No, he’s a conceptual artist, sir. They don’t intervene, they only register. We’re caught in this trap. All of us: the painter, the photographer, me, you. And Pete, of course. Pete is the one who wrote the play, sir.”
“Pete? But… Goddamn, and i thought he couldn’t distinguish a ‘d’ from a ‘th’… Hahaha! Now there you got me, Pete. Didn’t see this one coming, man. Knew you were up to something! Knew it, knew it, knew it! You’ll pay for this, but congrats, my old buddy. Jesus, Edwards, you work for 20 years with someone, sharing the same office, and just when you think you know him… My God, Pete…”
“The 1-2-1 services are a scam… a set-up… You spent the whole of your life toiling in a piece of conceptual art…”
“Hohoho… Now wait… My wife…”
“Dorothy? Or ‘Alice’, as you call her? An actress. The lovemaking was the hardest part for her, believe me. The therapist… Let’s say it has put quite some pressure on our marriage, Dick. Anyway, thanks for participating. Pete – think we’ve got the most important…"
“Okido, Edwards. I’ll call the gallery. They can start building the installation. Great working with you man.”
“My pleasure, Pete. I send the painting and the film. See you in a couple of days man. We owe you one.”

(Wonderful painting above by Mircea Suciu, Cluj, Romania.)

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