Casanova’s Bed by Elvis Bego
or, The Crying of Lot 48
When Sotheby’s announced their program for next winter, Jacob Slitherspoon (pronounced Sloon) felt a slight tingle between his two unevenly-sized scrotal lumps. He was giddy with delight. Although he did collect Old Masters, it wasn’t that. He liked porcelain, but no implausible lot of Meissen was to be sold there. No. A huge assortment of Casanoviana had come to light—manuscripts, clothes, canes, books, trinkets, furniture. He wanted it all. The crying of lot after lot would see his number. He loved Casanova, read every word of his, thought him criminally misunderstood.
When the day of the auction came, he put on his grey tweeds, the stuff that made him feel like a monocled pedant anno 1912. The crimson necktie didn’t dismantle the image either. Wasn’t half bad though: middle age rarely looked so spruce.
He’d made a fortune on the art market and now lived in Mayfair with Cruthers (pronounced Cruthers), a gaunt, somewhat insectile manservant who was pushing a hundred and was among the last of the breed. His ears were dimming. It took the man epochs to answer the door. It happened not at all seldom that Slitherspoon would come all the way down from the third floor and whiz past the creeping Cruthers to greet the visitor. But never a woman. No, never a woman.
As he was leaving, Cruthers stood at the door saying, “Enjoy the motion, sir.”
“Exercise is quite good.”
“You mean the auction.”
“The what, sir?”
“Ah, Yorkshire! All right. Enjoy, sir. You should’ve packed more, though.”
Slitherspoon turned and left.
The Russians were brutal. They took it all. An unknown volume of the memoirs went for 1.7 million pounds. Snuffboxes were snuffed out. Alchemical recipes were bundled off to Siberia. Various canes made of alabaster, silver, ivory, lapis and walnut strolled off to Petersburg.
Then came the crying of lot 48, the final one. It was a bruised bedstead, with a dubious provenance via Hermann the mad count of Klotzenstein who’d later given it to the painter Balthus in the latter’s youth. A joke had gone through the room that the thing was haunted. Slitherspoon was determined to have it. In the end it was a fight between him and an aging philanderer. Slitherspoon stared him down, to no effect. The final bid, however, came unexpectedly from a third source, a pompous-looking young man who kept making tooth-baring small talk with a girl. And Slitherspoon gave up. Rage consumed him, but he retained the manners of a gentleman anno 1912.
But then there were howls and clamorous jostling. As reported in The Observer, the third bidder, one Elvis Avdibegovic Bego, a penniless Bosnian-born writer, as it turned out, was thrown out and detained for putting in the bogus winning bid. He was impersonating a rich collector. He’d met some girl at the auction, told her he was a baron, old money and all that, and in order to keep up appearances he put in the bid thinking another would come after. It didn’t. So the bed went to Slitherspoon. He was elated. Maybe he would become a great lover.
The next day he said he was certain that ghosts of 18th century women had made love to him.
“Who made gloves?” said Cruthers.
“Looove,” Slitherspoon enunciated.
“Larva? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“You need crutches, sir? Six of them?”
“Yes, I do, Cruthers. Yes, I do.”
Cruthers scrutinized his employer’s face and found deep mysteries there. Slitherspoon sipped his tea. He thought about the coming night and he saw that it was good. They certainly had centuries of experience.
Elvis Bego was born in Bosnia, fled the war there at twelve, moved around, and currently lives in Copenhagen. His writing can be found now or soon in AGNI, Threepenny Review, PANK, The Brooklyner, The Coffin Factory, and elsewhere.
© 2013, Metazen.