Note: This post has been imported for “completeness” of my blog. It was originally posted on a different blog, “The Hushed Allegory”. But as time has moved along, this blog seems to be my legacy of sorts. So, I think it is fitting to roll this post (along with a few others) into these archives. The original “genesis” of this blog was the post titled, “Delighted to meet you…”.
Pacing back and forth, from kitchen to couch in just five steps, Gregory Rubi stared down at the ground with intense concentration. His floppy red curls lightly bounced with his pace and spun out like a five-year-old girl’s new Easter Sunday dress with his abrupt about face. You might have thought he had the weight of the world on his shoulders at that moment, a life-changing decision, but you would be wrong. Poor Gregory Rubi was just thinking about a girl, Leslie Quickstem. Should I clean? If she comes home with me, she wouldn’t want to see this mess. She would be disgusted. But what if she doesn’t come back with me? Cleaning would be just a waste of time. I know where everything is right now; I would be disorganized if I organized! But it’s Leslie. Gregory Rubi was an inventor, a unique mind plagued with the lifelong task of creating the unexpected and showcasing a needed product that has never been needed before.
These nervous and pondering thoughts while pacing was not new to Gregory. Most every time when it came to these award banquets, after ‘dressing to impress’ in a nice set of tails, he would look in the mirror to adjust his necktie and see his image, standing next to none but an empty void, in the reflection, and his heart. This of course would bring on the thoughts of potential female companionship for the night, and the sorts of preparation that would be needed to make this potential transfer to kinetic.
Pausing to glance around the cluttered living room, or rather work shop, Gregory tries to calculate the time it would take to put everything into a somewhat proper, appearing to be put away place. His desk is cluttered with strangely formed objects, held together by quick solder jobs and twisty ties. Little clear containers of LED’s, transistors, resistors, capacitors, diodes, microcontrollers, microprocessors and logic gates of both CMOS and TTL types are scattered among knots of wires in all gauges so tightly bound that any sailor would be impressed. There is no time; my car will be here soon. As if reading his thoughts, an impatient horn sounded outside, two quick beeps and a long blare. Grabbing his favorite scarf and ‘going-out’ coat, a Pronto Uomo charcoal cashmere topcoat, Gregory paused briefly knowing he would regret this mess if the night goes as planned. But another quick beep startled his senses from worry to reality; so he headed out locking both the knob and deadbolt behind him before descending his icy steps to the impatient large black Lincoln.
“Ah, Greg! Good to see ya! Should be a fun night, eh?”
“Hello Jim, nice to see you too. And as always, I still prefer Gregory.”
As soon as Gregory closed himself in, before even being able to reach for his seatbelt, the car took off down the narrow one-way street, barely missing the terrible parallel parking jobs that make Gregory think of straight lines drawn by a man with Parkinson’s. Jim is, in simplest terms, Gregory’s financial backing. A lucky, lone winner of the record Washington State’s Mega-Millions jackpot, Jim had more money than he knew what to do with and after a move to the Los Angeles area, decided to invest in Gregory, a friend of a friend’s friend, who refusing to be part of large corporation management, was struggling to make ends meet with his personal endeavor of creating the world’s next best must need tech gadget.
Gregory didn’t really have anything specific against Corporate America. It came down to the dislike for being told what to do. On any given day, he could work as much or as little as he pleased, being as constructive or destructive to his career as he felt. The act of being the boss of himself was very important. And plus, the only time he ever had to wear a tie was when going to events like the Da Vinci’s.
“Well Greg, looks like my investment is finally paying off. How long has it taken, what, three years for your big break?” Gregory just nodded. “I was skeptical of you at first,” Jim continued. “You were going to those fairs with those strange gadgets of yours, the Krong Detector, that laser box thing… ya know, I never really completely understood what in Sam Hill’s name that thing ever really did. Oh and what about that one that had all those lights on it that changed colors when you rotated that lever on the side? Heh, yeah, that thing was a waste of time and my money. Finally though, a break through, and I’m glad, good to get a little publicity now, ya know?”
“They weren’t failures,” Gregory replied with a quiet patience while trying to decide the best way to defend his past. ”And its Gregory thanks.” Gregory then just sat there, looking out into the darkness, wishing he were there instead of here. He was used to this sort of talk from Jim though. Just think of the finances… think of the opportunity he has given me… the potential. Gregory often caught himself repeating these reminders whenever in Jim’s presence.
Gregory’s mind, however, was soon drifting far from the car. For the past eight years, he had been attending this awards ceremony, the American Da Vinci Awards, the ADA’s for short, and for eight years he had been a no one among the crowds of up and coming inventors. Over this past year, however, Gregory had his breakthrough, his greatest invention to date, and tonight he was nominated for the highest of all awards, the Da Vinci for Best Innovation for Society. But it wasn’t the nomination that was making his nerves dance the most tonight. It was the girl. Every year that Gregory had attended the ADA’s, Leslie Quickstem was there. Every year she wore an astonishingly similar, slinky black dress that trailed just below the knees and accented her petite curves as a sunset does for an already radiant blue sky. And every year Gregory has the deepest desire to approach her and sweep her off her feet. However, every year, he didn’t.
Leslie is the daughter of the American Da Vinci Award’s largest benefactor. Her beauty and class never went unnoticed at the awards which were always filled with a specific sort of crowd. I don’t want to say that the attendees of the ADA’s were all members or rushing to be in the Kappa Kappa Nerds Fraternity (yes, it is even rare for a female to be at the awards), but let’s just leave it at that few of the nominated attendees would have been sitting at the ‘cool kid’ table back in the 6th grade. You would never have noted this from Leslie’s behavior though. She had too much class and charisma to visibly show disdain toward any individual. Gregory figured with his nomination, this had to be the year. Leslie would be forced to notice him. After the ceremony, she would casually walk up, surprising him from behind, and whisper something sweet and tempting into his ear. And he wouldn’t even have to take two steps towards her. It will be perfect.
“…and that is why I need you to mention my name at least three times during your thank-yous on stage. You hear me, Greg?” Gregory startled by hearing his name, or at least part of his name, looked over to Jim and nodded, not being one to stir a confrontation. With that the car slowed, much more elegantly than its takeoff, in front of the red carpet leading into the Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. There was speical excitement this year among the attendees for the awards were not only in this legendary venue. Being host to the Academy Awards for a few years in the ‘40s made everyone attending feel a sense of celebrity among themselves. With a small audience outside the car and even fewer hiccups of camera flashes, the driver hustled around to Gregory’s door and in suave motion opened it, secretly hoping for some face time in a shot or two. Jim leaned over before Gregory could escape from the Lincoln and gave him a hearty smack on the back, saying, “Well, Greg, let the night begin!”
Gregory recognized a few faces among the crowds from past awards and local IEEE section meetings while exchanging cordial how do you dos and a humble “thank you” whenever mention of his nomination came up. As he moved into the claustrophobic lobby, he noticed Jim standing among a group of what seemed to be fresh-out-of-college, ego-driven, engineers, with their thick-rimmed glasses and greased back hair trying to stand tall as Jim teased them with the concept of sponsorship. Jim looked up from his newfound following, caught Gregory’s stare and gave a quick wink with a grin as if to say, “Remember when you were stupid like this?”
Soon enough a bell chimed eight times and people were seated. Gregory noticed a few open seats here and there. Still not in the budget to hire some seat-fillers, heh? The awards were soon underway and went on for some time without much to note. Gregory spent half his time watching the stage and the other half looking around the audience, straining for a glimpse of that thin black material and the girl it covered. Located on the center isle about one-third of the way back, Gregory was able to see a good number of people without having to make obvious movements that might call undue attention. Leslie wouldn’t be further back than me? Maybe she’s watching from backstage? On stage, various professors talked about the amazing innovations the past year had brought. Taking a note card out of his or her pocket pocket, each would read the nominations to a light applause and then hold up a sealed white. After a respectable and suspenseful pause, the presenter would tear open the envelope and announce the winner to cheers and whistles. Always a good reaction; I do like that.
Two-and-a-half hours of sitting in the seats that were too close together passed before the speakers announced, “The award for the Best Innovation for Society will be presented by Dr. Ernest Hall from the University of Southern California, Robotics Department.” A short, strongly built older gentleman walked onto the stage. He had a look of experience and dedicated study. His white hair, thinning but nicely combed in a part, moved with his stride. He beamed as he approached the podium at center stage.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he started, as so many had already. “Tonight has been an exquisite night of creativity and brilliance…” Gregory squirmed in his seat with fleeing thoughts of finding his lady in black while the introduction continued. “I know that our future is bright, our society, the United States of America, the World, our Universe, are all in good hands with the people you have seen tonight…” What if she isn’t even here? “And now I present to you the nominations for the Best Innovation for Society.” When his name sounded from the stage and speakers, Gregory’s mind broke concentration and remembered the actual reason for the evening. All he could do was smile toward the stage, for he knew there must be a camera on him somewhere. Clapping lightly for the other four names announced, he got chills down his back and goosebumps on his arms from the thought of actually winning this prestigious award. Suddenly there was silence, and a white envelope was being held up for the audience to see.
Dr. Hall slowly tore open the envelope and blew into it, Gregory, who had forgotten about Leslie for the moment, mopped his pants with his hands, and stared straight ahead. A small blue card emerged from the envelope and was unfolded, keeping everyone in suspense but the speaker himself. Dr. Ernest Hall cleared his throat and smiled. “The award goes to Dr. Gregory Rubi and his…” The cheers drowned out the speakers immediately. Gregory sat immobilized. He was numb from his cheeks down to his toes. What? His limbs quickly revitalized as he was pushed up from his left, Jim giving another extra-hard smack on the back sending Gregory stumbling into the isle. Shaky on his legs, and in feeling some disbelief, Gregory made his way down past the front onto the stage, and to the podium, remembering to take his speech out of his jacket pocket.
“Oh, wow.” Gregory spoke, surprising himself with the reverberations of his own voice. “I am proud to be a modern day inventor. This award is such an honor. It brings validation to struggles and tears that have been with me for a number of years.” Just then, while skimming the crowd, he saw her. In the front row with silky, auburn hair gently lying across bare shoulders she sat. Her lips were a dark red and slightly parted, showing a slither of white, giving her a look of intrigue. A red dress. That’s why I couldn’t find her. She sat lightly, only using half her seat and wore an amazingly delicate red dress that put any other cloth that had touched her body to shame. Her eyes locked with Gregory’s. Catching himself off guard and realizing he wasn’t breathing, Gregory scratched the back of his head and cleared his throat, but couldn’t help but return the gaze. Realizing the silence in the room was his own void he gave himself a quick fanning with his note cards, and continued. “Wow. What an honor.”
Forcing his eyes away from Leslie’s, Gregory found the words he had lost. “First off I would like to thank my support, Jim Dunns. If not for him, I would never have been able to get a start.” Glancing toward Jim, Gregory notices him holding his index finger above his head. Anyone else in the theatre would have thought Jim was symbolizing a “We’re number One!” cliché, but Gregory knew it was for the first of three times his name was to be mentioned. “And of course I would also like to thank my family and friends for their support, and regret that they could not attend this evening.” With his eyes cycling the crowd again, he found Leslie with a pleasant smile. Gregory then had an epiphany, realizing how he had come to be at this moment. He set his note cards on the lectern and stood a little straighter.
“My inspiration was just realized.” Gregory starts anew with a chuckle. “My inspiration is potential. What is the reason we create? What is the reason we do as we do? Some for a status of genius, some for monetary compensation, some for the betterment of society. We do what we do with an inspiration of potential, a hope, and a dream that we will make a difference. The potential for status, the potential for a better society.” Wiping his forehead with his handkerchief, Gregory looked around the crowd. All seemed to be listening, waiting, wanting to hear what he had to say next. Looking straight at Leslie, Gregory then stated, “My potential. We would not be here, I would not be here if it wasn’t for the potential, the potential of something great. Thank you for this award; thank you very much.” With that, Gregory exits the stage, breathing abnormally, but feeling very light with a sense of a job well done.
In the time that followed after the award ceremony ended, Gregory and Jim made rounds in the lobby to mobs of congratulating eggheads. Jim wouldn’t get off the fact that his name had only been mentioned once. When the crowd started to die off, Gregory was at the bar ordering a drink when a gentle hand found his shoulder. Turning, he found Leslie, in her amazing red dress, standing there, smiling, looking up at him just as on stage, but now, within arms’ reach. “Hi. Gregory, right? That was an absolutely lovely speech.”
“Uh, um, thanks.”
Silence was between them, both watching one another, waiting for the next move. Leslie shifted her weight, brushing a few stray hairs from her face, and was about to continue when Gregory felt an all too familiar smack on the back followed by the weight of a more than casual arm around his shoulder.
“Well hello little lady, my name is Jim!” The smile quickly disappeared from Leslie’s face as she scanned Jim up and down as if sizing up an opponent before a fight. Gregory, completely embarrassed by the turning of events looked down at his shoes and timidly gave introductions and explained his relations with Jim.
Leslie gave a slow, exaggerated nod and carefully watched Gregory. “What about the money that comes with your Da Vinci?” Gregory looked up catching a glimpse of what he could only define as ‘knowing mischief’ from Leslie. He hadn’t thought about the money. I don’t need Jim anymore! Gregory then did what he had wanted to do since the minute Jim had fallen into his life. He shrugged away Jim’s arm from his shoulder, took a few steps away from Jim and leaned up against the bar. “We’re done Jim, thanks for helping me out.” Gregory then leaned over and grabbed Leslie pushing her up against a bar stool and kissed her… “Gregory? What about the money?”
“What, oh, the money, right.” Gregory stood there pondering his next move. He then shrugged off Jim’s arm from his shoulder and took a few shy steps away to lean up against the bar. “I will be able to fund my own research now. Thanks for getting me started Jim; your gifts were much appreciated.”
Jim stared dumbfounded and with a quick fiery glance at Leslie stormed off toward the exit. “Thanks,” Gregory said barely audible.
“Don’t mention it.”
They stood there, silently as before. Gregory, realizing he had to make do something stammered with a motion towards the bar, “You, uh, want to…”
“I’d love to, thanks.”
As the night progressed, the two sipped martinis while talking mostly about Gregory’s future. Gregory soon found out that a large reason for the Da Vinci’s was for Leslie’s father, who hadn’t even been able to attend that evening, to recruit the brightest upcoming minds for his firm. Leslie was there, after helping Jim leave, to make Gregory a very nice offer into Corporate America.
“I need some time to think about it.”
“Of course you do. Here is my card… I’ve taken the liberty to write my cell number on the back.”
Gregory arrived back at his door step, paid the cab, and went inside, all the while thinking about the events of the evening. Walking around piles of what most others would refer to as garbage, he sat at his desk, put on his work glasses and turned on the soldering iron before grabbing his sketch pad. I just like building things. Gregory sat there for a long time, and never made the call.
«< Alternate Ending »>
Silence was between them, both watching one another, waiting for the next move. Leslie shifted her weight, brushing a few stray hairs from her face, and continued, “So what are your plans now?” Gregory stood there, thinking. My plans? Well, I can’t receive any more Da Vinci’s. This monetary award is my diploma to other awards. Still, I will come back as I have for the past eight years. Wow, is it getting a little warm in here? Then, without much thought to anything, he replied, “Um I… uh… thank you. Thank you very much.” And quickly, Gregory turned, leaving his drink at the bar, and walked briskly toward the exit. Leslie, surprised, watched him walk away with a half-confused smile on her face. I’ll have to write her, now that we’re on a first-name basis. I wonder if she has a date for next year?