An interview with Bartleby

In June I began writing a new original story every two weeks and posting them to this website. Much to my surprise, one of those stories, Second Choice, spawned a second story, then a third, then a fourth and so on until it became clear to me that this was actually one novel length story coming out of me in installments. This was all fun and good but now that seven months have gone by since the first story it has become clear that a brief refresher course is needed for me and many of my readers. Therefore, leading up to the publication on this site of Part 7 on March 6th I will be interviewing a number of characters from this work here on my blog.

(In a sparsely furnished room the interviewer sits across from Bartleby. Bartleby is dressed in black from top to bottom. His clothes blend in with his hair which is just as dark and hangs in short pin-straight lines about his head. His age is hard to tell, he could be anywhere from twenty to mid-thirties. His demeanor is standoffish, as if he isn’t entirely sure that he is okay with this interview.)

Joseph Devon: Welcome, Bartleby, and thank you for coming.

Bartleby: Yeah. Yeah, it’s no problem I guess.

JD: So we’ve talked with a few of your kind thus far, gotten a wide range of perspectives, is there anything that comes to your mind that we absolutely must know about being a tester?

B: I don’t…not that I can think of, no.

JD: All right. Then let’s dive right in. You are roughly the same age as Mary, and like Mary you are one of Epp’s students? Correct?

B: (Taking a deep breath as if choosing his words carefully) I’m not so sure that I’ll ever refer to Epp as my teacher again. Frankly, I’m not sure that anyone, anywhere, ever, should refer to Epp as their teacher.

JD: (Checking his notes) Right, right. There was an altercation between you and Epp when he felt you weren’t progressing as a student.

B: You could call it an altercation I suppose.

JD: What happened?

B: What you need to understand about Epp is that he doesn’t consider himself a teacher or a mentor or a leader. If he assumes anything close to one of those roles, it’s under the assumption that you will learn. He isn’t interested in how smart you think he is, he isn’t interested in feeling superior to you, he isn’t interested in any of that. He teaches so you’ll learn, and if he gets the feeling that you aren’t taking a proactive enough stance as a student, if you start to worry about making him happy rather than learning what you came to learn, well he doesn’t react too well.

JD: How did he react?

B: He kind of grabbed me by the shoulder and tossed me onto the far side of Mercury.

JD: The planet?

B: Yes. That would be correct.

JD: You’ll have to forgive me, but how-

B: He’s Epp.

JD: How far is it possible for one of you to travel?

B: No idea. It’s a mix of how far your kind has gone and how far one of us believes is possible to travel. See, your world and our world are constantly intertwined and your notions of your world greatly affect ours. If I had let Epp down in the year, I don’t know, 52 AD, before telescopes had allowed you to actually see distant planets and what have you, then I’m not sure how far Epp could have sent me. It’s like cell phones. (Reaches into his pocket and takes out a cell phone) We use these all the time now. The notion of having a personal communication device didn’t exist for us until you guys came up with it. But we only use the idea of cell phones, it’s not like we have cell towers set up in some parallel universe. And, it’s worth mentioning, that long distance communication was possible for us before you came up with it, it just required a very deep understanding of the nature of things and a tremendous amount of energy. Epp was probably able to do something similar to making a phone call eons ago.

JD: That’s interesting.

B: Our relationship is give and take. Epp drilled that into me over and over.

JD: And then he threw you onto the far side of Mercury.

B: (Doesn’t respond for awhile) Yeah. Then he did that.

JD: Now you wound up with some side effects from that trip.

B: Yes. We can just get right to it. I now light on fire constantly and without control.

JD: You’re prone to bursting into flames?

B: You’re repeating me.

JD: Sorry. Can you explain that?

B: I can explain it to my liking, yes. Whether it makes sense to you is not up to me. But I was on Mercury, where the temperature can reach up to eight hundred degrees. And I traveled there almost instantly. Now you, if you were to land there, you’d just burst into flames and be killed in seconds, but I don’t technically have a body so obviously I didn’t die. Instead I was suddenly dealing with molecular motion and chemical reactions that I had never seen anything like. It was different, wildly and completely different and whatever part of me I use to interact with the physical world has been unable to take in and deal with all the…all the crap I dealt with while I was there. (Irritated) So, no, I can’t control what happens to me so much any more, it’s not like I was able to get used to the energy shift that happens when you travel millions of miles and hundreds of degrees like that (Snaps his fingers. Outside a burst of lightning flashes).

JD: (Looking outside, confused) I had no idea it was supposed to rain today.

B: (Rubbing a palm wearily against one eye) Sorry, that might have been me. (Looks outside) I’ve got a lot on my mind recently. (Clearly getting worked up as smoke begins to billow up out of his shoulders) Can we maybe wrap this up?

JD: (Alarmed) Absolutely. We’re going to end with the questionnaire created by Bernard Pivot and used by James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” You ready?

B: I just said I was.

JD: What is your favorite word?

B: Ice-cold water.

JD: What is your least favorite word?

B: Alone.

JD: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

B: The thought of showing other people what I can do.

JD: And what turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

B: Bursting into flames.

JD: What sound or noise do you love?

B: A woman’s laughter.

JD: What sound or noise do you hate?

B: Any large machinery that isn’t properly oiled.

JD: What is your favorite curse word?

B: Son of a bitch is always nice.

JD: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

B: Let’s see…whaler?

JD: Whaler?

B: Yup. Does it have to be a current profession?

JD: It doesn’t have to be anything, no.

B: Then whaler. One of those guys who worked on a whaling ship a couple hundred years back. I’m not sure what role on the ship I’d like, but I’d figure it out.

JD: What profession would you not like to do?

B: No idea. Ballet dancer.

JD: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

B: We’re air conditioned.

JD: We’re done. Are you okay?

B: I think I’m fine now, thanks.