muckrake

…to rake muck      

Smith wasn’t one to skate over muddy waters… he would sink, of course, like any other object in the physical world would sink into waters, muddy or clear. But if these muddy waters were frozen, Smith still wouldn’t be one to skate over them. He would still sink his head in; having smashed through the ice, he’d have a good look around. Perhaps he would have his head bitten off by whatever savage marine beast happened to live in such muddy waters; perhaps the suspension of soil particles which render the water muddy would be ideal camouflage for such a marine beast, perhaps even one thought extinct for millennia. But Smith never had his head bitten off by such a well camouflaged, thought to be extinct, wary marine beast.

Coming up for air, probably dissatisfied by the view afforded him, Smith would next set about draining the lake of its muddy waters, or damming up the river, or whatever else needed to be done, in order to get an unimpeded view of what these muddy waters had been covering over. Not even after the last drop of muddy water had been evaporated by the sun’s rays would Smith be happy that there was noting to see. He would still probably kick around a supermarket trolley in the vain hope of uncovering a decomposing corpse or a blood stained Samurai-sword, but he would be loathe to accept that muddy waters didn’t always hide something worth uncovering.

Smith might even content himself with the body of a dead fish or a dirt encrusted traffic cone – it would be something, something to show for all his efforts. Because Smith wasn’t at all bothered by the notion that his efforts needed to be validated by some external agency, some external arbiter of value. And even though he would have been quite happy to waste an hour, week, year, the whole of his life, in search of something which in all probability wasn’t there, he would never admit to not finding “it”, the “it” he had been all the time looking for, the “it” which had been hidden away, the “it” that he would hold up high in one hand, the “it” which had been lurking beneath the murky surface of life.

“This is it!” he would declaim.

So Smith would always have some “it” to show for his efforts. Not necessarily an “it” of any value – a gold coin, a house-brick or a full set of silver cutlery. Not necessarily an “it” with any curiosity value. As Smith was curious about everything, the curiosity value he would assign to any “it” (every “it”) would have to be discounted.

Last week Smith uncovered the remains of a chicken dinner, which was nestled beneath a sodden pile of newspapers behind the bus stop. This discovery was enough to start him on a lengthy monologue, an exercise of his imagination, an imagination which was well oiled and in need of no exercise, to delineate the needs, fears, hopes and dreams of the human being who had one night in the past sat down here in the cold to eat a meal.

“Who was that man? Where is he now? Are we so very different, him and I?”

Oscar didn’t answer these questions, assuming that they were directed at nobody because of their complete lack of any function.

Smith’s investigations into the life which surged and boiled and pulsated around him generally led to rather unfortunate finds – such as the blood stain beneath the carpet of Oscar’s bed room, the pornography taped to the underside of a drawer in Henry’s livingroom, or the masses of thick black hair hidden behind the cushions of Oscar’s sofa. But this finding, uncovering or whatever it might be called, was just the beginning (though Smith would frequently state that the “search for it” was everything). A lengthy dialogue would follow, with Smith taking all of the speaking parts, and the crime would be guessed at, confirmed and highlighted, the perpetrator would be singled out, pointed at and lambasted, and his conclusion would be presented to the assembled audience in the manner in which one would present the cure for cancer or the location of the lost city of the Incas.

Like everybody else, Smith existed in a sea of relatively clear waters, in that his view of the world around him was relatively unobstructed. But this fact was not lamented by Smith who was convinced that the apparently perspicuous world was an illusion and that beneath its veneer of perfect normality and apparent crystal clarity lurked so many “its” that he was surprised the world didn’t explode with the superabundant significance of these “its” and “thats”.

So there was nothing to stand in the way of an untrammelled investigation into anything and everything. And even though Henry’s gross ineptitudes, Helen’s gross psychoses and Oscar’s gross apathy were plain to see, even though they were already brazenly exposed and daily paraded in the most public of manners, Smith still felt it to be incumbent upon him to expose them. That everyone has something to hide could have been an article of faith for Smith, if he wasn’t already convinced of the fact that everything of any significance was hidden in the first place.

These and other reasons are behind the manner in which Smith behaved when he was left alone with a snoozing Henry, propped up by various cushions, coats and other sundry items on the sofa in Oscar’s living room.

Peaking out of Henry’s inside blazer pocket (once Smith had moved two cushions and a balled up coat and let Henry’s sleeping bulk slide down to one side) was the edge of a crumpled envelope. Of course, a crumpled envelope could only mean one thing – it meant a lot, it was an “it”, some “it”, any “it”. “It” had to be investigated. “It” had to be uncovered. What could “it” mean? What “it” could Henry be hiding from the world which Smith hadn’t already uncovered through his tireless search for the truth? What could “it” be? Could this be “it”?

Thinking over this last thought, how this could finally be “it”, Smith let his eye off the ball and the recumbent and sleeping Henry had become, in the blink of an eye, the bright-eyed and indignant Henry.

Blinking once more, in order to restore the situation to its previous form, Smith was to be disappointed. On his eyes once again opening on the horrified features of Henry’s very awake demeanour, Smith could almost see the “it” being covered up by gallons of muddy water.

Smith’s fingers were still pinching the corner of the envelope, his face still only inches from Henry’s, his grimace one of thoughtful effort, his other hand resting on Henry’s lap.

On extricating themselves from this arrangement, both of them managed to be equally indignant. After a moment of unnatural quiet, Henry gave vent to his anger, Smith did likewise:

“I’ve seen it Henry. I’ve seen it! What is it? You can’t keep it hidden from the world for ever.”

“It? What “it”? What are you talking about?”

Smith shook his head in what could only have been a genuine and keenly felt disgust.

“It what?” Henry knew he was guilty of something. “It? I don’t know what “it” you mean!”

“It will come out!”

Henry couldn’t deny an assertion which he didn’t understand, but felt the need to deny something. “It won’t!” was all he could muster.

  

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