Leo (standing stock-still in the middle of the kitchen and thus in nearly everyone’s way): “Forget the worksheets, you found a copy of the unabridged Conventions?”
Me (fetching the stack of materials from next to the radio): “Nope, still a big goose egg on that front. The copy Beatrice and I’ve been working with is the great-great-grandparent of the Conventions’ current iteration.”
Leo, who finally moved out of the center of the kitchen, joined me at the table ostensibly to wipe it down with a sponge. Waiting until the worst of the sticky soy glaze had been cleaned away, I set down my armful of information. Leo, executing a first-class jump shot, pitched the sponge over Ira and Beatrice’s heads and into the kitchen sink – then turned back towards the table.
Leo (taking the chair across from me): “So where did you find it, Boss?”
Me (slipping the handouts out from between the salient pages): “Beatrice transcribed a couple of crucial passages for you guys.”
Robbie (tossing the napkins and placemats into the laundry hamper): “Transcribed?”
Wordlessly I open the atypical copy of the Conventions to a random page and swiveled it around so the Leo, Robbie, and Ira (both of whom had joined Leo and I at the table after finishing their self-appointed chores) could get a clear gander at the pages.
Ira (emitted a low whistle): “All this needs is a couple of illustrations, and you’d have a classier version of the Voynich manuscript.”
Beatrice (pouring the detergent into the dishwasher): “Fortunately, it isn’t quite as unintelligible as that document.”
Me (pushing the laptop’s power button): “Though undoubtedly, this is the author that prompted the powers-that-be’s switch to a movable typeface.”
And created, thank the gods above and below, a table of contents and an index.
Because it’s all well and good to explicitly and formally elucidate the best practices and policies concerning a whole host of likely, plausible but unlikely and utterly improbable events that could occur within the borders of Nevermore. But without a clear and concise method of finding and extracting said information from its’ 2,236 pages. You’re stuck in the role of gawking onlooker when a graveside brawl erupts amongst mourning family members when one faction takes umbrage with another, at the lack of classic punk music during the beloved family member’s service (the Ramones in particular).
Unfortunately, my reliance on the aforementioned feature directly contributed to my failure to read the Conventions’ current iteration in its totality. Well, I suppose if I’m totally truthful, my reliance on the index really sprang from two sources: A) the now obviously erroneous assumption I’d always have access to its pages and B) the fact I found the gargantuan size of the binder a smidge intimidating. Which considering the number of pages in the Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, and Amelia Peabody series, which I devoured as fast as I could turn the page, you’d think 2,236 pages easy-peezie.
However, 2,236 pages quickly multiply to 4,472 when you realize you’re reading prose drier than a breeze blowing across the sands of the Gobi desert.
The heirloom edition of the Conventions, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from this arid affliction (or find itself cursed with even a cursory index). As it doesn’t so much layout guidelines for things like hiring, firing, or corrective action as it chronicles said events. My favorite admonishment was issued to one Dolores Sullivan, who apparently our author caught cheating at the Egg & Spoon race during the Summer Company Picnic.
Which begs the question – how?
Did Dolores glue her egg to the spoon? Use a soup spoon rather than a teaspoon? Tamper with the egg itself, weighing it down from the inside? All three methods, it seems to me, would be easily detectable. So how did she plan on getting away with it?
Despite the rigorous care taken in recording the daily minutia of Nevermore – the enumeration of which allowed Beatrice (once she deciphered the madness behind our author’s method) to hurtle her way from cover to cover – our author failed to fill in the blanks on how Dolores endeavored to perpetrate her fraud.
This lapse in detail vexed both Beatrice and me.
Not only because the tone of the passage made it seem as if our author was the only one who saw thru the deception. But on account of the fact, we’re relying on our scribe to reliably archive the finer points of their experience as Provisional Proprietor.
Robbie (running an eye over the first of the several stapled pages I handed to him): “This is the condensed version?”
Me: “More or less. I wanted to give you guys all the info, in case I missed a nuance somewhere.”
Ira (setting his packet down on the table in front of him): “Give us the broad strokes.”
Me (taking a deep breath): “Alright, this is what Beatrice and I worked out…”
Similarly to Little Ben, our scribe unexpectedly became the Provisional Proprietor of Nevermore. (Though in their case, the promotion came about on account of a heart attack suffered by their predecessor rather than an inexplicable vanishing act.) To help our newly minted Provisional Proprietor, as Nevermorian tradition dictates, the Board of Managers was convened.
The Board of Managers is composed of the Head of Legal, Chief Groundskeeper, Longest Tenured Employee (outside the other four), Chief Funeral Director, and Caretaker. Together they not only advise the Provisional Proprietor – a majority vote of the Board is required to access Nevermore’s coffers…
Leo (shaking his head): “You think Little Ben’s manipulating the Board somehow, don’t you…”