Finch's Is Only Open From Seven To Nine / 10 July 2002

Finch’s is only open from 7-9 on the weekdays and you need an escort to get in and that always takes forever to arrange so I had to get up early yesterday. I should’ve done it the night before but I was busy in the darkroom dealing with the results from the cameras I’ve stashed in the neighbor’s sprinkler system. Also: whiskey, potassium permanganate, formaldehyde, T.G.I. Friday’s Amaratto Mudslide mixer, sodium sulfite, gold chloride, all warmed under a dim red light, serve neat.

I was hoping to get 104 when I called since her bustiness is high and chattiness low, but I ended up with 9921. I’d been stuck with him once before and was dismayed to learn he was a joketeller. And when you’re blindfolded and cuffed in the back of a minivan, you’re pretty much at the whim of the driver.

9921 picked me up, put on the restraints (really more symbolic than anything else, you could totally break out of them in an emergency but of course the point is you won’t out of sheer gentlemanliness), applied the blindfold (padded and chilled), and then drove around for like fifteen minutes, constantly turning, backing up, stopping suddenly, a handful of u-turns, then a long pause, and then we ease down into what I happen to know is a gated parking garage. This is when I’m allowed to peek, and when 9921 escorts me to the elevator and up to the fifth floor (a key has to be inserted before that button is operational), down a hallway to apartment five-oh-three. An uncoded knock, or what is designed to appear uncoded, and then Finch appears, usually on the phone or writing something on a clipboard or cranking an adding machine.

(Finch: always younger than expected, his face queerly flat and empty, what is that a mustache or what, breakable fingers and prominent knuckles, teeth out of a magazine, always with the three-piece suits.)

He’s got his little apartment set up like an office*, with the fluorescent lights and four cubicles and a water cooler and ditto machine and framed motivational posters. There is the clack of typing and the burble of electronic phonerings. 9921 told me how Finch’d just fired like his milllionth receptionist and sure enough he’s got a naked mannequin stashed behind the little greeting desk. He’s got the right hand rigged to a pulley system and he makes it wave at me when I come in. “Hiiiieeeeee,” he says. “Mister Allen, feeling lucky.”

“Total,” I say.

“What’s it gonna be.”

“Five thousand dollars on July 11. Partly cloudy with an isolated shower or thunderstorm in the afternoon. Winds west-northwest at five to fifteen miles per.”

“That thunderstorm is a pretty bold call.”

“Are you going to keep jawing or place the bet?”

“I’m just saying if you turn out right, I’m going to be keeping a close eye on you.”

Which makes me nervous. Which makes me want to call Eller right now and tell him to call off the whole thing, unplug the device and haul it back out to the toolshed. We should wait a few months, let Finch get distracted, check the almanac for a more plausible day, I mean, fuck, what was I thinking.

Joshua Green Allen

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