Connecting the dots can produce a picture, but can also lead one astray.
|Pareidolia Square, a geometric collection of intersecting abstract angles with the concrete universe of measurement. A dwelling space where the illogical mingles with the logical, where passions recklessly feed from a menu drawn on the astronomical heights of the rarest delicacies. A place where anything is possible and nothing is beyond implausible.
Welcome to Pittsburgh, a metropolis whose evening skyline routinely projects an approachable ambience of harmonious conviviality. Separated from the wards by three regular rivers, the surroundings are a refreshing mix of ethnic idiosyncratic flavor and shadows of asynchronisms of its industrial past. It is not a place that regularly makes headlines or marks anything other than the passage of time in the twenty-first century, outside of a forty-foot inflatable duck floating on the Monongahela during Pierogi Day, a festival that is essentially meaningless to the outside world, however, holds a special ill-defined place, there .
As with most urban locals, underneath the pleasant exterior is a Rogue’s Gallery of undesirable denizens. For the purposes of this tale, dispense with any preconceived notions of the word underworld, and, if we may speak with a clarity of wit, those occupants inhabit a region of space and time best described as ‘overworld’. It is a place where the abstractions of thought coalesce from the depths of minds and forms into a tangible expression of willpower unrestrained by preconceived notions. In that vortex of reality making sit five frustrated men, around a rented table, in a rented space under the façade of the bland unassuming title of Corporate Marketing Associates. To the outside world, from the parking attendant, past the barista in the fledgling Meteoroid Café in the lobby and right under the nose of the Building Administrator, they appeared nothing more, or less, than average business professionals.
Appearances aside, this collection of rogues, and they are thugs of a higher magnitude, gathered in plain sight in the hired conference room as a sub-tenant of a tenant in the under-renovation Stratospheric Dominion Building in the locally famed Southside. For all legitimate observations, for the past three days they applied their avocations from early morning until late night on assumed commercial business. However, that deception conceals unsavory truths that can only exist in the minute silhouettes of Pareidolia Square.
“…And that’s the problem. We have a detailed understanding of Program 397, but delivering results has so far eluded every study group,” Mr. White exhaled and then he, in a momentary lapse of discipline, tossed his pen to the table. The rest of the group leaned back in their chairs sympathetically, a reaction repeated several times over the last two days. He then continued, “Perhaps it’s time to surrender to the fact that the program is undoable.”
“Irene won’t like that,” Mr. Green reminded Mr. White as he too leaned back in a state of resignation.
“What does Irene look like?” Mr. Black asked anyone.
“What?” Mr. White replied shaken from his thoughts.
“What does Irene look like. Has anyone here ever met Irene?” Mr. Black asked, again addressing all at the table.
“The only thing I know about Irene is the name on the emails and texts,” Mr. Green confided. He then noted the time and suggested sending out for pizza as it seemed to be another late night brewing up.
“Same here,” Mr. White added. “I’ve never met Irene. The closest I’ve ever come to the lady is her personal manager Pulchra…That was three years ago in Chicago, and I’ve been getting text from Irene for about fifteen years.”
“Well I’ll tell you what…I’m buying pizza and waiting on the loading dock on Third Street for it. You conspirators figure out who or what Irene is. I’m satisfied with the fact she signs my paycheck and it clears…” Mr. Rose announced then ordered a late dinner from a local shop. Mr. Gray volunteered to wait with him.
This left Mr. Black, Mr. White and Mr. Green alone in the office. After the two junior men made their exit, the trio stared at each other for a long minute.
“Another point,” Mr. Black then said. “How much do we know about those two? Considering the gravity of Program 397 and I venture to say, the mystery surrounding Irene…Do we trust Mr. Rose and that skinny twit Gray?”
“In the same vein I’ve been working with you for years and I don’t know you from Adam’s Cat,” Mr. Green answered Mr. Black. “I can say the same thing about Mr. White too.”
“Well I can say that’s the effect of Program 137,” Mr. White replied timidly. “That’s worrisome. Here we are trying to sell Program 397 which some people would describe as Satanic and we’re under the influence of the program…Do we really want to do this?”
“We will if we want paid,” Mr. Green shot back. “The money is tremendous and the emollients are excessive.”
“All that proves is we’re craven and given to avarice. What I think the point is, is where a man draws the line and says I’m no longer for sale,” Mr. Black observed.
“We passed cravenness and avariciousness a long time ago,” Mr. Green commented. “This Program 397 is bluntly doomed for failure. I think who ever thought this up…And I can make a case this has been tried before in the 1890’s of France, quite successfully, to a degree…No…Let me be clearer. Anyone who thinks they can sell 397 as openly as Irene wants, is clinically insane. Look at the previous failures related to the concept. Furthermore, this concept has been around since about 1799 in this country.”
“Agreed, and I can take those notions all the way back to Plato,” Mr. White answered. “This is beyond the pale. This is insane and it can’t be sold.”
“We sold the 1938 Aztec crash…We sold Roswell as entertainment to keep the truth secret. Really, you can divide the great unwashed into two camps. One who sees the reality and believes but doesn’t care and the greater majority who reject that truth out of hand…” Mr. Black interjected. “We have them confused over which bathroom to use.”
“Let’s be careful not to believe our own bullshit,” Mr. Green admonished the remainders. “Prague Spring is an example of that.”
“But it worked anyhow,” Mr. Black retorted.
“True. However, what I’m pointing to is that if Irene’s crowd were all that, the Czechoslovakians should’ve never have noticed anything and don’t tell me that was then and this is now…That’s hubris. While this old trope is poorly stated, it suffices; Pride goes before a fall.”
“Well here we are…Greedy, cowardly and proud of it. Care to add prevaricators to that?” Mr. White smirked.
“Hold on, give me a minute,” Mr. Black announced as he thought a new idea through. “What if Irene is believing her own bullshit. Consider, each of us knows something, or allot of things about this program or that program, however, do we see any great results?”
“Populations dropping,” Mr. Green replied.
“According to Dr. Teal and the nebulous Mr. Aquamarine their survey found Program 137 to be minimally effective at best…More than likely a statistical failure,” Mr. Black explained. “What if it doesn’t matter what we do with Program 397. What if all we’re doing is generating mounds of useless data…That sends Program 397 down the line…And other people just do it because they’re putting their hands out and taking the money?”
“Then things got easy,” Mr. White shrugged. “We already have the problem solved.”
“Well now I have to ask what’s real and what’s an illusion,” Mr. Green interjected.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” Mr. Grey announced as he returned with the pizza and drink along with Mr. Rose. “My co-worker and I have come up with an answer to our mutual quandary…”
“Wish I would’ve thought of it sooner,” Mr. Rose then said as the food and the condiments made their rounds. “What spurred it was when the subject of Irene surfaced.”
“You should hear his theory on that!” Mr. Grey laughed as he sucked down a slice of pizza.
“Well, have it,” Mr. Black encouraged the explanation. “Can’t be any more bizarre than what we’ve come up with.”
“Bizarre yes…Supportable yes,” Mr. Rose explained. “For the past two years I’ve been analyzing Irene’s e-mails and texts…Well, based on diction, grammar and choice of arrangement I came to the conclusion that Irene is at least three different people…”
“That’s a bold statement,” Mr. White then cautiously observed.
“Well I have over 1200 e-mails and text. Excluding the boilerplate that left about eight hundred e-mails…Not all mine…Don’t ask,” Mr. Rose went on while eating. “And I noticed that the tone changed when addressing different sections of our company and sometimes even with different people. Now I have friends in low places and a few years ago I was talking with one and Irene came up…Turns out we both knew the same Irene. Now you can say ‘she’ is involved with several different companies and farms out the same idea to several groups…”
“We know that. What’s your point?” Mr. White interrupted.
“Well she refers to Program 397 for Necessity Matters…” Mr. Rose explained as Mr. Black off-handed interrupted him.
“Isn’t that Mr. Brown’s outfit? Out of Philly?”
“Sure is,” Mr. Grey explained. “Now it gets good….”
“Well, she describes Program 397 as a second-tier addendum to something called Teepee. Now for us it’s of the ‘most vital importance’….”
“What’s Teepee?” Mr. Green asked. “I wouldn’t say that’s odd. She wants us to finish a project. Naturally she’s going to change the tone…”
“At first I thought so…Now back to my low life connections at Necessity Matters…They scraped Project 397 last year. Now we have it, and if we scrap it…It gets passed on down the line maybe. As far as Teepee goes…Well, Teepee cross references to a Mr. Aquamarine’s study by the same title on a study genetic study involving Navajo Indians…. And that is dated 1950. This is 2020 which would make assuming Mr. Aquamarine let’s say graduated university at 25 makes him 95…Now I’m assuming a master’s degree or better in something but I can’t find him anywhere…Except on internal documents of the company,” Mr. Rose shrugged. “Think he’s Jewish?”
“What does being Jewish have to do with anything?” Mr. White interjected with a touch of hostility.
“If he was, I’d say conspiracy theory and just dismiss everything as business as usual,” Mr. Rose shrugged. “That said, also I have to say, it wouldn’t be odd for someone to be Jewish either. What I do know is Irene is a title, this work here is a rehash and I’m trying to figure out what a biologist has to do with selling this idea…”
“Or for that matter Navajo Indians,” Mr. Black observed.
“I think we could be here until the end of time trying to connect the dots…Maybe it doesn’t matter, or it matters in a way we wouldn’t understand…Who knows? But what now?” Mr. Green asked.
“Ah we just cobble a marketing program together, take the money and be done with it,” Mr. Grey then suggested.
So was the conclusion of Corporate Marketing Associates, a small company of above average professionals producing an average conclusion to the impossible nature of another’s idea. In the future, historians would note that considering the absurdity of the idea, that the masses didn’t welcomed it with greater enthusiasm. This of course others would consider just par for the course in a litany of stupidity that directs the course of human civilization. Then again, in a world where greed is king and unrestrained ambition is a handmaiden to social discourse what else would they do…But then again, this could only happen in the dusty corners of Pareidolia Square.