Entering the Piano Lounge was like walking into a movie without knowing any lines, and knowing that an inspiring speech was expected. Everyone on the set took their roles seriously, and they were all award winning actors who could just tell that Jeff was a silly street performer from the kids channel.
Jeff felt only slightly relieved standing next to the old man who had revealed a tuxedo from under his cloak, and who had swapped his skull staff for a sporting black umbrella.
"Sir Garland, your dining hall awaits you."
Jeff was slightly amused, but he walked with Sir Garland to what he thought would be a stiff, windowless palace with more frills than a Gypsy rug shop. And he was also expecting a blank-cheque menu, which meant that you could order whatever you liked by describing it in three hundred words or less, and they could charge whatever they liked in three hundred dollars or more.
Mr. Garland, or the 'old man' as known by Jeff, walked with more confidence than his tuxedo did, and his black umbrella swished with the swinging of his legs.
They soon arrived in a dining hall with a single table beneath a golden chandelier. The waiter bowed low, moved the chairs out, and removed their jackets in no particular order; it appeared he had done all three at once while welcoming them with a smile and a few gracious words.
And then they were seated, a small fountain bubbled in the flowers by the wall, the portraits watched them with approval, and drinks appeared in their hands. A few minutes passed with polite chatting, food arrived in the form of a palace of appetizers, and Jeff continued sipping the drinks that glittered between his fingers.
Jeff was in a state of mind that involved very little thinking and a whole lot of goggling. And the drinks only made everything sparkle. Which was rather disturbing.
"Now Jeff. It is important that you understand the time requirements of this deal. It will last one day at the minimum. However, more time may be arranged if necessary, and we will notify you when that is the case."
Jeff was having trouble focusing on his words, and the names of the appetizers were still boggling his mind with accented e's and silent, stealthy letters that threatened to dig up his grade ten spanish notes. But then he heard mention of money and realized he ought to pay attention.
"We will start with one thousand dollars in your bank account and proceed from there."
Jeff sensed that it was his turn to reply. He licked his lips, waved his hand once, and said, "That is...pleasing to hear, good sir."
He took another sip of the unknown liquer. His head was buzzing and his mind was warm. But he felt pleased with himself. A thousand dollars was sufficient. Yes, indeed. This meeting was going well. They were both so civilized and sophisticated, speaking over matters of great importance. Oh yes, and they were discussing the transfer of funds.
"So I gather that you agree to this deal, Sir Jeff?"
"Yes, I have made a decision...Sir..." Jeff frowned, "Galahad, Knight of the Round Table..." He was beginning to slur, but the words sounded right to him. "Howeva! You may be forgetting a matter of great importance!" Jeff raised a finger, took a sip of his drink, and said, "I know not what is required of me, don't you see? If I am to fill my side of the deal, I will need you to offer forth a detailed contract of my responsibilities. Otherwise, there may be some fatal misunderstandings."
"That is very wise of you, Sir Jeff. And I will be sure to describe every task when each task arrives. All you must do is follow my instructions. The plan will be laid out clearly for you as needed."
"Okay," blurted Jeff. He burped. "I mean, that is swell. And this meal is rather adequate, wouldn't you agree...Sir Garfield?"
"May I ask you a question then?"
"Please do, Sir Jeff."
"Don't mind if I do." Jeff rubbed his forehead, trying to remember what he needed to ask. "Will these tasks require any special talents on my part?"
"They will require only your willing participation. Whether you have special talents is partly what we wish to find out."
"What do I win if I display such talents?"
The old man paused. "You get to stay for another day," he said. "Free of charge."
Jeff smiled. "Aha, it's like a game show, isn't it?
And now the man laughed aloud. He swallowed his baked oyster, wiped his lips on a royal red napkin, and cleared his throat. "It is similar in that there are social experiments conducted. But it is not nearly as petty and no one will be watching us. No, Sir Jeff. This will be meaningful. This will be done in the name of science! You could be a hero if you let yourself."
"I am a hero," Jeff returned. "I am a Sir hero. A knight like yourself, I do say. And that is why you must transfer the thousand dollars to my account. So I can show you my special talents. I'm a street performer you know!"
"I know. I have seen your shows. They must be hard work."
"Ah, that they are. But keeping those chainsaws in the air while captivating the audience is something I was born to do." The room was beginning to blur.
"But surely, after such a hard day, you must be tired."
"Tired? Yes, well, yes." Jeff frowned. A blanket fell around his shoulders and a waiter kindly helped him from his chair.
"Come now, Sir Jeff, your chambers await you." The soft voice held such sincerity.
"You must be tired," said the old man. Jeff wanted to agree, but he found he could not speak.
But everything seemed to be well understood, and Jeff slipped into a dizzying sleep.