The universe is a mind-boggling phenomenon. A sinister crevice of unfathomable depth it expands ad infinitum. I've come to apprehend this through my encounter with the numismatist. A prisoner on wheels, he joyed over counting his collection over and over. Specially sanitized colored papers of no real monetary value were as dear as close relatives, and brittle rounds of gold, silver, copper and brass lined his shelves.
Crimson rays of dawn would find him asleep underneath a wooden cabinet – of which he lovingly talked of as Mr. Cabby inciting my despise even more – equipped with a happy family of locks, bolts and clamps. No one was allowed to touch, dust or even walk beside Mr. Cabby unless one found peace amidst the bedlam of the numismatist's shrill voice.
This monumental cabinet covered the entire south wall of the so-called Maple Room. The few times I entered that very room I was overwhelmed by the brownness encapsulating me and had to rush out to stop myself from throwing up. Even the air in the Maple room felt and smelled brown with brown drapes covering human sized windows leading out to a narrow terrace from where a dampness permeated lending the room its characteristic "soil after the rain" smell.
Oh yes, the numismatist was rich; exceptionally rich. The almost primordial concrete chateau housed an army of servants each assigned to undertake special chores.
Emma was the main chef. A plump, seedy woman in her late forties she didn't let down one's mental image of how a main chef should look like. Due to the more than necessary gap between her teeth, one would think of her as having only three or four teeth whereas in reality all her teeth were intact enjoying the luxurious stretch of her broad jaw. Her spaciously placed teeth caused severely disturbing sounds when she ate since she had to swallow the skillfully cooked food almost as a whole. The few times she tried to chew would result in oregano, marinated lamb or other minute fragments of unprocessed food to hang down from the wide gaps as a savage criminal from the gallows pole. She knew by heart what the numismatist liked and disliked, a trait not to be condescended for he was hard to please. Scallions and scallops were his favorites and his dislikes were one too many to list here.
"Food," he would start staring past Emma – for he was also cross-eyed, a disfavorable trait in an eighty year old - with those round baggy nylons that were supposedly his eyes and would continue, the same dull shriek reverberating around rusty antiques:
"What was I saying?"
"Food sir. You were saying food." Emma would reply casting raised browed looks at no one in particular.
"Oh, yes food. Food, is nourishment for the body as well as the soul Olga."
"Emma sir." Emma's eastern European stubbornness would correct him every time.
Stahl was the security. Ironically he was afraid of the dark. During my late night snacks I would find him either sprawled on the outdated fluffy sofa snoring snuggly – a sight never failing to remind me of Emma's teeth – or sitting in a corner of the living room with all the lights turned on.