In the film Pulp Fiction, there are particular scenes where various characters intermittently come into contact with a briefcase of some importance. Each time the case is opened, the camera is situated in front of the person who currently possesses the expensive, leather trimmed hold-all, so that you are looking at their faces as the lid is raised.
Their eyes widen, as their faces are bathed in a golden light that the open lid exposes. There are a few moments of awed silence before the case is finally and reverently closed, and the source of the light blinks out of the scene, with the suddenness of the latch snapping shut.
It leaves everything at that moment immediately darker and emptier – only increasing the impact and mystery of what ever the object was in the case.
The people who view it are left momentarily stunned when the case is closed and the light shut off, unable for a time to comprehend what they have witnessed.
Because, all the way through the film you never actually find out what is actually occupying the case.
But you do know that its special.
You know this by silence as the case is opened, by the expressions on the faces of those who examine the interior, and by the way they lean in and almost, huddle, that bit closer to observe what that raised lid has exposed.
But the golden glow, well.
The beautiful golden glow from the open lid is the beginning and end that the visual impact has on those clustered around it.
The same goes for the scene where the Arc of the Covenant is finally opened in the Indiana Jones film – Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
When the lid is slid across to open the Covenant, there’s the growing atmospheric music, the almost rapturous initial expressions on the faces of those exposed to the objects within – the glow that seeps out as it is cracked open, giving way to the incredible flash of pure light that shatters the surrounding darkness from the exposed interior of the Covenant, leaves you in no doubt of its heavenly importance.
The light reflects the purity of the interior objects. In fact, that light is a pre-cursor to the fact that your soul isn’t actually fit enough to view it.
But people have to look. They can’t help themselves.
But then it kills them stone dead.
Now, you can’t get better visual impact of the effect that a mysterious yet important object can have on those witnessing it, than that.
Its the images of those people with varying expressions on their faces. Stunned, staring down while crowding round those objects. Just opening and closing mouths as they tried to speak but stricken momentarily dumb. Seeing what lay before them but unable to describe or take their eyes off it – that was the image that took hold in my mind when a friend of mine relayed this story to me recently.
He had been working on an exclusive housing site in North Yorkshire. Not your run of the mill homes. These were individually built, with clients requesting particular refinements or high tech fit outs as the properties were being developed.
Big, detached homes aimed at people with large wallets and expensive tastes.
So when one client became aware of a faint, tinny electric buzzing noise that she could hear of an evening when she was trying to go to sleep, it became a area of concern for the developer.
If there was an electrical fault with properties as exclusive as these, then it was a matter of urgency that it was identified and resolved as soon as possible.
“I’m not saying it was loud – it wasn’t.’
“But d’you know, when you go on holiday? Or when we actually get some hot weather, and all the little bugs or mosquitos appear? And the bastards are either making a meal out of your arse, or just irritating the life out of you just as you’re about to go to sleep? Whizzing round your head? You know? That whiney buzz as they get really close to your ear and you’re like -”
And he demonstrated by ducking, flapping his arms around his head to ward off an invisible entity while looking around sharply, trying to locate the source of a miniscule sound – then his eyes met mine again as he straightened up.
“Yeah? You know what I mean? One of those irritating little fuckers buzzing round your ears! And you can’t actually see it!?”
I nodded my head emphatically. Who hasn’t been in that situation when you’re just dropping off to sleep and suddenly there’s a kamikaze flea dive bombing past your ear. You actually hear it coming from a distance and all of a sudden you’re jumping up trying to ward off what sounds like a tiny motorbike from driving down your earhole.
I always imagine a tiny bug dressed as a Japanese Kamikaze pilot – helmet and all – circling above, weighing up how long an hour actually is to be alive. Then, seeing a person just nodding off and thinking –
“Jesus, only 15 minutes left. Fuckit here we go..”
and seizing its chance to scream,
Then nose-diving down and whipping past your ear half-a-dozen times, then zipping out of range to continue circling and waiting for the leviathan below to lie back down again to line up another run.
“It was that sort of noise. There but faint. You wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t told about it, and even then, it had to be really quiet. I mean really quiet. But as she’d be in bed , about to nod off, the noise was noticeable in the quiet of the night.
It was driving the client mad.”
The client being a well heeled professional lady, very hoity-toity, a high level legal job and she was very clear – and rightly so – that she wanted it sorting out. She would be going to bed and this indistinct faint buzz, un-locatable, would be on the edge of her hearing in the silence of the room, and the more she became aware of it the louder it became.
“Well how did she notice it? Was it some sort of back ground noise? Water filling a tank? Or the house moving?”
“It was definitely there. But it was impossible to actually pin-point the source. But she wasn’t happy. For one thing, over the sheer cost of the property then discovering this fault in the middle of what should be bespoke perfection. This noise. And secondly, she was flapping about a possible fire risk.”
“Did they turn the electric off? See if that stopped it?”
“Mate, they tried all sorts. Half a dozen times they went in. Everyone. You know Matty the spark? The old boy? Retired after that job?”
“Yeah, yeah I remember Matt. Smashing bloke. He was getting on a bit anyway. Thought he’d never retire.”
“Yeah, he didn’t hang about after that job. Well Matt went in, worked through the house. ‘Cos we couldn’t source it he had to check every room. Every socket. Every appliance. Anything electrical. I mean, he stripped every socket off the wall and checked all the wiring to them.”
“And he found it?”
“Christ no. What hair the old bugger had left on his head he was almost pulling it out in frustration. Then they sent the plumbers in -”
“Yeah, they had to check everything they had been involved with, boiler, fittings – taps, toilets, joints to pipes – anything they had fitted.”
“Yeah. I know. Everyone was sent round to have a listen to see if they could locate it. Then, they decided. Everyone was going in together.”
“Everyone. Plumbers, sparks, joiners, agent and foremen. Even laborers – just to see if anybody could source it. We all ended up in the bedroom where she mainly heard it when she was trying to go to sleep. About 12 of us, all stood round trying not to make a sound, whispering to each other, straining to hear it.”
“And what happened?”
“We took everything apart in that room and the en-suite. Sockets off again, sink and toilet out. Vanity dismantled. Tiler stood ready to re-tile the new vanity I had ready to re-fit when we were done. Everything out. Don the plumber was going mad.”
“I bet he was.”
“Kept ranting on about ‘Never heard a fucking toilet buzz in all my years..'”
“Anyway we’re at that point. All pissed off and we’re stood in the bedroom trying to listen again and we can just about catch this faint buzz.
“Then Matty says –
‘We have looked under the bed haven’t we?’
“Well we all turned to look at the bed, at each other then back at the bed. I mean. We’d all wandered round it each visit. It was a big room but still, this was a big bed – massive mate – super king size. Paul the agent says – ”
“Are you telling me,”
“A bit testy like,” adds Mark,
“Are you telling me that not a one of you dickheads have looked under that fucking bed??”
“Dom dropped down on his hands and knees pulls the old for-lock and says – “One sec Massa, I’s a lookin..” has a nosey under and adds-”
“Seriously. Do we have to move this thing? There’s only a couple of boxes and a suitcase under it.”
“I mean – he was right. It was enormous. Who in their right mind would it occur to, to try lumping that big bastard thing around the room?”
“So I said –
‘Well I’m a joiner – what would I be looking under a bed for..?’
And Don gives it –
“You don’t see many beds plumbed in, so – No. I’ve not shifted it. why would I? look at the size of the fucking thing!”
“But Paul’s stood there looking right pissed off. So that’s it then, Nothing else for it – Paul wants the only area of floor that hasn’t been checked, exposed. The beds got to move.”
He paused for a moment as he stared off into the distance, revisiting the scene again in his own mind.
“So. We strips the bed, tries to keep it all tidy, ‘cos she’s going to go mad if we make a mess of this bed – no two ways about it. It’ll be the icing on the cake. The vanity’s in bits. Toilet, sink – all need plumbing back in. New vanity will need re-tiling, sockets hanging off the wall all over the place. And here we are stripping the bed…”
“Heavy was it?”
“Man. It was solid oak. They must have assembled it en-situ. We got the mattress off it and it took 8 of us to lift it across the room.”
“And what was under it” Any bare wires sparking away?”
“No. Just a couple of box files and this expensive looking, heavy duty designer suitcase. But..”
And he’s looking a bit sheepish,
“But the faint buzz actually did get louder.”
“Really? After all that?”
“Yeah, I know mate. All this time of looking and its coming down to some boxes under the bed.”
“So what happened?”
“Everyone came in to see, sort of bunched up round it. So I leant down and opens the box files but all they have in them is paper. So its just the suitcase.”
“Well I unzipped it and stands up weighing up what might be in the case.”
“Paul’s tanting on in the background giving it –‘Come on open the thing then!’ – so I stick’s the toe of my boot on the lid and flips it open. And straight away the noise goes up ten fold and everyone jumps back. Then we can’t help ourselves, we all lean back in to look at what’s in that case buzzing away. I’m not kidding mate. Everyone was gob-smacked. But Matt’s a bit blank and says -”
“What is it?”
“So Don leans over – with out taking his eyes off the meaty object buzzing away – and tells him.”
“It’s a what now?”
“Don lean over again – again with out taking his eyes off it – and explains, and Matt is stood gaping at Don for a couple of seconds and then -”
“You’re fucking kidding me?”
“”And that, as far as I can remember was the only time I remember him taking his eye’s off the thing – to look at Don to ask that question. Because then his eyes went back down and all you could hear in the silence was old Matty saying -”
“Fuck. Me. I mean. Look at the size of the thing. Fuck me. Fuck Me!”
“At this point, ”
“We’re all stood there staring down at this thing in the case, heads turning to different angles to take on board whats it is, with Matty blathering away at this point. And who walks in but the owner of the item in the case. And she’s not happy at all.”
“Oh dear god. Now you’ve wrecked the dam bed. Wonderful.”
Mark carried on.
“Everyone, has stopped staring at the thing in the suitcase to swivel their eyes to the woman. I’m not kidding – no one could say a word. Except Matt. Matt can’t stop staring at the thing, and can’t stop talking. And while the woman’s demanding answers, oblivious to anything but the destruction and disarray, Matt is completely focused on the open case and as oblivious of her. He’s was verging on an asthma attack at this point! All you could hear was her heavy breathing through sheer temper, Matt panting like Lassie, and this bloody thing buzzing like a Flymo!”
“And he can’t shut up!”
“Fuck me. Its like a Subway foot-long.”
“How wonderful! You’ve took all the bloody sockets off again I see. Oh! Yes! And Yes! You’ve now destroyed my bathroom!!”
“Look at the size of the fucking thing.”
“Oh tremendous! The beds on the other side of the bloody room! How spectacular!”
Mark continued the tale,
“Matty was actually clutching his chest at this point, I think he was on his way to a stroke. And he’s still not taken his eyes off the case or even realized the woman is in the room. Everyone else is too stunned to talk. We’re looking from the case to the woman to each other to the case again, while she’s stood there with her hands on her hips, waiting for answers getting more pissed off by the minute. So I turns to her, and had to say something, ”
“I think we’ve found the problem love.”
“Honest to God pal, I’m not joking. All you could hear at this point was this thing buzzing away because its so quiet, and Matt breathing like a steam engine, gripping his arm because he’s tipping into a cardiac arrest, with his mouth going like a goldfish.”
“You could rob a fucking bank with that thing!!”
“Are one of you imbeciles going to tell me what you’ve found then?”
All haughty demands from the lady.
“Sweet Jesus its like a fucking baby’s arm!!!”
“What is that buffoon talking about? Get out of the bloody way?”
And she shouldered her way into the semi-circle of lads to come to an abrupt stop and look at the source of the buzzing noise in the case.
The wind was well and truly gone from her sails.
“Oh its my..its..Well..Oh..What?…Christams.”
“Matty had the final word mind..”
“A fucking donkey would be proud of that thing!!”
She was almost as breathless as Matt as she searched for something to say to fill the heavy silence.
“I’ll tell you what, I didn’t know where to look. No-one did. Apart from Matt. He’s suddenly realized she’s there along side him and is looking at the doo-dar in the case and back to her, and man, his eyes are popping out on another level. The only good thing was he had hit the point where he just couldn’t speak any more.”
Mark took a breath then continued,
“I felt right sorry for this woman mind. I felt like giving her a pat on her arm or something, try and make her feel better. But with this thing buzzing away in the case I couldn’t think straight. Anyway, Paul beat me to it.”
“What did he say??”
“Well he looks at her all fake cheery like, and just chirps out,”
“Ne’er mind love! Nothing to worry about! This sort of thing is always happening is this!!”
On retrospect though, I wasn’t surprised Old Matty finally retired after that job…