Richard Rosenbaum is the author of the novella Revenge of the Grand Narrative (Quattro Books 2014), and the non-fiction book Raise Some Shell (ECW Press 2014) about the historical and cultural significance of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s also Fiction Editor for Broken Pencil Magazine and a regular contributor to the popular culture website Overthinking It. He lives in Toronto.
# KNOWN AS AGENT K, THE OLDEST MAN IN THE WORLD
displays no typical symptoms expected of a person his age, beyond a certain (quite understandable) sort of sartorial paralysis. Remarkable! This past spring, Agent K celebrated his two-hundred and eighty-fifth birthday. Featuring blueberry cheesecake. Really pretty delicious, to hear tell. Asked about what most profound changes he’s observed thanks to his extraordinary longevity, he relates the following:
In his youth he would travel daily to the centre of town where stood the architectural marvel known today officially as “Generic House of Worship.” Built centuries earlier than even Agent K himself, the aforementioned structure was simple yet elegant; its underframe in essence a three-storey cube, its facade employed a distinct design style for each separate outer wall. Having taken so very long to construct – in part due to waxing and waning availability of funds and donations, in part to sporadic disruptions and physical damage to the site caused by
- Fire; and
– by the time one side of it was completed in full, public tastes had shifted, requiring re-imagination by draftspersons, engineers, sundry public officials, et cetera, such that at time of its official dedication one would scarcely have been able to tell that the place one had entered through one door was the same which one exited by another.
North face: in late Baroque/early Neo-Classical style, upright vertical columns, crowned by pediment, bays of sash windows.
East face: in Gothic style, ogival arches, groin vaults, flying buttresses between which walls opened up into enormous windows of prismatic stained glass.
South face: proto-Modernism, modular wood, glass, and iron, upon granite plinth, arranged as a grid along this entire side of the building.
West face: nostalgically in Ancient Near East style, all unevenly textured sandstone and light limestone masonry.
Nobody really remembered in which order the four sides were built, and naturally no two people could agree on which were archetypes of beauty and majesty and which were hideously ill-conceived eyesores; all managed, though, to have an opinion. Nevertheless, a constant stream of the faithful poured in and out via one entrance or another according to their aesthetic preference, boycotting those doors offending their sensibilities, only to meet within the sanctuary’s reverberant interior, unified, open, all-inclusive.
A single feature, though, everyone seemed to concur, shone as an example of beauteous brilliance: in the outer courtyard, a simple circular pool, full at all times with water still as eternity, deep enough to prevent vision penetrating its surface even under brightest day; accordingly crepuscular to a point such that its depth was inestimable. Water filled it to its lip, yet it had never been observed to overflow, even under the most voluminous downpour. A mystery no one has been sufficiently able to explain to this very day.
Here at pool’s edge Agent K would perch himself every day to sip infusion of mint, watch passers-by, record thoughts and observations, both rational and empirical, internal and external alike. Citizens travelling to Generic House of Worship would always see him there, same time-same place, looking, thinking, writing. All of these people knew him by sight if not by name, and he gained a reputation; so regular and precise in his appearance and departure from the spot that it was widely acknowledged one could set one’s clock by him, and not an insignificant number in fact literally did; here was Agent K first discovered and recruited by those forces who would dub him with the designation under which he was to become known.
All this is to say: most profound changes observed by Agent K across these decades and centuries? Two would come immediately to his mind.
First, nobody goes to Generic House of Worship anymore and its primary function today is as a venue for extremely loud rock concerts (a musical style not at all to his liking), and
Second, all clocks are now automatically calibrated by satellite, rendering him redundant at best as a means of timekeeping. He would not admit to it having been the conscious reason for his discontinuation of that daily routine some number of years ago, but it was something about which he had wondered once or twice.