Red is a Very Important Color this Year

In the hotel room, I have the television turned to QVC. The hostess describes item A2749, how nice it looks on Cathy, the model. A2749 is available in red, navy, and black. The red is almost sold out.

"Red is a very important color this year."

The hostess and the model are rapturously lovely, just the right amount of makeup, hands brown and soft and slightly wrinkled, like a mother's hands. The hot lights draw out soft female fragrances from their skins, from between the downy hairs at the nape of the neck. I die in their arms, my head pillowed on the round softness of the rayon cardigan, nestled among the marcasite neck-chains and 18K gold swan pendants.

Picking the lock on the hotel room window was simple. Bypassing the alarms and the digital environmental controls was simple. Now I stand on the tiny ornamental balcony, open to the city seventy-three floors below, and in the building behind me the computers bow and whine like heeled dogs. Wind in this room is good, I have told them. Whatever temperature this room is at, I have told them, that is the proper temperature for this room. They moan and lap at my hand. As I stand in the open window, breathing the wind that comes up off the red-lit, gold and neon city and river below, the telephone on my belt chirps. It is Moore, with the instructions.

I wonder how it happened. I picture to myself how it must have been: In the quiet decorum of an ergonomic room, the trace of excitement in his voice instantly captures every ear.

"We can make our cheap plastic toys exactly resemble the TV heros!"

"How, noble Concept Developer?"

"We will make new TV heros which look exactly like our cheap plastic toys!"

An even more profound hush descends.

"Roger, Moore," I whisper, and hang the phone back on my belt. I have the instructions; some things must be obtained, others disposed of, others moved. People must be encouraged or delayed, directed or detoured. First I must go to Moore in person, diving the red Posche, the Porsche from Vienna, the one that still has Moore's lipstick-stained handkerchief in the glove-box, her murder mystery under the driver's seat, the new international license plates.

In the hallway outside the room, after latching the door behind me, I tug on the thread under the door, setting off the explosive charges in the room, that bloom like ardent red roses, blowing the window closed, blowing my fingerprints off the ice bucket, blowing Cathy's firm round neck back into the television screen, blowing the soiled towels on the bathroom floor clean again, to lie neatly folded on the cold unvisited metal rack.

I drive the red Porsche out of the hotel's hidden bowels, onto the surface of the city. The streets are lit brightly or dimly, walls dotted with complex incomprehensible scrawls of graffiti. And everywhere city employees with calligraphic paints walk from wall to wall, carefully annotating each glyph, each unreadable obscenity or oracular cluster, with the appropriate disclaimers. "This graffito is not an official statement of the City, or of any agency affiliated with the City. The City does not necessarily agree or disagree with the claims or opinions expressed in this graffito, nor should the City's decision to remove or not remove this or any other graffito from any surface belonging to the City be construed as signifying any such agreement or disagreement." Everywhere the walls of the city bear the delicate counterpoint of bold swirling icon and small, intricate, multi-page calligraphic annotation. The streetlights flash past, rhythmic reflections in the hood of the Porsche, as I drive.

An hour later, I am still in the car, still on the highway. The traffic has not moved for forty-five minutes. A sinuous ribbon of taillights stretches ahead along the river, to where in the distance the lanes of the highway are on fire, the flames burning an eager communion between earth and sky. I will not reach Moore until far too late.

The phone on my belt chirps, and Moore's voice urges tensely, "Run while you can!" But I do not run. I toss the phone out the window; it arcs over the barricade beside the highway, down into the dark water. I open all the doors and windows of the Porsche, lean the seats back, and prop my feet on the dashboard. Stretching back, I look up at the billboard that towers above the curve, and I nod. The giant robot samurai nods gravely back, the shiny red and silver of his mask glinting in the night, silent, numinous, and empty.