Where does reality end and dream begin? Who can tell...
I sit before the television set absorbing the evening news with my terrapin Jetta.
'Also,' says the news announcer, 'tomorrow the famous conceptual artist Christo will visit Dusseldorf to wrap our statue of Prince Jan Wellem in a white sheet.'
'How that man has wasted his life,' I say. 'To be obsessed with wrapping things in white sheets! What could be more pitiful?'
Jetta blinks slowly in agreement.
The announcer continues:
'The famous rock star Mr. Roy Orbison, that well-known man in black, will preside over the installation of the new art work.'
'And yet,' I say musingly, 'who are we to judge? For which of us does not have his own private dreams he would like to act out? Even you, Jetta, in your secret terrapin heart may harbour dreams of wrapping certain things in other things. I believe I will attend Herr Christo's performance after all.'
Jetta merely blinks again. Is there a hint of warning there?
Comes the morning, and various civic dignitaries and an interested crowd are gathered in the Town Square. Roy Orbison, laconic behind his trademark dark glasses, waits to unveil the statue of Jan Willem so that Christo can then veil it again. I am at the forefront of the crowd with Jetta nestling in my coat and we have had a busy night. Little does anyone suspect what is about to befall.
The crowd grows impatient for the time for the installation has passed some minutes since. Murmurs of discontent at the inefficiency are heard and the hoi-polloi look pointedly at their watches.
'I must speak to the Mayor!' says a breathless flunkey.
'He may do so,' says the Mayor. 'Let him approach me.'
'I have to report that the conceptual artist known as Christo cannot be found! He has not been seen since the early hours of the morning when a man claiming to be delivering a terrapin visited his hotel room.'
'Also!' The Mayor is disconcerted. He eyes the unruly mob who are shuffling their feet and muttering slogans such as 'Time waits for no man.'
I cough diffidently and step forward. 'Perhaps I may be allowed to take Christo's place? I have some small experience with wrapping things.'
'Capital!' says the Mayor. 'Do so.'
'But,' says the flunkey, 'the artist's large white sheets cannot be found either.'
'Ach!' says the Mayor. 'This is a catalogue of errors.'
I cough again. 'If you permit a suggestion. For sundry reasons I happen to have several rolls of Cling-film on my person. Perhaps they might suffice? Clingfilm is anyway a more appropriate material for a dynamic and modern city to wrap a statue in, is it not so?'
'You are a prudent and resourceful fellow. You will commence.' The Mayor takes the microphone. 'I am pleased to announce that in place of the scheduled event Ulrich Haarburste, a local man of commendable diligence, will now wrap our statue of Jan Wellem in cling-film, a miracle substance befitting our dynamic city. Mr. Roy Orbison will now unveil the statue.'
Roy starts to pull at a rope and then stops. 'I think you should come see this, Mayor,' he says grimly.
The dignitaries look behind the curtains and find that during the night the statue of Jan Wellem has been painted with various slogans denouncing the Mayor. I whistle nonchalantly and pick a piece of lint off Jetta.
'Unglaublich,' says the Mayor. 'This is a public relations disaster waiting to happen. The statue cannot be shown in such a condition.'
'But the crowd!' says the aide. 'If nothing is to be wrapped today they will tear us limb from limb.'
'Then logically some substitute will have to be wrapped but I cannot think what.'
'If I might make a suggestion,' I offer. 'It strikes me that we do not just have one landmark here today but also another - a pop cultural landmark.' I bow to Roy.
'That is so. You will wrap Roy Orbison in clingfilm at once.'
'If Roy does not object?'
'I do not object,' says Roy. 'Begin.'
The Mayor explains to the crowd that this bold experiment will put us at the forefront of conceptual art. There are interested mutters. My mouth is dry as I take out my clingfilm and begin to wrap Roy Orbison in it.
I wrap more carefully than ever before. Not merely personal gratification but civic pride is at stake. The sunlight glints on the translucent triumph of science. The faint rasp as I unspool it sends delirious brightly coloured butterflies flocking through my stomach. I am like a tailor of the elves bedecking him in a shimmering suit of some magical material. Soon, Roy Orbison stands before all of Dusseldorf wrapped up in clingfilm. Silent white light floods my whole being and I become one with the universe.
'Fellow burghers!' I cry. 'Behold! Roy Orbison is completely wrapped in cling-film!'
The crowd cheers ecstatically. It is a moment of supreme triumph. I know how Alexander and Napoleon must have felt. I have conquered all. The whole world kneels before me. It is my will alone that has wrought this. I, Ulrich Haarburste, am the king of kings. I am one with the godhead. Booming triumphant laughter wells up out of me and reverberates mightily about the square.
Suddenly the artist Christo appears flanked by policemen and points at me.
'That is the man! That is the one who seized me roughly and locked me in a cupboard.'
'That is also the man I found loitering in the square last night with a pot of paint,' says a policeman.
'This is very bad for you, you scoundrel,' says the Mayor.
'Uh-oh,' I say to Jetta. 'It is all going wrong.'
The crowd turns ugly. They storm the podium with various cries.
'Disarrange his clothing.'
'Take away his terrapin.'
'Confiscate his cling-film.'
'Banish him to a distant province.'
I am manhandled roughly. I seek to explain myself but they will not listen. Roy is knocked off the podium and rolls around helplessly in his silvery straitjacket. My palms sweat. I wish to wake up...
I awake from my reverie and find myself back sitting in front of the television with Jetta. None of it happened after all but I have perhaps learned a lesson.
'Yes, Jetta, perhaps you are right. One should be careful which dreams one seeks to make real...'
And I switch off the television and we make off to bed.
But where does reality end and dream begin...
Who can tell?
© Ulrich Haarburste 2003
More tales of Roy in Clingfilm