“Has he confessed or what?” I asked Lieutenant Drake of the NYPD as he handed me the police report that lay atop the board games Clue, Risk, Candyland, and Yahtzee.
“Yes and no, Mr. Witty,” Drake replied. “As his court appointed lawyer, you'll have to sort that out on your own. He was caught red-light/green-light, but claims he's not guilty. Now if you'll excuse me, I have several more important----meaning violent----games of Scrabble to cover.”
I went to the room where Albert Noonan was presented to me as a 20 Questions contestant. A short bald man in his forties, he seemed placid, yet his blue eyes were as alive as a dodge ball player's. I sat across from him, and opened the folder on the table between us. Then we shook hands. His fingers felt cool, much like the fingers of sociopathic banking professionals who later play Sorry! with fellow inmates at the Marriott correctional facility in Kauai. “I'm Walter Witty, Mr. Noonan,” I said. “I'll be representing you in court.”
“Yes,” Noonan said.
“Yes,” I repeated his flat, uninflected acknowledgment. “Yes, well, it says here that you are suspected on nine occasions to have placed your own locks on other people's various doors and gates. On the ninth and last occasion you were caught chaining shut the ticket office to a football stadium just before tickets to a rap concert and Yankees game went on sale. The note in your pocket says RESIST NOTHING EXCEPT THE ILLUSION OF EGO AND ITS EMOTIONS AND OBSESSIONS. Tell me, were you about to copy the man who the press is calling Sargon, or are you really him?”
“Do you really know who you are, or the game you're playing right now?” Noonan asked me, without a trace of sarcasm, subtle censure of my effrontery, or temerity (or even presupposed perspicacity.)
“Excuse me?” I said, with exaggerated abstraction (or hyperbolical flabbergastivity.)
“Names are merely signposts pointing to the reality beneath,” he declared, although his voice remained utterly calm and without big words. “They are constructs of the ever compulsive mind, which can only label things, and then produce in you a fear of your own destruction.”
I evinced a half smile despite myself. “That's nice, Albert, but we haven't got time to discuss philosophy, or to kriegspiel around like this.”
“It is not philosophy, it is simple fact. As for time, that is the illusion. Most people live in the past or the future, and yet the past and future do not exist, nor have they ever existed. Indeed, everything that happens, happens in the Now.”
I coughed and looked down at my now empty Pez dispenser. “So. . . do I call you Deepak Chopra, or do you prefer 'Sargon the Enlightened One'?”
He continued to study me, his sharp blue eyes trying to interpret my drooping eyelashes. “As I said, names are meaningless. It is the ego, the mind which needs to label things. But that egoic tumoresicness within your mind is not you. You are hidden behind this bulbous and protuberant growth. Only the real you can know another person, not your mind. Your mind can only know labels and scores. It labels everything from a flower to a person, but cannot truly know the score of either, no matter what you may claim when channeling quantum mechanical cognizance on informercials for autographed Biblical study guides.”
“Listen . . . Mr. Noonan? I'm about to toss my cookies here. If I'm to defend you, you'll have to cooperate.”
“If only that were true,” he said, pushing aside the Chinese checkers he'd been playing.
“What do you mean, if only that were true? You don't think I'm here to help you?”
“What I think is that you think too much. Everyone does. This is what is wrong with the world. The mind plays an endless game with you, and you identify with it. You play along, like it's a competition and not a delusion. Your mind hates the Now, hates the real world, and so you are never happy or at peace.”
“Please, Al,” I pleaded. “Please just answer my question. Are you this Sargon they talk about in the papers, or just another nut job parcheesi champion?”
He sat back and folded his hands. After a moment he said, “It was around seven hundred BC, in the Assyrian capital of Khorsabad, that King Sargon the Second used a lock to secure the gate to his fortress. His lock was wooden, and utilized a wooden key which had notches on it matching the blocks or ‘wards’ inside the lock. Over twenty four hundred seventy years later, in 1778, Robert Barron---not the priest---invented the first lever tumbler lock, which consisted of a housing containing springs, metal tumblers, and a rotating inner core called a plug. Unlike all prior warded locks, these pin, disk, or lever tumbler locks were difficult to pick because a cam was involved. Now, of course, certain tumbler locks are secured inside housings of tempered magnesium alloy steel. And since we should live in the Now, this is what matters now, does it not?”
“Simon Says I should take that as a yes.”
He just sat there and stared at me.
I sighed like a prisoner of war facing a firing squad's Trivial Pursuit shot clock. “Let me try again. Are you the perpetrator, alias Sargon the Enlightened, a locksmith from Van Nuys by trade? The proverbial Chairman of the Bored?”
The human jigsaw puzzle looked away. “The past is given as a reference, for your mind, which clings to such things. During your more recent game of kick-the-can I used a special tool steel pin tumbler padlock combined with a nickel alloy hardened steel chain reinforced with molybdenum alloy studs. My chain resisted hacksaw blades, and required nothing less than an argon plasma torch to defeat.”
“Now that this most relevant history is straight,” I said, flourishing a charades pen, “would you mind telling me exactly why you did this thing, Al?”
“Is it not obvious?”
“You mean by the notes left at the scene? What'd you do, anyway, read some Buddhist text, and decide to play ring-around-the-rosie with industrial strength cable?” I paused, and watched his face for reaction. There was none. He was at peace with himself, devoid of hostility or even worry over the consequences, which might have included a life sentence playing Life, or maybe musical electric chairs. “And by the way,” I added, hidden curiosity now stabbing me like a tempered steel Top Chef Masters utensil, “where did the sayings they found come from, again?”
He blinked at the ceiling, or maybe at the window where a Goodyear blimp drifted by, advertising a celebrity foosball tournament hosted by Simon Cowell's half brother Colon. “They are from the Ten Grave Precepts attributed to Bodhidharma from the book Isshin Kaimon," he declared, "The Precepts of One Mind.”
“Uh huh.” I turned pages in my file, and read aloud. “Okay, the first precept, as you call it, is I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT KILLING. That little gem was not left at an abortion clinic or death house, Al, but at a snack food manufacturer. . . right after you picked and replaced their front door's mortise lock with a double dead bolt. Ring a bell?”
He gave no reaction, so I continued.
“Next was I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT STEALING, a note left at Sterling Health Services, an HMO under investigation by a 60 Minutes crew, after their administration building was chained shut. Then it was I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT MISUSING SEX, which was taped on a high school coach's metal office door, after a titanium padlock was clamped on it. The very next day the note I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT SPEAKING FALSELY appeared on the door of Senator Bradley Milton, and I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT GIVING OR TAKING DRUGS on the locked door to televangelist and local Teamsters president Winifred Cashdollar. Then Sargon apparently took a week off, because it was a full week later before the note I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT DISCUSSING THE HYGIENE OF OTHERS was discovered on the Studio B door of Glenn Beck, who'd been a no show for two days at Studio A because no one thought to look for him, much less bring him some bar soap. And yet all this still didn't get much press, did it, Al, until I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT PRAISING MYSELF WHILE WASTING OTHER PEOPLE'S TIME appeared on the exit doors to the Dorothy Chandler pavilion during a game show awards ceremony. So you went on vacation out to La La Land, Al? How did you accomplish that one without getting caught? I thought those Hollywood awards shows had guards with tasers and light sabers.”
“Even security guards do not always live in the Now, unfortunately for them,” Noonan replied with the cryptic ease of a Hollywood producer green-lighting another comic book movie.
“The force is not with them, is that what you're saying?”
Al's smile was barely detectable. “If that explains to you how a person is able to slide five bicycle U-locks into the entrance door bars while passing outside.”
“Uh huh. . . And at the same event a note reading I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT BEING STINGY was left on the windshield of a Mercedes, right after The Club was locked onto its steering wheel. What was that about?”
“The car belonged to a Mobster's Wives star who gave her time but not money to charity. The time she gave was for her own aggrandizement, and the charity parties she attended spent ninety three point two percent on flowers, food, and door prizes.”
“Why take the risk on a second lockdown then, though?”
Noonan closed his eyes, and sighed like Yoda instructing Jar-Jar on the sport of luge leapfrog. “Time is an illusion,” he repeated.
I chuckled. “You won't think so when you're doing it,” I promised him. “You could get twenty years for this, even if you plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of Judge Judy.”
“Have mercy,” he said, “on yourself. Shall I explain why you are so obsessed with guilt that you must return to it constantly?”
“We haven't got time for that, Al. We have to prepare your defense.”
“Resist nothing,” he instructed me.
“You heard me." He paused with gratuitous significance. "Your mind is creating a constant dialog, a background noise from which you cannot escape. You need to turn it off, and step out of time's grip on you in the present. Only then can you know your true self, and become alive instead of just labeling and scoring everything around you. Only then you will know there is no salvation in the future, and no resolution from the past. . . there is only the Now, and it is more than enough.”
“Now, now,” I said.
He leaned forward, looking directly into my bloodshot eyes. “Yes, now is the time to awaken,” he said, “from your false identity."
“My. . . false identity,” I repeated. The epiphany of it struck me like a thirteen pound ball curving in from the gutter at the last moment to lay waste to ten other of my false identities. And in a sudden Adobe Flash epiphany I realized my own choice, with time running out. The thing I'd have to decide for myself: Was he. . .was I. . . guilty or not guilty?
Some say that Time is an illusion of the mind. Of the ego. Ironically, over time, I've since learned that's true. When my trophy wife left me, taking with her the son she wasn't sure was mine or hers, she stammered that maybe now I had all the time in the world. Which got me to thinking about that. . . until, in my misery, I gave up thinking altogether. And also lost my job and Porsche in the process.
I don't know how much time has passed, (I've lost my watch too), but the one who is known as Albert Noonan goes on trial soon. I will not be defending him, nor does he require a defense. I can only complete his unfinished work, the tenth precept. And so I will take up the way of not defaming that which reflects true self-nature, in that subtle and mysterious realm of the One which does not hold dualistic concepts of ordinary beings and sages. The teisho of the actual body is the harbor and the weir. This is the most important thing in the world---the letting go of ego and of waiting and even of seeking. In the eternal present, its virtue finds its home in the ocean of essential nature, and it is beyond explanation. So let the court decide what it will about alternate universes, I know that Albert Noonan is not guilty. And when his jury has been sequestered---when they are locked away---they too will see the Truth.