Richard Armitage and the attic portrait repair guy
Our story begins inside Richard Armitage’s condo in Lower Manhattan, in the near future, sometime after Richard Armitage returns from London after filming Mid Life Crisis.
Richard Armitage was sitting in his breakfast nook, idly playing with his iPhone 6, thinking desultorily about going out for a run, when he heard the buzzer indicating that someone was downstairs. He rose and pressed the intercom. (Or maybe it was all hooked to his iPhone. He seems kinda hi tech that way. This brief authorial assertion is made to remind all readers that this narrative isn’t real.)
“Hey, Mr. Armitage, it’s a repairman to see you.”
“I haven’t scheduled any repairs.”
“Seems insistent, this guy.”
“Let me talk to him.”
“Hayadoin’, Mr. Armitage, it’s yer attic portrait repair guy here.”
“Yer overdue for ya regular toon up. We hadda report.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Ya need to toon up yer attic portrait.”
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”
“We hadda a report. Onaccounaya selfies. Pahtadaservice.”
“Should I send him away, Mr. Armitage?”
“No, it’s okay, send him up.”
Richard Armitage scratched his beard and wrinkled his forehead, confused. The buzzer at his door buzzed buzzily and he let a short, squat man — with a toolbox in one hand and an electric meter of some kind clipped to his shirt pocket — into his condo.
“Come through,” said Armitage. “Who are you again, exactly?”
“Brooklyn Attic Portrait Repair Service. (Another authorial insertion here: Hopefully this geographical information explains why it’s so hard to understand what the repair guy is saying. It’s the only New York accent I have any chance at all of half-ass mimicking.) We hadda report from London. Seems ya selfies ah triggering satellites.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dja see this?” The little man held out a colored computer printout.
Armitage took the print out, but said nothing.
“Offdahook, huh, the light pollution ya selfie caused, huh? Off. da. hook!” the man said, cheerfully. “Dat’s why I’m here. I know ya been on line for a toon up fer a while. We’re just windin’ up asbestos remediation on da older models, or I’d’a been here soona. And you was outta town fer a while, too.”
“Tune up? What? Older models? Asbestos? This printout isn’t real. It’s a joke a fan of mine made. It doesn’t refer to any real satellite images.”
“Yer attic portrait.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a portrait. I don’t even have a loft! I mean an attic! This is a condo! In New York City!”
“Well, in ya storage unit? In da basement, maybe?”
“I still don’t know what you mean.”
“Look, Mr. Armitage. A lotta people don’t wanna talk about their attic portrait systems. It’s okay, I can understand yer ashamed. Just, we gotta report about da radiation from London. If we can’t toon up da system, we ah gonna hafta disconnect it.”
Armitage wrinkled his forehead as hard he could wrinkle it and glowered forcefully down at the short man.
It didn’t have the effect he expected; the man looked concerned, not frightened. Was he losing his Thorin Oakenshield mojo?
“Hey, hey, don’t do dat, Mr. Armitage. That’s why ya got ya attic portrait system in da first place.”
“So ya don’t hafta use Botox to compensate for all dat stuff ya do with ya forehead when ya workin’.”
Armitage scratched his beard once again, but he de-scrunched his forehead. Reluctantly. The man might have a point about the Botox. “I still have no idea what you’re talking about. This is quite the most novel excuse anyone’s ever used to try to talk to me, but I think you’d better go now.” He began to usher the man toward the door. “I need to go out anyway.”
“OK, if you say so. I’ll just make a note dat ya wanted us to turn it off.”
“Whatever.” He shook his head.
“You sure you don’t wanna go by ya storage unit while I shlepped all my stuff over here by you? If ya change ya mind, it’ll be extra for a return call to da city.”
Richard Armitage wondered if he should call security, or just give in to the man. Could be amusing. Worth delaying his run for another ten minutes.
“All that’s in my storage unit is my bike from Berlin and a few things from the Hobbit, but if it will make you feel better, let’s look at the unit.”
As the little man followed him out of the apartment and down the stairs, Richard Armitage wondered if this whole episode was simply an especially kooky burglary attempt of some kind. But I can take him down if I need to, he thought. When they reached the dusty unit, he reached in his pocket, withdrew the key, undid the lock, and pulled out the metal door.
“Are you satisfied now?” Richard Armitage asked the little man, perfunctorily, looking ostentatiously at his watch. (In this story, Richard Armitage will have behaviors that can only be described via the overuse of Latinate adverbs.)
“Dere it is!” the little man crowed triumphantly.
“Yer attic portrait system. Well, I guess ya can call it ya basement storage unit portrait system. Same ting.”
Richard Armitage looked carefully into the unit and to his surprise, he saw a portrait of himself, displayed prominently on a tripod. But what a portrait! The first thing he noticed was that its teeth were black!
Then he looked again and smiled with reassurance and confidence. “That’s not a portrait of me at all. That’s just a particularly incompetent piece of fan art. The blogger ran a screencap of Francis Dolarhyde through a filter and then clumsily colored the teeth black with lunapic.”
But wait, Richard Armitage thought. How did a piece of fan art make it into my basement storage unit? I’ve kept some things over the years but I never would have displayed any of it on a tripod.
“Na, that’s what we’re looking for,” the little man said, stepping into the unit, putting the toolbox on the floor, unclipping the meter from his pocket and holding it next to the painting.
“What’s that?” Richard Armitage said.
“Dosimeta,” the man replied, and continued to look at its display.
“Dosimeter? This little joke is getting out of hand!”
“Not a joke, Mr. Armitage. Offdahook in London, I’m tellin’ ya. Off. da. hook. Dey called us twice.”
“What is off the hook in London?”
“Da radiation from ya selfies,” came the reply. “Definitely gotta make an adjustment here. Someting got outta whack and ya teeth in the picture should be a little black but not dat black.”
“Of course they should be black, that’s Francis Dolarhyde wearing dentures of his grandmother’s teeth.”
“Na, dis is a malfunction. Every time ya filter a selfie, da portrait adjusts to compensate. That’s how ya attic portrait system works.”
“We’re not even in the loft! I don’t have a loft. I mean attic!” Armitage burst out, testily.
“Yeah, yeah, basement storage unit portrait system. I got ya. Calm down. Didn’t dey explain when ya bought da system?”
“I didn’t buy it. I’ve never seen it before.”
“Wow, Mr. Armitage, ya got some serious denial goin’ on. Well, let me explain. You put dis picture in ya attic, I mean, basement storage unit. Ya take a selfie. Ya run da selfie troo a filta.”
“Yeah. I do that to improve the quality of the photo.”
“Sure, but ya don’t just improve da photo quality. Ya improveyaself. Ya whitenyateeth. Yasmoothoutyaforehead, maybe erase a few lines around yer eyes. So ya look just a little younga.”
“Everyone does that. Plus, beauty and sensual fulfillment are the only things worth pursuing in life.”
Why did I say that? Richard Armitage thought. I would never say that in real life. This is weird. He shook his head.
“Yeah, but unlike you, not everyone has da attic, I mean, basement storage unit portrait system. It helps ya look younga widdout consequences. When ya use the filter on ya phone, da portrait system works like a drain. Takes away da waste products from ya selfies and puts them all here, in dis portrait.”
“Ya crazy. I mean, you are insane!”
“Get controlayaself, Mr. Armitage. Ya been overdoin’ it lately wit da teeth.”
“What do you mean?”
“When ya whiten ya teeth so much on da selfie, da system doesn’t know what to do. Usually all da stains on ya caps should come back here troo da system and blacken da portrait’s teeth. But it looks like ya made da selfie teeth too white and let da teeth get too black here at da same time, so da drain was clogged, if ya knowwhadImean. So some of da stains ya tried to get rid of went back into ya selfie — as radiation.”
“Assuming this nonsense you’re spouting is correct, why does it matter?”
“Hahd on da environment. All dose fans in London who saw da CyberSmile selfie registered 6 millisieverts after dey opened da photo for the first time. Dat’s da allowable effective dose for a year. Good ting ya had ya mouth closed in dat selfie from Soho a day or two before or you’d be in real trouble now. Plus a lady in Wisconsin was lookin’ at ya selfie on her deck and when it popped up onna screen, all ha’ asparagus went into bloom right away — and grew ten feet and den rotted. Plus dis satellite image from London. We need to get dis under control.”
“I see,” Richard Armitage said. “And how will you do that?”
“Just need to make a little adjustment,” the little man said, putting the dosimeter back into his pocket. He bent to open the toolbox, picked out a tool, looked at the frame of the picture, tilted his head to the side and inserted the tool.
“Dere we ah,” he reported. “Teeth ah back to normal.”
“Are you finished?” Richard Armitage asked the little man, bemusedly.
“Yeah,” the man said. “But I gotta tell ya, Mr. Armitage, ya gotta take it easy wit da filters. Dis is a good basement storage unit portrait system, ya didn’t get the cheapest one, it has up to date electrical, but dis radiation problem was probably caused by da iPhone ya usin’. Eventually, if ya gonna keep updatin’ ya phone, ya gonna have to upgrade ya system, and Apple doesn’t make dese, so dere’s gonna be a compatibility problem.”
“Of course there will be,” Richard Armitage said, dryly. After the little man retrieved his tool box and left the room, he pulled the door to the unit shut, locking it tightly and looking over his shoulder. They started up the stairs.
“One more ting, Mr. Armitage,” said the little man, as they walked out the door and into the street.
“Yes?” Richard Armitage inquired.
“What about my forehead?”
“Dat’s probably da next ting dat’s gonna go on da blink wit ya basement storage unit portrait system.”
“Oh, really,” Richard Armitage said.
“Yeah. Wit da way you move dose muscles, it’s gonna be soona rather than layta. It’s just I need a seismometa to measure dat in real time, and I didn’t bring one along. I really should come back and–“
“Seismometer!” Richard Armitage exclaimed, with exclamation. “Didn’t you say there would be an extra charge for a return service call?”
“Yeah, budit’simportant. If ya erase ya forehead wrinkles too much, and the basement storage unit system can’t compensate and it malfunctions again, ya could set off an earthquake in Katmandu. Tousands could die. I don’t tink ya want dat kinda responsibility on ya conscience, do ya?”
Richard Armitage grunted noncommittally.
“Well, I didn’t buy this system or put it in my basement storage unit,” Richard Armitage said, combatively. “But now that I have it, I plan to pursue hedonism for the rest of my life and send my fans the most beautiful selfies ever. Damn the poor people in Katmandu! Also, I can save the money for the service call on the seismometer. So it’s a good job all around.”
The little man just looked at him.
Bloody hell, Richard Armitage thought, I would definitely never say that, either. What is the author of this story doing to me?
“Whateva you say, Mr. Armitage,” said the little man, cheerfully. “Have fun at da opium den tonight. We’ll be around to help you clean up afterwards if you need anyting. Here’s my number. Extra charge nights, dough.” And he stuffed the card in Armitage’s pocket and began to walk away.
“Opium den?? OPIUM DEN??” Richard Armitage yelled loudly after the little man. “I’m not going to an opium den! And I certainly won’t murder anyone while I am there!”
The little man paused and turned around. “Dat’s what dey all say,” he said. “Little more advice, hide da keys to da basement storage unit tonight someplace where you’ll forget where dey are. After ya get back from da opium den, don’t go into da unit. And if ya do, don’t stab da picture.”
As he heard the little man laugh, Richard Armitage thought, Obviously that last role was way harder on me than I realized.
[This was a joke. As you can see, apart from his constantly younger looking selfies, what we think we know about Richard Armitage bears little resemblance to Dorian Gray. But we talk about it so much I thought it would be fun to think about how a system like the “portrait” would work in our technology world.]