Some other time, earlier, ago (the house had never supported a clock on its walls), the whole thing would have been a breeze. The house simply showed up, a solid league or couple miles or many furlongs out past the center of population density. (The clockless house had basements upon basements stuffed with maps, being, all things said and done, a house). It minded itself, mended its traps. A little landscaping.
Then it would be found, miming its surprise, the door never open but never locked, and the rest just fell into place. Axes took to the forest and carried it hewn into the house. Paths trenched into shape. Thieves paced the paths with high collars and pried the rich and poor alike from their things, which too were brought into the house, before the thieves were hung and dragged quartered inside. And the house swelled. Laid away for winter.
Things were tougher, later. It got coy, crafty, full of snares and day beds. Learned style. Wrote gender. Shuttered its slate. Took out ads.
Now it was hard, plain and simple. No hands helped. The house was dying. That much was sure. Its spidery center whirred and crunched the numbers. Played the angles. Nothing doing. Things had to be direct or not at all.
It unhooked the roof and got busy. Shook the forest out. Could have been worse. Lathed it right, sloping, tuned. Checked its records and did it right, old-fashioned, heat and pressure. It even spared a bit of non-forest it had been saving for some time and fashioned the thing, set it out front. No traps now. Open field, free for the taking. It waited. Snows came and went and came. The blade rusted. Nothing doing.
The house, shivering, shuffled its slate. Thkesinsg guhist! sang the spider. It cut the vacant forest free. Guhist, gutist! So it moved on, pace by pace, a foundation laid, then torn, then laid, creeping mosaic across the salted highway and making a break for the sea.
Terrified by time yet aware that it is money, the rich own watches. Tremendous hoards of them. But despite the ample size of their residences and the fact that for the rich, residence is always a plural noun, there are still too many. The space between the walls being already stuffed with ruined birds, they cram the timepieces wherever they fit. The rich are fond of disguising their watches as other luxury goods. It is something to do. They do not share this fact beyond themselves. When the rich piss in each other’s toilets, they alone are aware that they are pissing on Breitlings and Ulysse Nardins. They hang their coats, which are woven from Vacheron Constatins, on Hublots. If one isn’t careful when cleaning up with a sponge that is also a Rolex, a mint A. Lange & Söhne Grand Complication is likely to go out with the rubbish and used lungs and Greubel Forseys.
This system of watch storage was adequate for approximately four centuries but was revolutionized in the early-1980s, when the sheer quantity of watches outpaced the scale of residences and threatened to collapse them. That was how lightning struck the mind of the rich: what if we collapse the two categories? Since then, things are less clear, even for the rich. Their watches have multiple floors, doormen and humidors. Inside the watches, the rich sit and check the time on their phones. One of the rich, lured by a tectonic song gaily sung, descended into the gears of his Richard Mille and was never seen again. Once every moon cycle, the remainder of his assets swell with the oceans.
However, the most architecturally significant of the new breed was put up quietly in mid-town, and even some of the rich didn’t grasp the sheer revolution – truly, the rich say, there is no other word – it enacted. As if camouflaged, it appeared like any other late-model though not untasteful condo. A little too stalagmite, at most. It was not until one November dawn that this facade was lifted, when the first rays tenderly washed the tower. A flower unfurled in the minds of the rich. The tower was not a watch, as they expected. It was made of watch, of watches, of millions of them crushed beneath the heels of the south until they formed a fine dun paste that could be molded into residence that blooms pink and tan in the early morning.
(Not coincidentally, the rich own a very special watch that is always this color, irrespective of the time. It is made of rose gold and orphan hearts. When crushed to a powder and raised to the noonday sun, it justifies genocide. The rich have been saving this for a rainy day.)
In springtime, the rich visit the prison of Château de Taureau. They ride a swift raft of watches across the waves to it. It is choppy but in an invigorating way. The motor sings gaily as assets. The rich sniff the air of the jail but not with displeasure. On the wall is written, in anti-watch: Men of the 19th century, the hour of our appearance is fixed once and for all, and always assigns us the same incarnation. The rich find this funny. They raise their watch to their buffed cheek. You hear that, Monsieur, they whisper. That’s right, Monsieur, they taunt the dead, nobody does. The hands move, but being authentic, they glide, tickless, like that time or times the rich went skating in Bern. On the ceiling is written:What we call progress is locked up on each earth and disappears with it. The rich laugh. There has never been sunlight in Château de Taureau. It would make a splendid club.
But is also later. Where have the years gone, the rich ask. The sky is light, but the heart of the rich is heavy. How fleeting this life is, they muse. The rich have gotten philosophical. They shake their wrist. It is no longer silent. The diamonds suffocated ages ago.
More years pass or have passed. The rich got left out in the rain. Their declawed cheetahs looted the armory and reclaimed their claws. They haven’t been seen since. Time is not a river, the rich realize, but a bog. At some point a century ago (the rich can’t remember, even if they have gotten philosophical), things went south. The Botox went rogue. The state was left an orphan. A rank puddle seeps out from the pile of the rich. Everything is preserved. They never actually owned a Patek Phillipe.
The zoo confuses the rich, on multiple counts.
First of all, the zoo is adrift in history. It doesn’t even know what century it is. It asks you this all the time, though the rich suspect it’s just an opening pretext to bum a cigarette, at which point the zoo will keep trying to hand you a filthy and crumpled and senseless ostrich in exchange. The rich already have an ostrich, and it smells of fresh sage and lanolin. They rent it out to each other at cost. Moreover, the cages are not even reclaimed, the rich notice – they are merely old – yet an open plan zoo would end badly for the rich. In a related question, are hyenas Crossfit? Or are they ripe with carrion made dead just for them, zebra throats opened to hissing breadth with knives designed expressly for this purpose by the rich and manufactured in their factories, staffed entirely by zebra?
Second, there are the animals themselves, and they, the rich say, are decidedly not local. The carbon footprint of a lion is unconscionable. The lion himself knows this, he butts his head against the bars of the cage in climatological shame. Hey babe, you see that lion forced to live with himself, the rich ask each other. No, one should not see animals, perhaps ever – because, after all, history – but certainly not outside of their ordained biome. One should go always in person to the place where lions are found naturally. Because the rich, they say of and to themselves, should bear the heft of the sin of carbon rather than lay it across the threadbare architecture of a lion. In this day and age, the rich insist, one brings razor wire to big cats and not vice versa. That is what – hold on babe, the rich reply in lag, I’m trying to garrote an ocelot who refused to recycle, it is for charity – they call progress.
Lastly, and most confusing: for the rich, there is actually no such thing as the zoo. They go there, but they don’t get how it is a specific thing distinct from other things. It just doesn’t add up for them. One tries in their terms. Listen, it’s a safety deposit box for the bleedable. It’s a Barney’s where the window displays foul themselves and wait for death. No luck. The rich know about jails but only like one knows about comets or deep-sea trenches. No, for the rich, the zoo is not a place, not even a zone. It is just a slightly musky motivational seminar, called The Zoo, that teaches how there are things that can be caged, taunted, and ignored, like people who are not the rich, and there are things that can be caged in order to sell them to the caged, taunted, and ignored. One never sees the rich eat peanuts at The Zoo. They are too busy taking notes about how cages exist not to keep lemurs from enucleating toddlers but to keep the winter poor from looting the warm bundles of wealth inside. Under the word wealth, they add two underlines and wonder at the crystalline immensity of the world.
And when, after the seminar, the houses of the rich are torn down by the rich, they find the walls hollow and stuffed to bursting with ostrich, like coke or arteries or crumpled maps. At this the rich nod once, pausing on their way to the infinity pool.