Housekeepers in the Palace of Memory

Alan P. Scott - Fictions

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Giordano Bruno, an Italian Renaissance heretic who in many ways prefigured Galileo (and, unlike him, was burned for it), wrote on the Hermetic "Art of Memory," outlining his system for remembering everything, by setting aside a place for each concept in a mental construct which he called the Palace of Memory. As one's Palace grew more and more to mimic its external representation, perhaps even control of the reality could be attained by manipulation of the image.

Intrigued by Bruno's work, I built my own Palace of Memory; however, its maintenance soon proved too time-consuming.

I was forced to subcontract...

* * *

They come every night to clean up my Palace. Faceless females in black chador, smelling delicately of marzipan, murmur and scurry across the marble floors of every room, carrying the brooms and cloths and buckets and pans with which they work their miracles of organization. My experiences for the week, all sorted and catalogued by deft fingers, are stored for later retrieval. A concept discarded in error goes back on the shelf. Words tumble into drawers, to come out later in new combinations. Television episodes, the incessant clamors of commerce and solicitation, all go into the dustbin, save for a few bright glittering fragments. Nothing significant goes to waste - the jewels are put in crystal cases to be cherished, of course, but even the angry spikes get polished and put away, hoarded against the inevitable provocation to cast them in new directions.

They dust carefully around the shrine I've made of my first sweet kiss, keeping the floor clean in that echoing hall so I may pass quickly through, however long I once lingered over the polished dioramas depicting in merciless detail the aftermath of that brief brushing of lips.

Though the rooms of my Palace sometimes reek of chemicals, the harsh tang of ammonia, polish and bleach, those scents cut through the booze and smoke and smells of things less savory. I am, for the most part, grateful.

* * *

Once their rates went up, and I vowed that I would get along without them. After weeks of missed appointments - an anniversary, even - and facts misplaced, I called and crawled until the service sent them back out.

I've never made that mistake again. Now I spurn the DayTimers and Newtons, all the crutches the uninitiated hold dear, and am never more than fashionably late.

* * *

Yet sometimes I still chafe at their impositions, their nightly intrusions, the silly limits they place on their duties. If I could only get them to go into the basement, for instance. It's been a long time since the light of day touched any of that mess.

...after all these years, if only I could make up my own mind.

* * *

Thanks to Joshua Geller, (, for his assistance with the information about Giordano Bruno.
SEE ALSO John Crowley's Little, Big, for an interesting fictional treatment.
Last updated 9/11/1997.

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