Vanitas – The Harvard Lampoon

High Life #

| Issue Editor: BLWS '15 | Art Editor: CMM '16

Vanitas

BLWS '15

It is written in the skies in the contrails of squawking biplanes. It is written in the jacuzzi in garlands of pearls. It is written in the topiary. Horatio. Ho-ra-tio. Three perfect syllables.

I enter the grounds through a gate that says “Horatio.” I walk past a menagerie of taxidermied bears holding placards with H’s and O’s on them. I hack my way through a lot more topiary. On all sides, rustling willows whisper his name into my ears, as does the team of enthusiastic groundskeepers who have been following me since I arrived. I pass a tiger in a gold cage. It begins to tell me a riddle, but I cannot stop to listen. I must reach his house.

We don’t know how the world became his. One day, life was normal; the next, brokers everywhere awoke to the news that an unknown company, Breakfast Enterprises, had cornered platinum, shorted coltan, and paid for the tropical vacations they, to their great surprise, were already taking. Horatio’s obscurity verged on myth. The press scrambled for personal information but couldn’t penetrate his labryinth of Caribbean shell companies. Someone browsing in a Missoula public library claimed to have found his name in the standouts page of an archival yearbook, but the page had been ripped out, leaving only “Horatio Breakfast: Most Likely”. Everyone knew where his house was, though, because all compasses had started pointing to it.

I advance through the grounds. The path winds schizophrenically. Its twists and turns, I gradually realize, spell out “Horatio.” This is a detail better appreciated from the Breakfast Blimp that floats above, expensively.

The path spits me out at the bottom of a sloping lawn. The needle of my compass has warped such that both ends are pointing at the manor house on the hill above me.  A butler stands on its patio and beckons me inside. I enter a house full of mahogany and glass cabinets, one of which turns out to be a door to an office full of mahogany and glass cabinets.

Inside the office, a man stands before the bookcase, his back to me. “It is I, Horatio Breakfast. Who let you in?” rings the phone on his desk. He picks up the receiver, listens for a second, and hangs up forcefully.

“I just wanted a friend,” I say, answering his ringtone.

Horatio—the man who must be Horatio—turns around. His entire vest is a single embroidered monogram. In his right hand is a length of ticker tape, extending by the second. In his left is a bell, which he begins to ring. I hear a rumbling from another wing of the house.

“Me too,” Horatio sighs, as the dogs begin to drag me away.