I started seeing these buttons not long after I arrived in this “Kansas City.” As a detective, this is the kind of thing that butters my bread. Or, in my case, licks my bread wrapper, because as you know I can’t afford butter or bread. Mystery! Intrigue! Other words that mean the same as Mystery! And Intrigue! How someone could have seen the future is pretty doggone mysterious. And how that could possibly be related to a museum was also puzzling. Things may be different in Kansas City, but most museums generally trade in things from the past. At least, that’s what I’d heard, having never been in a museum before. There weren’t museums where I grew up. Well, there is, but most people don’t consider toenails art.
A search of the World Wide Web proved fruitless. Perhaps a master hacker could crack the code of “nelson-atkins.org”, but I’m no Stephen Hawking or Lance Armstrong. And no one at the Roasterie Cafe wanted to let me borrow their laptop. Not even when I asked politely. Not even when I asked less than politely. Not even when I knocked over a table entirely by accident and was politely asked to leave by someone wearing really thick-rimmed glasses. Are those back in now?
Leaving was a problem for me. I had arrived by bus without meaning to and had no idea how to get back with meaning to. And people kept jogging past me with their dogs and their kids looking so happy and healthy and upper-middle-class. It was bright here, wherever this was, like something out of a Sam Rockwell painting. It was depressing. But having no other leads, I followed the jogging people.
I fell down a lot.
Eventually, I gave up, lying on the ground like a tired fish, gasping for air and yearning for the simplicity of Westport. There, I am not expected to be happy or healthy or have moderate means or even wake up at a decent hour. No, the only expectation is that I drink. And I can polish off a whole bottle of Miller Lite with the best of them. That was a wild night. Actually, I don’t remember if it was or not, but I like to think it was.
Anyway, after what seemed like ages, a man wearing a tie helped me up. My keen detective’s mind went to work on him immediately, remembering every valuable detail of this kind individual. He was American. Possibly from the Middle-West. He spoke English. He was white, maybe Caucasian. He wore a tie. I forget what color. Most importantly, he was wearing one of those darn buttons that had started this whole mess. I asked him what it meant, what it all meant.
“It’s an exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Has a bunch of stuff from the World’s Fairs. Some really cool pieces. It’s right over there if you want to check it out.”
I told him that I had walked all the way here from a Sam Rockwell painting and that I needed to see the future. He stopped being so kind to me then. I watched him go, and then turned in the direction he had pointed. Beyond a pair of gigantic badmitten birds and a giant metal tree was a building made out of glass. Clearly, I had crossed the threshold of rational thought and ended up on some hellscape of my own creation, trudging endlessly across a field of painfully green grass towards my future, which I was beginning to closely associate with my death.
I woke up hours later, huddled against the unforgiving glass building. I needed to drink and I needed to pee and I saw a big pool across the way where I could do both. The future, as it turns out, is very convenient. My business concluded, I staggered back towards the glass building. After a few minutes negotiating with a revolving door, I was inside.
I told the person behind the desk what I had come to see, that I had come to see the future. She laughed – laughed – at me and asked if I was a member. She was also wearing thick-rimmed glasses. A member of what was my question. She handed me some brochures and did some explaining. The take-away was that it was going to cost me. Honestly, I should have known better. There is no such thing as a free lunch – believe me, I know – and there certainly wouldn’t be something like a free future.
Turns out it costs eight dollars.
I had come so far, only to fail.
And after I knocked over a Roget statue entirely by accident, I was politely banned from the premises.
The premises of the future.