“‘High IQ’ is Now Trending on Twitter,” by Stacey Resnikoff

Dec 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Theft can be so cliché. “Don’t move.” “Gimme me all your money.” Blah blah blah. Occasionally, however, you run into a criminal with panache. A maverick among the immoral, who surprises with a command like: “Give me those spectacular Italian shoes. Or you’re deader than Olga Knipper.” Now that’ll send you reeling. Especially if you are a Russian symphony conductor with a penchant for Anton Chekhov trivia and weakness for custom leather. Even more so if you don’t realize this information is on your Wikipedia bio.

So it was with Maksim Sandofsky one random, rainy Tuesday evening in North Cambridge, as he approached Pemberton Farms gourmet shop just outside Porter Square for a bottle of Bandol. A scruffy 22-year-old had snuck behind him – something reflective in his hand.

Could it be? Mere steps away from twenty-dollar-a-pound wild-caught Alaskan salmon, chrysanthemum bunches and prosciutto-wrapped artichoke hearts, Sandofsky would be mugged. Just a short walk from his favorite French/Cambodian restaurant and that trendy Thai place with the embarrassingly bland Ho Mok Pla. But here he was. Facing death. Before dinner.

“Hold on, hold on,” Sandofsky raised his ample eyebrows for a hearing. After all, he was a conductor. A maestro. A man who set the tempo. “Crime doesn’t pay, you realize. It may amass wealth, but it doesn’t actually pay. It lacks a union or health benefits. At your age, you need a career. Something with staying power. Have you considered the culinary arts?” He motioned toward the cooking school one block down. “I hear you can do quite well selling Canadian prescription drugs on eBay. Do you have a passport?”

Sandofsky hoped to outwit the criminal with banter and non sequiturs, leaving him briefly confused and easy to knee in the groin. Something a Czech bassoonist in the North Philly Philharmonic had taught him: The Knee and Flee.

But the hoodlum acted friendly. “Sorry, Sandofsky, I crowdsourced my opener – and that’s what won: Olga Knipper. It could’ve been worse. Second place was, ‘What’s that scent you’re wearing: Rusty Samovar?’ That would’ve just been weird.”

The young man revealed a silvery mobile phone. He was filming Sandofsky’s monologue like a paparazzo. Yet who would be interested in “punking” a youth orchestra conductor? A newly defunded and deranged PBS?

“This is a joke,” Sandofsky said. “You don’t want my shoes – my money.”

“No, no. I do this for my show. You’re on ‘W-T-F: What The Follow’ I’m Dex.”

Coincidentally, “Dex” was a dog in Sandofsky’s building: a migraine-invoking mix of a Jack Russell and Russell Brand. “Dex” was also a factor of ten. And Sandofsky had noticed the dog always barked in tens, whatever the provocation. He noticed details like that. Just as he noticed this Dex had a mole on his left temple that looked like the Apple logo. That should really be checked. And he wore the oddest T-shirt, illustrated with a stick figure being chased by what appeared to be a rabid partridge.

“I follow people – I actually follow people – who don’t use Twitter,” Dex explained, still filming. “Smart people who think they’re too good to tweet. It’s just funny. You know that YouTube video of the skunk that gets caught in the kids’ bouncy house? I have more hits than that. And I have endorsements. Want a free bag of SunChips?”

Sandofsky felt at once provoked, relieved and vaguely disappointed. He lived for great dinner stories. He could’ve shared his brush with death over a terrine of duck’s liver.

“You’re cool, man. When I followed Mattie Hayes – the MIT professor – she threw her scone at me,” Dex said. “It was awesome. Most hits ever. Make a PhD throw food and you go viral. That’s when Starbucks came on as sponsor.”

Sponsored stalking? Sandofsky didn’t remember reading about this in the Wall Street Journal. Of course, anything was possible. He’d recently been asked at a memorial service to “like” the funeral home.

“I don’t go viral,” he said, his tongue dry and gallingly wineless. Yet Dex did not lower his phone. He smiled giddily as if his serotonin were spiking.

It had begun to lightly rain on Sandofsky’s spectacular shoes. Pemberton glowed with abundance. And he craved Bandol.

“Don’t follow me,” he warned, turning abruptly. Yet Dex did, much like his namesake terrier.

“Why you insolent –”

Suddenly headlocked, Dex felt his spine seize. He tried to clasp his phone, but felt it slip away. There was second man. A real mugger. With white hair and beard, smelling of ganja and BenGay, and wearing a coffee-stained “Trust Me, I’m a Genius” T-shirt. Sandofsky noticed all these things, as well as the pocket protector that somehow clung to the man’s shirt despite lack of pocket. Prestissimo Sandofsky issued a Knee and Flee, causing the attacker to drop the phone and hobble up Mass Ave shouting what all failed muggers must be thinking: “I’ll hack you so bad your hard drive will melt!” and “I’m boycotting Starbucks!”

Dex scooped up his phone and dried it with his T-shirt edge, paternally. “I think it’s okay.” He tapped at the screen.

“What about your neck?” Sandofsky asked. The sudden Knee and Flee had pulled his popa.

Dex rolled his head for a moment like a yogi, his eyes still fixed on his phone as he tapped. “It’s okay, I think. Oh, sweet! I’ve got the video.”

“Who was that man? Never mind. Just erase it. Erase the whole thing. It’s the least you can do.”

Dex paused, finally looking at Sandofsky, who was rubbing his injured hip. “I’ll think about it, Maks-a-million.”

Sandofsky shook his head, muttering in Russian as he limped to gastronomecca. Though his dinner was delayed, he now had a gripping story: Rhythmic rain. A sudden struggle. A fleeing criminal. And one final crescendo: a Kermit Lynch-imported Bandol at Pemberton for just 23 dollars a bottle. Injured sciatic nerve or not, that’s something you buy two cases of on the spot.

Yet as he dined that evening, the “Mad Maestro” episode of “WTF” was posted to YouTube. An angry Sandofsky calling Dex “insolent” followed by dramatically lurching video. A blur of shots: an old man’s hand, Sandofsky’s custom loafers, Dex’s logo-mole. Audio of a muffled struggle, an offensive stream of Russianglish expletives, and then Dex’s voice: “Dude, no way. Don’t drop it.” Darkness.

By all appearances, Sandofsky had kicked Dex’s popa.

The next morning, as Sandofsky finished his croissant au beurre, the episode was already before the board of directors of the Bostoniana, the celebrated youth orchestra he lead. Hastily, they issued a press release that their esteemed conductor of 20 years was being put on unpaid leave while the matter of the “Mad Maestro” could be investigated.

Sandofsky wondered where he was: Eighteenth century court? National Public Radio? He had to defend himself. Quickly. Directly. He testily took up the gauntlet: Twitter.

As @CherryOrchard3, Sandofsky began tweeting. To Dex, begging for clarification. To his students, to rally support. And to irreverent blogger BosTongue, asking to please remove a Photoshopped image of him as a burly, bare-chested Russian World Wrestling Entertainment character called The Conductinator.

After two weeks of entweeties – and the quickly popularized student-launched Twitter hashtag #WTFWTF – Dex finally cleared things up in a tweet: “NO ONE was harmed by @CherryOrchard3 in the filming of WTF.” By sundown, his screen filled with 140-character-or-less congratulations, the maestro was reinstated with a sizeable apology bonus. The money was quickly spent on a new phone, perfect for keeping in touch with @MashaWept, the 40-something Chekhov trivia champion and flautist he met through Twitter.

Meanwhile, after the higher-than-ever hits of “Mad Maestro,” Dex was invited by the new PBS cable reality network NoBS to develop a show for television: “IQ Posse.” On the show, a madcap crew – including Dex, a sexy Rhodes scholar and a humanoid robot named Satoshi – ambush everyone from neurologists to Nobel laureates at professionally inconvenient times to deliver on-the-spot Mensa Workouts. After thirteen episodes, one lucky player chosen by a peer-reviewed panel will nab the top prize: a $500,000 MacArthur Genius Grant. Brainiacs from Harvard to Stanford are tripping over themselves to be considered. And thanks to the carefully orchestrated social media buzz, “high IQ” is now trending on Twitter.


Stacey Resnikoff is a writer, both for hire and by obsession. Her work includes short stories, essays, plays, music, news articles, and advertising. She is a graduate of Bard College and lives in the Boston area. You’ll find more of her fiction and essay writing at http://www.staceysaid.com, http://spunamuck.posterous.com, and publications such as The Big Jewel and paperplates.

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