The Ring of eBay

After dinner, Kathleen asks if I’d mind if she spent “fifteen minutes” at the computer, looking for something at eBay. I snort, but I accede. I know that I will finish the book about the Congress of Vienna before Kathleen tires of the search.

Kathleen is in search of a Tarnhelm. Tarnhelms are indispensable when you’re trying to impersonate mutual fund board members. But they are also elusive, and Kathleen is not entirely sure that they exist.

Eventually, Kathleen comes across Fafner offers Tarnhelms in many sizes and degrees of quality. Some will make you look like the vitreous porcelain shape of your choice; others will make you look like anything you like. Money is an object. It all sounds great, but Fafner’s customer rating is in the toilet.

Kathleen decides to look for an expediter who can maybe make a deal with She finds an operator called Mime who agrees to get her the kind of Tarnhelm that she has in mind. Mime knows that Fafner is only going to sell a really worthwhile Tarnhelm to someone who can beat him at Dragonsblood, a digital game that Mime himself can’t be bothered to learn. Also, Mime doesn’t have the right keypad. But this kid he knows, Siegfried, is the only guy who can program a VCR, so Mime commits.

The long and the short of it is that Kathleen has to go to Gutrune’s to pick up the Tarnhelm. She is not cool about this, since Gutrune’s is in Williamsburgh. “I hate the subway,” says Kathleen. I offer to do my rainbow bridge thing, but Kathleen is into low profile.

Kathleen finds Gutrune alone in the shop. “All the guys are out on their bikes,” she says, peeling black polish off her nails. Kathleen resists the impulse to be condescending.

“Yes, we have the Tarnhelm,” says, Gutrune. “But this Siegfried guy wanted to wear it on his ride, so that he could ook like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix.” Kathleen has no choice but to wait for the funeral march.

Eventually, Siegfried’s dead body is carried back into Gutrune’s shop. “Will you please just wrap it up?” says Kathleen, finally in possession of the Tarnhelm and irritated that, although she lives in the age of the Internet, she finds herself dragged outside of Manhattan.

At this point, there is a tidal surge, and Siegfried’s body is washed away. “Oh, no,” says Gutrune – the last resident of Willimasburgh left standing. “The flood broke my cash register.”

Kathleen is initially speechless. Then she realizes that she’s in the virtual Rhine. Listening to the Rhinemaidens isn’t exactly fortifying. Then she realizers that she’s in an entry on a blog, namely this. Brünnhilde eventually buys a twin set.

And that is how it is nowadays.