Hey guys, it's Gemini here, and I'm back! I'm so happy to see all the new stories, which are in fact the very things that distract me from writing (just kidding)...
Anyway I wrote a short story, but word limits and I have a bad relationship, so it stretched to two parts. Enjoy, and please tell me what you think!
Birds Playing Electric Guitar
“My cat is obese, so I started buying her diet cat food, but then I felt hypocritical because I never even go to the gym myself, so-” (long pause) “Sam? Are you there?”
“Yeah, I’m here, it’s just- I love listening to your voice. Even when you’re just talking. It’s so… melodic. Animated. I could listen to you talk for hours.” (clears throat.) “Sorry, I know that sounds…”
“It sounds sweet. Really.”
“My God, Gail, I wish we were neighbours.”
“You don’t. Sometimes I wake up early to draw, and I like to put the music on loud.”
I’ve embarrassed myself countless times over the course of my life. You could say that it’s due to my hapless personality, which I can’t do anything about. But now, I’m standing on the steps of a Roman (or Greek, I know nothing about architecture) courthouse-style building, complete with looming pillars and carvings of semi-naked people. And I'm locked out.
A death chill whips over me, a reminder to get inside or freeze to death. I try the door again, in case I didn’t pull hard enough two seconds ago, but the giant oak doors won’t budge. I can feel the entire downtown Montreal watching me, elevated as I am on all these steps. I consider knocking, and then I un-consider it. You don’t knock on museum doors, unless it’s some kind of soap-carving museum off the highway somewhere.
I turn around, and an old man in a red Habs jacket is waving at me from the foot of the steps. “The entrance is across the street,” he says, directing his thumb at a sleek black building that’s swarming with people in coats and tuques. The man’s other hand rests on the shoulder of a guy in power wheelchair, who is facing the street, away from me.
“Thanks!” I call back. He probably thinks I’m a tourist. I look like a tourist. There’s a camera around my neck and a sketchbook tucked into my armpit.
I am not a tourist, downtown Montreal. I live here.
I run down the steps as fast as I can, but I miss the light. I end up waiting at the edge of the sidewalk, frowning, staring up at the Musée des beaux arts de Montréal. Another death chill slaps me in the face.
This was a stupid idea. And all for a man I’ve never even met in real life.
A few months ago, my friend Jacklyn sent me a link to a guy’s profile, Sam Corrigan, on deviantart.com. Suspiciously, I said to her, “That’s not a dating website, right? Because I think I’m getting somewhere with the cute accountant in the next cubicle, so I don’t need-”
“It’s an art website,” Jacklyn said, a tad too condescending than was necessary. She would know these things, since she messes around with paint sometimes herself. “Sam Corrigan is an artist. I thought you’d like to check out his stuff. I mean, you draw too, right?”
Yeah, whatever. I sketch people on the métro sometimes, and I’ve drawn my cat Flamingo more times than I’ll admit. But I’m not an artsy-fartsy kind of artist, if you get what I mean.
I clicked the link, if only to please my irritable friend. And high, holy shit! Sam was good, but like, epically good. His paintings were all fantasy, detailed and brilliantly coloured. His latest work was of a fiery, horse-drawn chariot diving toward the moon, and the one before that was a dark purple landscape of somewhere that was definitely not earth.
While my initial reaction had been to flood his account with gushing complements, I paused after scrolling down a bit farther. Quickly, I clicked on a random painting and enlarged it. Leaning into my computer screen, my suspicions were confirmed. I couldn’t detect even the faintest pen or brush strokes. Sam Corrigan, this so-called artiste, was a faker. He was using Photoshop on every one of his masterpieces.
Now, I’m not one to start an Internet fight, but there were honest artists on the website, with real talent, and Sam was hogging all the attention. (Okay, Jacklyn’s portraits on deviantart looked like Cabbage Patch Kids, but still. At least she was honest!)
I immediately commented on Sam’s latest post: Are you using Photoshop?
He answered back later that night, as I was about to get into the shower.
Yes I am, he wrote back. And he added a smiley emoticon! The nerve! I retracted my foot from the tub, shook it off, and typed back furiously. I may or may not have sent him an angry message, including the words ‘dishonest’ and ‘faker.’ Yeah, I called him a faker. Not one of my most shining moments.
He answered, moments later, with Have you ever heard of digital art?
No, I typed back, shivering in my tiny apartment’s bathroom. I closed the inner pane of the window.
Sam then opened a private chat with me, and kindly asked if I’d like to know what digital art was. He explained that it’s just like traditional media, except you draw straight onto the computer. Some digital artists even draw on regular paper, then scan their art and touch it up with a program. He sent me a photo of his workspace. From what I could see, he uses a stylus on what looks like a lightbox hooked up to his computer.
He asked me if I draw, and I said yes, and I sent him my very best graphite drawing of Flamingo. He said I was amazing, which was probably just the polite response, since I was showering him with compliments. But there’s something special in being told how good you are, especially by someone as artistic as him.
I’m not going to bore you with what happened in the months after that. Suffice to say that things didn’t work out with the guy in the cubicle over. (His name is Michael, he loves dogs, soccer, and gay porn. And he’s married, to a woman. Draw your own conclusions.)
Jacklyn was wrong. Deviantart.com is a great dating website. I mean, from the start you know the guy’s not some talentless loser. Okay, plenty of artists are losers, but Sam Corrigan is not one of them. We must have chatted five times a day in the first week. He was funny, smart, and always available to talk. I kept worrying that he’d shut me off after a while. I tend to talk a lot, if you haven’t noticed. But he never did.
Let me tell you, there’s something exhilarating about talking with a stranger. Of course, I facetiming with Sam early on to ensure that he wasn’t an old creep with a thing for opinionated twenty-one-year-olds. (In my defence, I’ve been brought up on tales of Internet kidnappers/perverts/murderers. The first guy I dated online got a lecture about Internet safety after he sent me a nude photo of himself.) Turns out, Sam was young, normal, and attractive to boot. He was biracial: half black, half white. It was the most stunning combination; dark eyes, sharp cheekbones, thick lips and smooth skin. Even if things don’t work of between us, I’d want him as a surrogate father for my children. He’s the kind of man you just wanna make babies with, in every sense of the words.
We’ve had a very platonic relationship, actually. We discuss politics and art and our childhoods, but we’ve never discussed meeting up, and we’ve never sexted. Anyway I’m not one of those people who orgasm from reading stuff like ‘now I’m sliding my hand into your jeans, now I’m squeezing my fingers into your vagina, now I’m-’
Ahem. Anyway, it’s not that Sam isn’t hot, which he is, it’s that I’m wary of people that I meet online, as I’ve previously mentioned. I know Sam is totally safe, so I guess I’m just waiting for him to bring up the topic of meeting. He hasn’t, so far.
That’s why this idea is crazy. He doesn’t even know I’m meeting him here. This was yesterday’s conversation:
Sam: On the plane to Montreal. Watch out Canada, Sam Corrigan is about to rock your world!
Me: You’re such a drama queen. What’s in Montreal?
Sam: My grandfather. I always come for Christmas. It’s basically a tradition I’ve kept since I was seven.
Me: Is this the grandfather who’s idea of fun is a trip to the laundromat?
Sam: Hey you remember. Yep, the one and only. I’m shaking things up this year, bc I’m taking him out. I found out that this art museum is open free to the public tomorrow. That’s great, bc grandpa would never pay a cent to go anywhere.
Me: Ooh, sounds like fun!
Here’s the thing. I live in Montreal. Sam doesn’t know that. Do you see where this is leading?
Me (to myself): Hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to meet Sam at the museum, without his prior knowledge? Why yes, it would! What could possibly go wrong?
You know the thing about that cliché? When anyone says it, something always goes wrong. I haven’t told Sam I live here because of the Internet Paranoia thing, and after a while I was just embarrassed that I had never brought it up. I wasn’t exactly going to interrupt a philosophical conversation on whether Satan exists or not by saying, hey, guess what, I live on De La Savanne street in Montreal, Québec. Here’s my postal code if you want to send me a letter!
The light changes, and I head toward the museum. Please be there, Sam. Please be there, and please be nice and normal. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?
Gail: so what do you do, besides creating insanely gorgeous masterpieces?
Sam: I’m an insanely rich speech pathologist. Nah, just kidding. I’m not rich.
Gail: Well, money is all I want in a man, so I guess this is goodbye.
Sam: Hilarious. Anything else you’d like? A six pack? Abs?
Gail: Not really. My tastes are actually diverse when it comes to body types. I once dated a double leg amputee. I don’t know why but his disability really turned me on.
Gail: Yeah. Unfortunately his personality was shitty.
Sam: You weren’t put off at all physically, though?
Gail: No. Why would I be?
Grandpa tucks the edges of the blanket behind my arms. “Warm?” he asks. “Not too tight?”
“Yep,” I say, though it’s not as if can feel it. Still, it’s important for my body to stay warm, since I can’t regulate my body temperature anymore. I don’t want too much pressure, either, because I don’t want to get autonomic dysreflexia. Etc. etc.
I swear, I’ve become one of those people who can inject a medical lecture into any conversation, though I refrain from doing so, because I don’t want to bore people to tears. It’s like when someone is sick and you ask them how they are, and they give you the Encyclopedia of Illnesses version, and you listen because what kind of asshole tells a sick person to shut up?
I’m a good guy. I spare people from that kind of forced kindness.
The sidewalk is a never-ending stream of people. Literal human traffic. Grandpa yells directions at someone behind us, probably a hapless tourist. He squeezes my shoulder as we wait for the light to turn, and I realize that he’s nervous. The museum is looming, scary, and Grandpa basically hasn’t left his five-block-radius neighbourhood since 1995.
I glance over my armrest at the salt littering the ground. Montreal is pretty systematic when it comes to snow removal, but there will always be the random chunk of ice or mini snow drift cluttering the sidewalk. Only five years ago, Grandpa manually pulled my chair free when I backed up and got stuck in a snowbank. He’s getting older, though, and soon, he won’t be able to take care of me when I come to visit.
A passing car rips through a puddle in front me, sprinkling the blanket with fat, brown drops. I sigh as the light turns green. I guess tomorrow there will be another fun-filled trip to the laundromat.
Once inside the museum, I start to feel my neck and shoulders tensing up. Listen, I’m a homebody from the suburbs of Chicago. I see max twenty people on a daily basis, or more if I go out with friends. I’m virtually an old man myself. The museum lobby is vast and bustling, and the line to the coat room must have at least thirty people in it. Guides in black scurry around, handing out brochures and speaking into headsets. One of them pounces on us a soon as we come through the automatic doors.
“Bonjour-hi,” she says, the standard bilingual greeting around here. The perkiness in her voice sounds very forced. I’m guessing it must be her lunch break soon. “Would you like a map of-”
“We’re good,” Grandpa growls, shrugging out of his coat. “Now, everything’s free today, right? I’m not giving my credit card to anyone. Not a chance.”
“I’d like a map,” I say. Her eyes dart nervously when I make no move from under the blanket, and Grandpa waits a full five seconds before snatching the brochure. His arthritis has made him into a bit of a sadist, you could say. He shoves the brochure into his pocket.
To save the guide from the agony of the awkwardness she’s experiencing, I tilt my head back and motion to Grandpa with my eyes, and I thank her and move on. Grandpa follows me to a bench placed under a giant placard listing the museum’s exhibits in French.
Sitting down with a grunt, he folds away the blanket and sets it aside. He unzips my coat and wrestles my limp arms out of the sleeves, then leans me against him to pull down my shirt in the back, which makes it look like we’re hugging. Grandpa stuffs our coats into a bag that he drapes over the side of my wheelchair; no waiting in line for him.
We haven’t even gotten the elevator when he starts up.
“They call this art?” he says in disgust, looking up at a sign advertising prints from the gift shop.
“It’s modern art,” I say. “You told me you liked art.”
“I like your art. This is a naked man in a bathtub.”
“It’s exotic. He’s from Sweden,” I point out. The elevator dings, and the doors open. “And he’s playing guitar.”
Grandpa snorts, and fishes out a tissue to blow his nose. We’ve the first ones on the elevator, so I swivel around to face the front.
Before me is a girl so tall and slender, I wonder where she buys jeans. Printed on her shirt is a cartoonish rendering of the Mona Lisa, with some French words on the bottom. Her hair is curly and blond, her cheeks and nose crimson from the cold.
She’s here. Gail.
“Oh, hey. How are you?”
“Fine. Listen, about what I said yesterday, about my ex being an amputee… I’ve been thinking about it. I hope you aren’t creeped out. I guess it just means I like taking care of a guy, you know? It’s not that I’m dominatrix or anything. Well, maybe a little. It’s that-”
“Gail, it’s okay. I can’t say I relate, but it was brave of you to tell me about it. We all have our things.”
“Yeah? What’s yours?”
“I don’t know, I guess I have the classic hero complex.” (laughs nervously) “As in, rescuing the girl, carrying her off into the sunset, all that shit. I want to be able to protect someone, to take care of them.”
“Mmm. Sounds good to me.”
Ew. I’m not a critic or anything, but shouldn’t good art not make me want to puke? The main exhibit’s cover is a guy taking a bath. Maybe I’m just finicky about bushy beards and toes, but that masterpiece is not exactly inspiring me to become the next Warhol or Van Gogh.
I lean back against the glass in the lobby, surveying my surroundings with a detached gaze, so as not to look stalkerish. I’m hoping that Sam isn’t 5”2” or anything like that (though from pictures I've seen, he probably isn't). A lot of short guys are intimidated by me, because somehow my full five feet eleven inches are an affront to their puny masculinity. Well, screw them. At least I don’t wear heels on a first date.
Okay, it’s been fifteen minutes, and Sam hasn’t made an appearance. Time to scope out the museum. Maybe I’ll find him and surprise him, and we’ll make out beside Pharaoh’s sarcophagus or near some postmodern bathroom furniture. God, I’m practically tingling with excitement.
I’m about to start up to stairs when a familiar voice makes me freeze.
See, eventually Sam and I switched to communicating by whatsapp, because the full scope of what I wanted to say was too long to be contained in text. We’ve spoken on the phone, too. A whisper, an excited gasp, genuine laughter; those are things that can’t be written. A smooth, sultry voice can be erotic.
God, I am so in love.
He’s in the elevator. I’m absolutely certain I heard him. My heart beats so hard I can feel it throughout my body, and I squeeze my sketchbook so tightly that it bends inside my palm.
Three steps, and I’m there. The doors slide shut, and I catch a glimpse of a wrinkled hand, someone’s floral scarf, a pair of lidded eyes.
I dash toward the stairs.
Sam: people think skiing is hard to master, but it really isn’t.
Gail: I don’t know… I’ve never done it before. Maybe I’m too old to start. I’m 21.
Gail: Oh, good. I love older men.
Sam: Older men? I’m insulted!
Sam: So, skiing… I think you should try it, at least once. I used to go skiing in the Laurentian mountains whenever I was in Canada, and those were some good times.
Gail: Used to?
Sam: Yeah. I don’t ski much anymore.
Gail: How come?
Sam: I don’t know. I just don’t, really.
There’s an angry slash of cadmium red, three aquamarine blue dots, and vertical black lines against a yellow background, painted onto a canvas bigger than a doorway.
“Tuh,” Grandpa says. “This they call art? I could have made it myself. A toddler could have made it.”
I roll my wheelchair back a little, and squint, trying to get a good angle so I can read the caption. No luck. This gallery has all the paintings and their captions at eye level, which means, not at my eye level.
“Take a picture of this one,” I say. “This is a good one.”
Grandpa blows his nose. “The sign at the door said not to take pictures.”
“Just do it when the security guard turns around,” I mutter.
Grandpa leans down. “You have to speak up, Sammy.”
I roll back out, through the flung-open doors of the gallery. There are about three others on this floor, all of them modern art exhibitions. People give me wide berth when I pass, which I’m used to, but it especially annoys me today. I mean, I’m getting more stares than the giant paper-maché-slash-concrete statue in the hall. And said statue is buck naked. Have these people never seen a quadriplegic?
I see Gail in my peripheral vision, coming from around the corner. I slide casually behind the statue, as casually as a man can in a bulky, jerky power chair.
I really have not thought this over well. I was going to tell her, but the months passed and here we are...
There was good reason for withholding the truth. Before my accident, I was the guy everyone wanted to sleep with. I was the guy that made drunk dudes question their sexuality, and I was with it, the guy who had the swag.
My senior year of high school, I was in a car accident. The next year was hell on earth, and after that, I was able to begin adjusting. I went to college in my wheelchair, and suddenly I was a moral story of courage, perseverance, and strength in the face of adversity.
Problem is, I didn’t want to be anybody’s cautionary tale. In college, I just wanted to be sexy. At parties, girls would sit in my lap, cuddle up against me and give me Jello shots, but when the party was over, I was left with nothing but a backed-up catheter bag.
I’ve grown up. I’ve shifted my priorities in life, and honestly, I’m happy. But I still get a bitter taste in my mouth when Gail flirts with me, because she doesn’t know what she’s getting- a grown man who lives with his mother, who wears a diaper and who has a pot belly because he can’t hold in his own gut.
I peer between the statue’s legs as she walks by.
Suddenly I’m angry.
She knew I would be here. She let me talk about my trip without even mentioning that she’s in Montreal. Even if I was able-bodied, I’d want advance notice.
“Admiring the finer points the kneecaps?” Grandpa says from behind me, startling me. “So was I.”
“Let’s go,” I say, letting my gaze linger on Gail. “I want to see the furniture exhibit.”
I won’t be able to evade her all day. But I’m going to be the one calling the shots.
I wait until she’s out of sight, and then I inch away from the statue. Grandpa decides that it's time to cath me, which is unusual, because normally he pretends to ignore my schedule, and tells me to ‘hold it in.’ (Hilarious, just hilarious.) I have to coerce him into doing it almost every time. It took him a long time to accept that I’m never going to walk again, and that I’ll be incontinent for the rest of my life. When I came to Montreal for the first time after my injury, I had frequent accidents, and Grandpa would get really upset. I think he was just embarrassed for me, but it displayed itself as anger. He would literally yell at me for shitting myself.
Yet here we are, in the handicapped stall of the men’s room, and Grandpa is leaning over my back and sniffing. Life goes on, and we all adapt. Even my prudish grandfather.
“We're good to go,” he says.
When I head down the hall from the washroom, I see Gail passing by. It’s no coincidence- she’s following my tracks. She’s got an intense look on her face, and even from this far away, I can see that she is a particularly striking human being. She’s the type of girl you’d look twice at, the type you want to just stare at with open admiration. She’s got a determined stride, like someone who knows what they want and how they’re going to get that.
Maybe I’m just biased. I look at her from among all the hundreds of strangers around us and I know her. I know she’s got all these wild opinions and feelings, and that she’s crazy in the best way possible.
The elevator is empty when we get onto it. Grandpa gives me a strange look. “Sam, are we avoiding someone?”
“Come on,” I say, shaking my head and looking up at him disdainfully. “You watch too much TV.”
“Only the news,” he says. “None of that crap they have on nowadays, if you’ll excuse my language.” He rummages through the bag slung over my wheelchair for his package of Kleenex.
The furniture exhibit is housed in its own wing of the museum. It has three floors and two more in between, all of them visible from the entrance. Chairs, bookshelves, and beds from every era surround us. I roll up to a pair of chairs made from unpolished wood, joined by branches that seem to grow out of their tops. There is a lamp made from coloured glass balls, and a chair with cushions that flip like the pages of a book. The walls are lined with curious cabinets from this century and the last. I can’t help getting excited by all the oddities.
Damn. I think I need to get out of the house more.
Grandpa tags along after me, grumbling his criticisms and taking pictures for me when I force him to. I almost start to relax. Although there are platforms that aren’t accessible to me, most of the exhibit can be reached by ramp or elevator. I examine a bed from the Victorian Era, complete with snobbishly high bedposts and intricate carvings. I wish I could sketch it, right here and right now. I’ve learnt to make art in a different way, but the part of me that wants to just grab a pencil and scribble hasn’t died.
After about ten minutes, I’m on the half-floor between the first and second levels, checking out a couch studded with diamonds. I glance over the clear glass railing, and Gail’s right there, three feet below me.
She hasn’t noticed me, even though I’m right on top of her. She’s searching for a Sam Corrigan, six foot one, with toned arms and a casual gait. That Sam isn’t here.
She’s heading up the ramp now. I start to panic. Swivelling around, I see Grandpa frowning at a French sign on the wall.
“Grandpa,” I say, and I sound so menacing that he glances up immediately, “do not let that girl see me. Understand?”
Whether he understands or not, I’m out of there. I head toward the biggest structure in the vicinity, which is a huge construction made of drawers piled in a heap, at least as tall as a man.
I'm beginning to realize that museums have great places to hide.
I'm beginning to realize that museums have great places to hide.
I feel like a helium balloon that’s been bouncing along happily, when it starts to slowly deflate, making that squeaky farting sound, until eventually it empties out.
The exuberance I had before doesn’t leave me instantaneously. But I’m getting the sinking feeling that Sam isn’t here. I read a study once that said that forty percent of American college students said they hear voices in their head. Thirty percent of Americans said they believe in ghosts.
See what I’m getting at here?
I fold my arms at the exhibition piece in front of me, which is a little stool shaped like a hand, so if you’d sit on it, you’d be sitting in the palm of a hand.
“All this is a waste of money,” I say to an old man standing near me. “Don’t you think they should shelter the homeless before spending money on funny-looking chairs?”
The man’s eyes dart around nervously, and I realize he's the same man who gave me directions earlier. “I agree,” he admits. “But what would bring you to an art museum if you feel that way in the first place?”
I’m looking for a man I’ve never seen, who may or may not be here. “I’m here for someone who loves art,” I say. And it’s the truth. I like to draw, but big-scale things like this never interested me.
“So am I,” he says, and he smiles at me and I smile back, delighting in this spark of connection.
“Did you see the paintings downstairs?” he says, gesturing as he speaks. “Any old hippie can just slash paint on a canvas, name himself an artist, and call the whole thing modern art. I just don’t understand it.”
“I know, right?” We begin to meander to the next piece: a display case of tiny guns carved from metal. “It’s basically about having a big name, and then you’re in. How many talented, nameless artists are there out there, who really deserve a place in this museum?”
The old man nods. His face is withered, and covered in sun spots, but he has a spring to him that makes him seem younger than his years. “In fact, my grandson-”
He stops abruptly, rubbing his chin, and leans in to see the little figurines.
I glance at him expectantly. “What about him?”
He shakes his head. “Never mind.” He sticks out his arm. “Geoffrey Lafontaine.”
“Gail Norrison,” I say, taking his hand. It’s cold and rough.
We talk about art, and everything that’s wrong with it, for the next couple of minutes. Then Geoffrey says he has to go.
“Let me just say that I think you’re an intelligent, fine young lady,” he says. He sounds regretful, somehow.
“Thank you,” I respond, slightly puzzled. And we part ways, him deeper into the furniture exhibit; and me, toward the hall, continuing in my search for Sam.
Gail: That story is crazy! It sounds like you’re literally not afraid of anything.
Sam: I wouldn’t say anything… In fact, the monster under my bed had been acting up lately.
Gail: ha. But honestly?
Sam: meeting new people. Guess I’m a bit of an introvert.
Gail: not me. Making friends gives me a rush.
Sam: OK. Some new people give me a rush. Although, you aren’t so new anymore.
Hello? You there?
Did I freak you out?
Gail: no. But I think you’ve made my day.
“Was that too hard? Really? I asked you one thing, Grandpa. One thing. And then you go and talk to her?”
“Calm down, Sam.” Grandpa’s forehead is creased. We’re alone in the Ancient Egypt exhibit- that is, just us and dead Pharaoh and a bunch of female statues clutching their breasts. As far as I know, cupping one’s hands like that signified fertility, though I’m pretty sure that women don’t do that anymore.
“One thing, I asked you.” I’m really seething.
“Lower your voice, first of all.” He’s getting nervous with me. Maybe it’s time to take our lunch break.
“Why?” I shoot back, just to get him riled up. “I’ll wake him up?” I jerk my head toward the glinting sarcophagus. The walls are black and the lighting is dim; I think the museum is going for an air of mystery in here. I just feel closed in.
Grandpa clasps his hands behind his back, and stares grimly at a four-thousand-year-old necklace. “Who is she, Sam? Now, I know it’s not my business-”
“It’s not,” I say. End of discussion.
We tour the rest of the exhibits in stony silence. The ancient Chinese were one heck of an artistic people. There’s an ornate canopy bed on display, the entire thing covered in carvings of red and gold. The Middle Ages is full of Jesus, baby angels with halos, the Madonna, and more Jesus. We don’t run into Gail again.
“I wonder where they get all these paintings from,” Grandpa says, trying to lighten the mood. We’re back in modern times, art-wise. The Picasso he’s looking at is mounted in a gilded frame.
I bring my wheelchair forward for a closer look. “Someone’s private collection, probably.”
“What about those ancient things?” he asks. “Those Greek and Egyptian artifacts?”
“Also from someone’s collection. I mean, obviously that stuff was first found by archaeologists.”
“They just took them?” Grandpa sounds appalled. “Sam, you make sure no one puts my tombstone in a museum, you hear?”
I give him a hint of a smile. “I can try.”
We both stare up at the painting again, and as Grandpa begin to relax he starts talking more, but there’s something tugging at the back of my brain. I hear something.
The gallery we are situated in, which houses the museum’s permanent collection, is shaped like a maze. You pass through winding, brightly painted rooms connected with doorways, each room a different art style or historical time period. Grandpa and I are standing right near the door.
I hear a voice. A formal voice, talking to someone she probably doesn’t know. Grandpa asks a question, and I answer, our voices overlapping, me and her, and then we fall silent together.
“Sam?” she says, a quiver in her voice. She’s right in front of me, separated by an orange wall and a Picasso painting.
Grandpa looks at me. I look up at the stretched, convoluted eyes of the man in the Picasso, and then I swivel around slowly and head for the opposite side of the room.
Under the pretence of admiring an Impressionist work, I watch Gail step into the room, beautiful, confused, forehead wrinkled in anger. She talks to Grandpa like they’re old friends, and I can see Grandpa trying really hard to hold it together.
Her gaze sweeps the gallery. I’m at a ninety degree angle away from her, on the other side of the room. Her eyes pass over the paintings, over the benches, over me- but they don’t stop there, they keep going. She doesn’t see me, because I’m not what she’s looking for.
To be continued....
To be continued....