This is episode whatever (I’ve lost count) of Returning to the Pits of Meaningless Despair.
She wasn’t responsible for the earthquake, or for the fact that a section of the Bay Bridge had collapsed, but Brandy felt compelled to apologize anyway. “I’m sorry we have to go the long way but at least the Golden Gate is still open. We can still get into San Francisco.”
“I’m not going. I have a migraine.” After years of being able to stuff herself with brownies and ice cream and still remain model thin, Nora was starting to put on weight. A lot of weight. For that reason she no longer dressed like a gypsy in shades of cobalt blue and alizarin crimson (her favorite colors) but in grey sweats. “He can drive you.” She said, pointing at her husband Chevy. “The paintings are in the back of his truck.”
Brandy expected him to say something in protest. They were Nora’s paintings. It was Nora’s show. Didn’t she want to, at least, make sure they were hung properly? But he just shrugged his shoulders. Something’s not right, Brandy thought, but Jack Lee was waiting. And Jack Lee would remind her of how valuable his time was and what a favor he was doing her, etc. etc. There was no time left for debate.
Jack Lee whispered: “These aren’t what you showed me.” He fancied himself a sort of Fu Manchu, inscrutable in the extreme, but he’d physically recoiled at the artwork presented to him and in such a way that it had been impossible for Chevy not to notice.
“I know. This is apparently her latest work.” Brandy whispered back.
After he finished unpacking the canvases, Chevy announced he needed to take a walk. Poor guy, Brandy thought, as he stood outside on the sidewalk trying to figure out which way to escape. When he returns, he’ll probably have to pack up the canvasses and return them to Nora. But what had she been thinking? The paintings and etchings she’d shown Jack Lee months ago would have easily sold to his conservative clientele. Didn’t she know that? Why had she deliberately sabotaged this chance?
Once Chevy was out of sight Jack Lee said: “I don’t know what to say. I agreed to display the pieces I saw. These are … awful! I can’t show these! They’re pornographic! Voodoo magic stuff. They look like they’ve been painted by a deranged child.”
Brandy hadn’t seen him so rattled since the time he’d found out that his maid had not removed the books from the bookshelves before she’d dusted. What a horror that had been! “They are beautifully framed though. Nora really doesn’t have that much money you know so she probably ⏤”
“I was hoping you’d bring down some of your own pieces and that you’d stay in the City with me during the show so I could introduce you around. Did I tell you I’m thinking of buying a vineyard up in Sonoma? I’ve always wanted a place out of the City, you know … for weekend parties. And you could live up there and decorate the place. I’ve always thought we’d make a good team.”
Good grief, Brandy thought. What have you been smoking? “Nora’s waiting at my house. What am I going to say to her.”
Jack Lee thought for a minute. “Well perhaps it’s not so bad. The earthquake’s shut down the city and I was thinking of cutting back on gallery hours until at least the Christmas season. Who knows, perhaps she’s reflective of a new trend …”
They both laughed. Jack Lee’s gallery wasn’t the sort of place where new trends began. “That would be something. But do me a favor and don’t tell Chevy.”
“Of course not!” Jack Lee was insulted that anyone could accuse him of possibly having bad manners. “He seems to have a thing for you.”
“Chevy? Oh God no! He’s just trying to …”.
“Survive? Maybe he doesn’t want to end up as the subject of one of his wife’s paintings?”
“Ha, ha.” If she thought that Jack Lee had any interest in the sordid lives of artists, she would have disclosed what Chevy had told her on their long drive into the city. But she knew Jack Lee well. He would wince at the thought of a man molesting his own daughter and then, like the White Rabbit, he would twist and twirl and proclaim he was late for some very important date. Besides, he preferred to fantasize about how two long time friends, who (according to him) had the arts background and charm to be an in-demand couple could form a mutually beneficial, strings-free union. Of course, his place on Russian Hill was too small to accommodate a couple so Brandy would stay at the fictional winery in Sonoma and do her “art thing” while Jack took business trips all over the world on behalf of his billionaire uncle. Brandy let him carry on because … she knew Jack Lee very well indeed.
“How about Genevieve?” He had a good thing going in the city with a wealthy and discreet widow who had her own homes hither and yon.
“Oh, she’s moving permanently to her penthouse in Manhattan.”
“How convenient. She can be your date slash hostess when you’re in NYC.”
“Precisely,” Jack Lee wasn’t interested in romance; just convenience. Maybe that was the way to live, Brandy thought, conveniently.
7 thoughts on “Convenience”
TH’s is amazing! This piece has a ton of references and phrases almost identical to Trans-Atlantic, except I like your stuff more. Witold Gombrowicz is turning in his grave. Rich man, drinking, hanky-panky, travel, bullshit, sordid artists, two-faced phonies, etc. No transgenders, yet, but what the hell, I’m in a good mood and crisscrossed understanding is what TH’s is slathered in. Of course, there is the smallish problems with my heart and anus, but I know you are unbaptised in your own way, so let’s call it quits before anyone notices. Duke
Thanks Duke – I feel like I’m making a big mess with all these disconnected glimpses into a friendship but I did have an art teacher (Joan Brown) who told me you have to make a big mess before you can figure a path through it all. I didn’t understand her advice thirty years ago but it’s making more sense.
Alizarin crimson – A Bob Ross favorite. Let’s run all the colors “digitally” across the screen…
Did you see the documentary about Ross? It was frightening.
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Wife said, “ooh, no, I want to remember Bob the way I I’ve always remember Bob.”
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The relationship between wealthy patron and lowly artist is a great one to sink your literary teeth into. Finding the path through the big mess is a good way of putting it. Looking forward to seeing where it goes.
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Jack Lee is based on guy I know who’s not wealthy – he just plays with other people’s money! Over the years he’s managed to become a fixture in the art world although artists themselves creep him out. The art world is full of Jack Lees unfortunately.
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