The Art Show

“Alex! It’s Ian.”
“Yes, yes. Of course. It’s just that —” Ten, fifteen years go by and teenagers become adults. They grow facial hair and wear glasses. Their voices change.
“And that’s my daughter Angela.” Ian pointed to the group of preteens crowding the refreshment table.
Three had curly brown hair and wore glasses. Three were short and stocky.
One was lean and tall. One had long black hair. Perfectly straight, black hair.
“The one with the black hair?”
“She is the spitting image of —“
“Yes she is. And she’s artistic as well. ”
Alex glanced over at the video screen where images of Nora flashed. They were mostly images of Nora in her final years either standing in a forest or beside “her” lake. There were no images of the girl Alex had fallen in love with: the fifteen year old who always had her head in a book, mostly sci-fi or fantasy. The one who grokked the Muppets and the Hobbits and thought love was the only thing that could save the world. The one who wanted to adopt a thousand orphans and raise them in the woods with the birds and the squirrels, all creatures living together peacefully.
The girl who hated me. Hated me more than she hated anyone.
The only person sitting on the benches provided for viewing was a woman who quietly wept. Maybe I should say something to the woman, Alex thought. “Hello, I am a friend from long ago. Obviously not a good friend. I’m happy she has you to weep for her.” Nora’s husband certainly wasn’t. But at least he hadn’t brought along the latest occupant of that doll’s house on Forest Lane. The one who fed his bitterness. All those years he’d put up with Nora’s mood swings, helped raise her children and endured her bat shit crazy mother and now he was being dumped. The kids might as well have moved to Brazil and not back to Reno, he’d told Alex. Thank goodness he had Mary to make up for the wasted investment of his time.
Ian stood beside her and watched the images flash across the screen. His mother, who’d repeatedly said she didn’t want or expect to live beyond forty. Once, so young and beautiful. Once, always up for silly games and movies. In the end, staring down the camera’s rancid gullet: “There is nothing you can do to hurt me anymore. All the magic has died and I’ve bled out.”
In a way, Alex thought, Nora had been right. She hadn’t lived beyond forty. She’d died and become Leonora, the artist whose 12 foot images, in vivid oil crayon on butcher block paper, hung from the .walls of the aging banquet hall. Men with wolf-like eyes who ripped clothing off the undeveloped bodies of prepubescent girls and raped them with long barbed tongues. Witch doctors gleefully ripping babies from their mother’s wombs, beheading them and dropping the remains for hyenas to feast upon. Every “canvas” covered in pagan images, no white spaces allowed. In comparison, the early portraits that Alex had brought along to share looked quaint. Heck, Picasso’s Guernica would have looked quaint next to the screaming nightmares of Leonora’s final years.
The dozen or so people who’d shown up for the show circled the room quietly. Who are they, Alex wondered and what are they thinking? Nora had always been far too shy and self-conscious to join a group. Something about having been both dyslexic and left-handed in a school run by unsympathetic nuns. Something about having been tall for her age and having had a father frequently too depressed to function in the world. Something about living in that house on the river, made dark and claustrophobic by the conflagration of saints and angels, the heavy candles and afghans, the polished brass crosses and crucifixes. The massive, yet never touched, piano.
I don’t belong here, she thought. I don’t belong amongst the family and mourners. I should leave immediately before they remember who I am and chastise me for the waste of so many years. Why had they ever insisted I come?
But she’d been spotted. “Dorothea’s had a few strokes,” Ian explained as Nora’s mother trudged toward them on a walker. “Poor Katie Girl’s been such an angel.” And then he made excuses to call his service. “A doctor never really has time off even for —”
“An art show.”
“It’s what Mother wanted.”

This is the first chapter of an experimental piece I’m working on. Scenes of a friendship spread over many years and interwoven with an event lasting only forty eight hours. Feel free to provide your expert opinions on whether or not it works.


9 thoughts on “The Art Show

  1. I’m drawn in too! “There is nothing you can do to hurt me anymore. All the magic has died and I’ve bled out.” That’s a great line there. This chapter has real potential and I don’t mean that in the patronizing sense of the word but in the sense that it’s spring-loaded with complexity ready to unfold.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, what can I say? I really get this poem, the imagery and it makes me think about some of those funerals with too many hushed conversations, hushed tones along the aisle. There is a certain kind of dead person, their funeral where people come, but they talk, quietly among themselves, two’s and three’s and sometimes their thoughts are so loud that if you are nearby, you can hear them thinking. Both the good and the bad die, thank the recoil of life for that. For me this is a poem. So nice poem. Duke

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s got a good beat to it, and a swirling motion, like there’s a camera circling round the room catching snippets of words that are pressurized with the sort of subtext one finds at family gatherings: subtext infused with the highly flammable gas given off by old resentments and doubts.

    Liked by 1 person

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