By Judy Fraher.
He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirrored tiles on the wall behind him. Tall, slender, tanned, with thick, silver-streaked hair and wearing an Armani suit that looked like he was poured into it, he knew he cut a “fine figure”.
He lifted his ice-filled glass with just a touch of liquid left in it to his lips and let it drip down his parched throat. The act of imbibing alcohol was just that, an act, part of the image he had to portray.
A couple passed by him, the man in a tuxedo, the woman in a glittery, silver gown with a slit to her thigh, exposing a curvy, toned leg. As they walked by him, the woman reached out and touched his arm, tossed him a smile, and then they continued on.
He stared at them and shook his head. His notoriety was such that everyone thought they were a friend. They thought they knew the man fabricated by the media, but no one knew him in any intimate manner. He had his share of women, but none lasted more than a month. They were simply eye-candy to drape on his arm. He hadn’t brought anyone with him this time. He was on a sugar-free diet, no candy for him. He silently laughed at his own joke.
He moved closer to the railing on the balcony. He stood on the second floor of the art museum and below him mingled a crowd of well-dressed, well-coiffed patrons of the arts. Most of the men wore tuxedos. It was the women who were the most pleasing to the eye, in a colorful artistic way. They swirled in vibrant colors, all ages, all shapes. Laughing, talking, sipping champagne while they stared at the art exhibited on the walls and pretended to understand it.
It was a pretense and he, better than anyone, knew it. He was the artist.
He watched as one couple, in their seventies, stopped at one chaotic work of art. He saw them point at the riotous display of color and he silently chuckled when he caught the word “genius” float up to where he stood.
As he continued staring at the crowd passing through the exhibit, he grew more and more disgusted. “Sheep, they are all sheep. Not one of them really understands.” He was getting cynical and tired. A couple of young women standing by a painting, just staring, looked like identical mannequins. Thin, no breasts, no hips, long bleached-blonde hair, painted nails, warpaint on their faces, gowns with slits to their bellybuttons. They finally talked and he heard the word remarkable but from where he stood, the word floated up as re-maa-maa-kable. He swiped his forehead. Maybe it was time to leave.
A flash of red caught his eye. A woman stood in front of one of his favorite paintings with a puzzled look on her face. He watched her walk over to a guard. The guard pointed up to where he stood and their eyes met. He lifted his glass and nodded to her. He was not surprised when he saw her head for the stairs that led to the second floor.
She stood in front of him. She was pleasing to look at, he thought, about mid-forties, thick, wavy, chestnut hair, with a round face and big brown eyes.
“I was looking at your painting. It’s really quite amazing.”
He frowned. He had hoped she would be different from the others. Bored, he lifted his glass and took a sip of the ice water.
She slid a glance at the painting below. “It’s the funniest thing. One of my students painted the exact same thing last week in my art class.”
The ice water went down the wrong windpipe and he started coughing and gagging. He held his hand over his head, wagging his fingers at her, barked out an excuse me, and quickly walked away.
When he recovered, he went to the first floor to close out the exhibit. He didn’t see the lady with the red dress again.
The next morning he woke up discouraged. He had dreamed of people turning into sheep all night. They had licked his face with their long, sticky tongues and a couple of them had even butted him with their horns.
He knew what would lift his spirits. He would visit his sister and his nephew.
By the time he pulled his convertible in his sister’s driveway, he had a smile on his face. He looked at her house with a critical eye. It was a well-kept ranch in a neighborhood of ranches. She could afford so much better, but she was happy here, and more importantly, his nephew was happy here.
He knocked on the door and opened it. A blur and he was suddenly engulfed by skinny little arms around his neck. He pulled the body away and looked into the freckled face of his five year old nephew. Hearing a noise, he looked up to see his sister leaning in the doorway, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
“Are we going in the workshop, Uncky ?”
He put his nephew down on the floor. “I thought we would if you are up to it.”
His nephew pulled on his long, artistic fingers, urging him out towards the workshop. “Yes, let’s go.”
He stopped to give his sister a kiss on the cheek and then headed out to the backyard with his nephew to the little shed.
He opened the shed door and the smell of paint filled his senses. A large, blank canvas stood in the middle of the room. Around it were dozens of paint cans. A stool was placed by the only window and he walked over to it and sat down.
“Well, my young man,” he said to his nephew. “I need something really different this time. Maybe something mellow. How about some greens and blues?”
JUDY FRAHER is a writer by inspiration, has been writing stories for herself for a long time. This came to her just in one night and it just flowed.