I wrote this piece some time ago and actually got it published in an online journal. I was so proud of myself. Like so many other journals, it went under and now my little moment of pride is gone. I'm posting it for Edge who said he was missing my fiction, who always has something interesting to say on his blog, who seemingly enjoys photography as much as I do.
Speaking of photography, I've added a link at the side to my photo galleries - there you'll see the kids, the husband, my sister, my brother, my grandparents, nieces and nephew, me, our world. I'll get back to my regular blogging soon.
“How much for the naked girl?”
The lascivious tone in the stranger’s voice caused me to open my eyes, an undesired response since I was catnapping. Like the last painting I offered for sale, I rested on dead, summer grass and was propped up against a chain link fence. The art festival was almost over and I had yet to unload “Lady in the Sun.”
“How much are you offering?”
“No more than a c-note.”
He cleared his throat and sniffed arrogantly, eyeing me before returning to the golden-breasted woman in front of him. The wool coat he wore was too heavy for the spring weather and a bead of sweat slid from his temple, disappearing into the thick folds of his neck. If it wasn’t for the cologne he wore, he’d be rank.
“How badly you want her?”
“I can give another fifty.”
I grappled as to whether I should hold out, glancing across the field filled with hundreds of other artists. I didn’t like the way the stranger shifted his weight. He had no legitimate interest in art – he was going to use Lady, abuse her. Above all, he’d commit the highest of creative crime: he’d misunderstand her.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Lemme think about it.”
I suddenly felt dishonest, disloyal. No doubt, I reacted to Lady’s features. She’d been brushed with colors of untruth.
The model had been a neighbor who needed cash so I suggested she pose. While I painted her, while she sat nude for me, she told a story of an adored necklace she’d lost. Her father had given it to her for her eighteenth birthday. But she’d been careless, wore it despite a faulty clasp, and one day the necklace vanished. Diamonds, sapphires, gold…gone. She’d looked at me with such helplessness, with such profound guilt, I found myself unwilling to reflect her pain on the canvas. I betrayed my own vision. Lady ended up confident and daring in her nakedness. Unlike my model, a similar loss for Lady would have been intentional. She would have thrown the precious item into the trash, mocking the giver.
“Where will you put her?”
The man wiped perspiration from his forehead with a red silk handkerchief. “What’s it to you?”
“She’s like a sister to me.”
“Artists…you’re all alike. It’s a picture – no more, no less.”
“Maybe I like the picture. Maybe I’m gonna be famous. I can’t just let her go for a measly one-fifty.”
Silence flowed between us, common viewpoint lost in the current. Lady lied to all her observers. Her history was invented, created, imaginary. I smoothed my exposed legs, the skin dry and uncared for. Paints, brushes, canvases, jars and rags waited for me at my apartment. Bills piled high waited, too. I couldn’t decide which held the bulk of my loyalties: Lady, a symbol of compromised artistry, or my stomach, a manifestation of raw need.
Before I could decide, two hundred-dollar bills fluttered to my feet. The stranger had flung them at me, an act of contempt. I grabbed the money and stuffed it into my pocket.
“Take her,” I said. “She’s all yours.”