Friday I got a call from Mrs. Peter Gens (G-E-N-S, pronounced Jane’s).
Housewife, Art History minor, Oregon State Class of ’54, belly like a basketball.
An “art lover,” cashing in on the “hot painter.”
That’d be me.
“I’m terribly sorry to disturb you, but I picked up ‘Desert Crescendo 9’ at the San Francisco show on a tip from a friend who really knows the industry. The thing is, as much as I want to love it, there’s something about it that, frankly, I just can’t bear. It has nothing to do with you. Really. Forgive me.”
I considered what she’d said before answering. The silence probably made her think I was angry.
“I empathize, Madam. You are a fat, mall-walking, know-nothing parasite to a clueless husband who might as well be walking through your 78-foot-ceilinged Great Room while undead! But it has nothing to do with you. Really. Forgive me.”
That’s not what I said.
Maybe I was wrong to assume that she once prowled five-and-dimes for cheap barrettes or smoked foot-long Parliament menthols. Or that she wore a “Luv 2 Yard Sale” T-shirt, but only on Sundays.
I probably wasn’t wrong to think that she’d cashed in a few weeks of Old Pete’s Pfizer dividends to pay for Crescendo.
I knew the one thing I was right about.
“Yes, Mrs. Gens,” I said. “I understand. Of course. I’ll come get it now.”
“Well, that’s kind of you,” she said.
“Don’t mention it.”
I went, watching her wake from a nap while they packed it up.
“I love pop and some of the later abstract expressionism,” she said with a yawn into her Android, walking away as the truck door closed, “but that?”
“I hope it wasn’t too much of a hassle, Mrs. Gens,” I said.
“Oh, don’t be silly,” she said. “I have someone else.”
I hung it in my studio so the yellows and greens and reds and browns caught fire from the skylight and kindled me again.
From winter-dead soil sprung young leaves.
For John Ciardi
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