Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, July 14, 2006

More book, as promised

I'll divide commentary from novel and other entries as soon as Hockeyman, my technical assistant, is available to work his magic. Until then, more book.... [the first part is down here]

A shuffling of chairs while I shrug off my jacket. "Have some sake! Warm you up!"
The sweet liquid makes me salivate. I press my fingers into the cup, enjoying the warmth.
"You know everyone here?" He juts his chin, introducing people by their surnames. The students nod, wide-eyed. The great Josef Staski's daughter, huddled over a tiny porcelain cup. "And this is Daniel Marat."
I glance up in time to meet a pair of sardonic green eyes. He has a large bottle of Asahi in one long-fingered hand. Elegant hands. He must draw.
"Daniel is an old student of mine. I talked him into teaching up here for a year."
He's sizing me up, he must know who I am.
"Welcome to Bluestem," I say. Then the waitress arrives.
At the end of the evening, when everyone rises to leave, he is suddenly behind me. "Would you like to go for a drink?"
"Okay."
We walk to MacFee's, a popular school hangout. The wind has picked up. I can hear it whistling through my hoop earrings. "What brought you all the way up here?" I ask, to be polite, to get him talking. I need to know if he's a starfucker. An art starfucker, anyway.
"Melzer, mostly. He said the change would infuse my work with fresh air."
He has to be capable of basic drawing, they wouldn't have hired him at the school, but God knows what his work looks like. "And has it?"
"Maybe. Too soon to say."
Inside we find a booth. He orders a shot and a beer. I order white wine, cautious. Too much alcohol and I'll get a headache.
He tosses off his drink. "So. Josef Staski's daughter. He's one of my favorite artists. Blue Midday. When he died I stayed in my room for three days."
"He wouldn't have approved."
"He was hardly in a position to comment."
Bastard. "Can we change the subject?"
"I thought it would be better having it out front. It's important to be clear about things."
"And what would you like to clarify?" I shouldn't have come. My father's fans are always creepy.
"That I respect your work on its own terms. I saw your still life show last year. You make lovely paintings."
My throat unclenches a little. I swallow some wine. "Thank you."
"What about your sister? Does she paint?"
The moment of calm evaporates. How does he know about Emily? He must have followed the news closely. "No."
"Can she?"
Time to talk about something else. I shrug. "We don't discuss it. What are you teaching?"
He smiles lopsidedly. His teeth are aligned and extremely white. "Drawing 1A, Intro to Clay, Life Drawing."
"You sculpt?"
"Only a little. Enough to teach largely untalented teenagers. What are you working on right now?"
"Jesus, you're direct."
"Why waste time with empty niceties?"
"I don't like to discuss work in progress," I say. "it's bad luck."
"Fair enough. Planning to have a show any time soon?"
"No. Robert--the guy who exhibits my stuff--is laying hints. Maybe next fall. Will you be involved with the school show?" Carondelet exhibits student work each spring. Sometimes profs will include work, sometimes not. Richard puts a drawing in occasionally.
"Oh, yeah, that got dumped in my lap. Low man on the totem pole." He's turning a cigarette in his fingers, glancing around with nervous, darting movements.
"You want to go outside?"
"You smoke?"
Migraineurs should never smoke. It constricts the blood vessels. "No."
"You an anti-smoking Nazi?"
"No."
"Come outside?"
Waves of damp are riding on the wind; rain is in the air. Daniel Marat huddles over his lighter, cupping his hand. I step in front of him, acting as a windbreak.
"Thanks." He says, dragging deeply. His lighter is a beautiful old Ronson, the kind you refill with lighter fluid.
"Nice lighter."
"Thanks. My old man's." His eyes are slitted in the wind. He leans against the wall. "So, can I come see your work sometime?"
Dispensing with niceties again. "Can I see yours?"
"Sure. When would you like to come over? Friday?"
"In the evening. I work during the day."
"The evening," He agrees. "Come for dinner. You a vegetarian?"
"No."
"Seven, then."
"Seven. I'd better go home now."
"Good night, Anna Staski."
"Good night."
I just make it to the car before the rain begins in earnest. Taking up with Daniel Marat is likely not a good idea. I have never seen two artists able to make a relationship work. Jealousy wrecks everything, it's worse when the woman is successful, the man just gets crazy. Male artists want helpmeets, women with bound brains who will genuflect before their canvases, the only sort of female tolerable in a studio is the naked kind, arranged and vulnerable on a pedestal. Better to find a welder, a doctor, somebody expert at gluing broken pieces together.

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