Dominique was born in France but moved to Chicago when she was just a baby. Her father died when she was seven and her mother raised her as best she could. When she was 18 her mother decided to move back to France but Dominique wanted to stay in Chicago and go to school or get a job.
Dominique went to the gallery opening because the exhibition was titled ‘Pierced’. She saw a flyer for it posted in the back hallway of a club where she danced. She wasn’t really an artsy type of person, she had only been to one museum in her life, but she was excited to go because she loved piercings. She had 20 of them herself and was hoping to get more.
She asked one of the other dancers, who went by the stage name ‘Flame’, if she wanted to go with her but she had no baby sitter for that night. The other girls at the club weren’t really very friendly and most of them sort of scared her. She would have invited her best friend at the club, ‘Trinity’, but she had been arrested for her 3rd DUI two days before and was still in jail.
She decided to go alone though it was very scary for her to do so. She never really went out to anything remotely ‘cultural’ even though she read about a lot of those sorts of events online. In her mind she wasn’t very socially adept, never really knowing what to say. She had gotten better at small talk, working at the club had helped her with that, but she still worried about talking about serious stuff. She had it all in her brain, she thought she was pretty smart after all, but she just sort of froze up when that sort of conversation was in front of her.
The gallery was in the art district of Chicago. She had never been there and got lost. She felt annoyed with herself for not figuring out how to get there in advance and felt a panic attack coming on. Luckily she found it right about then and was able to calm herself down by doing the breathing exercises she learned about on some fitness website she sometimes followed. She checked her makeup in the rear view mirror, reapplying her eyeliner just a bit and touching up her lipstick.
She dressed how she thought one should dress for an artsy event. She wore heels that weren’t too tall, certainly not her stiletto height that she wore on stage. She had on a maxi skirt, the only one she owned, with a bold blue and gold print. Blue and gold were her favorite colors and they matched her piercings. Her blouse was just a simple pale blue leotard type top. It did a pretty good job of reducing how big her bust looked, which she hoped for since she hated the attention they got when she wasn’t on the job.
The place had a beautiful sign hanging from the front letting her know the name of the gallery, Foray. The gallery was crowded but not so much so that she couldn’t make her way through. She had to go to the bathroom and asked a cute girl who, in spite of looking about 14 years old, seemed to have a certain confidence standing in the middle of the room, as if she knew the gallery. She pointed to the back of the gallery and said, “Go to the left back there and it’s on the right. I like your piercings, by the way.” Dominique thanked her and went off to find the bathroom.
Dominique chuckled to herself once she left the young girl. So young yet so confident, something she wished she had been at that age. She found the bathroom and relieved herself. There was a big orange vase made out of corrugated cardboard in the corner of her stall. It had a single white PVC pipe sticking out of it with a large paper flower sticking at the end. The flower was blue and gold and looked a lot like the stud coverings she had on her piercings. This made her happy.
She went back out into the gallery and started to look at the art work. She hadn’t really known what to expect since the flyer didn’t have a picture on it. She assumed it would be pictures of people with piercings, but it was not. It was large paintings of strange scenes. One was of a fat man on a fishing boat catching a giant Marlin. It showed a close up of the hook poking through the fish’s lip. Another was of a woman at a sewing machine. She was in pain with her finger impaled by the needle of the machine. It showed blood all over the sewing machine. It made Dominique wince. There was a very large painting of a man dead on the ground with a big hole in him. Another man was standing over him with a gun that was smoking.
It was all very strange to Dominique. She was repulsed but wanted to look at the same time. She had no idea what any of these paintings had to do with piercings at all. She walked into an area where there was a wine bar and food, which she quickly indulged in. She would have preferred water, her mouth was really dry, but she was hungry and thirsty and that’s what was there. The wine wasn’t very good but the little cracker thingies with the tan-colored spread on them were yummy.
She was going for a second helping when the young girl she had asked direction from came up beside her. “You found the bathroom, right?” she asked.
“Yes, found it fine, thank you” she responded. “I liked the vase with the blue and gold flower, that was cool. Who did that one?”
The young girl laughed, “Ha, that’s mine. It’s the only place my mother let me put it. She’s mean like that!”
Right then a woman who looked surprisingly like the young girl came up. “Are you telling a perfect stranger how mean I am to you? You always make me sound like the worst parent.” She laughed and grabbed the girl around the shoulders from behind and nuzzled her neck.
The young girl looked at Dominique and said, “That’s my mom, if you hadn’t guessed.”
Dominique laughed and said, “I figured. You two look a lot alike. She reached out her hand to the girl, What’s your name?”
The girl answered, “I am Veronique but I go by Vera. This mean person behind me is Cruella.”
Her mother laughed and said, “Yep, that’s me, cruelest mother on earth! Actually, my name is Angelique but I usually go by Angel. Nice to meet you.”
She held out her hand and Dominique shook it. Then she turned to Vera and shook her hand as well. Both hands were warm and strong. It made her feel good. “I am Dominique but I usually am just called ‘Dom’.
“So, what do you think of the art here?” Dom asked.
Vera looked at her mom and was about to speak when her mom said, “I am not sure, what do you think?”
Dom responded, “I like it I think. It’s sort of scary though. I like the colors he uses but I don’t really understand how the paintings relate to the title of the show. I only came to here because I like piercing a lot.”
Before she could continue Vera said, “I sort of got that.”
Her mother said, “Don’t be rude Vera.” But Vera rolled her eyes and protested, “I wasn’t being rude, I was just stating the obvious dear mother.”
Dom smiled and said, “I didn’t take it as rude, no worries. I know people look at my face and see a lot of piercings. Anyway, I thought it would about that. I am not sure what these are about. But then again, I don’t know much about art. This is the very first art gallery I have ever been in. And I have only been in one museum before.”
Vera sighed, “You are so lucky! I have lived my whole life going to galleries and museums, they can be so boring!”
Vera’s mother sighed back, “See what I get for exposing my daughter to a life of culture and beauty? Such an ungrateful little waif!” She then let out a big laugh and kissed Vera on the cheek.
Vera wiped her cheek and looked at her mom. “You can be so embarrassing sometimes!” she said as she laughed back.
Dom was completely enthralled by how fun this encounter was. Her spirits were lifted by seeing the relationship between Vera and her mom. But she was confused. “So, I have a question Vera. You said the vase in the bathroom was yours and your mom would only let you put it there. So Angel, does that mean you are the owner of the gallery?”
Angel answered with a smile, “No, not the owner. I am the artist. Vera wanted to take over the gallery with her vases but I, meanest mother in the world, wouldn’t let her. She got the bathrooms and she’s lucky to have them.” She laughed.
“You did these paintings? Really?” Dom said with her jaw open. She was now mortified. “I am so sorry I said I didn’t get them. I really do think they are good. Don’t listen to me, I don’t know anything. I should have just shut…”
Angel put her hand up to stop her, interrupting, “It’s completely OK Dominique. I wasn’t offended. I completely understand people will have all sorts of opinions about the work. I will say however that the reason I think the name of the show and the paintings are connected is that each painting shows something or someone getting pierced by something.”
Dom looked around. “Damn, how did she miss that!”, she thought to herself. “Uh…DUH me. Now I see it. Man, sometimes I can be so dumb.”
“No worries, you aren’t the first person who didn’t see the connection.” Angel said. “I was married to my husband for 10 years and he NEVER got any of the connections I was trying to make. But I still loved him anyway.”
Vera came up close to her mom and hugged her around the waist in a sweet, comforting gesture. Dom wasn’t sure what it was all about figured it wasn’t any of her business anyway.
Angel excused herself, saying she had to mingle with other guests. She looked at Vera and said, “Are you ok on your own for now?”
She laughed, pointed at Dom and said, “Yep, I am going to walk around with her and explain all the weird things in your paintings that no one ever notices!”
Dom and Vera did just that. They walked around the gallery and Vera explained about little secrets, and in some cases the larger story, behind the paintings.
They got to the last painting, of a man with a gun in his hand standing over someone he had just shot. Dom said, “This is the most gruesome of all the paintings I think. What’s the story behind this one?”
Vera looked at her and said, “This one is of my dad. He had to kill someone a long time ago to protect my mom and me. We went to the mall to shop and there was some guy who started firing a gun near us. My dad pushed us both down into a lingerie store and ran after the guy. He fought him and got the gun away and killed him.”
Dom was stunned. “Wow, your dad was a real hero that day! How did he get the courage to go do that?”
“I don’t know” Vera responded. “Mom says he never really was a scary strong guy before, but she said something just came over him and he did it. She tells me that he never said anything about it afterwards except that he loved us and wanted to make sure we were safe.”
“Wow. Did he ever talk to you about it?” Dom asked.
Vera looked up at Dom and said, “No, he died before I really was old enough to talk to him very much. I was only 5.”
Dom put her hand on Vera’s shoulder. “I am so sorry to hear that. He sounds like he was a really great dad. I bet you miss him.” She was crying as she spoke.
Vera noticed the tears and said, “It’s ok now. I remember good things about him. I am not sad that much anymore.”
Dom said, “You know why I am crying? There is something you don’t know about me. My dad died too. I was only 7.”
Vera looked at her and wrapped her arms around her waist. “I am sorry, it sucks, doesn’t it.”
“Yes, it does.” said Dom.
Vera and Dom went back into the main gallery to get something to eat and drink. They saw Angel again and Vera told her about Dom’s dad dying. Angel gave Dom a hug, holding on for quite a while. She asked, “Would you like to go to dinner with a few of us after the opening is over? It will just be another half an hour if you can wait. I would love to have you with us.”
Vera piped up, “Yes, you have to come, promise?”
Dom smiled and said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
The dinner was great, as was the fun day the three of them had at the Zoo a week later. Dom started watching Vera a few days a week after school while Angel was at her day job. Vera taught her how she made her paper vases and flowers.
Dom quit her dancing job a few months later. It was a big financial hit but she had saved up some and knew she needed to get out of that business soon anyway. She got a job at the front desk of the Foray Gallery and Vera would come hang out there after school. Dom eventually learned bookkeeping and took over running the gallery’s business side. Turned out she was good at it.
Angel became a very well-known artist and her paintings became much sought after. They started selling to not just collectors but museums as well. The gallery even sold one for $100,000.00, which blew everyone away. There was a big celebration that night!
When Foray’s owner wanted to sell the gallery to move down to Florida to be closer to his dying parents, Dom, Angel and Vera went in together and bought the gallery.
They remained best of friends for the rest of their lives.
Year later, when Dom was asked what was the secret of her success, she would always say the same thing, “The secret to my success is very simple. I had one moment of courage to go see art when I was 21 years old. Everything else came from that”
Drawing and Short Story © 2015 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Once upon a time there was a very tall woman named Galindra. Most of her height was due to her very, very big head. Without her head she would be three feet tall. But her head was six feet tall all by itself so she ended up being 9 feet tall. Luckily she also had very, very long and skinny arms that allowed her to reach the top of her head. This was important when it came to grooming habits.
One day Galindra went to an art gallery. She was going on a blind date and they decided to meet there. It was a hot summer day and she wore her favorite yellow shorts and her tight blue top. She wore flesh-colored flats that made her look like she was barefoot. She straightened her hair (it took an hour) and put on her summer makeup, including trying false eyelashes for the very first time.
Galindra was there first. She walked around the gallery enjoying the paintings. They were of men doing various activities that involved holding things that looked very phallic to her. In addition there were part of things coming in from the edge of the paintings that were also quite phallic, like elephant trunks, baseball bats and long skinny party balloons. She thought these were very funny and interesting. She became engrossed in trying to figure out the meaning behind each of the paintings.
As time passed she realized she was being stood up. The blind date had not shown up. This made her very angry and she expressed her frustration right in the middle of the gallery. She had been stood up many times over the years. She knew it was because of her big head. It made her so mad because she really was a smart, funny, kind and attractive woman but no one ever gave her a chance to show it because all they saw was her head.
When she finished her little demonstration of anger and frustration she noticed someone had come into the room. He walked over to her and asked if she was ok. She said yes, that she had just been stood up and was venting. The man said, “I am sorry you were stood up, that was very rude of the person.” Galindra thanked him and asked him his name as she put her hand out to shake his. He said, “My name is Art. This is my exhibition actually.”
Galindra shook his hand and said, “Oh My God, I want to ask you so many questions! Would you mind?” Art responded, “No, I would love to answer your questions.” Galindra and Art walked around the gallery talking about the paintings for the next 2 hours until Galindra said she had to go get something to eat because she was starting to feel faint. Art asked if she would like to go to lunch with him and she said yes.
Galindra and Art became very good friends. Art eventually got up enough nerve to ask her if she would model for him. He ended up doing a series of 12 paintings of her in all sorts of situations, from nude to being dressed up like an astronaut. He mounted an exhibition of the paintings and the show became his most popular ever. The paintings were featured in Art News and Art Forum magazines. The CBS TV show, Sunday Morning did a long segment on the two of them with their favorite interviewer, Mo Roca, doing the interview.
Galindra and Art got married 2 years later. They had seven children, all of whom had big heads and long arms. They eventually had 27 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren . They had an apartment in Manhattan, a summer house on Cape Cod and winter home in the Swiss alps. Galindra lived to be 88 years old and Art lived to be 92.
The man who stood Galindra up at the gallery was hit by a truck the next day and died.
© 2015 Marty Coleman
Inspired by a true event.
Heather played her horn for 3 hours, the entire length of the gallery opening. Her legs were cold the entire time.
When she got home and undressed she realized she had forgotten to put on her pants that morning. Heather was relieved because she had been worried she might be getting bad circulation issues in her legs like her father had.
Drawing and story by Marty Coleman
The original painting or a print are available for purchase. A matte and frame is also available.
The artist had 3 friends. The 3 friends were with the artist at a bar one night when they all saw a very attractive man at the same time. They decided to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would get the first chance of going up and saying hello. Paper won.
The artist took a picture of them playing the game. He decided to make 3 sculptures of his friends and used the photo of their game playing as a basis for the artwork. The 3 friends didn’t know he was doing this.
The 3 friends went to the artist’s gallery opening and immediately knew the pieces were of them by the hair and eye shadow color. The crowd loved the 3 sculptures and they sold quickly to a famous collector from Washington D.C.. He was very excited to meet the 3 models and had his assistant take a photo of himself with the models and artist in front of the pieces.
Paper ended up pregnant with the very attractive man she met that night at the bar. The baby was born 9 months later. and by that time the very attractive man at the bar had enlisted in the army and was off in Afghanistan. He was killed by an IED the day after the baby was born. Paper moved back to Minneapolis to live with her parents. They helped raise the baby while she worked and got her GED then bachelors degree. She worked as a bookkeeper for 40 years and never married. Her daughter became an art dealer.
The artist went on to have a great career, in large part because the collector had bought those pieces. He ended up marrying Scissors who went on to get her Ph.D in Anthropology and taught at Columbia until she retired.
The collector sold the 3 pieces 15 years later for 17.5 million dollars at Sotheby’s to an anonymous telephone bidder. He reinvested the money in land and retired to the Virginia countryside to raise horses.
Rock turned out to be the anonymous buyer of the sculptures. She had made her fortune in Pharmaceuticals, working her way up from salesperson to CEO of a very large company. She displayed the sculptures in the lobby of her company, feeling they reinforced her philosophy that hard work, game playing and chance were the driving force behind all success.
The paintings the artist did of nude men with big penises didn’t sell at all and he stopped painting them. They eventually ended up in storage in the barn at the family farm in Texas. They were stored in a loft, covered with sheets and stuck behind a wall of barrels, undiscovered until 28 years later, after the artist died unexpectedly. His children put the paintings up for auction where they fetched 225 million dollars, a record for a recently deceased artist at the time. Paper’s daughter was the dealer who sold the paintings. Her commission was 11 million dollars.
© 2015 Marty Coleman
Drawing at Crystal Bridges
The origin of the drawing was a quick sketch at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. There was an area of the temporary exhibition where people were handing out paper and clipboards and encouraging people to draw. I took one and told them I would use my own pen but they said pens weren’t allowed. So I used their pastels instead. I only took the black one, which they thought was odd. I did the quick sketch of my wife Linda gesturing like a spokesmodel on ‘The Price is Right’ to two paintings behind her and brought it home with me. I drew and painted it to completion this morning.
The Nickname – A Short Short Story
Penelope hated her nickname.
She was excited to go to the opening because she really liked the artist. She wore a strapless dress and clunky heels. She spent a fair amount of time at the opening explaining to her friend, Benita, different things about the paintings. Benita listened but didn’t really care. She just kept thinking how glad she was she didn’t have that nickname, especially in this particular situation.
Penelope eventually moved away from New York. She landed in St. Paul, Minnesota and made sure no one there ever knew her nickname.
The artist, Bethany, was having her first solo art exhibition in 3 years. She had done a series of paintings of nude biblical figures. The painting she was giving her gallery talk about was titled ‘Mary and Elizabeth’. It depicted the New Testament story when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth after she found out she was pregnant and Elizabeth’s baby jumped in her womb when the two of them greeted on the road in front of Elizabeth’s house.
Bethany was explaining why in particular she painted Mary, the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, nude. The paintings had caused a lot of controversy, even having been mentioned on cable new shows. Fox News had condemned the exhibition, saying it was disgusting and disrespectful. Others had been not so opinionated but still said they didn’t think the exhibition was worth seeing. “Unbiblical” was what one mainstream news outlet had said. A satirical website had called the piece ‘umbilical’, which Bethany thought was pretty funny.
The artist told the story of her own life, having been raised by nudist parents in California. She said she loved being raised that way and that it taught her so much about not judging people based on outer beauty or style. When she went away to college to major in art she was drawn to figure drawing classes. She hit upon the idea of painting biblical figures nude when she went to Europe and saw many allegorical, historical, and mythological paintings that included nudes. She noticed however that paintings illustrating the Old and New Testament almost never had complete nudes in them. She decided to do a series on New Testament stories as a result.
She had two of her friends pose for the piece. One was KimLee who was raised in an evangelical family who would not approve. They had met in college when KimLee had come into the Student Union gallery and looked at Bethany’s paintings. They became friends. KimLee had already posed secretly for her a number of times. She had always been shown without her face or Bethany had changed her face so she wasn’t recognizable, which Bethany promised she would do this time as well. The other was the Gallery’s assistant curator, Suzy, who had been pregnant with twins when Bethany came up with the idea. Not many people knew it but Suzy had been an ‘adult entertainer’ in college. She loved the idea of being in the painting. She wanted to be Mary in the the painting because she thought it would be cool if a stripper was Jesus’ mom.
KimLee and Suzy met for the first time at the gallery talk. It turns out their babies were born just two months apart a little more than a year earlier. They hit it off while contemplating the painting after the gallery talk, comparing notes about what it was like to pose and to have their naked bodies out in public for all to see. KimLee explained how no one knew it was her and Suzy explained how everyone knew it was her, including some former ‘clients’ who had come to the exhibition not realizing Suzy was no longer a stripper but a respected gallery worker. They both laughed at how they had come from such different directions to arrive at the exact same spot.
KimLee and Suzy became great friends. They had playdates for their kids together, went to lunch once a month and eventually started a company together that had sales topping one million dollars last year. Their sons became best friends and both became elementary school teachers.
Bethany’s next show was of self-portrait nudes. It led to her being kicked off the PTA.
Penelope was a Tour Guide of impeccable reputation. She knew everything there was to know about the art in the museum, including the current exhibition. She would explain in great detail why the artist made the choices she made and how one painting led to another and when she did what she did and who she was influenced by and where her art had been shown and what it all meant. People loved her and always gave great compliments about her to the staff of the museum as they left.
She was also a thief. She only took when no one was looking, on those rainy, cold days when she would have just one person in her tour, or she was walking through the galleries and saw an easy mark. The museum was an old place without a lot of money so it hadn’t yet installed security cameras. She was happy about that. She had learned to pickpocket when on a vacation to Barcelona. She actually watched others doing it on La Rambla and simply imitated them again and again until she had it down. She mostly stole wallets. It was a fun challenge for her and she was quite prideful about her abilities.
What she didn’t know however was that the current exhibition’s artwork held a secret. It was more modern than the museum. The artist, unbeknownst to anyone, had installed a camera into one of her sculptures in the exhibition. Her father had worked as a camera repairman and often told her he thought it would be fun to secretly put cameras in art to see how people reacted to the work. He got the idea when she was a child and he had brought her to Disneyland. They went into the haunted house and he kept wondering if the animatronic figures had cameras in their heads to catch the reactions from people. When she did a large sculpture of a head for the first time he asked if there was any way the head could contain a camera. She figured out a way to make room while he adapted a little spy video camera he had got into the repair shop that had never been picked up after being dropped off for repair.
The artist, a woman named, Britt Smithson, was getting a kick out of watching the video of people looking at her artwork. In particular the reactions to her paintings of sloped-shouldered slackers with big penises. The men usually wouldn’t say much but the women would usually crack up or whisper to each other. The camera didn’t have audio and she really wished it did when she saw this. Some people hurried past without taking barely a glance. Some seemed to really like the work, spending time looking and reading the little handout.
When she saw the Tour Guide pickpocket the woman in front of the painting she was dumbstruck. Not because she knew Penelope, she didn’t. But just because it was so unexpected. She showed the tape to her father who was very excited. He and his daughter had caught a thief with their little collaboration!
They spent a lot of time talking about what they should do. Should they simply show the tape to the director of the museum? Maybe to the police? Maybe go and talk to the Tour Guide and let her know what they saw? But if they did any of those things it would be found out that there was a camera in the sculpture and she didn’t want that to be known. In the end they decided to set up a ‘gotcha’ operation. They would have Britt’s sister, Goldy, be a solo museum visitor. She was an easily distracted, spacey person to begin with, so asking her to play that role wasn’t a big deal. Goldy was up for it. It would allow her to put some of her long ago acting lessons into action.
Goldy was to get Penelope as a Tour Guide, make sure her purse was wide open, slung behind her with her bright pink wallet easily accessible. The wallet would have a little tracking device in it that her father had bought at Radio Shack and had installed. Once it was stolen, Goldy would go to the front desk and complain, explain about the tracking device and bring out her iPhone with the tracking app on it. It would be easy enough to track it back to Penelope that way and she would be caught. It was a simple. easy plan that would still allow the camera in the sculpture to be kept secret.
The plan seemed to go perfectly. Goldy played her role to perfection. Penelope stole the pink wallet just as they expected she would and Goldy went to the front desk when she ‘discovered’ the theft after she had finished the tour. The wallet’s signal could be seen on the iPhone and a security guard, a beefy, bearded guy named Gus, went with Goldy and her phone to find it. They had to go through almost the entire museum to where the signal was coming from and the security guard turned out to be quite a flirtatious character. In the five minutes it took to walk to the signal he had tried to finagled a date out of Goldy. This happened to her much more often than she cared to admit and she held off saying yes for the time being.
When they arrived at the back of the museum, they were led to a trashcan just inside the entrance to a restroom. The security guard took the plastic swinging part off the top and looked in. There, on top of a pile of wet paper towels was her pink wallet. The security guard reached in brought it out and asked her to check to see if anything was missing.
Goldy suddenly realized she had done a very stupid thing. Her sister and father had told her to take anything really valuable out of her wallet but in the nervousness of doing this secret mission she had completely forgotten to do that. She had left all her credit cards, all her ID and all her money in the wallet. She was feeling like a complete idiot as she looked through the wallet. Relief came over her though when she discovered the only thing missing was her money. It had been more than she usually carries, probably around $120.00. But that wasn’t going to throw her into poverty or make her miss her rent payment. It was just going to mean not buying anything at the flea market later that day. She was pissed off at herself and relieved at the same time.
Gus said he would report the theft but chances are they would not be recovering any money. Goldy asked about fingerprints on the wallet. Gus said if they reported it to the police they would do that but if she just wanted to be done with it and not report it, then no, he wouldn’t be taking fingerprints. Goldy asked if he thought he could find out who did it. He said it wasn’t likely but he would look as people left, keep an eye out in general and who knows, something might turn up.
Goldy decided to just cut her losses and not call the police. She knew that is what her dad and Britt would want. And she had no intention of telling them she had stupidly forgotten to take her money and credit cards out of the wallet. Gus gave her the number of the security office at the museum as well as his cell phone number. He also asked for hers in case he found something out. She had a feeling he wanted the number to continue to try to get a date. She wasn’t wholly against the idea and gave him her number.
Goldy called Britt as soon as she was out of the museum and explained everything that happened, not including the loss of the money. Britt and their father were disappointed. They did have the tape showing Penelope stealing the wallet if they did want to go to the museum or the police, but it really didn’t seem to be worth it since as far as they knew nothing had been lost. They still did worry about Penelope and her continued thievery. They just weren’t sure what to do about it.
Gus had been wondering for a while about the loss of wallets and other items in the museum. He had seen all the reports come in, most via telephone after someone would get home from the museum and realize something was missing. At first he thought it was a ring of pickpockets that had been around the city over the past few years. It had been reported on again and again but there hadn’t been any progress in catching anyone. But after a while Gus came to the realization that something else was going on. First, it was only women’s wallets that were reported stolen, never a man’s. The city-wide issue had mostly men being targeted. Second, it only happened on slow day, never busy ones. The city-wide pickpocketing was almost always at busy tourist destinations. Gus was starting to have an idea that this might be someone from inside the museum. He instructed the other security guards to watch everyone, including staff. And when possible, discreetly use their cell phones to take pictures of videos of suspicious situations.
It was a little over a week later, during a spring downpour in the city, that one of the security guards, a young women named Jolene, decided to follow Penelope from a distance. It really was a reflection of Jolene being bored more than anything else, but she also had never liked Penelope nearly as much as everyone else. Penelope had treated her rudely a few times in the back offices, basically ignoring her when she said hello and turning her back on her while she was saying something once.
Jolene had her cell phone recording video from the very far side of an empty gallery when it happened. She was looking the other way, out into another room, as if she was paying no attention to Penelope and the lone women she was with. Penelope was explaining one of the paintings, pointing to the volcano in the background when she brought her hand up to the lady’s purse and quickly snatched her wallet out of it and put it in the museum bag she always carried with her so she could hand out information sheets.
Jolene brought the video back to Gus who immediately went back with Jolene to the gallery and confronted Penelope. Later that day she was both fired and arrested. They found 5 sets of credit cards and 10 wallets in her apartment. She confessed and told the authorities she had thrown away all but the nicest wallets. She had sold most of the credit cards on the black market except for the ones she had stolen recently.
Gus called Goldy and told her Penelope had been caught. Penelope in turn called her sister and father and told them. They all took a deep sigh of relief over a resolution happening without the hidden camera being found out.
Gus also took one last chance to ask Goldy out. Goldy said yes. Gus and Goldy ended up dating for 2 years and getting married 3 years later. Penelope was sentenced to jail time, spending three months incarcerated. She was ordered to repay close to $10,000.00 but never did, since she was basically broke the rest of her life. Her life didn’t last long. She was hit by a taxi in a rainstorm two years later.
Britt never did another piece with a camera in it. Her father stuck to listening in on his Ham Radio to conversations in distant lands.
Beatrice was raised by a very judgmental mother who didn’t like her much.
Beatrice saw the mother and daughter on the street outside of gallery as she went up the steps. As she juggled her keys and coffee to unlock the door she hoped they would move along soon.
It wasn’t that cold out but it had been cold overnight and they were both barefoot. Their shoes had been stolen at the homeless shelter the night before. The mother, named Emily, was hoping the shelter would have extra shoes, but they did not. She had come downtown hoping the church caring center would have some and was waiting for it to open. She stopped in front of the gallery because there was a ledge just the right height for her daughter to sit on with her doll. Her daughter, named Cerise, had to go to the bathroom very badly. The mother was hoping she could wait until the caring center was open but it looked like she might not be able to. She finally decided she had to go into the gallery to see if they had a bathroom.
Beatrice heard the door open while she was in the back turning on the computer in the office. When she went out and saw it was the mother and daughter she rolled her eyes, sighed heavily and went up front to confront them. “Yes, may I help you?” She asked.
Emily said, “We are waiting for the church caring center to open down the street but my daughter really has to go to the bathroom. Would you mind if she used yours, please?”
Beatrice said, “Yes, she may, but make it quick.” She walked towards the back, sweeping her arm behind her indicating for them to follow. She pointed to a small door and said, “There, please be quick and clean up after.”
Cerise was quick and did clean up after. Emily thanked Beatrice and started to walk back to the front to go out. Beatrice stopped her with a hand on her shoulder and said, “Hold on a minute. I really have to say I am bothered by you allowing your daughter being barefoot in the city like that, not to mention yourself. It’s dangerous on the sidewalks with trash and glass and all sorts of things. Why are you barefoot?”
Emily explained about the shoes being stolen. Beatrice said, “But why did you allow them to be stolen? Why weren’t they on your feet? Why were you at a homeless shelter in the first place? Your child is very young, you should take better care of her.”
Emily by this time was holding Cerise close. Cerise in turn was holding her doll even closer. Emily said, “Yes, you are right. I wish I had taken better care of her. Thank you for letting us use the bathroom. We won’t bother you again.”
Beatrice said, “I hope you don’t and I hope you get your act together. It’s not good for her.”
Emily and Cerise went outside and down the street to the Church Caring Center. It had opened and it turned out they did have shoes they could have, along with socks and sweaters for both of them. Cerise had been crying about the lady in the gallery. She asked her mom, “Why was that lady so mean? She really scared me. You should have told her the whole story, then maybe she wouldn’t have been so mean.”
Emily responded, “You know Cerise, sometimes it really doesn’t matter if someone knows the whole story. They need to judge and so they will judge, no matter what. You and I know the story and we both know why we were at the homeless shelter. We know what we are doing and why. That is what matters.”
Beatrice told the story of the homeless mother and daughter to five different friends over the course of the day. Four of the friends agreed that the homeless mother was bad and that the daughter should be taken from her and put in protective custody. The fifth friend, a wealthy gallery patron named Jill, told Beatrice she thought she had treated them badly. She said what they needed was kindness, not judgment.
Beatrice was rather taken aback by this and asked why she was making such a big deal about it. Jill said, “I once was homeless when I was quite young and people treated me the same way. I already knew all the negative things about myself and how I had ended up homeless, I didn’t need other people telling me the same thing. What I needed was help and understanding. Luckily for me I got that help, and ironically it was actually from a gallery dealer in Los Angeles. Without his understanding and help I never would have gotten out of the jam I was in.”
A few weeks later Emily and Cerise were in the same gallery neighborhood again. This time they had shoes on. Emily had gotten a part-time job at a coffee shop about a block from the gallery. The coffee shop owner had said Cerise could stay there as long as she didn’t bother her mother too much while she was on duty. It would only be for a few more weeks then school would start again for the fall and Cerise wouldn’t have to be there during the day. Cerise sat at a little table near the window and drew in the sketchbook they had given her at the Church Caring Center a few weeks before.
Beatrice usually came to the coffee shop around 9:30 am, right before she went to open the gallery. This day she saw a little girl through the window as she approached. As she walked past she bent down, pointed at the drawing and said, “You are a very good artist. Keep at it and one day you might be famous, who knows!” Cerise looked up and recognized the woman as the mean person from a few weeks prior, but Beatrice did not recognize Cerise. But when she came to the counter she most definitely did recognize Cerise’s mother, Emily. She remembered the green eyes, the strong eyeliner and the red hair up in a bun. Emily recognized Beatrice as well. They stared at each other for a moment. Beatrice could feel her cheeks flushing with blood.
Emily asked, “Hello, what may I get for you today?”
Beatrice answered, “Um…I will have…um….I will have a large Cafe Mocha please.”
Emily said, “Will that be all?”
Beatrice answered, “Yes. Um….you were in my gallery last week, right?”
Emily responded, “Yes. My daughter used the bathroom. Thank you for allowing that.”
Beatrice said, “Um….yes. No problem. Anytime.” She felt particularly stupid after saying that.
Emily said. “Your drink will be ready over to the left. It should be just a minute.”
Beatrice moved over to the counter at the left. She picked up her drink and was on her way out when she returned to Emily. She said, “I am sorry for the attitude I had that day. It was mean and judgmental and I regret it.”
Beatrice looked up from ringing something up in the cash register. “I appreciate that. We are used to that attitude, you aren’t alone. But you are the only person who’s ever apologized to me for it. That means a lot. Thank you.”
Beatrice asked, “Where is your daughter?”
Emily pointed to the front and said, “You already talked to her, she is the little girl at the window over there.”
Beatrice Asked Emily her name and the name of her daughter. She shook Emily’s hand, said her apology again and walked over the Cerise. She kneeled down to Cerise’s level, forgetting that her skirt was short and was probably exposing too much, and said, “Cerise, my name is Beatrice. I own the gallery that you came into last week to go to the bathroom. I remember being mean to your mother and you and I should not have been like that. I wanted to come over and apologize to you. Will you forgive me?”
Cerise said, “Yes, I will. Mom says when someone treats us mean it usually means something is hurting inside them and that we should hope that hurt goes away for them instead of us feeling hurt about what they said.”
Beatrice stared at Cerise. She couldn’t talk for a moment. Finally, as tears started to gather in her eyes, said, “Yes, your mother is a very wise woman. She is right. It is much more about my hurt than anything about you. Once again, I am sorry and I hope you won’t hold it against me.”
Cerise said, “I won’t, I promise. By the way, thank you for saying you liked my drawing when you came in. That made me happy. I am not very good yet but I like drawing so I do it anyway.”
Beatrice said, “You are better than you think you are, I can tell you that much.”
Beatrice left, crying.
Two days later Beatrice went back in the coffee shop and saw Cerise and Emily again. She asked Emily if it would be ok if some days Cerise spent her time at the gallery instead of the coffee shop. Emily said it was ok with her if it was ok with Cerise. Beatrice went over to Cerise and asked, “Cerise, I had an idea last night. Would you be willing to spend a bit of your time during the day at my gallery instead of here? You can still draw of course. But you can do other things there too, maybe even help me with some stuff. And we do have a cool cat that needs some company.”
Cerise looked over at her mother who nodded her ok. Cerise smiled and said, “Yes, that might be fun.”
Cerise spent an hour or so each day at the gallery for the remainder of the summer. She drew a lot, often drawing the cat sleeping in the sun. She also learned how to hammer a nail, cut a mat, wire a frame and paint pedestals. As the end of summer approached Beatrice’s assistant announced she was pregnant and going to be moving the the suburbs with her husband, who was taking a job in Greenwich.
Beatrice offered the assistant job to Emily, who accepted.
That was five years ago. Beatrice has since opened a second gallery uptown. Emily is in charge of the downtown gallery and is making quite a name for herself as an astute judge of talent and an excellent curator. Cerise is just entering high school and has decided to major in art when she goes to college.
Beatrice keeps in contact with her friend Jill, who is also great friends with Emily and Cerise. Beatrice has no idea what ever happened to her other four friends.
Millicent had never been the subject of a short story before. She had been mentioned in a weird poem her 10th grade boyfriend had written for her when he was high on pot, but never a short story.
Millicent had never been in an art gallery before. She did go into one with her father in Sausalito when she was 11 and stole a pair of earrings, but never as an adult.
Millicent was hired at the last minute to sub for Berthe, who had come down with Shingles and couldn’t work. She had subbed last minute plenty of times for Sid the alcoholic, but never for Berthe.
Millicent had never seen a painting of a naked person in person before. She had seen pictures years ago in some dirty magazines her brother had, but never a painting.
Millicent had never worn stripes and polka dots together to work before. She had worn stripes and paisley together once to her husband’s Christmas office party where she drank too much Vodka, but never stripes and polka dots.
Millicent had never taken the N Judah trolley to the end of the line before. She had taken the M Owl all the way to the end before, when she was depressed about her oldest son being caught putting on her makeup, but never the N Judah.
Millicent had never had to actually interpret the word ‘breast’ in public before. She had to sign ‘butt’ plenty of times, but never the word ‘breast’.
Millicent had never eaten Sushi before but that is where the class went after the gallery. She had eaten raw chicken once and got sick, but never fish.
Millicent had never worn salmon colored eyeshadow before but got some for Christmas and decided to try it. She had worn peach colored eyeshadow before, but never salmon.
Millicent had never contemplated divorce before but she saw her husband with a big busted blonde in a Starbucks across the street from the gallery as they walked in. She had contemplated killing him before, but never divorce.
Millicent divorced her husband, wore salmon colored eyeshadow every day, gave her peach colored eyeshadow to her son, got a fish tank, wore stripes and polka dots together often and started painting for fun. Her best friend Geraldo even posed for her naked once.
Rita got the invitation the same day her date stood her up (she hadn’t had a successful second date in 2 years) so she decided to go to the opening alone. She knew the show would have nudes in it, but didn’t realize every single painting was of a blue, slack-shouldered loser with a big dick. This depressed her until she finally broke out laughing and said to the young woman standing next to her, “This show is ‘truth’ – men are just big dicks.” The both laughed and became friends. They left the gallery disillusioned and went to see a movie about a female army ranger who was stuck in the mountains and had to eat her fellow male army ranger who died to survive. That made them feel better.