Brick House Pt. 01 Prologuebytedszabopub©
All content copyright 2012 Ted Szabo
This is part one of a longer work, "Brick House." While this part does not have erotic content, many of the other chapters do. It is included for the convenience of readers interested in the larger story.
"I don't really get it," I mumbled.
The painting consisted of three blue dots formed along a vertical path and a jagged, dripping red slash that ran from the top right corner of the canvas to the lower left. It looked like someone had used a chainsaw to maim the frame and there were deep, serrated gouges along one side and uneven strips of wood ripped off all along the top. Executed in garish, highly saturated hues, the watercolor was one of several similar works that lined the gallery wall, each one sporting a similarly simple geometry bordered by what appeared to be heavily vandalized moulding. The paintings were displayed in an assiduously professional manner, spaced tastefully and illuminated by tiny, extraordinarily bright halogen lamps suspended at the end of curved brass arms.
The gallery was near campus, and the show had attracted a less stuffy crowd than some we had attended, despite the requirement for formal attire. There were a fair number of other students, mostly undergrads, and I recognized a couple of adjunct professors, both with significant others in tow. The event was well-attended, and a collective murmur of conversation melded with the clinking of wine glasses to form a more-or-less continual undertone of background noise.
Kate, a lithe co-ed I had been seeing for several weeks, was on my arm, resplendent in white hose and a dress that sported a long, enticing vent that ran up one side. She enjoyed the periodic gallery show, and I enjoyed her, so I often found myself musing artistic efforts such as ones presently on display. The week before, we'd found ourselves wandering a garden of large basalt sculptures that had been chiseled into the forms of various body parts, and I remembered being mildly amused by a five foot high thumb that stuck straight up, as if beseeching passers-by for a lift. Some sort of mica laminate had been used to form the thumbnail.
"It's a commentary on the intractably contentious nature of the human spirit," Kate said, peering thoughtfully at the same painting that had caught my attention. "Look at the way the frame has been weathered, like the painting itself is the focus of some destructive force." I perked up at this, as it was actually somewhat relatable.
"Right," I said with some confidence, "it's like 'Damien.'"
"What? Damien who?" Kate was wearing her please-don't-be-a-complete-idiot-in-public face, which I was admittedly fairly familiar with.
"You know, classic 70s horror schlock, devil child, nuns hanging themselves." This comment earned me a disparaging sniff from a thin, gray-haired woman who appeared to be prying meaning from a concentric set of orange octagons that had been created with electrician's tape and then torn up using a parallel set of long, razor-sharp implements—or perhaps claws, I thought— that had shredded parts of the underlying canvas.
"Hmm, werewolves no like dumb art," I muttered to myself. I had decided I rather liked the horror motif as an overarching perspective through which to enjoy the show, and resolved to stick with it.
Kate gave me a good-natured jab with her elbow, hard enough to forcefully expel most of the air I had just breathed in. "Dipshit. This is serious work. Why do I take you to these things?"
Straightening up slowly and inhaling with care, I scratched my chin, adopting my best thoughtful, contemplative look—a "Thinker" pose but with more clothing.
"Because," I responded, "... because I'm so super-cool that being seen with me will fool people into thinking you might be cool too?"
Kate threw me another elbow, a bit less forceful than the last. I could tell she was pursing her lips together to suppress a smile, though.
"OK, maybe not, maybe not. I'll figure this out, though. Is there a multiple choice section on this quiz? No, wait, I've got it—it's my rugged but unconventional hunkiness. You drag me out to these things to be premium arm candy, and because I'm cheaper than an escort service."
This time Kate had to cover her mouth, and I could tell there was a big, shit-eating grin hiding behind her daintily positioned hand.
"All right, not there yet? Wait, I am there, prepare for me to hit a bull's eye on this head-scratcher. Here it is: My snarky opinions are not so inane as they first appear, and are in fact the musings of a keen renaissance intellect with a brilliant instinct for texture and composition."
Kate was now unable to completely bottle up her mirth—it was sneaking out as a sort of Muttley the Dog hiss-laugh. She took advantage of her grip on my arm, trying, and mostly succeeding, at twisting it behind my back with some crazy Ju-Jitsu move. I started chortling as well, whirling and backpedalling to avoid the arm lock, and felt myself impact someone. It was one of the waiters who had been shuttling hors d'oeuvres around the gallery floor.
"What the freakin..." said the tuxedo-clad server, trying frantically to maintain control over a large, circular platter of drinks.
"Oh shit, sorry, sorry..." I said, reaching for the tray in an attempt to provide some assistance, hoping at the very least to keep the glasses from sliding off altogether.
The waiter, peeved and in no mood to accept help from a hooligan such as I, was further incensed by the fact that I was now gripping his serving dish, and jerked it out of my grip. With that abrupt motion the glasses started to skitter erratically. One crashed to the floor, most of it exploding into a collection of long, even shards on impact.
Wow, I thought, real crystal, not cheap glass.
A few ounces of Chardonnay splattered across the tile floor and several people, trying to keep the spreading liquid off their feet, hopped around in surprise. One of these was a portly gentleman with a handlebar mustache who ended up staggering back into a pretentious oil monstrosity that looked like something Monet might have vomited up after an acute absinthe bender.
I made grabs at the other glasses, trying to keep at least of few them from joining their unfortunate vanguard. It worked to some extent, but the situation still became pretty unpleasant. Handlebar and the waiter ended up yelling expletives at each other and the floor was a mess, random puddles of various wines and liqueurs scattered about in semi-random fashion, punctuated by chunks of shining crystal in various states of destruction. One lucky glass of Bordeaux had actually managed to land perfectly upright and was largely undamaged; a single white crack running from its gold-rimmed lip all the way down to its base. I thought I could just barely see tiny droplets of wine making their way through the fissure.
In addition, one of the women in the area had somehow managed to lose her shoe: a complicated, organic-looking affair that looked like it might been grown in some kind of unnatural garden where straps were extruded from misshapen seeds and writhed along the ground like vines, eventually intertwining to take on chaotic yet utilitarian forms. The pump was heel-up, and the upper inch or so of a smashed goblet was looped around that heel--a glistening, dangerous-looking ring of shards like the storybook crown of an unfortunate king.
I stepped to the side, just outside the danger zone, and shouted "Watch out, everyone keep away! Move back, move away from the mess. Broken glass!" A number of lookie-loos were coming over from other parts of the gallery, attracted by the noise. "Stay back, you guys. Seriously, stay back," I told them. For the most part, people seemed to be cooperating, especially after they realized what had happened.
Kate stepped back to my side, still experiencing some jocularity suppression issues despite the carnage. "Well, it's a hell of a mess," she said, "but at least you managed to keep people from stabbing their toes on all those splinters."
I looked at Kate with wide eyes and my best mock-serious expression. "No, no, you've got it all wrong. You don't understand, I'm not trying to keep people from slipping or getting injured, I'm trying to protect the art." With an expansive gesture, bending low and spreading my hands slowly over the ruined floor section, jazz fingers waggling, I formally presented my masterpiece. Kate pressed her hands to her mouth, but it was still obvious to all that she was sniggering like a lunatic.
A short time later, we were asked to leave.