“But wasn’t it hard, both of you being painters? Do you think he ever felt youwere competing with him?”“No.”The girl gives a rueful laugh. “I wish I knew the right questions, Miss Prokoff, toget you to talk to us.”“If I’d felt threatened by him I wouldn’t have married him. If I’d been competingwith him he wouldn’t have married me. We wouldn’t have stayed together.”“But the art world was such a patriarchy then, everyone says so. No one took women artists seriously, did they?”“He took me seriously,” she says. It isn’t true, of course; he wanted her for ananny, a helpmeet, just as they suspect, but she has maintained this lie too long to startconfiding in graduate students. Nor can she explain that it wasn’t the patriarchal artworld, it wasn’t female diffidence that blighted her life, but the makers of Budweiser.Though stories of his drunkenness are legion, part of the mythology surrounding him,nobody has ever come right out and asked her, “What was it like to live with a drunk?”“What do you know about the Federal Arts Project?” she says. The Arts Projectshould satisfy their craving for injustice — so many purges, investigations, the avant-gardists forced to do figurative work, the women assigned to gesso the walls for the men.They bow their heads again, frowning in concentration, and take copious notes for another half hour. Finally she tells them about the first time she saw his paintings, andthen announces that it is time to leave.Like obedient children, they shut their notebooks at once. In payment for thisinterview, they are driving her to the opening of a show she is having, in a small galleryhere on the Island. The bolder of the two girls is a niece of Monica, the gallery owner; itwas Monica who arranged for them to come and speak to Belle about their master’stheses.They get to their feet, looking expectant. “You’re going to have to help me up,”she says gruffly. “I’ve got very bad arthritis, I can’t do it myself.”“My mother has it too,” says Monica’s niece, putting down her tote bag.