Quantum Critique

by Donna K. Fitch Smashwords Edition Copyright 2011 Donna K. Fitch Discover other titles by Donna K. Fitch at Smashwords.com

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(They)re angry this wee $ Fred. Do yo! thin anyone will loo at them*( The sec!rity g!ard gr!nted and scratched at something on his belt b!c le$ rattling the eys dangling nearby. (& d!nno$ it)s a "ootball wee end$( he answered. ()S where & o!ghta be.( & "olded my arms and coc ed my head "or a better view o" the painting$ altho!gh & new it by heart. (+rt "eeds the so!l$( & reminded him. & meant it literally$ b!t Fred doesn)t pay m!ch attention hal" the time. (Football "eeds ... well$ &)m not s!re what it "eeds.( (,y wi"e$ & hope$( he said with a snort. (& got money on that game. +labama by a to!chdown. -ow come yo! don)t ever play the pool*( -e sho!ldn)t say things li e that in "ront o" the artwor s$ especially when they)re angry$ b!t he always does. (& '!st don)t see the point$( & told him$ staring at the little patch o" carmine splashing the chest o" the hapless cler in the "oregro!nd o" the painting. The color was de"initely brighter than it was a wee ago$ which was when the new broch!re went o!t with (Convenience Store -old!p .one /rong( "eat!red on the cover. Even wor s by minor local artists who speciali0ed in depicting !rban crime need attention$ and it did have a de"inite primitive charm$ altho!gh the s!ggestion o" violence reminded me "ar too m!ch o" past times &)d rather not remember. (/e)ll be b!sy$( Fred ass!red me. (+ll the "ootball widows)ll come in "or the new e1hibit. 2eople with o!t%o"%town g!ests. +ltho!gh & don)t now why yo! want more people in here. +ll that noise ... +ll them ids ...( -e sh!ddered a!dibly. & '!st sighed and shoo my head. -e wo!ldn)t ever !nderstand$ so & don)t even try any more. &gnoring his !nsolicited commentary$ & said$ (,s. Connor told !s abo!t this e1hibit in the sta"" meeting. ,odern wor s$ on loan "rom ,emphis. 3!ite e1citing.( Some days Fred so!nds li e a pig with his snorting. (,odern. To me$ modern is the impressionists. & don)t li e anything since.( -e screwed !p his "ace as i" eating a lemon. (E1cept maybe Calder. Something abo!t the mobiles and stabiles ... The '!1taposition o" metal against the s y$ clean sharp edges contrasting with "ree"orm nat!ral shapes ...(

(&" yo!)re so nowledgeable abo!t art$( & interr!pted$ "ran ly s!rprised by his words$ (why are yo! the sec!rity g!ard and &)m the docent*( (4eca!se yo!)re a bored ho!sewi"e who vol!nteered and has to lect!re to disinterested high school ids.( Fred grinned li e some sort o" mental de"ective. (& '!st have to g!ard the things and warn people not to to!ch and !se my ed!cation am!sing mysel" witho!t inter"erence "rom anyone.( & almost snorted at that$ b!t ca!ght mysel" in time. (Ed!cation*( & echoed$ aware o" the nasty tone o" my voice and hoping the painting wo!ld "orgive me this once. (Dropping o!t o" eighth grade isn)t an ed!cation.( (For yo!r in"ormation$ ,rs. Theriot$( he said$ his calm smile !nsha en$ (& have a bachelor)s degree in art history$ same as yo!. +nd & write a review col!mn "or the +labama +rts Today website.( ,y withering glare told him & was !nimpressed. (So how come yo! aren)t loo ing at the new e1hibit be"ore everyone gets here*( Fred as ed$ oblivio!s to my e1pression. (&)m not ready yet. The paintings really pre"er a larger a!dience. &t)s too m!ch press!re "or one person.( -is concerned "rown$ as i" &)d said something wrong$ annoyed me. (&" yo!)ll e1c!se me$ & have d!ties be"ore we open$( & "inished$ and h!rried "rom the gallery. Fred was right abo!t the crowds$ altho!gh it ir ed me to admit it. /hen the doors opened$ people streamed inside$ eager "or the new e1hibit. +ll the wor s wo!ld be "resh to me as well$ as &)d been "orced to miss the preview party5 my oldest$ ,indy$ had claimed a cold$ altho!gh & thin she probably had a test the ne1t day$ so & had to stay home with her$ and Do!glas wor ed late$ even tho!gh & told him abo!t the party well in advance. ,y "amily doesn)t !nderstand the importance o" my wor at the m!se!m. & barely heard the m!rm!rs o" the crowd over the po!nding in my ears as & stepped across the threshold into the gallery where the e1hibit h!ng. The "amiliar wave o" something li e static electricity on a dry day shimmered over me$ nearly ta ing away my breath$ and & "elt the hairs on the bac o" my nec standing !p. +n indescribable combination o" 6!iet calm and '!bilant power s!rged thro!gh my veins$ the sort o" "eeling 2ope 7!li!s && m!st have e1perienced when he "irst saw the Sistine Chapel ceiling$ seeing its bea!ty and nowing that altho!gh ,ichelangelo had painted it$ he had commissioned it$ he had ca!sed it to be. The en'oyment o" the patrons was palpable as they pointed and whispered and gest!red at each painting and print and sc!lpt!re. ,y habit is to glance at each wor "irst be"ore settling down to really give each its d!e. Fred wo!ld be happy$ & tho!ght as & to!red the room. The pieces were$ on the whole$ not 6!ite as gro!ndbrea ing as &)d hoped$ despite the bold title o" the e1hibition$ (The F!t!re o" +rt8 + 9etrospective.( & 6!elled any stirrings o" do!bt$ not wishing to o""end the wor s. Standing o!t among the more ordinary canvases were a h!ge Fran Stella dominating one end o" the room$ a 9a!schenberg assemblage near it$ and an immense a6!atint by -elen Fran enthaler. &)d nearly completed the initial circ!it$ t!rned my head away to cross the doorway$ and loo ed bac in astonishment as & reali0ed &)d missed one small painting in the corner. & act!ally gasped alo!d. The entire canvas was abo!t the si0e o" a sheet o" noteboo paper$ star $ pristine white$ and "ramed with a thin white shadowbo1. 2recisely in the center o" the canvas was a s6!are o" per"ectly painted red$ smooth and "lat$ as i" it were a lithograph. Somehow & new that i" & meas!red the shape$ each side wo!ld be e1actly the same length. The simple per"ection o" it was s!ch that & "linched away$ lowering my eyes as i" be"ore a mighty

ing on a throne. The tag below proclaimed its title (+s #o! :i e &t$( e1ec!ted in oils on canvas '!st last year by none other than +nastasias De.ra""enried. & stared at the tag$ my ears ringing. & sho!ld have nown that s!ch a "a!ltless masterpiece was created by the high school art teacher who helped me s!rvive the hollow nightmare o" my teenage years and who opened !p another realm o" e1perience to me$ creative and art%"illed$ b!t entirely and intimately personal. /hy had ,s. Connor h!ng it here$ in the corner$ away "rom the main tra""ic* &)d have to spea to her abo!t this. & eased away "rom the bea!ti"!l red s6!are$ tore my ga0e "rom it$ and "or a "ew moments watched the people gliding abo!t the gallery. ,y palms itched and sweated as & waited breathlessly "or others to discover its simplicity. +"ter a "ew moments$ & e1haled slowly as & noted the patrons passing the red wor $ stopping$ viewing the painting. 9elie" wea ened my nees. &" something that ama0ing were ignored$ the "o!ndations o" the world might '!st crac with the strain. ,onday$ T!esday$ and /ednesday were b!sy with two classes o" school children each day. & incorporated the De.ra""enried painting into the lect!re$ altho!gh it wasn)t originally in the notes ,s. Connor gave me. The children were politely bored$ !ntil the second class on /ednesday$ a lively gro!p o" si1th graders$ r!shed in. 7!st as & la!nched into the concept o" nonrepresentational art and gest!red toward (+s #o! :i e &t$( one spi y%haired yo!ng man as ed contempt!o!sly$ (/hy)s that so special* & co!ld paint something that lame and st!pid$ and nobody)d p!t it in a m!se!m.( &ce instantly coated my body$ altho!gh beads o" clammy sweat sprang !p on my scalp. The la!ghter o" the class so!nded dim and distant. :ame* The De.ra""enried st!pid* -ow co!ld he say that* & 'er ed my head toward the painting$ a"raid &)d see a gaping hole$ b!t the bright red beamed bac at me as i" to say that the !nin"ormed opinions o" children hardly co!nt. Feeling ret!rned to my "ingertips and toes$ relie" b!bbling thro!gh my veins. The words o" the lect!re "lowed "rom my lips once more. (,r. De.ra""enried is dealing here with ideal "orms$( & said. (;ot all artwor depicts the world as it really is. Some artists "oc!s o!r attention on the materials themselves and on the creative process. +t the beginning o" the last cent!ry$ artists s!ch as K!p a and Kandins y e1perimented with the "orms o" the visible world ...( They t!ned me o!t$ o" co!rse$ and & 6!ic ly moved on to the sc!lpt!re garden. +"ter the little hoodl!ms sh!""led bac onto the b!s to bedevil their long%s!""ering teachers$ & h!rried bac to the painting$ my one%inch p!mps s idding on the polished "loor$ leaving thic blac mar s. The white canvas$ the red s6!are remained whole and per"ect$ perhaps even a bit brighter and smoother a"ter three days o" devotion. & vividly recalled +nastasias De.ra""enried)s perpet!ally%disordered thatch o" blonde hair$ his ha0el eyes behind tiny oval glasses$ the "eel o" his bony arms wrapped aro!nd my bac . +s & ga0ed at his creation$ & saw mysel" watching him raptly$ pict!red him "itting together the wooden stretchers$ tiny bits o" dead s in "la ing o"" his hands as he stretched the canvas ta!t$ perhaps pric ing his "inger on the staples as he electric%g!nned them thro!gh the "abric and into the so"t wood. The !nct!o!s smell o" linseed oil adhered to the lining o" his nostrils$ as it did mine$ "lowing o!t again mi1ed with the essence o" his so!l as he breathed across the virgin canvas$ priming its s!r"ace. ,in!te smears o" oil "rom his s in br!shed the s!r"ace when he care"!lly meas!red the area$ the tip o" his pencil "lec ing the corners as a g!ide. + single bead o" sweat 6!ivered on the smooth coat o" white concealing the primer and 6!ic ly dried.

(Every canvas is imb!ed with the painter)s essence$ .ail$( +nastasias !sed to tell me$ (with his so!l$ his li"e%"orce$ 6!iescent within the piece !ntil the attention and adoration o" the spectator releases it in a glorio!s synthesis that enriches both the painting and the viewer. #o! have power within yo! as a participant with the artist$ even i" yo! never paint a stro e.( -e helped me !nderstand that "ew m!se!m visitors reali0e the awesome responsibility entr!sted to them. They "ail to show the proper respect d!e the artwor s$ treating them as inanimate ob'ects that e1ist only to serve their baser needs. -is philosophical m!sings always s!""!sed me with power$ with the nowledge that & had in"l!ence and control over an artwor $ whether or not & had it in any other sphere o" li"e. /hen & ret!rned home$ Do!glas was angry that dinner wasn)t ready$ and & co!ldn)t !nderstand why !ntil & loo ed at the cloc on the stove. & m!st)ve stood in "ront o" that painting "or a "!ll ho!r. The tho!ght o" it shivered my body with ecstasy. The right words placated my gr!mbling spo!se and soothed his r!""led "eathers$ and the painting was momentarily "orgotten in a whirl o" meal preparation and "ielding 6!estions "rom and doling o!t advice to Stephen and ,indy$ whose cold was mirac!lo!sly gone. +t dinner & avoided all mention o" the painting. ;ot that & had the opport!nity i" &)d wanted to mention it. Do!glas gro!sed his way thro!gh the entire meal abo!t some case that wasn)t going the way his clients and the partners wanted$ railing against everyone in the legal system "rom cler s to '!dges$ throwing in the Senate "or good meas!re. +"ter dinner$ the children ran o"" to their homewor and television and Do!glas$ who had a years%long a""air with the telephone$ retreated to his st!dy to harang!e whomever had the mis"ort!ne to be at home when he called. +s & washed the dishes$ scr!bbed the top o" the stove$ and wiped the co!nters and table$ my tho!ghts wandered bac to the smooth red s6!are s!pported by a "ield o" white. /hat i" & co!ld crawl inside the s6!are$ & wondered while & "astened !p the trash bag and dropped it inside the garbage can behind the garage. The staccato o" Do!glas) bar ing into the phone and the s irls and bleeps o" Stephen)s .ame 4oy and the whining so!ndtrac o" ,indy)s "avorite television show wo!ld all snap o""$ li e sh!tting the bac door behind me. The smooth redness wo!ld s!rro!nd me$ wrapping me in its pristine color and rich m!sic$ "or &)m certain that color has a so!nd all its own. The "ervor o" my devotion wo!ld maintain every molec!le o" red$ every n!ance o" its s!r"ace$ merging my p!rpose with that o" the artist in a tr!e ecstasy o" collaboration$ a thrill o" control$ an orgasmic r!sh o"%% (.ail*( Do!glas) voice b!00%sawed me o!t o" my red cocoon. (+re yo! o!t there*( The screen door snapped sh!t behind him li e the "inality o" an e1ec!tion by g!nshot and his "ace loomed o!t o" the dar ness. + nearby streetlight ill!minated his "!rrowed brow and p!rsed lips. (-ow long have yo! been o!t here* The ids have been in bed "or hal" an ho!r.( & shoved the lid down on the plastic can$ b!t years o" ro!gh treatment had warped it and it sprang o"" again. -e sighed lo!dly$ elbowed past me$ and said$ (-ere$ let me do that.( & handed him the lid and retreated into the ho!se. Th!rsday the m!se!m is closed$ and even tho!gh & only come "or the sta"" meeting$ & visited the painting a"terward. The 6!iet$ empty halls depress me and & always "eel press!re to pay especially close attention to the artwor s beca!se no one else will$ so & go home e1ha!sted$ with one o" those sharp little headaches aro!nd my eyes$ re6!iring a lengthy nap be"ore the ids come home "rom school. To my delight$ a lengthy review abo!t the show came o!t in the newspaper Friday night$ act!ally mentioning +nastasias De.ra""enried by name$ raving abo!t the wor s$ recommending

it highly$ and praising the c!rator "or her e1pertise in proc!ring the e1hibit. & c!t o!t the article and pasted it%%right ne1t to the broch!re anno!ncing the show and a small paragraph & printed o!t "rom the &nternet abo!t +nastasias and his recently%opened st!dio in +tlanta %%into a memory boo & eep$ certain that the p!blicity wo!ld draw attention to the entire e1hibit and especially my "avorite painting. ,y presence isn)t really re6!ired on Sat!rdays$ b!t as long as &)ve been vol!nteering at the m!se!m$ Do!glas has had charge o" the ids "or the morning$ even tho!gh this morning he complained voci"ero!sly that he had to wor . (Ta e them to yo!r mother)s$( & s!ggested as & started the ,ercedes S<=. (&)m needed at the m!se!m.( +s & e1pected$ on Sat!rday the place h!mmed with activity. Children)s la!ghter bo!nced o"" the polished "loors !p to the high ceiling o" the entry "oyer$ layered with the so"t th!mps o" athletic shoes and clic s o" hard soles$ the h!shed comments o" ad!lts who "elt they had to whisper as i" in ch!rch$ and the co!ghs o" smo ers deprived o" tobacco "or the d!ration. (+re they angry today*( Fred)s voice in my ear startled me$ b!t & covered the '!mp re"le1 by smoothing my hair. (;o$ they)re not$( & answered with a smile. (Everyone)s admiring them.( (Since +labama lost last wee $ & g!ess no one)s going to the game$( he gr!mbled$ "olding his arms across his chest. (+ tr!e "an$( & replied$ (wo!ld go regardless o" the o!tcome.( -e stared at me. (#o! don)t watch sports at all$ do yo!*( & ass!med it was a rhetorical 6!estion and moved closer to the De.ra""enried. The smooth red glowed vibrantly against the white canvas$ the white "rame neatly harnessing its e1!berance. (This is what & watch.( Fred gr!nted$ d!c ed his head$ and stared at the painting. S!ddenly & remembered his remar s a "ew days ago on modern art. 2anic needled at my s in "rom the inside$ and when he opened his mo!th$ & new what he wo!ld say. (/hat a piece o" crap.( ,y hands shoo $ palms tingling. (Don)t say that$ Fred$( & said in a harsh whisper$ as i" remonstrating my children. (&t)ll hear yo!.( (& '!st don)t !nderstand how they can call something li e that art. ,y "ive%year%old does better in indergarten.( Fred shoo his head "rom side to side. (& agree with ya there$ b!ddy$( said a man in a b!lging T%shirt and severely strained 'eans$ elbowing Fred. (7!st gimme a can o" Sherwin%/illiams$ and & co!ld do that.( + d!ll whine li e a saber saw vol!med behind my eyes$ and & whipped my ga0e "rantically "rom the men to the painting. (Stop it right now> #o! don)t appreciate%%( (-ey$ ,argie$ loo y here$( the "at man called to his similarly%clad wi"e. (This is what the city spends o!r ta1 dollars on.( & grabbed Fred)s "olded arms and said$ (&" yo! don)t do something%%( & scarcely heard the words coming o!t o" my own mo!th beca!se o" the whining b!00 in my head$ and it too every o!nce o" strength in my body not to r!n "rom the room. 4!t & had to stay and protect the painting "rom their scorn. &" it wasn)t already too late. Fred sighed and said$ (? ay$ ,rs. Theriot.( -e leaned over and whispered something to the "at man$ who glanced "rom me to the painting$ la!ghed$ and nodded. (Than yo!$( & mo!thed as the co!ple l!mbered away. Fred shr!gged$ p!shed bac his cap$ and wal ed to the other side o" the gallery.

The whining s!bsided$ altho!gh my "ingertips tingled and my legs wobbled beneath me. & dragged the bench closer to the De.ra""enried and san down$ r!bbing "eeling bac into my icy arms. The painting seemed normal. ?r was that a blac spot in the center* Swi"tly & d!c ed toward it. The red s!r"ace o" the s6!are was d!ll and ro!gh$ slightly pitted as i" the paint had been rolled on over sheetroc . +nd s!re eno!gh$ '!st o"" center o" the s6!are was a tiny pinpoint o" blac . & s!c ed my hands over my mo!th$ smothering a shrie that clawed its way !p my throat. The center o" my chest h!rt sharply as i" pierced with nails. -e had "inally done it. Fred had damaged the painting with his criticism. +nd what damage> &)d seen the e""ects o" neglect on a wor o" art$ b!t never o!tright scorn. Scarlet "lashes obsc!ring my vision$ & st!mbled across the room and pl!c ed at Fred)s sleeve$ dragging him bac toward the De.ra""enried. (/hat)s wrong with yo!*( he demanded$ thic eyebrows cl!stering over his nose. (+re yo! ill*( (?h$ no$ &)m per"ectly "ine$( & retorted$ do!bting he)d catch the sarcasm. & ignored the bead o" sweat tric ling down the side o" my "ace and went on$ (&t)s the painting yo! sho!ld concern yo!rsel" with.( -e h!n ered down in "ront o" it. (Did someone do something to it*( (#o! did$ yo! dolt$( & said thro!gh clenched teeth. (7!st loo .( (& don)t see anything.( & stamped my "oot in e1asperation$ and a tingle 0ipped !p my leg. Shoving his sho!lder$ & said$ (The red. &t)s all l!mpy now$ and there)s a blac spot in the center.( Fred p!""ed o!t his chee s in a sigh$ scratched the thinning hair beneath his cap. (&)m a"raid & don)t see a blac spot$ ,rs. Theriot. +nd hanged i" & can see what yo! "ind so "ascinating abo!t it.( (Don)t%%( The word popped o!t lo!d and thin and shrill$ and the gallery "ell silent$ b!t & was sha ing so badly & co!ldn)t "oc!s on all the "aces that t!rned toward me. +ltho!gh it was cowardly$ & abandoned the painting and ran o!t$ bl!ndering into the door"rame and spinning into the hall in a ha0y mist. Fred)s voice echoed o!t a"ter me$ (%%a little high str!ng. She)ll be o ay.( & sat in the driver)s seat o" the S<= "or probably twenty min!tes be"ore my hands steadied and the mist cleared. ;ot satis"ied with destroying the painting$ Fred denigrated it be"ore all those people. +rt obvio!sly cannot ta e care o" itsel"5 it depends on its spectators to protect it "rom harm$ the way +nastasias protected me years ago when & "led to his st!dio a"ter my "irst h!sband bloodied my nose$ even tho!gh & had grad!ated "rom high school si1 months be"ore and was no longer his st!dent. S!nday & "eigned illness and stayed in bed the entire time Do!glas and the children were at ch!rch$ and thro!gho!t most o" the a"ternoon$ rallying in time to "i1 s!pper. & s!ppose & sho!ld)ve been braver and gone to the m!se!m$ b!t & was too a"raid o" what &)d "ind. 4y ,onday &)d s!mmoned !p the co!rage to "ace the disaster and was relieved to "ind that &)d b!ilt it !p in my head worse than it act!ally was. The once%smooth red s!r"ace was still b!mpy and the blac dot had not disappeared$ b!t at least it hadn)t grown any. Fred was o"" on ,ondays$ than "!lly$ so & lavished as m!ch attention on it as & co!ld between class visits%%three that day%%and by the time & le"t at "ive$ the dot was gone and m!ch o" the smoothness had ret!rned.

+ "l!rry o" e1citement ept !s b!sy most o" T!esday. ?ne o" the artists "eat!red in the Te1tile +rts gallery died ,onday a"ternoon$ and the local press descended !pon !s T!esday morning as soon as the m!se!m opened. & sc!rried here and there "inding o!t bits o" in"ormation abo!t the artist$ sending o"" "a1es to other ma'or galleries where her wor was e1hibited$ and generally ma ing mysel" indispensable to the c!rator. &t was nearly closing time be"ore & ret!rned to the F!t!re o" +rt e1hibition. The De.ra""enried painting greeted me with its 6!iet red glow$ and a peace"!l "eeling draped aro!nd me$ sl!icing away the "atig!e. <ntil Fred wal ed in. (-ey$ yo!)ll li e this$( he said$ waving a sheet o" paper. (-ere)s the review o" the e1hibition &)m posting tonight on the +labama +rts Today site. /anna hear part o" it*( -e apparently too my glare "or assent$ beca!se he cleared his throat. ()/hile those wor s%%) & tal ed abo!t the Fran enthaler and a "ew other "amo!s ones in the previo!s paragraph. )/hile those wor s provide a long%overd!e treat "or the 'aded 4irmingham m!se!m visitor$ other paintings in the e1hibition are less s!ccess"!l.)( (& don)t thin & want to hear this.( & chewed my lip as the whining started again in my head. ()+n abstract piece by derivative painter +nastasias De.ra""enried has no place among his more "amo!s brother and sister artists. The bland smoothness o" the red and white paint does little to enrich o!r !nderstanding o" color or te1t!re. -is sort o" sterile minimalism is no longer relevant$ i" it ever was$ and wo!ld be better s!ited to hang in a motel room rather than on the walls o"%%( (Stop it>( & sho!ted$ 6!ivering "rom head to "oot$ "eeling as tho!gh & rapidly shimmered in and o!t o" e1istence li e a mirage in the desert. (#o!)ll r!in it.( Fred shoo his head and grinned. (;aw$ the artist already did that to the poor canvas. 4esides$ what)s my little criticism gonna h!rt$ h!h*( The anno!ncement that the m!se!m was now closed echoed thro!gh the room. (/hy don)t yo! go on home* #o!)re loo ing tired. #o!)ve had a long day$( he said as he plodded o!t$ then called over his sho!lder$ (4e s!re to chec o!t the website later>( & sp!n toward the painting$ "rantically swallowing down the bile that "o!led my parched throat. + blac b!llet hole scarred the center$ 'agged blac lines ripping "rom the hole toward the white canvas. The d!ll red had r!bbed o"" in places$ mottled with an !gly grayish color beneath. + section o" the "rame had splintered o"" and dist!rbing brown smears marred the pristine white. Tears bl!rred my vision$ b!t & wiped them away with the bac o" my hand. 2ity was a l!1!ry & co!ld not a""ord. + steely l!mp hardened in my stomach$ and my chee s "elt cold and tight. +rt m!st be de"ended "rom its critics$ protected "rom its detractors. & had the power and it was my responsibility to !se it. Clenching my "ingernails into my palms$ & strode o!t o" the gallery. Fred was no longer in sight$ b!t & new his ro!tine. -e made one "inal circ!it o" the b!ilding$ chec ed the wor room last$ then loc ed !p "or the night. That gave me abo!t ten min!tes. The wor room was deserted when & slipped in. ,s. Connor ept the room neat$ b!t in her haste today she)d le"t the pne!matic nail g!n o!t on the table. 2ropped against the wall was a h!ge canvas she was re%stretching. & pl!gged the nail g!n into an o!tlet near the door and tho!ght hard abo!t the original pristine s!r"ace o" the De.ra""enried be"ore Fred had de"iled it with his scorn. & "elt the radiance o" the warm red enveloping me$ caressed the river o" sil y p!re

color$ listened to the soothing m!rm!r o" a world o" in"inite peace sa"e "rom all scorn and neglect and ab!se. Time slipped aro!nd me with little meaning !ntil Fred)s "ootsteps th!mped in the corridor$ interr!pting my meditation. -e p!shed open the door and smiled when he saw me$ opened his mo!th$ b!t be"ore another word iss!ed "rom those "ilthy lips$ & shoved the nail g!n against his navy bl!e tie and p!lled the trigger twice. The do!ble pop echoed lo!dly in the wor room. -is eyes stretched open$ bloodshot whites nearly swallowing the brown p!pils. & stepped away$ and he g!rgled$ a dollop o" blood li e thic carmine paint b!bbling down his chin$ "l!ttered his hands be"ore him li e some little old lady "aced with a ,applethorpe$ and pitched over on the "loor onto his "ace. /ith icy "ingers & !npl!gged the nail g!n and replaced it where & had "o!nd it so ,s. Connor wo!ldn)t be angry. She doesn)t li e anyone to!ching her tools$ so & too an e1tra moment to care"!lly wipe away any "ingerprints. & stooped down beside Fred. -is initial slow p!lse 6!ic ly "aded and stilled. + warm "l!sh dashed the ice "rom my s in$ and & giggled$ loo ed down at Fred$ and giggled again. Smoothing my s irt$ & stepped over the body$ and t!rned o!t the light in the wor room. Time to tell the painting%%i" it didn)t now already%%that it was sa"e "rom Fred)s 'eering. The corridors were very 6!iet e1cept "or the white noise o" the air conditioning whirring overhead$ b!t "or the "irst time$ it didn)t "ill me with nervo!s dread. +s & listened care"!lly$ & heard wor s o" art all over the m!se!m sighing in concert$ pleased that the violence toward one o" their brethren had been avenged. -ead held high$ & strode con"idently into the F!t!re o" +rt gallery$ which was lit only by the emergency lighting and the red glow o" the e1it signs. & ignored the congrat!lations o" the Fran enthaler$ the Stella$ the 9a!schenberg and approached the De.ra""enried. The painting was per"ect once more. /hole. ,aybe even slightly larger than be"ore$ the red s!r"ace a bit shinier$ the white canvas a little more star . & blin ed. /al ed aro!nd the room. .a0ed at each painting "or a moment be"ore ret!rning to the De.ra""enried. & tr!ly saw it "or the "irst time. + p!erile$ amate!r$ derivative piece o" garbage that had no b!siness hanging in a gallery with the li es o" Fran enthaler and Stella and 9a!schenberg. & wal ed o!t o" the m!se!m$ climbed into the S<=$ and drove home to coo dinner. The ne1t evening$ while the children were o!t at a ballgame with their "ather$ & pasted the article "rom the newspaper abo!t Fred)s death in my memory boo alongside the obit!ary o" my "irst h!sband$ a police photograph o" the Times) art critic @how & got that is my little secretA$ and an advertisement pleading "or in"ormation on the whereabo!ts o" a certain teenaged wo!ld%be art vandal whose body wo!ld never be "o!nd. +s & wiped away the e1cess gl!e "rom the edges o" the clipping$ it occ!rred to me that ab!sive h!sbands and critics and vandals are not the only ones harming art lovers and paintings and etchings. &n"erior artists$ whose da!bings somehow slip into e1hibitions and detract "rom those more talented wor s h!ng nearby$ might be '!st as dangero!s. +"ter all$ +rt can)t ta e care o" itsel". The power lies in the beholder. 2erhaps Do!glas and the children wo!ld en'oy a trip to +tlanta while & paid a visit to a certain artist)s st!dio.

BCBCB About the Author Donna K. Fitch is not a scary person. She doesnDt li e slasher movies and has been nown to throw !p at the sight o" blood @mostly her ownA. She is$ however$ rather "ond o" eldritch horrors$ c!rses$ cemeteries$ "alls o" "ish$ and tort!ring protagonists. She will don another identity "or a role%playing game at the drop o" a hat @which she loo s rather good in$ by the wayA. She is still not s!re what she wants to be when she grows !p$ b!t sheDs been a librarian and a web designer. +nd a 4aptist worship leader. Donna lives in the middle o" the state o" +labama with her technology%whisperer h!sband Thomas and her three cats$ ;ala$ +lice and Sophie. Connect with Me Online Smashwords8 http8EEwww.smashwords.comEpro"ileEviewEdonna "itch /ebsite8 http8EEwww.donna "itch.com

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