Classic Art Series: 4 – August Part 2

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Paul Cezanne, “House of Pere Lacroix” 1873 – Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

…continued.

There, in all her glorious dark hair, stood Pila d’Arezzo. August lost his voice. The two men looked at each other, one sick from guilt, the other sick from love.

“Hallo, Jackson.” She waved at the barkeeper. “Can I get a beer?”

Eduardo whispered, “What’s she doing here? I never seen her come in here before!”

“Me neither.” August moved to the other side of the booth for a better look.

Pila looked around the room, caught August’s eye and smiled. His throat went dry, but he managed to smile back at her. She thanked Jackson, picked up her mug and walked toward them. August looked swiftly around the room, noticing the lack of patrons.

“Hallo, Eduardo. What’s your friend’s name?”

Eduardo stuttered, “Hallo, Pila. This is August. August, this is Pila.” He looked at August with wide eyes and a slight shake of his head.

August caught Eduardo’s meaning and put a radiant smile on his face. “Won’t you join us?” He slid closer to the wall and she sat down next to him. He could smell her perfume.

She studied him a moment. “Don’t you walk the path every day?”

August’s eyebrows shot up. “Uh, yes I do. I, uh, like to get my exercise.” She’s noticed me.

She nodded. “Yes, that’s good. Say, have either of you seen anyone messing with my garden?”

“That’s an interesting question, why do you ask?” said August.

“Today someone was digging again. I know you do our gardening, Eduardo, but this was on the north side where you don’t work. Bitzy, mi amor perro, found it and almost fell in! I’d hate to have to put up a fence, but I can’t have my baby getting injured. This was the last straw for my parents and they want to put up the fence. I told them I’d come to the village and see what I could find out.”

August looked pointedly at Eduardo. Eduardo shrugged and said nothing.

She continued. “I don’t know what else to do. We may have to put up the fence, but I’d hate it if you couldn’t walk the path, August.” She looked at him with doe eyes.

Eduardo let out a big sigh. “Oh, okay. It was me. Some guy from the city paid me fifty dollars to get this flower for him.” He held the flower out to Pila. She stared blankly at it.

“Have you been the one cutting our flowers, Eduardo?”

“No, but I know who’s doing it. That guy hired a couple other guys to get this flower before he asked me. They didn’t know what they were doing and kept bringing him the wrong flowers.”

Pila just stared at Eduardo. She didn’t say anything.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am. I can give you the fifty dollars.” He looked sheepish. “Please don’t call the police.” His head hung low.

She looked at August. He shrugged a shoulder.

“Do you think this is done, Eduardo?”

“I don’t know, Ma’am. If the guy doesn’t get the flower, he may come back.”

She didn’t say anything for a moment and then, “I’ll tell you what. If you help me catch him, I won’t tell the police you took it first. Just plant it back where you found it and then call him and tell him you’ve changed your mind, but that if he wants it, he can get it himself. Tell him we will be gone this evening. I’ll call the police and they can wait for him.”

Eduardo nodded.

“August, will you walk back with me?” August nodded. They stood up, said goodbye to Eduardo, waved at Jackson and left the bar.

“So…” began Pila. “How do you like the pond?”

August felt his face flush. “It’s lovely. The scenery around it is so pretty this time of year.”

“I’m not usually forward, but do you think you’d like to have a coffee with me some time?”

Butterflies erupted in August’s stomach. “Yes. Yes, I’d like that very much.”

Classic Art Series: 4 – August Part 1

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Paul Cezanne, “House of Pere Lacroix” 1873 – Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

August peered over the pond. What is she doing now? I can’t see her through the trees anymore. Autumn needs to come fast so the leaves fall. I need to see my beloved again.

Every day August strolled the walking path that tread from the center of the village, to the outskirts of town and then across the d’Arezzo estate. The d’Arezzo family had allowed villagers to walk the path into the forest for almost a hundred years, but August had recently heard they may soon revoke the privilege.  Destruction of the estate’s large gardens had occurred on several occasions and even with complaints lodged to the village council, the desecration had continued.

August walked the path to try to see the d’Arezzo’s daughter, Pila; but he also wanted to keep an eye out and perhaps even capture the criminals. If he did, Pila might think him a hero and take notice of him. He walked the path every day, yet she had only waved to him once. I wonder if she knows I walk to see her. I walk to protect her.

As he stared across the pond, he saw a rustling in the small scraggly trees on the opposite side of the pond. His heart leapt. Might she be walking to the pond? How should I stand? Should I lean against this tree? Should I pretend I don’t see her? 

A red plaid covered elbow came through the tall grass. August ducked behind a bush. The rest of the man soon followed the elbow through the scraggly trees. He carried one lone flower, roots and all. He walked along the edge of the pond to where a wheelbarrow rested, constantly scanning the area. The man put the pink flower in a tan mesh sack, laid it gently in the wheelbarrow and covered it with some other foliage. Then he picked up the wheelbarrow and whistled as he pushed it back through the scrub.

What was that about? August hurried deeper into the trees further along the path, to where he could look down the estate’s long driveway. He kept himself hidden in the trees and waited. Within a few minutes an old rusty truck with a bunch of gardening tools in the bed drove out from the main house. As the truck passed, August saw the driver – Eduardo! What is he doing?

August headed back toward town on the path, thoughts roiling around in his head. He was thirsty from the walk, so when he was back in the center of the village, instead of going up to his flat he stopped at the pub for a beer. When he walked in, he felt eyes on him.

“Hallo, August!” Jackson, the barkeeper, called. August nodded and took a seat at the bar. “You wanna pint?” Again August nodded.

Jackson watched him take a long pull from the mug. “You alright, hefe?”

August surveyed his surroundings. The few patrons paid him no attention, but his head paused mid-swing at the two men in the corner. “What’s Eduardo doin’ over there?”

“Dunno.” Jackson shrugged, drying a glass. “Why? Why don’t you go ask him? You’ve known him since primary school.”

“Who’s the guy with him?”

“Dunno.” Jackson shrugged again and put the glass up on a shelf. “You want me to go ask him?” Jackson laughed and shook his head. “It’s no my business. I keep to myself.”

August stared at Jackson. Maybe I will go ask him. For Pila. He stood up, nodded at Jackson, picked up his mug and walked toward the table.

“Hey, Eduardo! How’s it goin’ man?” August clapped a hand on Eduardo’s back and slid into the booth next to him. He held his hand out to the man across the table, dressed in fine clothes. “Hallo, what’s your name, amigo? You no from around here, eh?”

The man looked at August’s hand but did not take it, so he let it drop. The man glared at Eduardo.

“Hey, August. I’m kinda busy,” said Eduardo, his smile not quite reaching his eyes.

“Yeah,” August said, nodding and smiling. “I see you made a new friend here.” August saw the mesh sack sitting next to Eduardo on the booth bench. “What you got there?” He pointed at the sack.

“Oh, that’s nothin’. Just something I picked up at work today.”

“Oh yeah? Where you workin’ now?”

“Uh, I work up at the big house. Doin’ a bit of gardening.”

“That right? I didn’t know that. How long you been workin’ up there, man?” August turned to Jackson. “Hey Jackson, bring us a round, will you?”

Eduardo raised his hand and waved at Jackson. “No man, I got to go.” The other man glared at Eduardo, got up and left the pub.

“Hey, August, you gotta let me out, man.”

“Eduardo, we been friends a long time, no?”

Eduardo nodded and shrugged. “So?”

“Did you take something that does no belong to you?”

Eduardo’s eyebrows shot up before guilt covered his face. He squinted, quickly recovering. “What you talkin’ about?”

August glared at him. “I saw you take something up there and put it in your barrow, man.”

Eduardo’s eyes closed and he let out a long sigh. “Aw, man. You did? You saw me?” At August’s nod, he continued. “That guy out there,” he threw a thumb toward the front door, “he paid me fifty bucks to get him this flower. I figured, hey, what the heck. It’s only one flower, right?”

“Eduardo, if that guy is paying you fifty bucks, it’s probably worth a lot more than that, right? I mean, he looks like he’s from the city. He’s got those expensive clothes and not a nice face.”

The bell above the door jingled. August watched Eduardo’s face pale as he saw who entered the pub. August turned.

To be continued…

 

Classic Art Series: 2-Cicely

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Paul Cezanne, “Harlequin” 1890 – Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Cicely held her paintbrush aloft as she stared at the model dressed in the harlequin costume. Hmm… What scene should I put him in? I can’t believe I’m having so much trouble with this assignment. It’s been at least twenty minutes and I haven’t thought of a thing. It must be his eyes… they’re so sad.

He glanced at her. She blushed, quickly averting her eyes to look at her blank canvas. Oh, he caught me staring! That is so embarrassing. What do I do now? She tapped her brush against the easel. Mr. Kanton cleared his throat. She stopped tapping and peeked around her canvas. The model was looking back at the floor again.

Whew. What am I so worried about anyway? Staring at the model is what we’re here for, right? To look at and paint the model. Well, maybe not stare at the model. And maybe do some actual painting. She chuckled softly.

“Something funny, Ms. James?” her teacher croaked, arching a furry eyebrow at her.

“Um, no, sorry, Mr. Kanton.” She blushed again, and stared back at her blank canvas.

Cicely parked her brush between her teeth, folding one arm under the other. I wonder if he does this a lot. How can he stand there for several hours in the same position? Do his legs cramp up? I wonder if he has another job? Maybe he’s a student too, like me. The model caught her again.

This time she did not look away. Instead, she stood a little taller and dipped her brush in paint. She glanced at the canvas and made a black stroke. Then she glanced back at the model. Harlequin winked. She made another stroke on her canvas, this one smearing sideways. She grabbed a paper towel and tried to swipe away the paint. Her face burned. Did he just wink at me?

She peeked around her canvas again.

“Ms. James?” said Mr. Kanton from behind her. She jerked, putting another glob on her canvas. Holy cow, I didn’t even hear him walk up behind me! “You seem to be having a problem today. Can I help with anything?”

“Um, no thanks. I’m just trying to figure out which scene to put him in.”

Mr. Kanton cleared his throat. “Well, from the look of this canvas, it appears you’re going to be sacrificing him on a cross.” He raised his eyebrow at her.

Quickly thinking while trying to save herself some humiliation she answered, “Yes, yes, I am.”

She glanced at the model. Harlequin smirked at her. She dropped her brush. Paint spattered across the floor.

“Ms. James. Why don’t you go ahead and pack up for today. You are causing quite a distraction to my other pupils. We will see you again on Thursday.”

Cicely dropped her brush in the mason jar half filled with water, and then wiped up the paint from the floor. Her face blazed as she packed up her paints. Wasn’t even any reason to unpack them today. What is wrong with me? She could feel all eyes on her, especially Harlequin’s. She dare not look at anyone as she walked to the locker wall where she stored her items. She turned the lock back and forth until it clicked open, thrust her apron and paints inside and clutched her bag. Turning abruptly around, she smacked into Harlequin. He slipped a card into her bag.

“Mr. Thomas! Get back into position!” roared Mr. Kanton.

Harlequin winked at her and turned away.

Cicely fled.