Last words & epigraphs
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An Apartment of Modern Art
George Myers Jr.
Mister Charlie say, Son, don't you worry
"Yes," Mrs. Shaull said, "it's an apartment of modern art, to be sure."
Almond grimaced, nodding in the direction of her pointing hand. All four walls of the living room were solidly lined with paintings, collage and what he thought must have been 'wind chimes,' all in a variety of styles. Satie's "Medieval Drawing" hung next to Blake's "Plutus," "Rossetti's name is heard in America" next to Cocteau's "Portrait of Serge Lifar." Then came a multitude of drawings by Thurber, Feiffer, Smithson and Georg Trakl.
The spires and blocks of, yes, of course, Picasso, were jammed in against the radiator. A Rauschenberg was draped over the couch as a slipcover. It looked damp.
"As you can see, I've been entrusted with several great works," Mrs. Shaull said.
Will I break anything? Almond wondered. He had come to West Fairview to open a branch office of an insurance concern.
"I'm not especially a follower of these things," he said to Mrs. Shaull, who was in the landlady business.
"Not yet," she answered. "Most people live in the era of their choice. Just a few months ago Art Nouveau was taken, Ancient Egyptian have been nice for you, too. That's gone though. I'm sorry that this is all that's left. What price range were you thinking over?"
They walked into the bedroom and were confronted with more works of art. Goya, Giacometti and Tolouse-Lautrec . . . Since his death in 1972 at the age of eighty, Big Tom Shultz is no longer the landlord of the finest apartment of modern art. Mrs. Shaull was proud of her houses.
"Et in arcadia ego. . ."
"Never mind just now," she said.
They passed Kirchner, Klee, Miro and Tzara. Almond mumbled Grogan at a Gauguin. Le Corbusier, Degas, Grosz, Arp, Chagall and a Dali in the bathroom, over the john. The paint reflected light and luminescence. At last Almond realized these were all the original works.
"What kind of security deposit do you need?"
It was true. Nothing more than that. A rusted lamp was leaning up against a Kandinsky.
"Do you think it's smart to have so many important paintings in these few rooms and then rent out the place to a stranger? And this place is a fire trap." How would he explain this to his friends? He'd have to eat out.
"Oh, we ask for a reference."
"You know," Almond said, "this is like Breezewood, Pennsylvania: The City of Motels." He blew dust off of an end table and leaned against it with one hand on his hip. "I bet your tenants would like some insurance!"
"Everything's already taken care of, we don't need any insurance."
"Then maybe this isn't the place for me. That's a Klee over there isn't it?"
"Yes," it was a Marin, "and you'll be just right for this apartment. There's already a desk for you there, by that blank wall in the kitchen."
"Why should I stay if there's no business reason to? "
"We want you to," said Mrs. Shaull, "we want you to open up a little business here. It'll be complete. You can sit at your desk.
Not me, he thought.
Yes, Mrs. Shaull thought.
"Nope, I'd damage these things. I'd sell them or send them to acquaintances. They'd be misused. I'd not understand them."
"You'll stay," she said, "you'll look good here, too. We can get more paintings. "