One morning I was running late to the balcony. I am a creature of habit so this could have been disconcerting, but even my timing was now more governed by my elusive distant love. He rarely came to the café before 10am, I therefore felt less compelled to have risen, shaved and breakfasted before 9.30. The better pleasures were to be had and savoured later, and so I was slowly adjusting.
Therefore the phone call at 9.45 did not vex me unduly. I hate the telephone and rarely speak on it for more than minutes, the perfunctory politeness of business calls, the arrangements – brief and rare – for social interaction with those who have become my friends. None take much time nor demand much eloquence. I could attend to my caller and be comfortably out on the balcony in time to see my beloved’s brisk, elegant promenade down the piazza to his habitual café (and yes, if you have suspected I enjoyed that he was as habitual as myself you are right, we look for similarities in our loved ones once the differences have initially captured us).
I answered the phone as I always did.
– Richards here.
Richards is my surname. My full name, as shown on every painting, and the one of my fame, is Paul Arthur Richards. Of these three potentially first names I prefer the last. It sounds stronger somehow – Paul seems both pristine and common at once, Arthur is hardly the heroic man of myth on my shoulders, more the under-trodden husband of a myriad of middle class English marriages. Richards, however, has a strength. I crave strength.
All my friends know me as Richards, and are required to address me as such. To call me Paul is to court my disdain.
– Richards, mate, it’s Cliff.
Cliff is a former art student who has progressed primarily to computer art. I know him less from this than from vague family connections – his sister once went out with one of my nephews. Cliff is a clever boy and often disarming. He is also an opportunist. He has no sincere affection for me. His contact will no doubt be for something. Something he considers perhaps only I can provide.
– Cliff, how are you my dear boy?
I am allowed the affectation of my sexual taste, although I advertise its actuality to none in my personal circle, none who could call and recognize me by my name. It is accepted in an artiste, and an old one at that. Most things are accepted of the famous, as I have said earlier.
I also like insincerity in myself; I like to send it out as I expect always to receive it. As you have received, so shall you give. I have few things to divert me in such a manner. I make the most of what I have, and hurt none after all – they do not know that is what I am doing.
– Fine, fine. I have a proposition to make to you.
– Ah, all my Christmases coming at once? Do tell, you know I hate surprises.
– A project Richards. A project I’m working on. We – my friend Ant and myself – are working on a series of animated ‘stories’ for want of a better word to have in a virtual collection.
– I’m not a writer Cliff
– Nor do you need to be! The point of you..the point of calling you..is the same as the others we are approaching!
– Other artists, other painters and so forth. Others of your caliber, in your league.
– Few of them
– Oh, of course Richards! But we only need four. Four artists for four perfect virtual art stories. Four very different artists, your work being the most traditional. You provide us with a story and some storyboards, some paintings…and then we animate them to fit the story. Or someone else writes the story and you illustrate it, then we animate it.
– No, not comics! Not Disney-fucking-land! Art Richards! Living art! Controversy! Soul! Not bloody Mickey Mouse I assure you!
– On a computer?
– Don’t be a snob old boy…computers are just a medium, like your canvas and paint..your art, in a living, moving form – animated through technology but still your art. Art in a manner never seen before. Not comics, nothing banal and usual. A new concept. A new way for your art to be.
– Have you approached your other three artists?
– And they are interested?
– I am surprised. But then, you can take hope in that. No doubt you will find someone to replace me.
– Richards..don’t be like that…
– Cliff, I have no wish for my art to be ‘animated’..I believe it has more than sufficient life on the canvas. I will not take part in some space age comic book sideshow…
– Cliff, I accept you have not meant to offend me, but persist and you most definitely shall…
I was looking at my digital clock in that moment, realizing it was drawing perilously close to 10am. I could not miss a footstep of my love for this drivel!
– Richards, you are taking this the wrong way..
– No Cliff, I am taking it my way..thank you for the offer, I politely decline..and if there is nothing else, I bid you good day….
I hung up the phone and looked at it for a few moments, as though some explanation for the indignity that had just been suggested to me could come forth from its inanimate form. My art was not a comic. There was nothing ‘virtual’ about my work. Cliff had clearly missed the point of art itself, which was hardly surprising. It occurred to me that Cliff would usually miss the point.
I took out a cigarette from the packet next to the phone and tapped it, almost absent-mindedly, on the teak table top. I looked to my balcony, the bright rays of the morning sun painting the scene with its own welcoming light. I had an angel to watch.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved