by Leon Arduous
Part 1 - setting off
So it was just one week after the opening of the duck hunting season I found myself reaching for my trusty double-barrelled Hoving and Hockney binoculars and casting off silently into the slow-running streets of the San Francisco art scene in search of some easy prey.
By God, it was a marvellous sensation. I felt the hairs on my neck stand on end and my nostrils flare in the misty downtown petrol fumes, and using the Cherokee Indian 'silent lope' my original instructor recommended ( I have always insisted on stalking in the western way ... it sorts out the men from the boys ... the limp wristed, mincing, nancies, from the real men ... so I tell my son).
The lad hadn't quite yet captured the frontier spirit. He just stared morosely into the misty dawn and asked: "Papa, what's a Bouguereau look like? Is it dangerous?"
The question hit me like a rock.
I suddenly realized I had never come across one in the flesh, so to speak, not that I recalled anyway. Still, not to worry I told the boy as we took a breather in a graffiti streaked, Pollockish no-roof bus shelter. "We'll soon find someone who can describe what one looks like. There's bound to be other hunters searching the galleries and museums. Everyone will be out looking for them now it is open season. If not," I confided in an effort to keep his spirits up, “we could alway hunt for the Silver-crested Tadmena or the red-quilled migratory Waterhouse". Though I admitted to myself no one had sighted one of those since the Ingres were all shot out.
Shortly afterwards we came up to a rather modern studded steel door set in a glass wall that proclaimed itself as a fine art museum of some sort.
We strode inside and asked the middle-aged man who seemed to be in charge if he knew of any Bouguereaus around the area.
He seemed almost amused at the idea. He was adamant we would not spot one. "Not in these parts," he proclaimed proudly. "Anyway, they are a rare breed these days. They tell me there used to be lots of them but they were almost wiped out by an overabundance of photographers and academics which trampled down their natural habitat.
"Then the few remaining healthy collections were blighted by curatorworm. They never really recovered." He further specualted that the only creatures we were likely to come across were the wedged-tailed post-modernist, a plump sleek creature which infested the area in swarms and was recognizable by its constant loud barking cry, a sponge like species that can be seen in large flocks gorging themselves in outdoor restraunts.
As our local expert pointed out: "Both of these are extremeley hostile to the spotted Bouguereau. They won't tolerate them in the same environment." It seemed he was right and we moved on.
Later, in a backstreet beside a greasy takeaway joint we edged ourselves through a rather grand but run-down portico with 'Endangered Species Museum' cut into the a huge overhead plinth. I swung back my cloak exposing the twin barrells of the Hoving and Hockney binoculars and we tiptoed through the half-light so as not to disturb any of the thick dust or cobwebs. "Ah, the natural habitat of the lesser-spotted Bouguereau," I whispered to the boy. "Keep a sharp lookout."
I steered the boy along till we came to an ancient old crone, who was either in charge of the place or measuring long-term rigour-mortis. I asked if she had seen any lesser-spotted Bouguereau or long-necked pre-raphelites in the area.
"Whaaaa... " her lips trembled.
CONTINUED Part 2