by Leon Arduous
Part 2 - the hint of a trail
'Whaaa...t!' said the old crone through trembling lips. Who are you, what do you want? 'enry, come quick, we have some cccc....ustomers!'
The way she said 'customers' made me think the last ones might have just caught Noah's boat before it departed.
'Pa look'. My boy stepped back a pace or two as an even older creature appeared from the gloomier depths. He moved with a funny sort of hop and shuffle you mainly only see in 1930 hunchback movies.
I plunged a hand into my pocket and removed one of my more impressive business cards. It was the one that described me as a famous artist, writer, hollywood producer, stunt man and house-trained wimp. I stepped forward and I offered it up. The old man whipped it from my grasp and placed it on the desk so he could peer at it directly.
'It's blank!' he straightened and fixed me with his one good eye.
'Turn it over,' I said.
Ah... so you've gone and wrote somethin' on the back then! he exclaimed with the all the gravity of venture capitalist discovering my web site. Then he lurched into a tirade.
'Bloody luxury I say! All you young folks with your upside-down cards and your demands. When I was a boy we'd have given an arm and a leg just to have been sent to prison. Instead, ma and pa come home each night and beat us unconscious with a rolled up copy of the League of nations human rights manifesto. And, you know, we'd never complain. Complain? We used to beg to be treated like that. Didn't even know the meaning of the word complain. But we never grumbled. We had it tough. Every morning we were woken up by a pack of wolves and made to walk a hundred miles through three feet of snow to school. Summer and winter both, an' when we got there we were made to work for 14 hours digging latrines. And we were never paid a single cent....' Fortunately a fit of coughing brought the old man back to us.
'Well Mr ... he peered down .... Mr Wimp what do ye want, exactly?'
'Does the museum ..... '
'A dollar each. That's my starting price, take it or leave it.'
'.... have any spotted Bouguereau's?'
Suddenly he went even paler, and began to hiss like a punctured tire. 'We sold our only spotted Bouguereau's to a spiv, a Mexican snake oil artist who had a card like yours. And for what? For some plump young Pollocks and a brace of red spotted Wahols and I've never had a moments peace since I bought them birds', he paused only to let our a long high howl. 'Accursed and bloody things that they are, they will not be content till they have sucked the life-blood, sold the roof over my head, and sent me to the pauper's grave to perish. Merciful God,' he wept, 'it's fearful, it's awful, it's cruuu...el that I should be afflicted thus in my old age. How much, how much more?' His eyes roved wildly and his gnarled arthritic hand tore at his rooster like throat.
'Donít get excited 'enry, the wispy old lady pleaded tying and untying her own arthritic hands, it was only a Bouguereau'
'Only a Bouguereau! Jesus God!' he screamed. 'But I'm ruined.' he began sobbing in burlesque sniffles, and to pace randomly about. 'Took my beautiful Bouguereau and the crested Waterhouse and left me with this gawking rubbish.
'Your a fiend out of hell,' he cried .....', plunging forward and grabbing for my throat. 'Cruel and criminal monster is what you are, you will put us all in the ground before you are done.'
Suddenly he fell backward with a howl of terror. Obviously he mistook me for someone else and now the blinds had flapped up he realized his mistake.
'Umm Mexican you said ...?' I prompted.
'Dammed greaser ... still got his card'. Henry then produced a tatted card with a name and an address in Mexico City. Suddenly I realized that if I could get a hold of this one spotted Bouguereau maybe I could lift the moral and intellectual level of American ornothology at least an inch ... and perhaps two. But then again I might just be dreaming, seeing myself as Don Quixote again.
I turned to my son. 'I wish they would wake us up from this nightmare.'
'Wah wah,' Pa he replied. 'Maybe there's nothing, and maybe there's nobody there to wake us.'
I looked at him with pride, the boy was a chip off the old block, a philosopher ahead of his time.
'I donít care ... it's Mexico City for me' I exclaimed with all the gravity of a St Bernard who'd caught the scent of a buried skier.
To be continued .... Next stop .... Mexico City(maybe)!
CONTINUED Part 3 .....