Saturday 18 June 2022

'Exigency' by Alyssa Walker

I want that says Lucy to Max, looking up mid-trudge over slippery cobblestones at something red through a window. They are supposed to ride Le Funiculaire but the storm comes early so she plies him with coffee and drags him down gallery row through ice pellets.

They step in and stomp their feet. It’s like a movie, all antique lamps and yellow light, the friendly and distracted gallery owner who accidentally leaves the door unlocked, old mellow jazz, fireplace with real fire.

They offer bonjours, his louder than hers because he forgets his hearing aids at the hotel.

It’s huge. Dense poppies, fierce movement and heat.

Combien coute, eh? and Lucy points to the canvas. Max offers a robust slurp, shoulders hunched into his jacket and looks up, having heard something. He tugs her jacket, rebukes her with a look.

It will fit in the hatchback, she whispers. We can come back later to pick it up.  

You’re buying a painting? Top of his lungs. The gallery owner shuffles paper on her desk.

Yes, says Lucy. I’m buying a painting. It’s ridiculous. But --

But you’ve never.

I love it,
she says.

Tres mille, says the gallery owner from behind them.

Lucy smiles, looks at her feet as the wind slaps her face from the door opening and closing so fast.

She gives a last look before she says merci and follows him out.

They call it the red painting they didn’t buy. Whenever Max tells the story, they are both in love with it but the gallery owner won’t sell. The owner’s mother painted it, Max explains, and it was a gift. It would have fit in the back of our car, he says, and Lucy listens.

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