My contribution for this week’s Speakeasy challenge. Thanks for reading!
Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes. They follow me from Rubens’ The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus (those women asked for it, you know, I picture Pollux saying to his buddy Castor), to another century in which Albrecht Dürer portrayed merchant Oswolt Krel, perplexed but stoic. In Munich’s Alte Pinakothek, the Old Masters haunt each room thick with impastoed oils and heavy gilt frames.
I feel out of place in this man’s man world of mythology and patronage, and now followed by a stranger in a plain blue suit. I could paint any picture on his canvas of blue – he’s a spy, a murderer, a provocateur. Maybe a long lost brother who recognized me by the beauty mark at the corner of my eye. Or the agent of an uncle who has tried to track me down, carrying a secret message from my estranged family. I don’t have an estranged family and I never had a brother. I am alone in the world.
In Germany, I think all old men have glassy, unblinking eyes. I can’t get past the Nazi thing. I imagine that each is the son of an SS officer, and that in their closets are black polished boots and wide black belts and swastikas like Christmas ornaments hanging from chains. I know it isn’t fair, but that’s what happens when your fathers are murderers.
But this blue-suited, unblinking Nazi is following me through the museum of Old Masters, past Dürer, Rubens, Bosch, Rembrandt, Raphael, da Vinci. I put my left hand in my coat pocket and bend my elbow slightly to make it look like I’m holding a gun. I pull my purse tighter over my right shoulder. He moves when I move, stops when I stop. I spy him as I look left to right and right to left. I step down the long stairwell where the rows of slanted light from windows above cast the walls with imaginary jail cells.
Maybe he is intimidated, as I am, by the Great Last Judgement, Rubens’ colossal Jesus, Mary, and Moses, lifting up the blessed and casting down the damned. It is Godzilla-sized, if Godzilla had a living room. The year that Rubens finished it my ancestors were preparing to make passage from England to a temporary refuge in the Netherlands on their way to America, escaping persecution for their Puritan ways.
The unblinking eyes are at my side now, gazing up at Jesus and the pile of dead. He says in perfect English, “I hoped you would come to this, this Great Last Judgement. Everyone should contemplate their fate before a masterpiece.”
“Excuse me?” I ask.
“You will die someday, yes?”
“I don’t understand.” I lie. “I’m an atheist.” I lie again.
“Even more reason for you to pay attention,” he says, shifting his eyes, finally, to the ground. He pulls a pamphlet out of his inside pocket. Jesus is on the cover, looking like the ‘70s hippie that churches like The Way depicted him back in those days.
I pull my fake gun hand out of my pocket and take the pamphlet. Anything to get rid of him.
As he walks away, I say, “You know, Jesus didn’t look like this.”
Lovely work; fun to read; thank you…
Thank you, Jacqueline!
Well written, evocative. Drew me in.
Thanks so much. Appreciate the read!
A cute and unusual story. I especially like the side comments peppered throughout. The second sentence drew me in.
Thanks, Andrew! Much appreciated.
A truly original take on the prompt, and an enjoyable read. Good one!
Thank you — so glad you enjoyed it.
I loved it, very funny! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks so much, James. Always happy when someone gets my awkward sense of humor. 😉
Happy Birthday to Albrecht Durer, Nornberg Germany, Renaissance painter/print maker!
What a great coincidence!
That’s how I feel when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door.
Yes, I was thinking of their brochures!
Very clever. Great job.
Ah…you had me and I was sweating with her…and then there he is a bible toter! Good job and very well written!
They can appear menacing sometimes! (Not that there is anything wrong with toting a bible.) 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting.
Of course there is nothing wrong with toting a blible…I meant only one of those persons who try to convince or coherce you into some sort of ideaological belief, lay or religious of any sort. 😉
I did understand what you meant–and agree. I am so paranoid about writing about religion, fearful that someone will be offended. Hence, the “not that there is anything wrong with…” qualification. I really should just get over it. LOL. 😉
know what you mean…have had some run-ins with one of my sisters…shish!
Haha, I could totally see me reacting like this (all these paranoid thoughts about someone’s motives and it turns out being innocent!)
Hah! Yes, I’ve done it before, too. Thanks for reading.
This was fabulous. So smooth and buttery–your beautiful words just slide off the tongue. In fact, I absolutely love your word choices: impastoed oils, provocateur… Melodious words I can hear as I read your story and get sucked into the scene. Bravo!
Aww, thanks so much. I like to think of words as having melody. Sometimes–well, often actually– I get a little too precious about them. It’s something I need to learn how to let go. Appreciate your kind comments!
I love “pretty” words. I collect them! They are hoarded away and line the pages of several journals. Ironically, for me, they are best left to stay there and out of my own writing. That’s why I so appreciate your talent to take those melodious words and weave them so seamlessly into your story. That’s true talent. When I do it, it looks like a thesaurus vomited on the page 😉
LOL. A vomiting thesaurus!
Ack!I too would be nervous as hell if my ancestors were murderers and someone dogged my steps like that!What a relief that he was just another of those weirdos!There were many asides which made me giggle and chuckle and the lines that chilled me were,”I imagine that each is the son of an SS officer, and that in their closets are black polished boots and wide black belts and swastikas like Christmas ornaments hanging from chains.”Very well written!
I’m so glad you found yourself chuckling. And also chilled. Thanks very much for the read and comments. You are so great about finding something to like in everything.
Ha!ha!No Meg,if only there is something great ,I find it,like everyone else 😀
Who knew Jehovah Witness’s took to pestering people in museums now. A bit creepy. Extremely well written recounting of a very odd experience!
Hah! Well, they probably don’t, but in my imagination they are everywhere! They come to my door at least twice a year. One time I had an extended conversation with two young Witnesses and I used the word “aesthetic” (I can’t remember the context) — and one said, “Oh, you like art.” Like it was a bad thing. LOL.
Great take on the prompts! I love the narrator’s voice and the way she lets her imagination run as she makes her way through the gallery. And I love the easy progression of the story to its charming ending. Nicely done! 🙂
Thanks, Suzanne! The narrator is a little nutty. 😉
Wow, the stalking was so creepy. I really loved the way the narrator imagines scenarios in her mind and then dismisses them- it’s so realistic. Well done!
Thank you for kindly reading and commenting! It was fun to write.
I love all the descriptions of the pieces and the slow pursuit through the place. The tension stayed high throughout. I enjoyed this a lot!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading and commenting!
This is so well-written. I love your detailed descriptions and the surprise ending. Your last line made me laugh. Karen
Thank you, Karen! Happy it made you laugh!
Pingback: winners of the speakeasy at yeah write #162 | the speakeasy at yeah write
This was really cool, funny, very well written 🙂
So happy you enjoyed it, Stephen. Thanks for reading!
“if Godzilla had a living room”. Oh Meg. I can’t breathe! I don’t know how I missed this little paranoid gem.
Hah! You never know. 😉