FICTION: CBLB The “Pearl In The Oyster”
The following story, which will be serialized once a week on this blog, is FICTION. Though set within actual cultural set points of time and place, as one would find in historical fiction, no one character is based on anyone living or dead, but imaginary.
This is satire. I hope it’s a fun ride, which is my sole intention as the author.
This work is registered with the Writers’ Guild of America and is additionally protected. Law will prosecute any use of the following work without explicit permission by the author.
The Pearl in the Oyster
“Theo, who are the coyotes?”
Theologie’s roommate flung some ruby paint on a diagonal from the top right of a wall sized canvas to the lower left making little bird tracks with her brush as she spoke. In a few seconds she crouched down, with her delicate bare heels balancing her buttocks. The black shorts just cupping the edge of the curved flesh atop her heels caught Theologie’s gaze.
Theologie pushed her poetry anthology over her knees so the book weighed heavily on her joints, like a brick. “They’re everywhere.” She said in a way that made them as common in Manhattan as cab drivers. Coyotes did roam everywhere these days. The press reported every other week that one had escaped and sauntered down from Westchester County into the city limits.
People, artists, others who privately vomited things they did not understand in their gut, processing them later in secret mental petri dishes, would likely think Theologie careless. She strewn papers around their little apartment. Her roommate could easily read about whatever she had puked out, on any given day.
She privately liked that this girl who shared her flat and sometimes her bed, picked up after her. Theologie knew she eagerly awaited what had been crumpled and discarded behind a sofa or pushed behind the Mr. Coffee machine in their cramped kitchen. It reminded her of when she was small and would hunt for remnants of her mother’s life before she had gone Jesus. Luckily, there was no room for Jesus in Manhattan, or at least where she circulated. There was no room for him in Paris or London either, where Reggie flew her from time to time. And Reggie was the devil.
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The roommate now flecked a gob of lemon yellow smack into the middle of the bird tracks. “What’s it going to be this time?” Theologie asked, but she already knew the outcome.
“Not sure.” Shrugged the roommate who turned to face Theo with a toothy grin. So earnest and driven, this flat mate of hers constantly painted from dusk to dawn, always beginning with some kind of pathway, this time bird tracks, and always ending up with at least one colorific female divided into part demon, part blossom.
“Stop mimicking Picasso.” Theologie always told her, but she liked her work. It felt more raw than Picasso’s transfigured or disfigured lovers, his Olgas or Dora Maars.
“Disfigure me. Do anything you’d like to me.” Theologie would joke as she watched her dip and spread her brush from different angles.
She liked that the roommate stood a bit squat but had muscular calves. She liked her mop top of brown hair that she cut herself with paper scissors in all kinds of layers that jutted upwards and outwards like an eccentric aunt’s wig. She liked her steely blue pupils, as small as pin pricks that moved constantly to quotidian beats and cues. She liked the warmth of her, there. They had their plan.
Reggie’s days were numbered. Was today a Reggie day or a roommate day? She and the roomie would draw rough penises on the calendar for the Carlyle trysts. Often, Theo would sketch a phallic symbol and the artist would later insert wacky eyes or a twisted nose that reminded Theo of a Mr. Potato Head toy her mom had bought for her. Mr. Potato Head and Reggie both lived in the Seventies, both fat, but Potato — still fat to Reggie’s slim– probably never made it to the UK.
Even when Theologie ventured out with her “bfa,” best friend artist, kids would clamor around her only to ask, “Where’s Reggie?” She could not fault Reggie, her means to an end. Like so many great leading men of certain times, he made her a star from LES to Portobello Road.
“Theologie, darling. I’m outside in the car.” Reggie would text her from some town car he had rented. He refused to call her Theo like everyone else. She knew he was acting out some perverse prince charming role, squiring her away from the lesbian and ushering her uptown.
“Want to bring her in sometime?” Theo had joked to him. His eyebrows lifted and he considered it, even asking one afternoon in bed. “Should we, should we?” But she flatlined. “No, I’m not interested in her at all. Sorry, hon.” He always winced when Theo said “hon,” and then she’d laugh.
“You’re the pearl in the oyster!” The artist shouted as she whipped around on the ground to dip her brush into more paint. “The pearl in the oyster!” Theologie breathed in the druggy vinegar vapors of paint as she sunk deeper into the worn upholstered chair with curved fat arm rests that faced the canvas. They bonded this way, she, with some heavy book in her lap, glancing up from time to time at the girl. She was the pearl and the chair had become “the oyster” the day they had it hauled from Housing Works in Chelsea to their Essex Street dive.
A couple weeks after dropping out of a two year college outside of Nashville, Theo had cashed out a little saving account her mother put away for her to fly to New York. In the city, she had been living on couches from Bushwick to the East Village and ended up on the sofa bed of some guy friend from down South. He tried to crawl in next to her each night but every time he’d attempt to slide his hand somewhere close, she’d roll him onto the floor. He bartended at Lit, and as a rule, she did not sleep with bartenders. One night when the bartender dragged her out with him, she literally bumped into the artist at a group show, in the Fuse Gallery in the back room at Lit.
“Why don’t you come home with me?” She asked.
“Only if you paint me.” Theologie told her.
“I’ll paint you in crimson and opal.” The artist told her.
“Do you have a sofa bed?” Theo asked.
“I do.” The artist smirked.
“You can’t lay a hand on me.” Theo insisted, lifting her right palm.
“Only a brush, and only if you ask.” The artist answered.
Theo asked and she stayed. While the artist received monthly payments from a sickly but wealthy blue blood grandfather in Massachusetts, Theo offered to search for work. She composed music electronically for her MySpace page, sculpted a little, thought about making her words into graffiti art. But the artist insisted that Theo sit for her in the chair. “You’re the pearl in the oyster!”
Theo had modeled for at least a dozen paintings by the time Reggie trailed her at the Boom Boom room at the Standard Hotel a few weeks later. Reggie watched her as she jokingly clipped a deejay playing disco in the chin. “No Souxsie Sue? I want Souxsie Sue!” Reggie just stood there hovering over Theo and her “bfa,” best friend artist. “The “bfa” wore Doc Martens boots and Levis, “the boy” against Theo’s girl in cowboy boots and a vintage Missoni dress she found in a bin down south for fifty dollars.
“He’s that guy, the photographer.” The artist briefed Theo. “I actually love his work.” She giggled. “They’re all muff shots. He turns girls into stars.”
“I might need to do this.” Theo said, arching an eyebrow towards Reggie while speaking to the artist
“I know.” She replied, her steely eyes not flinching.
“Just give me a couple months, several weeks.” Theo said then.
As the artist dotted more bird tracks across her painting, Theo’s gaze turned toward the calendar hanging off a New York Times magnet on their fridge. Six full weeks of phallic potato head drawings, a steady deejay gig, style shots in magazines, and myriad pairs of Loboutin heels.
So far, so good.