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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
When he thought about it, Brendon wasn’t sure whether things had started with Robbie. Or before that, with Casey. Maybe everything had started some inconsequential day, not worthy of remembrance, lost in a simpler time.
When he thought about it again, Brendon realized that no matter what might have happened with Casey, with Robbie, with his parents, his aunt or his favorite art teacher in middle school, that the day things had truly begun was the day he’d met Orion Livesey.
He’d been working at his larger easel, on a painting that would be a bayscape, part of the bottom cut away to reveal the clams and crabs clambering about the shallows. He had a stack of photos nearby, some hung up on wire, so he might reference the shape and size of crab pincers and the curves and crevices of living clams.
The far windows were open to let in a breeze that wouldn’t disturb his work and he’d propped the heavy door to the studio to allow the air to flow. Music, Bach and Handel and Mozart, played quietly on repeat on an ancient, paint-stained player on the floor by the outlet. He remembered the day well, down to the minutia. He could have painted the moment, though he never did.
So engrossed in his work, breath held to keep his arm steady, Brendon didn’t realize anyone was with him until that someone cleared his throat.
Brendon released the breath he’d been holding in a startled exhale that smoothed across the fresh strokes. Then he turned.
The first thing Brendon noted was the package under the man’s arm, layers of bubble wrap and cloth. Only then did his gaze skip up to the man himself.
The stranger was tall, without being lanky, and held himself carefully, every motion calculated, like math. He wore a grim expression, the kind Brendon would have painted on a background figure looking on during a morose scene, just enough emotion to give a hint, but not enough to draw the eye or become the focal. He suspected that this man represented that ideal: always there, but never at the forefront.
“You’re Brendon Kotes.” He did not seem to be asking.
Brendon shrugged and tipped the brush back from the canvas so he wouldn’t inadvertently smear the paint. He found himself holding his breath again as the man laid his package on the long wooden table.
“I’ve come to return a painting.”