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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XIV: Present

“I had a friend,” Brendon began.

Mr. Livesey sipped his stout unconcernedly, blue eyes sparkling and his manner attentive, giving Brendon the impression the man waited to pounce.

“Casey Mattingly. We grew up together. One of the first paintings I crafted on my own stretched canvas was a gift to him. A car—a Le Mans—with fire roaring out the exhaust and under the tires like he was tearing up the devil.”

There’d been no future in that picture. The road blending into the black background, sky and land a void. Casey had loved it, claimed the world was just as dark and mysterious, waiting to be discovered by anyone brave enough to floor it down the drag.

A middle-aged woman, with a flour-spattered apron and a soft-spoken voice, arrived then. She set down a panini for Brendon and a simple BLT sub for Mr. Livesey, a small complementary crab dip and crackers going between them both.

Once she had disappeared and Brendon had something other than calculating blue eyes on which to focus, he went on. “We’d thought it a bad dream he had.”

“You and this Casey?”

And Robbie. Robbie especially, a pragmatic mind to calm Casey’s hysterics and Brendon’s imagination.

Brendon nodded. “He said he found himself on a long, dark road, tarmac hot from the day.”

Beastly hot, Bren. Clawing at your skin hot. Like the devil lived underneath.

“There’d been the roaring of an engine.”

A beautiful Le Mans, popping now and then, a tiny misfire fudging up the rhythm. Exhaust stuttering like that boy in Compass who always joined our pickup basketball games during recess.

“And he saw a light. A fire.”

Like eyes at first, Bren. Burning into my soul. Maybe the devil wasn’t too fond of those things I said to my sister the day I found her with that damn teacher, whats-his-name, Mr. Tallir.

“It came toward him down the road, roaring, the light turning into a streak.”

He fell into an introspective silence that Mr. Livesey didn’t break.

Another couple, a man dressed in khakis and a button-down with a base pass tapping against his buttons, the woman in navy pumps and a cream blouse, sat down at a nearby table, breaking the silence as iron chair legs screeched against pavers. Casey would have thrown them a caustic glare. Robbie would have wondered why, given he’d have been wearing khakis and a button-down as well.

“Brendon.” Mr. Livesey’s voice had gentled, become soft, soothing. “Brendon, how many original painting have you sold over the years?”

“I don’t know.”

“Too many. The sign of a success. An artist reaching toward his prime.”

Something in Mr. Livesey’s tone made Brendon lift his eyes from the picked at label of his ale. Mr. Livesey tapped knuckles lightly against the table. Absently. His BLT only half-finished, tomato leaking out of the bread like a red light of warning.

“How many that might cause grief?”

Brendon swallowed. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I just…don’t know.”

Mr. Livesey’s hand, warm from the sun and the wrought iron, settled over Brendon’s. “Don’t you think you should find out?”


Next Chapter!