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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXII: Present

Jennifer Craugh walked them out and stood on her doorstep to watch them leave. Her head remained cocked as if she attempted to solve the question of what Orion Livesey had truly wanted. Brendon stared at her in the side mirror as Orion pulled away, out into the summer morning and through the young neighborhood with its just-planted trees and too many roses.

“She’s been in those woods,” said Orion.

“You can’t be sure. Not when you frame your questions about dreams.”

“You can’t be sure. I can.”

Brendon shot him an annoyed glare, but Orion didn’t react.

“Aren’t you worried those wolves might tear her apart?”

“No. Because they’re made of paint. I bought it online and had it shipped cross country to my door. Tubes had expiration dates and a chemical list, a warning about ingesting because some people seem to need that sort of thing.”

“I think Jennifer has woken from what she thought were dreams to dirt on her bare feet and leaves in her hair. Did you see the hair on the armchair?”

“She probably has a dog.”

“No kennel, no food dish, no smell of one in the air. Didn’t see a leash by the door or nail marks on the hardwood floor of the kitchen.”

“You didn’t inspect her house.”

“You didn’t inspect her house,” corrected Orion again. “Pet-owners, especially of dogs, often have photos of their dogs, but the ones on Jennifer’s hall table were all of her, who I assume is her husband, and what looked like their parents. She didn’t have any floor pillows or cushions in her reading room either and if she were spending her evenings there, I’d assume a dog might as well. No chew toys, not even tucked out of sight under a table.”

“So maybe she has a cat.”

“No pulls on the couches and no anti-clawing strips or posts or toys.”

“Maybe she cleans,” muttered Brendon.

“More than you, yes. But the gathered dust on the top of the curtains claim she doesn’t do it daily. Plus, she stores incense on the table and pencils on another.”

Brendon stared at the angles on Orion’s dash, then lowered his gaze to where a slight glare on a raised sticker reflected the man’s face from a strange upward angle that exaggerated his cheekbones and the length of his nose. “Maybe her cat is old. Not all of them feel the need to push things to the ground.”

“Maybe she doesn’t own any animals at all except the wolves you painted her in a forest she can get lost within.”

“Shall we go back and demand to search her house for pets?” snapped Brendon, a little harsher than he meant.

Orion chuckled. “While you were busy checking whether your painting would be fading from the sunlight, I looked everywhere else.”


“You’re not a hard one to read, Brendon.”


Next Chapter: XXXIII