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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LIX: Present

With a sudden lack of care, Brendon gathered his things, using baywater to give his palette a cursory scrub before throwing his canvas face-up on the pier and lugging his easel and paints toward the car. Orion followed at a slower pace, holding both canvases outward from his body, and though he never said a word but “Here,” Brendon felt that telescoping gaze boring into him.

Only when they were in the air conditioning, blowers drowning out the cicadas and the distant rumble of a motorboat, did Brendon turn on Orion.

“You think I’m some murderer. Since you walked into my studio you’ve thought it. Throwing words like victim and threat, profiling me in a way even the police don’t. Seeing nothing but what you want to see.”

“I’m not—”

“I’m taking you back to your car and then I don’t want you to bother me—or my clients—again. Take Erikson’s paid-for painting and do what you please with it. Sell it, junk it, burn it. I don’t care. Just take your assumptions away from me.”

Then Brendon angrily threw the car into gear and, gravel churning, jerked them out of the lot. They rode in silence, Brendon steaming silently and Orion—probably calculating whether he could bring a lawsuit to bear. The air conditioning turned their sweat cold, Brendon’s shirt clinging in the worst places like ice packs and still it did nothing to cool his temper, his fury building with each new additional thought that piled up.

He wants me to admit it. Wants me to confess.

My God, is he wearing a wire? How would I know?

Wait, it doesn’t matter whether he is or not because it’s all impossible anyway.

Isn’t it?

His mind went in circles, nibbling at something that had once been whole. Like a turkey vulture. Buzzards gazing down hungrily at a bloody windshield.

“Brendon? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” Tight words, bit off like black hunks of flesh, ground into old asphalt. Death on wheels. A rusty Le Mans smiling, burning track, shadows of grass nothing but shivering tentacles.

He pulled into a parking spot two blocks from his studio.

“Get out.”

Orion dropped a business card into the cup holder unapologetically. Then obediently got out, looking left, right, up and down the brick-laid sidewalk before deciding to head into the chocolate store. Brendon could just make his form out as he strode toward the ice cream counter, but there Orion disappeared.

“Going, going, gone,” said Brendon to himself.

He went around to his trunk, conscious still of a calculating gaze likely watching through the storefront window. The two paintings lay side by side in the trunk, Brendon’s moons winking at him where they crossed the sky. Orion hadn’t painted the water, or the moon, or the dilapidated restaurant.

He’d painted Brendon. Crudely, to be sure, Brendon’s body more of an impression of dark skin and blue denim, the pier smudges of brown, the easel a few reddish lines and the canvas a stark emptiness. The paintbrush in Brendon’s hands had been turned cleverly into what looked like a wand. Or perhaps not so cleverly; Orion’s skill merely bastardizing bristles.

“Want me to take that atrocity?”

Brendon looked up slowly, his hand still holding onto the raised trunk. Orion stood there, just out of sight of the trunk’s contents, licking chocolate ice cream off a spoon, bits of white chocolate shavings sprinkled over the cup.

“It’s your canvas though. You’re welcome to keep it.”


Orion took another bite.

“What did you paint me holding?”

“Expected a knife? After all, you think I’m here to destroy you.”

“Aren’t you?”

Another bite, forcing Brendon to wait for the answer. “I’m not sure.”

“That’s not comforting.”

“I’m not a comforting man. I’m an honest one though. You look hot. Want an ice cream?”

“I’m not sharing your ice cream.”

The spoon froze midway toward Orion’s mouth. Yet his mouth remained open. If only he hadn’t been wearing those sunglasses.


Next Chapter Coming Mar 17th!