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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXVIII: Present

She’d been twenty-six. In the ground now these last eight years at St. Thomas next to her grandmother. Her obituary claimed she’d drown in her family’s home. They didn’t say bathroom or kitchen or Jacuzzi. They didn’t say saltwater. But Brendon remembered the painting he’d completed for the Yert family…eight years ago. Same year Robbie had gotten back from his European backpacking trip.

Marylanders and their crabs.

“It’d been another bayscape. I do a lot of them. Locals like it. Sort of a claim, part of what culture we have.” He swallowed and took another gulp of the whiskey Orion had brought when he’d arrived on Brendon’s doorstep. “Been on a few postcards,” he added. “Don’t know if they sell.”

Orion poured another few fingers and sat back in the armchair. The room felt tiny and tight, all the walls too full of drawings and sketches and work. Yet he didn’t seem to mind. He sat, larger than God and as ambiguous in his blessings. The small world of Brendon Kotes his to play in.

That might have been an unfair observation. A good painting though.

“That particular commission came from Katherine Yert. She took me into her guest bathroom—huge room, bigger than my apartment—and showed me the decor, wanted me to match the shades exactly. Quite particular so I took photos and copious notes even though it made the painting a tad more teal than would be right. Though, I guess that’s a matter of perspective.”

“What is it that makes you think Evelyn Yert drown because of your painting?”

Brendon hesitated. “She’s… She was…”

She’d been vivacious, yet silly. Athletic, snow-loving and full of weird facts, but most of that was ignored in favor of breasts boys drooled over all through high school. She’d been Robbie’s first and a direction for Casey’s fury. She’d been someone Brendon had never really known.

“Casey hated her.”

“Casey…Mattingly? The ex with the devil car painting?”

Brendon nodded mutely.

“Were you dating Casey when you took the Yert commission?”

Brendon slowly shook his head.

“Did you hate her then?”

That question would have come, Brendon had known, but he still didn’t have an answer. “She had sex with Robbie. Casey got jealous.”

Orion looked like he was trying to control a level of confusion bordering on tired bemusement. He considered for a moment, then leaned forward and downed his own glass. “Tell me about this Casey.”

“He was a friend. He—”

Was a poor boy with a shit dad and an overworked mom. He was in love with the rumbling of engines and dreamt of races and burning rubber and straightaways that never ended. He had a sharp tongue, in more ways than one, and a defensive side. Passionate. Dangerous. Mine.

At least for a few brief years.

“We grew up on the same street. Well, almost the same street. He was on the corner lot and I was down about half a mile. Sidewinder Lane, all filled with curves and switchbacks, tacking through the forest, hitting Grant’s Lorry and Lakeside Roads.”

“And Casey?” prompted Orion.

“He was my best friend. One of them anyway. Could hold a grudge though.” He looked into his whisky, all liquid gold, glittering in the lamplight.

“Because Robbie had sex with Evelyn Yert?”

Brendon didn’t have to look at Orion’s face to know the level of disbelief there. “High school, man.” Then he took another sip and turned his focus on a quad of bird sketches tacked up behind Orion’s head. Cardinals. There’d been a commission for them. And he’d liked the way that practice sheet had come out.

“High school,” agreed Orion. “Do you think you had any resentment for Miss Yert as well?”

Brendon shook his head this time. If he didn’t, the question would just come again, reworded, over and over until Orion got what he wanted.

“If anything, I was thankful to her, in an indirect way.”

“How so?”

Slush dripping down the windshield. Heat blasting against the floorboards. Casey’s lips hungry, his hands heavy and persistent.

Brendon sighed, letting out the pain and changed the subject without an iota of subtlety. “Why wouldn’t something have happened to others? Katherine Yert or any of the rest of the family? What about that kid who was helping with Erikson’s estate? I didn’t even know him. This can’t be happening because of what I want or how I feel. That’s impossible.”

“Meaning Evelyn Yert wouldn’t have died because of any lingering resentment you might have. That’s a thought.” But Orion didn’t seem entirely convinced.

“Why would anything about this be based on how I feel regardless?”

“It probably doesn’t.”

Brendon set his glass down and put his head in his hands before admitting, “I’ve painted with emotion before, any artist does, but that doesn’t mean my feelings have teeth.”

“I agreed with you.”

Brendon glanced up askance, then leaned back on the couch.

“You didn’t call me because of Evelyn Yert. At least not completely. Tell me. Tell me about this Casey. And whoever this Robbie is too.”


Next Chapter Coming May 19th!