Ok, I feel like I need to preface this, it’s my first and probably only short story. It took me forever to write and grew out of a conversation with my art shipper where I kiddingly said to her “hey you can drop these off at any big NY gallery by mistake…” hence the idea for the story was born. There is no sex, guns, murder, gore none of that stuff. It is one big fat fantasy and hopefully funny too. I sent it out but did not get rejected they simply did not respond….maybe that’s worse. But it’s my blog and I can post whatever I want so here’s my first and only short story for your amusement. Enjoy!
by Ann Scott
“Hey Inez I’m sorry to so be late midtown traffic was beyond awful” Lea said and the stress was written all over her. “Actually the whole trip from Boston was a nightmare, I should have figured it would be.” “No biggie, there’s still plenty of time till we close. Chloe will grab your paper work and I’ll get the guys to help you unload the truck, you can stick all the crates over against the far wall and we’ll deal with it on Tuesday when we get ready to hang the show.”
Chloe and Inez are two trendy gallery assistants in the hottest New York gallery. Lea is thin but strong from all the lugging, packing and unpacking paintings of every size, T shirt and jeans are her only fashion. She’s a self-employed art transporter who has had a huge bump up in business lately delivering art everywhere, on her own and while the work has been fantastic and the pay steady it’s stressful…New York, Ptown, Boston, New York again then to the Southwest then back to Ptown – nonstop!
Inez offers Lea a fancy overpriced bubbly water of some sort. “Geesh Inez this has been the busiest year I’ve had since the booming Clinton years when people were showing and selling like mad. I got used to the quiet but not the poverty, I’m afraid to hope that it’s really booming again “I know what you mean, the gallery hasn’t been this busy in a long time and we can take on more artists now as well. Not too long ago Chelsea galleries were closing almost daily, now new ones are coming into the old spaces best thing is the energy is back up and the scene feels good again. “Ok looks like all the crates are in, go home Lea, relax, have a great dinner and sleep. Do you have more jobs this week? “Ah no rest for me I’m afraid. I have a bunch of shows in the truck all headed around the country. I was lucky to have a long peaceful weekend in Ptown with my gal because it is all craziness for the rest of this month at least. In Ptown I loaded up a show bound for the Southwest, then up to Boston to pick up work from 3 artists, 2 of whom are showing in New York, the other is showing in Atlanta so I’ll be heading out in the morning after a good night’s sleep in the truck” she said with a quick laugh. Lea never left her truck when it had shows in it. She would arrange the shows to let her have a twin size piece of thick foam which serves as her bed when she’s on the road. Chloe explained “This show is a quick fill for an artist who had to reschedule their exhibit so we are going to start hanging it Tuesday, opening as usual on Friday, sorry you can’t make it, you know we have good food, she said with a sly smile. Actually this is a new artist, I haven’t seen her work, the director picked her out” Lea sighed with disappointment as this gallery was one that really went over the top with it’s openings, usually all the shrimp one could eat, sometimes lobster, fancy cheese puffs, good wine and more. At one opening she could eat enough for a week and would be in direct competition with all the artists who come in to see, be seen and eat enough for a week as well. “Ok, it’s all in and so am I. I’ll see you ladies enjoy your couple days off till the hard work of unpacking and hanging begins.” Inez and Chloe were eager to get home, out of their mile high heels and into some jeans or jammies to relax as next week was going to be a tough one. Thank god they have the next two days off. Chloe, a short, strong, young brunette with a huge art career ahead of her gets to the gallery first. She’s excited to be working for such an important gallery she has big dreams of running her own space and working here is teaching her everything she needs to know to do just that. Armed with a giant, super caffeinated coffee in hand she starts organizing the paper work, sets the coffee aside to begin opening the crates. Inez is a Taylor Swift look-alike, smart and savvy who’s been the Director’s right hand for many years and is quite happy with that set up for now. The gallery owner and director, Theo is more aloof, not a good front-of- the-room person his strength is schmoozing with clients at the highest level fully trusting his gals back home running the shop. Inez’s cell rings but she’s in the shower so it goes to voice mail. It’s Chloe calling and she sounds odd, hesitantly she asks “…are you on your way in Inez? I know you said you were running late but I’m wondering how much you know about the artist whose work just got delivered. Call me when you get a chance.” Inez toweling off quickly texts a response saying “I’m on my way”. She’s running really late so opts for a cab instead of the subway, she’s concerned about Chloe’s call so screw the expense, she wants to get there fast Chloe never calls with a message like that, so she’s wondering what’s gone wrong and if something is wrong they have no time to set up another show! She grabs a quick coffee, dashes into the gallery and stops dead in her tracks. They look at each other, at the work, at each other back and forth like that for a bit because neither can speak at the moment. After mainlining more caffeine Inez starts first, “Um, ok, well this is different, especially for us but it’s good, really really good, but….uh I don’t know.” Chloe says, “you’re right it’s good, stunning actually but I’m confused, did Theo ever talk to you about this artist? Should we call him?” “No we can’t call, he was emphatic that he did not want to be disturbed while he’s with these particular clients plus the connection in the South of France is spotty at best. He mentioned this artist, seemed to like her but didn’t go into specifics. I think we just have to trust it and run with the show besides we have no choice, this opens Friday no matter what. We certainly have not shown anything like this before but in that sense it will be refreshing won’t it?….I hope.”
Meanwhile back in Boston Nan gets a text from Lea saying thanks for the business, show’s been delivered so now I’m off to Atlanta, New Mexico and beyond feeling frazzled so looking forward to a major road trip. Nan texts back..thanks and safe travels. Nan lives in a large loft with huge windows, she’s standing at the largest which used to be a loading dock door, it measures 4.5 feet wide by 12 feet high and has a small slice of sky at the top but mostly looks into a dumpster filled alley, she’s watching papers and other trash float along in the breeze, no rats this morning to amuse her cats. Nan has spent a lot of time staring out this window over the last 24 hours not at all sure what she’ll do because yesterday she got laid off from her part time job so she is hoping like heck the gallery show goes well or she’s financial toast. She answered a call-for-work in a local art rag so doesn’t know the gallery at all but does know it is small, new and not yet known but getting the work out there is key. Nan figured if she got paid for all the cd’s, resumes, gallery hunting letters she sends out regularly she’d be wicked rich and could just paint for pleasure. There’s always the thought that maybe someone will buy, maybe someone will think her work important, maybe, maybe, maybe.
Back in New York Chloe and Inez are exhausted after the marathon hanging job. We deserve a glass or two of our very fine wine. While they sip the lovely crisp pinot gris and look at their efforts silently for a while Chloe says “you know this is really thoughtful, excellent work. The artist is clearly in love with nature plus they are not the usual landscape. She’s gone deeper into the woods, places that would scare me if I were out there, but let’s be real – this city gal don’t do woods.” Inez nods slowly and says “I have to agree and am surprised at how much this work moves me. Normally I wouldn’t give a second look at landscape work but there’s something deeper here. I don’t remember what Theo said about the artist but he must have seen the same thing. I just hope our clients don’t freak out at the opening, this will surely stun our more abstract crowd who don’t think realism should even be done anymore. Fingers crossed this goes well.’ Friday afternoon, caterer arrives with all the very nicest of hors d’oevers, catering staff set up the wines and seltzers. No one can take their eyes off the work, even the caterers seem surprised which is unusual normally they are a blank exhausted looking bunch resulting from the fact they work like dogs and don’t have the energy to notice much so their demeanor today is refreshing to Inez and Chloe. One of the guys comes up and says “geesh Inez finally work I can connect with, nice surprise!”
It’s opening time! People start filtering in but no one is heading for the wine first which is definitely not the norm, they are just staring, silently and confused? shocked? Inez and Chloe are not sure how to read this, do they like it, hate it? More people come in, more silent stares. Slowly people head to the wine in hopes that little slap of alcohol will help snap them out of the daze they are in, then they begin to talk quietly to each other. Now the gallery is full but it’s not the usual big buzzing crowd. Good news is that no one has stormed out. Off to the side, where no one can hear him one guy is on his cell phone talking to THE top art critic, a gallery of this caliber doesn’t switch gears like this and is so internationally renown that this show will need an appropriate response from only the best. He says “Bob, you gotta get over here to see this-I mean it ASAP.” He’s put the call out and the critic, Robert (Bob) comes bursting in, which is the norm for him, on first glance he stops in his tracks. The guy who called him is his assistant, they split going to all the big openings and compare notes later. Unlike the crowd Bob grabs a glass of wine first, then slowly starts around the room looking at each piece not talking to anyone. The crowd has settled into a light, relaxed murmur and finally Bob goes over to Inez and says “G’day ladies what’s going on, where’s Theo? I must say this is quite a shocking exhibit and I can’t help but wonder what the hell is going on, is he’s changing the direction of the gallery or is this a fluke? I will tell you this however.the work is brilliant and if he’s changing direction this is where it should go. Tell me more about the artist.” Chloe and Inez look at each other with some relief because if Bob didn’t like what he’d seen they would certainly hear about it by now and with gusto “sorry to say Bob we don’t know anything about the artist except for the brief blurb she provided. I know Theo saw her work and liked it but we don’t actually know any more than that and we aren’t able to contact him at present, he’s out of cell range in France.” Bob says “Well for this gallery it’s most surprising, shocking actually and definitely refreshing, I’ll be writing about this for the Sunday Times so will need to stop by tomorrow to take another long look when there are fewer people here. See you tomorrow and thank you ladies.”
The last of the crowd leaves, caterers are wrapping up. Chloe and Inez are grabbing all the food and wine they can now, pressure is off, they are starved and far beyond the normal tired – they are emotionally drained. Inez says “this is without a doubt the hardest show we’ve ever hung and the stress of wondering how it would be received was brutal, this is one of the times I could kick Theo for being so out of reach. “
Sunday afternoon Inez’s phone rings it’s Theo. “ Inez, my dear, imagine my surprise at reading Bob’s art review in the Times this morning. I just got back to Paris late last night and am speechless what the hell is going on?” Inez explains all the recent goings on and said but I thought you said you liked her work, Theo replies “well yes I do, she sent me the usual package a cd of images, resume, statement etc. and liked what I saw but would never have given her a show, after Bob’s review now I’m glad I did – by accident. I’m on my way back and will see you in a few days.”
Back in Boston Nan is just having that first lovely cup of coffee while staring out the big studio window again at the alley with all it’s blowing papers when there’s furious banging at her door. It’s some of her neighbors they are holding up the arts section of the NYTimes with a large repro of her painting and her name are above the fold. What the….? Nan lives in a building full of artists and it seems most of them are outside her door, she lets them in, no idea what to say she starts reading the amazing review by her favorite and most feared art critic she can’t take in all the words, it’s a blur and hard to read when your friends are hugging you and asking a million questions all at once. She looks at the gallery name and feels sick, that’s not the gallery her work was supposed to go to, it was supposed to go to a little hole in the wall gallery on the most outer edge of Chelsea, instead it’s in THE gallery of all galleries she never would have even dared to dream it would end up there…now she was feeling dizzy. Nan grabs the phone and calls Lea, it went straight to voice mail, she must be on the road, Nan left a message briefly outlining what happened. Her friends put on another pot of coffee and more have arrived with pastries , this would be a big coffee day – no wine and buckets of it! Now her phone was ringing off the hook, one of the callers was the art critic Bob, there’s no way she can talk to him in the stunned state she’s in so she silenced the ringer, sat down with her friends and had one of the best mornings of her life.