The Painting In The Room

Walking past a pair of glass doors held open by a jamb, Dr. Marion James passed through the doorway and out of his second floor office. The massive stone balcony overlooked the galleria’s back yard; its verdant green lawn, its courtyard with a statue in its center, and the chest-high pots full of multi-colored flowers at each of its four corners. He clumsily fished something out of the right, front pocket of his suit jacket; it was the remaining three-quarters of an inexpensive khunatani cigar. He knew well that the board of directors strongly disapproved of any smoking on the grounds, but he flipped open his lighter and lit it even so, puffing away at it until the familiar odor of the smoke surrounded him like a favorite blanket. Hey, what they don’t know can’t hurt ‘em. But don’t forget this time, you’ve got that two second-clock interview … then later, dinner with Nancy at O’Malley’s at around six. His mouth began to water a bit, as there were few things in life that a sixteen-credit corned beef reuben on rye bread the size of a small pig couldn’t fix. He smoked contentedly for a minute or two, then rubbed the stub out on the outside of the balustrade so the excess tobacco would fall harmlessly onto the lower veranda. He re-entered the office and walked over to his desk, which was almost completely covered with several stacks of journals. The room had shelving on all four walls, even abutting the door-frame; books and periodicals of all kinds, old FHS tapes, and even Metamax units stacked eight to ten items high were everywhere. The phone rang and he answered; it was Arianne calling from the downstairs office. “Your appointment is here. Shall I send him up?”

“Yes, please do. Thank you.” When the applicant reached the top of the main stairwell, Dr. James was still rummaging around in a file cabinet that was against the western wall; so when he heard the footfalls on the hardwood floor, he called to him through the doorway. “In here, please.” The man walked into the office; he was tall, with slicked-back hair and wearing a well-fitted dark blue suit with a matching sixty-credit tie. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties; his face was prematurely lined around the eyes but rather bland, as if it were unused to strong emotion of any kind. “I’m going to need more folder space for all of these tax forms soon, I’m afraid.” The man gave him a noncommittal smile and stretched out his right hand for a shake; Dr. James loathed shaking hands, but the applicant had no way of knowing that, so he reluctantly complied. “Hi, I’m Michael Connor. I’m here about the personal assistant to the curator position.” Dr. James sat down in his corporate rolling chair across from him, a shadow briefly passing over his features. “Please, sit. And, no … I am the director of this galleria. I know the ad was a bit vague, and it’s just semantics i’m afraid, but if the Board were to hear you call me a curator, they would be … dismayed. It’s currently out of vogue, you see.”

 

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