j. m. scoville


 

Space Saver Cat, Who Heated the Room
While Knee Deep in the Orange of Gerti

-for My Reclining Woman with Green Stockings

"The erotic work of art is sacred, too."

--Egon Schiele

 

 

"This one," said the micro-artist, all undiscovered, as he held out another watercolor painting for his roommate's two friends to witness.

"Ah," exclaimed the male of the two friends, sounding like steam exhaling from some valve.

A half smile spread across the woman's face. She let it stay on her mouth. It became a token of sarcasm masquerading in some scanty clothes stolen from sincerity.

"The White . . ." began the husband, wanting to keep the half smile in place on his wife's bony face. He imagined losing himself in the city scene painted by the micro-artist, played lets-pretend with a solitary figure walking along a briefly stroked street. The figure seemed barely human, more stick figure in some shade of blue. The work's hues were basic, taken directly from the tubes of red, green, yellow, and blue. Cheap colors on mass-produced canvases sold as tablets, exposing the artist's amatuerity. This especially was grand for the two friends of his roommate, because they knew about art and their insides tingled and thrilled with delight by their superiority.

On the micro-artist's table another painting was in progress. This attracted the woman. "What is this, Benji?" she asked.

"Michelle, uhm," stumbled the micro-artist. "That's not ready. I thought I'd covered it up."

"No," she played. "It's coming along . . ." She paused to locate the most absurd word. "Marvelous."

"You think?"

"Often she does," inserted the man.

This perplexed the micro-artist: "I don't understand . . . Grant."

"A little game," he said. "It's not important." He drew close to his wife; secretly placing an open hand on her behind, hiding it with his body tightly pressed against her, knowing this would excite her. It did as well as his teasing fingers stroking her, slowly, covertly lifting the material of her crushed velvet skirt. "I like it, too," added the male, being the male of popular myths as she accepted him to fill this role for her own self-seeking needs.

The husband managed to get her skirt up enough to give his fingertips access under the hemline, beneath, exposing the top of her black stockings if one was peeking from behind, which the micro-artist certainly wasn't. He navigated his hand, curving with her soft bottom, impacting it slightly with the pressure that could be mistaken as clutching fingers, slowly fondling, stirring her flesh, as he wandered towards the thin strip of her thong panties.

Fighting a shiver, perhaps a gasp, she remarked, "Someday I'll be attending openings of Benji Nevers."

"That would be great," the micro-artist mustered as he nervously rubbed his nearly shaved head. "I mean, you really think I have it?"

Knowing his wife was really enjoying the attention, Grant cruelly pulled away. "Definitely."

He had left her backside exposed. She swiftly pulled down her skirt. First hurt, then annoyed, the wife refused to look at her husband until her body calmed down. "You're a shoe in." She loved using such ignorant wording. It made her feel better and she smiled at her husband.

* * *

It was cold downstairs. No cliches about it. Winter was gathered around the house in the color of white while bitter winds snarled down from the Gorge, flowing along the Willamette River's channel, then shooting off, down the various streets. The micro-artist had a studio/bedroom in the bowls of the hill where the house sat, the house he shared with Colin and Lynne. These two admirers of his art, a liberated husband and wife, were the friends of Colin.

There were three windows down there, outside of his room, too high to directly look out of unless one procured a chair. They were thin and a few feet long and were not decent about sharing the light, forcing the micro-artist to rely on electricity. For most of the day, the brightness of sunlight was obscured by the angle of the cinder wall and the ugly house next door's garbage cans. At certain intervals during the day, a sliver shined downwards, illuminating an empty area of the floor that acted like a bare hallway leading from the laundry room to his bedroom. It would blind him at that time if he were looking.

Inside his sleep chamber, a small heater purred, glowing with orange stripes of heat. It easily became the micro-artist's single pet. He knew it was a cat. A cat, impersonating a portable heater, who hummed instead of meowed. He knew that cats sometimes like to pretend to be something else just to spy on what humans do beyond the territories allowed to cats. Nevertheless, to pretend to be something mechanical when you're made of flesh and bone seemed excessive. To masquerade to be a carrier of electricity, one must replace one's blood with wires and hide the blood somewhere, to be returned at some determined time, when the cat had learned everything it could was another extreme beyond the micro-artist's comprehension. Such deliberations hurt his mind. This day, this cat was having an education in human relationships. It already knew that these two people were not there to see Benji Nevers' art, instead, to extract answers from him. The cat in the form of the portable heater knew this, as did dog pretending to be the computer on the micro-artist's desk. The micro-artist had no idea that the computer was a stray dog. Nor did the micro-artist know that the stray dog would run away with some kids, who would eventually find his downstairs window open and get inside. They would make out with his portable stereo, too. A camouflaged cockatoo left by an old girlfriend that played only cassettes and liked to eat certain tapes. Fortunately, the cat will choose to stay with him. This is, of course, if that stretch of future occurred and another bend didn't suddenly make itself available.

* * *

2

"You see," began the man, fumbling for the most accurate words. He looked away from the slipshod lines of color on the table, briefly seeking encouragement in his wife's eyes. Silently, she only warned him not to mess it up. "We want to ask your opinion on something rather important concerning Colin."

"Okay."

Subtly, the computer made a laughing sound known only to dogs. He knew what was going on. As did the cat. Only Benji Nevers was oblivious. But the micro-artist did hear the stray dog's unexpected sound and he glanced at the computer terminal. This caused alarm for about ten seconds. The stray dog held its breath. All was quiet. So he concluded it was a temporary noise of no concern.

It had taken too long for the female in the basement. The chill replaced her sexual shiver and the cat lacked the ability to keep her warm. She solicited: "You've heard of the term ménage `a trois?

The micro-artist's young life was immediately, emphatically complete. The miraculous overbite of fate had deemed it worthy to kiss his talentless life. This was pure joy. All those late night fantasies of Michelle Madsack-Stillwell were conjured into this delirious moment of perfection. Now? he wondered. This moment? Throw our clothes off and start the orgy? Naturally, Grant did nothing for him, but if he was the gate to her gateways, he would try to be hedonistic. Being an artist, one had to be liberated . . . Right?

The woman could smell the micro-artist's eagerness. This pleased her. "You being Colin's roommate, we thought you might be close friends," she rifled, enjoying his arousal's imminent demise.

The micro-artist deflated before their eyes.

"But this is the glitch," added the male. "We don't want to include Teresa in any sort of way." The girlfriend gets the axe in other words.

The micro-artist grinned a placid smile, regaining his composure: "Sure. He's totally into you guys."

"Even without Teresa?" insisted the female.

"Yeah. We go drinking down at this bar in Sellwood and he's been talking about you guys. Well, mostly about Michelle. Sorry, Grant."

"Hey, no problem."

"He's never been into guys, but he did say if it got him to Michelle, he'd be willing to give it a try."

"He really said that?"

"Two nights ago over Henrys and nachos. I mean, I think Teresa's a prude or something and he knows you're into action."

This deeply satisfied the husband and wife team and proved the micro-artist could be an adequate actor. The husband was so delighted he felt he owed some sort of payment on the information and went back into one of the micro-artist's paintings to spread false praise like a billboard display advertising a product you never-ever need, but are attempting to convince yourself you really do. On and on the male talked, making no sense while the female became increasingly stirred up thinking about Colin's future French kisses all over her lower body.

There was no way the micro-artist could stand near these two liars. He felt all was idiocy. The wisdom the space saver cat and the lazy stray dog shared was finally lodged behind his forehead, bleeding down the under layers of his skin. The woman suddenly lacked any sexual significance. She was simply a tease like a girl posing in a porno magazine. Only genuine feelings, actual emotions, and art interested Benji Nevers. Only the will to know himself was reason to rise from the mattress and sleeping bag and get back to painting.

He wandered to one of the walls. To another meaning in his life: Gertrude Schiele. A reproduction of pencil and watercolor on paper composed by her brother, Egon Schiele, in 1909, called Female Nude with Folded Arms.

The female looked towards the micro-artist's muse. As an art critic for the local weekly newspaper, she went into her spiel: "Nice exclusion of society's dominated preoccupation with mammies."

"No breasts?" abruptly sparked Grant. This could only draw out one conclusion for him and he leveled it at the micro-artist: "Do you like boys?"

Offended, the micro-artist snapped and withdrew with a step: "NO!" Realizing devious minds as these two possessed would get the wrong idea about his protests; he attempted to relax and tried to locate a cool response: "Aren't breasts kind of like speed bumps?" The worthlessness of such words fell and shattered on the cement floor before they reached either of them and he knew he sounded rather foolish.

"Oh . . ." sighed Michelle.

Neither she nor her husband believed him, both deciding he was either lying or hadn't yet realized his desires for males. They had erred. He was strictly into girls.

"Gerti is the almighty," commenced the micro-artist, admiring the poster of the famous painting. "Egon's work reminds us of this fact. And without him, we would never have known it is she who is divine."

It seemed like the couple were unable to hear him. They were preoccupied by their future erotic excursions with Colin. Too much time had already been devoted to the micro-artist, whom Grant called a worm in his head and Michelle referred to as a sow bug. A dull mumbling ran in their heads. Something undecipherable as both resolved to move closer and closer to the wooden staircase without telling anyone. Sadly, the monotonous mumblings were the words roaming from the micro-artist's chapped lips.

"Her brother was just the messenger boy."

Slowly, staring, the micro-artist became absorbed by the intensities of the colors and he thought of orange, forgetting the yellows of the nose, cheeks, etc. He could see the oranges draining from the picture and spilling out onto the cellar floor. Not afraid, he knew this was a revelation of Gerti- one of her miracles, permitting him to be a fool martyr to her divinity. A kiss upon his flesh... The pond of orange imbued his room and the adjoining laundry room, climbed up to his knees. The color was warm like a purifying bath. When it reached his knees, the liquid seeped into his pours, sank into his body, refreshing him. Lying just under his skin, he felt it as gelatin when he touched his arm. It was comforting. Like Gerti was with him, holding him tight, hugging him always, supporting him as he went off into the often-discouraging world . . .

After being knee-deep in the orange of Gerti, the portable heater had climbed up with the stray dog, keeping its orange stripes dry. As a cat, it had the intelligence to unplug itself for safety's sake.

Subsequently, the newly discovered macro-artist seemed to come from out of a daze. He wondered if any of the vision had been real. He tested his arm. The gelatin was intact. The colors were drained from Female Nude with Folded Arms. Only the black outline of Gerti survived. Behind him the cat was up on the desk with the computer and this seemed odd. Recalling his guests, he looked about and saw that they had vanished. Expecting mysticism, he went to the unfinished painting on his table. The white was still a brilliant white. "There is where they went," he decided as a fool's martyr. With brush and orange paint directly from a tube, he did their impressions. Two. Two sketches for two friends of Colin's who were absorbed by his own painting.

* * *

3

Guilt seeped into the macro-artist's soul, past the gelatin ramparts, beyond the hugs of Gerti's salvation, and sank deep into his essence. It became a stone. Like a gallstone it grew. Grew with immense speed, soon becoming a boulder inside his thin boundaries. A worry stone, although working the reverse of that and making his stomach acids spread. All night the stone had grown, all night he laid, next to the cat, warming himself by its warming orange bars of electricity replacing cat blood. All night he felt the guilt of Grant and Michelle being soaked up by his work. What could he do? Nothing. How could he resolve the mistake? No way. Where could he go? Nowhere. Why? They were gone. He studied the sketches, the memorials for them, and wished they were some kind of key, some kind of ladder where he could stretch down from the trickling warmth of the cellar to the barren waste of the white spaces, to save them. He lost himself.

Of course he was never completely alone. There were his two roommates who did use the laundry room. Politely, at first, he reacted to their small talk. It became obvious he was busy and they stopped making the effort and washed their clothes in silence.

The orange purring of the cat kept him warm and spurred him on. It was a boiler room of energy. The light bulb above him popped and only the desk lamp persisted. Struggling, consumed by his sweat, he worked on a new series of paintings. Pasting all his remaining sheets of watercolor paper on his walls, tearing everything else down except Gerti, he strung them together as one gigantic canvas. Thus starting his massive hunt to find a rescue plan, an escape hatch for Michelle and Grant. His goal was to keep going. Not to stop, until they were set free. All of them, even... himself in the dim clarity of gray cinder blocks and cement floors, some wood, strung overhead in beams and floorboards and in a tall closet, to pretend he once knew anything besides this subterranean search. Wooden ribs also were laid out; frames to an unfinished room surrounded him, contained him, and provided the myth that he did live in a real bedroom. The wiring above macro-artist seemed like nerve endings as the worms listened just past the walls . . . They had an understanding of his intellect, whispering it to the portable heater. Of course, the artist overheard, but ignored them. Not to be distracted. Not anymore. Not even the sow bugs or slugs could say anything that mattered to him. Only his aching fingers, his broken arms, the sweat down his torso and between his thighs, only the focus of brush and eye with mind and paint meant anything to the macro-artist.

Daytime fell into darkness, making shadows once more into mornings and mornings spread thin until their suns were forced down. Ritualized days spun 'round yet again and again, displaced by the macro-artist in his obsession. He drank out of the sink in the laundry room and used the drain to excrete his waste. No food. A week passed. His baldhead was seeing the peachie fuzz. His face followed. Using candles, he added more light. The lamp surrendered and that side of the studio went into darkness. He exchanged it with the laundry room's unburnt bulb, forcing his roomies to bring down new light bulbs from upstairs. His extra light was limited to the candles and they gave way in a matter of six days. Then the stray dog's screen came in use after nightfall and the burning stripes of the cat. He sweated. The beads ran, irritating his bare back and eyes. Refusing bowel movements, he felt it gave him inspiration. The water kept him alive. More days. The stomach had stopped rumbling long ago. Growing weak, he kept painting.

With Gerti painting was feminine . . . As a female the art might be kind. But, this painting wasn't like Gerti; she wasn't generous, and she was hungry. She was a blue heron waiting patiently, waiting for a fish to arrive. And for her, the macro-artist became a salmon. The shiny silver of his eyes and sweaty flesh would have blinded many in a different environment. This was a dim basement with a bare light bulb and a lamp near a computer at a small table. His paintbrush was the red tongue of a salmon. And soon, she knew, she would have him; she would smoke him like ancient tribes along the coast had smoked salmon. She would lay him out on the long table when she knew he was cooked and there she would feed upon him. Eat all the thick pinkish orange meat, giving the bones to the trash. His fish head would be saved. A marvelous piece of modern art for the collection she was making of found art. Over and over and over, repeating her act of feeding, over and over and over, repeating his act of sacrifice. Not as repetition, because the painting never duplicated itself. It was more a ceremony, like cleaning one's brushes after painting to assure their use the following day.

This was not what he was painting; it was what he felt in his muscles, in his cells, in his eyeballs, and in his mind as he painted. It was what carried him forth, determining his hand motions, predicting his brush strokes, and creating his mood.

There was less and less paint. Gerti's gelatin was utilized. Little cuts, bringing orange to the careful white space that spoke so much evil, calling everyone to dinner, except him, because he was already the desert.

His roommates stopped coming downstairs to do their wash. The macro-artist was making them feel immensely uncomfortable in their own house. For him, the downside was there were no new light bulbs being delivered from above.

With a little sherry in her courage cylinders, Lynne came down one day to check on him. She had been sleeping overnight at her new boyfriend's apartment, avoiding the inevitable confrontation, and hadn't been around lately. Feeling the flushing and pushing of her cylinders, she descended the groaning wooden stairs alone to the dim cellar.

The laundry room light was out. Stolen. Sunlight shown through the three windows and a little artificial light illuminated the macro-artist's studio.

"Hey, Benji."

Benji had forgotten how to talk. Grunting, he realized he was scaring her. He tried to smile, but his facial muscles had stiffened into a permanent scowl. Once more he tried with further success, "Okay."

"Have you been sick?" He shook his head. "Look at that," she gasped at his giant work of art.

"Don't . . ." He couldn't say anything more. His strength was limited. The sunlight crossed his window and blinded him. When it cleared, he saw Lynne had gone. As the macro-artist, he knew she had looked at his remaining white space. As the discovered fool martyr, he needed to work harder now to free her as well. The bright light had been her being taken into the painting.

* * *

4

At 4:23 A.M. on the 28th day, his final artificial light source, the stray dog, decided to sleep permanently. It was now too dark for him to paint at night and basically for the same reason, too hard for him to paint even in the day. The space saver cat couldn't generate enough radiance nor could the squinty windows be relied upon, being too far out from his studio. There was no way he would move the painting and chance further victims being absorbed by the whites space. In the past, he had seen neighbor kids peaking in on him. Since then, he had only noticed one disruption in the glass. A cousin of the portable heater in the form of a cat butt and tail had passed by. His worry was someone might bend down and look in, catching sight of the massive canvas. Then he would have to dislodge that spirit along with the others from this insipid wasteland of dizzying white. To paint over there, in the meager sunlight, was too risky.

With his eyes adjusting in the dawn, his realm became shadows stung by the slits of daylight, way up high, almost teasing in the adjoining space. His ambition, his passion was vibrating his body. The gelatin of Gerti was humming from inside of his skin. There was nothing he could do if he couldn't see. It was all so damn hopeless.

* * *

5

Later, someone walked down the steps. His feet fell hard and quickly. The macro-artist, almost out of paint, laid helpless on his sleeping bag. He recognized the steps as belonging to his other roommate. Colin was carrying a flashlight through the dark. Only the space saver cat had not forsaken the fool martyr and was given some time off to sleep in the corner.

"Benji?" beseeched Colin in a tone feigning bravery. "I gotta talk with you."

Pulling himself up, the macro-artist used right thumb and forefinger to test his confidence by determining if the gelatin feeling persisted beneath his skin. It did. Breaking his muscle's tension, he grinned. Across the room, hanging on the one solo chair was a button down shirt. He put it on and started to button it up as the flashlight beam caught his face.

As if not expecting to find Benji Nevers: "Is that you?"

"No, the man in the moon." His wit was still there. He always had a good rapport with Colin. They had gone drinking often and shot a lot of bull, chewed much fat.

"You scared Lynne last time she was down here."

"Oh, sorry." Stunned. This made no sense. The last time he had seen her, the white space had . . . Oh, maybe he's talking about the time before that. "I've been working on this painting for so long, I've gotten kind of space cadet, I guess."

"Yeah. She said it was pretty horrific."

"She hasn't seen it."

"Uh-huh. Last time she was down. She's moving out. Moving in with her boyfriend or something. Don't you have any lights down here?"

"They burnt out."

"Get some outta the pantry."

"I will . . . The last time . . ."

"Three things. Do you wanna come upstairs and talk? I can't play this Bela Lugosi freakout."

"I guess . . . sure."

* * *

6

To become something other than what you have been for almost a month is very difficult, more an effort of limbs and will. Beyond those extravagances, such meaningless human concerns . . . the macro-artist had become discovered from the embers of the undiscovered. He had witnessed the gathering orange pond bleeding from the Female Nude with Folded Arms and had taken the shape of a fool, a martyr, for the brilliance of Gerti, the Almighty. Amen.

To leave his studio . . . to leave . . . had seemed incomprehensible minutes earlier. Now seemed entirely plausible.

The cat purred and cracked and went to sleep before his very eyes.

Gerti as Creation hung near a corner waiting for him as he walked up the creaky stairs. Her sacred imagine was empty of any color and unseeable in the shadows of the cellar.

Climbing the stairs.

Peter Lorre was better.

Already the massive sunlight burned into him. The little windows downstairs had only been like stars.

* * *

7

The snow was gone. The windows outlined the truth. How long had it been gone?

Burning eyes. Salt water clouding, unable to see, from the crypt one rose uncannily back to the light. But I'm not horrible. The macro-artist had to stand on the top step for a few minutes before he could go any further. He could smell the coffee in the kitchen. Colin was moving around in the livingroom.

Slowly- he thought of himself as a slug- he ventured past the peeling wood of the step to the linoleum of the kitchen. Everything seemed impossibly sterile. So bright. More like a photograph. Slowly, he moved on and was pleasantly received by the dimness in the livingroom. Colin had been watching a movie and had drawn the drapes. It relaxed him. He shifted onto a sofa.

"Want some coffee?" The macro-artist shook his head. "I hate to spring this on you. It's just that I've been busy with Michelle and Grant. You know, we kinda got involved. On the side. You know, a side order. She said you put them up to it. Thanks. I didn't think I was going to be able to, you know, but Grant's really awfully cool. What I want to say. You've been here three months. I know you're paid up with rent on this month, but I'm getting scared. You need to get out, go market yourself. Whatever happened to your big ideas about whoring yourself out for posters and flyers for clubs and restaurants?" The macro-artist shrugged his shoulders like any non-discovered artist would do. "See. You gotta get out there, Benji. I mean, man, you got the talent. That thing down there proves it. It might scare the shit outta Miss Conservative America Lynne, but she's just a yuppie-wanna-be. She don't count for shit. I mean it's sexy and scary. Bands eat that crap up. You could do cover art. You could go down to Satyricon and they'd be eatin' outta your hand. You just need a portfolio. I could get you that at the copy store. You could use my discount. I mean, your stuff rocks. Quit the other stuff. The crap you showed Michelle and Grant stinks. It's not you. Whatever happened to those comic books you did? Those would make great album covers. Or posters for shows. I know this guy that's in a great band. I'll set you up."

"Okay. What's the other stuff?"

"Yeah. With Lynne gone, I need you upstairs. But that's paying more rent."

"I like it down there."

"No can do, unless we can get somebody else for up here. I need the cash. Teresa wants to go to Mt. Hood Meadows and do some skiing and spend like four days out on a romantic weekend. And I have to do it cuz I'm side-ordering it with Michelle and Grant. I need you up here now. Or you can stay down there and pay the big full rent for the big upstairs room. Your choice."

"I don't have any money right now."

"You gotta get some somehow. Go get a job at a bookstore. A record store. Do something. This is important to me."

"I'll see what I can do."

"That'a boy."

* * *

8

Downstairs in the studio, Creation's eyes were bleeding near the corner. The stray dog had gone to sleep forever. The cockatoo was eating every tape it was fed. The space saver cat began to stretch.

Needing medical attention, Gerti as Creation extended out towards the macro-artist.

There was no fame in this.

His painting was done. The cat helped showed him this, as did the flashlight he secretly borrowed from Colin. Simply not eros, not passion, not worship sacrificing the heathens to the heather, not only the cherishment of female anatomy, it was the all that he could feel. It was his breath, his energy, the liquid source of his manhood applied as a binder, and even the gelatin drained for a medium. Swimming upstream for so long, his tail was beyond fatigue, explained in a most physical way: IT IS DONE. This is over. He seemed to agree by relinquishing his residence over this domain.

The sacred act had been completed.

The painting had become a still life of inaction with its completion. Gerti's image hung as a pagan idol honoring the sins beyond her, glorifying its errand boy. The macro-artist could see that the Creation's eyes had to bleed as he paid attention to her body as Destruction. This was more important.

As Destruction, Gerti's Folded Arms had concealed a container of lighter fluid. She extracted it from between her breasts and gave it to him (such lovely breasts, such large nipple bases with slight nipple points grasping outwards, such rain drop imaginings of Seated Nude with Raised Right Arm and Standing Nude; he had forgotten all about her bust, focusing so much below her waistline in the other pose; ultimately released, finally, happily rising and falling under her breaths, her bosom was zill hand cymbals tingling to announce the coming of a storm). They shared it and both spread it on the vast painting and upon the empty image of the deity herself captured by Egon Schiele. Giggling, Destruction lit a long stemmed lighter she hid also in her Folded Arms, in the crevice behind an elbow, and handed it to him. Afraid, he held the lighter and looked between it and the impending obliteration.

"To make love," spoke Gerti in her deep, throaty voice known so well during demolition (utterly opposite the sweet gardenia sounds she used during Creation), " is the only way to redeem crimes and allow life to go forward."

And I'm supposed to understand that?

"This painting is the internal organs of the beast called guilt. And she stands for the primary organs that could kill with their absence."

The lighter's fire went out. Placing her hand over his, colorless Gerti as Destruction restarted the flame.

The paints had begun to run. Context and color slipping downwards, propelled by the lighter fluid, causing an ugly, flammable mask washing away his month below the house, in the cellar, underground. Not even the worms had spoken to him. Only his pet, the space saver cat had listened to his mania until he stopped speaking.

Destruction knew she must convince him deeper, to reinvent what was necessary in the macro-artist's mind, because he was discovered, he was the fool martyr, not some forlorn tourist, undiscovered as the artist. Gerti had discovered him. The orange gelatin coloring his canvas was real. The gelatin holding him alive was real. Destruction had to drive this position down his ever loving throat if need be. And need did be. She took his hand, shoving it down the waistband of her skirt.

Eye to eye contact: a challenge to not blink, to feel but not blink. This was seduction. This was the meaning of annihilation. His palm felt her belly button, what was a small egg in the painting, felt it becoming three-dimensional, form softening from poster paper, and his eyes wanted to close, desired to blink. He kept them to a squint and she smiled. To feel and not blink . . . Losing oneself in sensation . . . sin-sation. Plunge, riding her skin, the softness, tender under his hand, down to the bush maiden, diving with full intent, down between her legs . . .

He clicked the lighter. Eyeing its orange, it reminded him of gelatin. It's yellow told of Gerti's face when translated by Egon. And the blue of fire . . . He reached around, behind, to where he had never seen before, because the painting had been a frontal pose and he could feel her tender cheeks, the delicate reality telling him this was authentic contact, not the dream made by a micro-artist's yearnings. "Egon Schiele will always be God." He smirked. "But Gods are really men."

She breathed into his ear, the hot wing of flames, answering: "Yes."

* * *

9

The house was safe.

Only the painting and the outline of Gerti's false image burned.

A pail was found in the laundry room and used for water to put out the fire. The flames stained the cinder blocks from gray to a midnight shadow color discovered under dumpsters in unlit alleys, where only few eyes venture to see. A place the macro-artist knew well and now needed to dispose of as a useless corpse of a scorched blue heron and a lousy scalded salmon skull . . . There was no room for some blackened feathers upstairs.

The macro-artist saved Creation and bandaged her eyes. He just knew how to treat her. Henceforth, her body of Destruction followed him everywhere. They often made love in very suspicious places.

The fool martyr capitalized Fool Martyr and looked deeply into his role as a devotee of Gerti Schiele. His art changed. Crowbar tore open Manhole Cover releasing Sledgehammer and Chainsaw across the Boxcar that had been his measly life. Gerti beamed rays out of his pupils freeing him of his doubts.

To make up the difference in rent, the macro-artist sold most his art books at Powell's Bookstore and sold his bicycle to one of Colin's friends for forty dollars when it was worth well over a hundred. Then he started hitting the streets every morning to find work after signing up for unemployment, since his last job had gone bankrupt. Colin was pleased. He had found a renter for downstairs immediately. The fire incident became a forgotten issue. Money provided amnesia for him.

Freezing, the macro-artist sat on a cement planter to sketch a manmade waterfall downtown. To make his art easier, he cut the fingertips out of the thin gloves. In a short bread tin he carried high quality watercolors. Since the fire, both Creation and sisterly Destruction had taught him something about the tools for art, while Gerti's gelatin remained one of his mediums. Holding a paintbrush between his teeth, he eagerly used graphite to explore the local terrain. The sun peaked and he had to push up his stocking cap. Auburn curls slightly spun out. His baldness had been discouraged. His bulky coat became too much as the beads of sweat ran over his chest and back. It had a hood and that was making his neck perspire. He despised the feeling when the sweat got past his waistband. Ditching the coat beside him, he was still hot with a long v-neck sweater and the t-shirt underneath.

A young woman in her twenties approached him. She was bulky as well, dressed in combat boots, baggy army pants, a big wintry army coat over her layered shirts, and a hulking hat. Her hood was flipped over her head. Little freckles dashed out over her cheeks. Her eyes were dark. She was handing out coupons for a pizza-by-the-slice joint. One was extended to the macro-artist.

"I've never eaten there. Is it good?" he asked, studying the green coupon.

"I've never eaten there," she smirked.

"But you hand out coupons?"

"It's a gig. It gives me some cash. What do you do?"

"Trying to be this," expressed the macro-artist, holding up his sketch.

"Awesome. That's cool. I like writing poetry."

"I like reading poetry."

And in his ear Destruction whispered: This isn't cool.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Maybe sometime I'll bump into you and I can show you my stuff."

"I'd like that."

"What's your name?"

"Benji."

"You mean, like the dog."

"Sure. Arf."

"Yeah, that's cool. I'm Jude."

" . . . When do you get off?"

"Uhm . . ." Checked her watch. "A couple hours."

Suddenly there was the sun, right on her face.

Jude added. "You know, I'm done for today. Let's go get some coffee."

"Yeah."

* * *

10

Someone walked down the steps. His feet fell hard and quickly. Colin was carrying a flashlight through the dark.

"Benji?" beseeched Colin in a tone feigning bravery. "I gotta talk with you."

The flashlight beam caught the macro-artist's face as he laid silently in his sleeping bag.

As if not expecting to find Benji Nevers: "Is that you?"

No answer.

Nothing.

There was no movement from the macro-artist. Only wide-open eyes and the incredible smile showing teeth. Even in the thick darkness of the basement, there was the sun, right on his face.

The space saver cat had heard his final gasp. It had snuck off, to switch wiring for blood once more, then steal some cat food once again from the neighbor's bowl.

Nevertheless, the wall-sized painting was waiting, beckoning, demanding for Colin to again bring Michelle and Grant down, beneath, below, to witness such a "marvelous" work by such a "marvelous" macro-artist as Benji Nevers.

Down, as Gerti, colorless, would watch on

grinning,

giggling,

in all her goose bumps.

* * *

j. m. scoville lives a bit down river and slightly up creek from the ruins of his wife's family's plantation, near the haunted logging railroad, where the lightning bugs signal in Morse Code, the water moccasins harmlessly coil along the banks, and cicadas' electric pulses stimulate his eardrums. There, past the longleaf pine forest, face to face with a black widow spider in Devilswood, one can easily believe in a satyr on a stump or a line of rutting armadillos as he takes in hand the spikes of a Devil's Walkingstick tree and becomes stronger by the impact. Presentingly he is writing, directing, and acting in his first film called Clearcutting the Celluloid Circus.

"Space Saver Cat ..." copyright 2003 by j.m. scoville.