An Art Show Mating Call
by Michael Pool
Copyright © 2015 Steve Rainwater
Kate was standing in the center of the gallery discussing the finer points of one of her most experimental pieces when Mandy interrupted her with a nervous look drawn across her face.
“Sorry to disturb you guys, but I need to borrow Kate,” Mandy said through her teeth. Most of the time such an abrupt interruption would have annoyed Kate to her core, but the disturbed look on Mandy’s face had her begging all the necessary pardons and following her friend and yoga instructor past the free-form statues and swirling canvases into the back room of the gallery, where they could speak in private.
“So what’s up?” Kate asked when they arrived, unable to keep the irritation out of her voice.
“You need to read this—but try to remain calm and centered if you can.” Mandy slipped Kate a small, white slip of paper.
“Calm and cent—“ Kate started to say, but her mouth fell open as she read the first line of the letter, which had been Xeroxed from a handwritten original. “Oh no… oh god…” she mumbled as she read. “This can’t….”
“Ok, ok,” Mandy said, failing to hide the panic in her own voice. “It’s not that bad. People know what a creep he is, ok? And even if they don’t, this isn’t exactly a normal thing to do. Kate, look at me—it’s fine.”
Kate looked straight through Mandy as her mind worked to provide context to what she had just read. After a moment she re-focused her eyes. “I don’t understand. Where did you get this?”
“I—promise me you’ll stay calm first.”
“Calm? Why the fuck do you keep going on about calm?” Kate glared at her. “I’m calm. I’m always calm.”
“Kate, you know that’s not true. I love you, but remember what happened to my van at Burning Man?”
Kate did remember, though she’d tried to forget. The Incident, as they now referred to it in her circle of friends, had happened on the third night of the festival. She’d been ass-naked and high on mushrooms, painting a giant psychedelic serpent on a five-foot square canvas as she danced and gyrated to the pulsing beat of a nearby drum circle. She’d lost herself in the experience, entranced by the drumbeat and swirled veins of color until, out of nowhere, he appeared, wearing nothing but a pair brown Carhartt pants cut off above the knees to make jorts. He slid up behind her, put his hands on her hips and began grinding on her along to the beat of a nearby drum circle.
She’d been in such a state that she might not have noticed his hands on her body if he hadn’t dared to slide one up to her breast. The warm feel of his sweaty palm on her nipple ripped her right out of her trance and destroyed the spiritual energy she’d been working up. He smelled of body odor and some sour, piney oil. More than anything his unfamiliar scent made her realize that she didn’t know him. She shrieked like some sort of wounded, dying animal caught in a trap. His hands tore away from her body as he took a step back. Kate turned and clawed at his wide, startled eyes. When that failed she beat on his chest with her fists as he scrambled to control her wrists.
“You ruined it, you ruined everything, you motherfucker!” she bellowed. “Who the fuck are you, what the FUCK do you want?” He stumbled backwards, visibly terrified, until he tripped over one of the benches they’d brought with them for the campsite. He fell flat on his back just inches from the fire. Kate didn’t waste time letting him try to get back up.
She grabbed the canvas she’d been working on off its easel, raised it high and impaled it down on his head. The canvas split right down the middle of the snake she’d painted on it. The end result of this assault made it look like the snake had just given birth to his face. He sat up on his haunches, dazed, wearing the canvas like a dog wears a cone of shame. In a rage now, Kate flipped over the benches next to him, then scattered the boxes of cooking supplies all around the campsite. She doused him with some of the open jars of paint, getting it all over the side of Mandy’s van in the process.
Paint covered everything: the side of the van, Kate’s wavy blonde hair, a pile of sleeping bags stacked nearby. By the time she finished she had streams of paint running down her sleek, naked body, as did Timothy (she’d only found his name out later).
Timothy stood up, took the canvas off his head and attempted to restrain her. He bear-hugged her from behind, over her arms, controlled her until she started to calm down. He kept mumbling I’m sorry to her over and over again as he pulled her away from the van. She felt his warm chest against her back, the piney sweat intermingled with paint. She turned in his arms as if to attack him but shoved her tongue down his throat instead. They coiled around each other like snakes as she pressed herself into him hard, so hard she knocked him back to the ground.
She dragged his jorts off and climbed on top of him like a cowgirl. When Mandy and the others in their group showed up from wandering around they found them fucking like barn animals next to the fire. After she climaxed they slept the rest of the night right there in the sand by the fire.
Timothy followed her around like a puppy dog the rest of the festival. They fucked in inappropriate places like teenagers at a lock-in. When it came time to go back to Austin he climbed in the van as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do. They’d lived together in her studio apartment since then, with all of the fucking but very little in the way of actual communication.
“Mandy, I’m going to ask you again. WHERE did you get this?” Kate demanded.
“Its—I…. Charlene found it under her windshield wiper out in the parking lot. Apparently he’s been putting them on all the cars and handing them out to anyone that will take one.”
“Are you serious!?” Kate bellowed. Sweat droplets formed in her blond, wavy hair. Mandy took her hand and led her through the crowd toward the front door. People appeared to be staring at them. Kate looked down at the folded slip of paper in her hand, opened it up and read it again.
To whom it may concern;
If you’re attending this art show, then I feel it is my duty to inform you of what you probably already suspect: Kate Williams is a psychotic, self-aggrandizing bitch. Do not, under any circumstances, purchase any of her vulgar, soulless art. It will almost certainly remain valueless, just as she seems to think that other people’s feelings also have no value. In short, may she rot in hell, preferably the hottest part.
Timothy Briggs, a concerned citizen.
The air outside felt muggy as Mandy dragged Kate out onto the porch. Kate looked across the dim eastside parking lot to see that every single car in the lot had one of the white slips on its windshield. She leapt down the steps of the white, wooden front porch in a fury.
“Kate, what are you going to do?” Mandy called after her.
“Mandy, shut up and help me, we have to collect as many of them as we can.”
“Kate, it’s no—“ Mandy started to say, but then she followed behind Kate instead and began collecting fliers from cars. Kate stomped from car to car as she snatched the slips of paper from under windshield wipers, nearly taking a few of the blades with her when she snatched too aggressively.
She’d collected them off the first row and a half of cars before she noticed the shitty red Tercell idling in the back corner of the parking lot, the one that Punk Rock Toby allowed Timothy to use so long as he kept gas in it. He had the driver’s side window down and a cigarette’s glow hung in the window’s void. The thought of him watching her clean up the headache he’d created was more than Kate could handle.
She stuffed the fliers she’d already collected down her pants, having no pockets in her tight grey capris and white spaghetti strap blouse. She broke into a dead sprint toward the red Tercell. A flurry of motion erupted in the window’s frame where the glow of the cigarette had been. The sound of gears grinding filled the air as Timothy tried to shift the car into gear. Kate smiled through her fury, glad she’d refused to loan him the money to replace the old, worn out clutch on the clunker.
As she closed in on the Tercell Timothy’s head came into view swiveling back and forth between her and the gearshift, that familiar dumbfounded look of panic slathered on his face. The car didn’t cooperate at first. Just as Kate got a hold of the car’s window frame the gear clicked into place and the car lurched into motion. She dug her nails into the interior plastic with her right hand and trotted alongside the moving car throwing blind left hooks through the window, though only a few of them connected.
“Goddammit Timothy!” she shouted, pummeling him as best she could through the window. “Just what the fuck did you think you were doing? You’re not going to ruin this for me.”
Timothy dodged her punches and attempted to both steer the car away from other cars and roll up the manual window at the same time. He succeeded in getting the window about three quarters of the way up, so that it trapped Kate’s right elbow in the remaining space. She had to run to avoid being dragged along beside the car after that.
“What did you think was going to happen, motherfucker?” Kate screamed. “Did you think I would just let you get away with this?”
“You shouldn’t have kicked me out, I had nowhere to go!” Timothy replied, defiance in his voice. He avoided the bumper of an Acura just in time as the Tercel slid out into the street. Kate clawed for his face until he let go of the wheel to protect his eyes. The car careened straight across the street and t-boned a white Lexus parked in front of the gallery. The impact knocked Kate off her feet and left her dangling from the car window by the arm. The Lexus’s car alarm erupted into action. Timothy shut the car off and dragged himself across to the passenger side. He spilled out the passenger door onto the asphalt as Kate regained her footing and managed to free her arm from the window.
A crowd of people came running out of the gallery to see what the commotion was about. Kate bounded around the car and caught Timothy just as he got to his feet to flee the scene. She dove onto his back and put her hooks in like she’d learned in the jiu-jitsu classes she’d taken a year before. She was in the process of rear naked choking him unconscious when someone wrapped their arms around her waist. Kate tried again to claw Timothy’s eyes out as several people dragged her backwards now. She succeeded in digging deep claw marks up both sides of his cheeks with her nails before they pulled her away.
“My eyes!” Timothy sobbed, although Kate had not actually managed to gouge them. “You crazy bitch!”
“My CAR!” a male voice shouted from the porch behind her. “What the hell happened?”
Mandy appeared out of the corner of Kate’s vision and wrapped her arm around Kate’s shoulder. She led Kate past the shocked faces and up the steps toward the bathroom. Two men restrained Timothy. His skin-tight black Capri jorts and striped tank top looked filthy as much from bad hygiene as the scuffle. The owner of the Lexus, a blond man dressed in skinny jeans and a black V-neck shirt, inspected the damage to his car.
Kate looked behind her at the chaotic scene. Timothy sat weeping in the center of the crowd. His tears intermingled with blood from where she’d scratched him, leaving long pink streaks down his face. Her rage disintegrated at the pitiful, broken sight of him. She tore away from Mandy’s grip and sauntered back through the crowd to Timothy, who was now laid out on the concrete sidewalk, sobbing. When he saw her he covered his face as if she were going to strike him. Instead she pulled his hands away to have a better look at the scratches. They looked nasty. When she reached down her pants the crowd audibly gasped, but she ignored them and pulled out a couple of the fliers she’d stuffed there earlier. She used them to dab the blood and tears from his cheeks.
“Shhh..” she cooed to him, dabbing at the blood. “Shhh….”
“You mangled me,” he sniffled.
“I know, I know….”
When the police arrived they found them tangled like snakes amid a crowd of onlookers, sucking at each others faces so passionately that some might have thought this had been the point of having the art show all along. UG
Michael Pool is a writer and martial artist born in Tyler, Texas, and currently living in Gunnison, Colorado, where he is in the final year of pursuing a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Popular Genre Writing from Western State Colorado University. When not writing, Michael teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to adults, teens, and children. He can be found online at www.michaelpool.net.
Steve Rainwater is a photographer and art hacker in Dallas, Texas. His website is: http://www.steevithak.com/