26 August 2009

Dreaming of Charlie

She stumbled towards her grandparents house. Cars were usually parked in a corner of the yard but a glance over her shoulder showed nothing there. She stopped and looked again at the house, which appeared to have been expanded to either side. Familiar concrete steps led up to the front door but the additions were at ground level, below the one-story house itself. She hadn't been here since her grandparents died and wasn't sure who could have made those changes. Anybody could have. She wasn't even sure who owned the house anymore.
She began moving again, now in a more steady stroll. Soldiers were standing outside smoking, she hadn't noticed them before. As she climbed the steps, they gave her the feigned smiles of terrified men. She smiled back instinctively and wondered why they were there. She opened the door and entered. The living room had also been redone. It now had a walkway looping all the way around the upper floor with a finely carved railing that clashed with the plaster walls. It both seemed to fit and not, but she couldn't put her finger on why. Soldiers were gathered around a table at the center of the room looking at documents. They weren't happy men and their conversation stopped as she had entered.
“Oh, it's you,” said Charlie, dressed as an army officer. “We were hoping for more.”
“What's going on?” she asked.
He shook his head and led her to a bedroom door that opened to reveal not a bedroom, but stairs leading upwards. He waited for her to clear several steps before following. When they reached the upper floor, he again took the lead long enough to open another door, this time to what would have been right above her grandparents bedroom. She entered and stepped to the left. He followed and moved to the right. The room was almost as large as she remembered the small house having been once. Soldiers stood in the corners, staring at their own feet. They were wearing what appeared to be some sort of middle ages armor, made of plastics instead of iron, and all had rifles pointed downwards at the stone floor.
In the center of the room, spanning some ten feet across, was a hole, lined with a stone wall like that of an old-fashioned well. Charlie shouted something incomprehensible and all of the soldiers moved to the wall, lifting their rifles just enough to clear the wall before pointing down into the darkness. Charlie, now wearing armor and carrying a weapon, had a spot at the wall, and she stepped forward to see what he and the others were doing here.
A fluttering noise came up from the blackness and dark shapes began rising. They looked like giant bats and the soldiers began firing Although some of the shapes rose slower, none fell back into the darkness. After a few seconds, the shapes began to clear the opening and circle the room behind them. Afraid to look behind her, she saw them circling the room behind the soldiers, who circled the wall in turn. They formed an almost solid column now, a few feet across at the center of the hole and rising to the ceiling where they spread out to the walls.
The soldiers stopped firing and she looked at the one next to her. Instead of reloading, he leaned forward and looked down at the rising shapes. The rising column grew rapidly in width, but despite the seemingly endless flow, the creatures were not visibly increasing their numbers in the room. She looked at the column and wondered where they were all going when everything went black.

“I was dreaming of you,” Karen said to Charlie when she saw him for lunch.
“Was it a good dream?” he asked, picking at his fries.
“Not really. I would tell Dave about it but he'd just get jealous.” She tilted her head in an overly dramatic way to let him know she was thinking of something he wasn't supposed to understand. “I never dream about him. Why is that, do you think?”
“Maybe your subconscious doesn't love him like you do. Maybe it's still got a thing for your ex-husband?”
“I don't dream about him either, anymore. It's almost always people from work.”
“How is work?”
“Boring. No more layoffs at least. They want us to make a story out of some artists stealing each others work, like people can't have similar ideas or even different ideas with the same result.”
“Or maybe neither the ideas or the result is original. You could always go for the snark angle: which is the greater crime? Stealing the concept, stealing the creation, or destroying the culture by passing crap off as art?”
“It's not crap.” she said, grabbing one of his fries and stabbing at the ketchup with it. “Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it crap.”
“I didn't say that I don't understand it. I did say that it's crap, but it's unoriginal crap. Things that are unoriginal are usually pretty easy to figure out and the original stuff almost always has some zen sort of 'could mean anything you want it to' approach to it. And please stop trying to kill my ketchup.”
She look at him at she chewed the weaponized french fry. Not a lot bothered Charlie but she had bruised his ego enough with the implication of ignorance that he was starting to sulk.
“I'm sorry.”
“It's okay,” he said in a tone of voice that boldly hinted the opposite, “The ketchup had it coming. It was looking at me funny earlier.”
“I'm going on an art walk tomorrow to see the whatever it is that is supposed to be stolen. You can come if you want. I'd like that.”
“I think I might like it too.”
Charlie carefully smoothed out the ketchup with a remaining fry, unaware that Karen was staring with tilted head.

The first gallery had a cat. The art displayed consisted of a glazed sculpture of the cat, a number of photographs of the cat, and t-shirts with photographs of the cat.
“I think the message in this art is that these people like cats.” said Charlie.
“Yeah, do you think they'd let me pet it?”
“Maybe, it's supposed to be a world famous cat.”
“Well, it is. They sell a lot of pictures on the internet.”
“I'm sure a lot of sex toys are also sold online, but that doesn't make Granny's World Famous Dildo's into art.”
Karen threw her head back and laughed. “I still want to pet the cat.”

The second gallery had sculpted dioramas of ceramic bodied figures with wire limbs hunting and gathering amid the ruins of a city built of lego blocks.
“So did they steal the idea of bad sculpture?” said Charlie, pointing at foot-high figures involved in a ceremony on library steps.
“It's not bad. Sculpting things is really hard.”
“Something being hard increases the likelihood of someone doing it wrong and the results being bad. The mosaic lizards in northeast are good, this is bad.”
“Whatever. Just because you're not good at something doesn't make them bad at it.”
“Doesn't make them good at it either.”
“Whatever, dude. That little guy there looks kind of like you.” Karen pointed at a priest figure.
“I thought I was taller.”
“Do you have any idea what people see when they look at you?”
“No. Not a clue.”
“They see that guy, but taller.”
Charlie looked at the figure for a moment. “Maybe they have a cat that we haven't spotted yet?”

The third gallery had drawings hung on the walls of people in concentration camps, but instead of dark and dreary conditions, corporate logos and vending machines abounded.
“I don't see any bad sculpture here.”
“Dude, seriously, have you ever tried to make something out of clay? It's really freakin' hard.”
“They're doing something they suck at and think they do it well. They should know what they can and can't physically do. It doesn't matter if I can or can't do it, what matters is what they can, or in this case, can't do.”
“Then how would anybody ever get better?”
\ “By playing to their strengths. If you can draw, draw, if you can make things out of clay, make things out of clay. Don't do what you're bad at. I can't make things out of clay so I don't.”
“You also don't date.”
“Not 'exactly'! If you want to be good at something, you have to try. And you do need to get out more.”
“I'm out now. And I don't see a cat.”
“No, no kitty here.”
“It can't be stray fur. You can't steal fur. Cats give it away for free.”
“Whatever dude.”
“Any clue as to what they're mad at each other for stealing?”
“No, the guy we sent down to do the interviews found out that they're worried it'll hurt their prices if the works aren't original.”
“I thought controversy made things more expensive.”
Karen didn't answer. She traced the outline of one of the prisoners with her finger, head tilted to one side.

At the fourth gallery, statues made of broken bottles fused together formed a football team.
“You can see through these and I don't see a cat anywhere.”
“I don't think it's about a cat,” said Karen, slowly circling a crouched player.
“How come none of these artists are starving. Aren't they supposed to be starving?”
“I don't know. Maybe they sell a lot of their work?”
“If they sold a lot, wouldn't they be sell-outs and not artists? Isn't that how it works?”
“No,” whispered Karen, reading the placard of a player holding a ball over his head. “Don't be so silly.”
“Are you sure? I thought that it wasn't really art unless it was suffered for.”
“No,” said Karen, gently tapping the nose of another player. “Art is art, the suffering just makes it interesting, and as for selling out, it's just toe-may-toe poe-taw-toe.”
“Now you're the one being silly.”
“I may be silly, but I think I figured it out,” replied Karen, tapping Charlie gently on the nose.

At the fifth gallery, body parts mounted to the walls gave the illusion of people passing through those walls, while holding up other things.
“Is it something symbolic? Like nature's inhumanity towards man?” asked Charlie, studying a towel draped over a waiter's arm mounted on the wall.
“I don't think so, I'd have to check with some guys at the office to find out for sure, but it is kind of weird.”
“What's weird is that they want seven hundred dollars for this arm and couldn't find a towel with a higher thread count.”
“Maybe they didn't want anything too fancy schmancy?” asked Karen, standing by a bodyless head that faced upwards, with candles sitting where there should have been eyes.
“I could understand the not-fancy, but the schmansy is a must for what will undoubtedly become the pink flamingo of the future.”
“That's kind of harsh.”
“Yes, much like this towel, which is not smooth, gentle, or fluffy.”
“A towel critic now, are we?”
“Yes, but only in the evenings. It doesn't come with dental so I'm keeping the day job for now.”

The sixth gallery had paintings of animals dressing, living, and mingling with humans.
“This looks like something from Richard Scary,” said Charlie.
“I remember those. I used to spend hours pouring over them when I was little.”
“Me too. I would try to make up stories for each and every person.”
“I do that in food courts. People watching is a lot of fun.” said Karen, tapping her finger on nothing in front of a painting of three people, a goat, a badget, and an alien waiting at a bus stop in the rain. “Bus stops just aren't as fun. You can't look around at others so much without them seeing and thinking that you're creepy.”
“Maybe they don't think you're creepy. Maybe they're flattered by the attention? And why are those people in the back staring at me?”
“Because you're creepy.”
“No. You really don't have any idea how anybody sees you, do you?”
“No. Not really. You've asked me that twice now, is there a reason?”
“You're the reason,” answered Karen, pointing at the painting.

Goe, thought it would be longer when he started it.

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