Tristan Drue Rogers

The Elder Gentleman

The Beyond by Edelmassala

He approached the young man, who was aimlessly taking photos of the artist’s exhibit with his phone. “Hello, there,” he said.

Startled, because of the elder gentleman’s powerful voice reverberating throughout the room, not because he was a scaredy-cat or nothin’, the young man turned. “Oh,” he said. “Hello, sir.”

The elder gentleman wasted no time, turning their attention to a painting occupied with various blues and black, but no real form. “Now what do you get out of this?” His hands held an imaginary brush, spreading paint every which way.

The young man laughed. “Lemme see what it’s called,” he said. The young man contorted his back and strained his framed eyes to read the minuscule lettering. “It’s called ‘Night.’ I suppose it’s … a window?”

“Yes,” said the older gentleman, “but you had to read the title. Now look at this one.” The elder gentleman guided them to another piece, this one bright, depicting a woman with a wildly dispersed color set conveying a headdress. “I can sense what this means. It’s a woman.”

“Right,” said the young man, laughing some more.

“These days all artists do is scribble. What happened to form and construct?” He turned to the young man, his expensive bifocals shining, and his perfectly pearly whites shown off.

The young man adjusted his well-worn glasses, infinitely falling from his nose, and crossed his arms in a show of faux-sternness. “Well, I mean,” he said, “I suppose that it’s all about that gut wrenching feeling, whatever it takes to adjust to a piece, its intent …” The young man trailed off.

The elder gentleman caught the ball of conversation and threw it back, “Yes,” he said. “What ever happened to the old masters?”

The young man struggled but kept pace with that ol’ look him in the eye thing he’s heard so much about. “You mean like of the Renaissance period?”

The elder gentleman nodded but didn’t look away. “Yes and,” he said, “well, no. There were many masters – I’m sorry, my name is Bob and you are?”

He didn’t put his hand out, so of course the young man did. Respect points, he thought. “Nice to meet you, Bob. I’m Arthur.”

He released the young man’s hand, thinking to himself, A young man with a firm grip? How queer. “You know, you’re not going to believe me, but you’re the third Arthur I’ve met this week.”

Arthur raised his brow. “Oh, really now. I’ve only ever met three my whole life! Not that I was ever lookin’.” He flashed his yellowing teeth toward Bob, it wasn’t like he would see them with that respectful stare of his.

Bob raised his hand with a limp, shaking it about with conviction. “I miss the names like yours with that special …” He trailed off.

Arthur raised his own hand, capturing an idea with it. “That sorta umph?” he said.

“Now, uh, now yes,” said Bob. “King Arthur’s court, you know?”

“Yes, or, some back then referred to him as Arturus, of the –”

Bob, excited, interrupted him. “– Oh, Arturus, huh? Oh yes, Arturus. These days those names have little relevance, you know. My brother, he passed away a few years ago …”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir.”

“… he used to go by our last name, Cannalby, you see. His name is Scott and my sister’s name was Abigail, but a few decades ago he changed it to Cann, that’s Scott Cann, you see. It has a little,” Bob raised his hand, sprinkling pixie dust, “of that, uhh …”

Arthur spoke, “That sort of succinct language that our modernity dictates.”

“That’s right,” said Bob, flashing those whites again. “How old are you, Arthur? I’m eighty, you must be, what is it, twenty-one?”

Arthur smiled, his beard covering his lips, folding and mashing with his cheeks. “No, sir, but thank you, I’m twenty-six.”

“Oh, you’re in your twenties, let’s leave it at that.”

“Okay, sure,” said Arthur, leaning back and adjusting his bag.

“We haven’t traversed these other pieces,” said Bob. “You might have, young man, but we haven’t together, would you mind?” He was already turning to the adjacent corner.

“Not at all, sir. Let’s see what we got.”

They approached another set of hanging pieces, two beside each other were easily described and understood, while the one to the right was again more abstract.

“Now, you see,” said Bob, pointing to the two paintings on the right, each with similar hues of brown with the occasional red or yellow, “this one on the left shows a man reading something, while this man is behind him looking to the sky. It shows wisdom as I see it.”

Arthur looked below to the title, it was indeed named Wisdom. “What is he thinking?”

“I don’t know, but the painting paired with it, I can view it as a man, I don’t know what he’s doing or holding, but he does have a cross on that stick thing.”

Arthur turned their attention to the other piece, it more freeform and uncontrolled with varying shades of blue and purple, many triangles, and outlines of white with brown shapes behind the central figures. “What do you think of this?”

“Well, I think I see a dog. Above it must be a cow, I see the horns. And are those bison behind it?” Bob turned to Arthur.

Arthur peaked at the title with little show of it, reading Mother and Child. “Perhaps it is a mother cow giving birth to a calf?”

Bob laughed. “Perhaps is all you’ll get from me with that one.” He kept on Arthur, controlling his gaze.

Arthur struggled, adjusting his back pack occasionally, but didn’t back down from the challenge. For twenty minutes they discussed grammar, of all things, so let’s move on to their next topic so as to not lose anyone.

“Now, Arthur, do you know anything about the metaphysics?”

“Uhm,” said Arthur, already sweating, he could feel it from the bottom of his back to the top of his ass. Conversations, no matter how interesting, proved a workout of his senses. “I mean, I’ve listened to people talk about it, but I can’t really say that I have an opinion.”

“Now, let me see,” said Bob, standing two feet away from Arthur and with his hands raised. “I approached Julie’s piano, she is an old dear friend of mine, and without touching the keys, I let them hover, you see. I let them hover and I said, ‘Play me a tune,’ and I waited, I waited, and a few keys finally played.”

Arthur stuck his lower lip out, stroking his chin. “Really?”

“Yes, uh, huh. You see, people try to do it – move the spoon, all these things – but you can’t try, it has to,” Bob threw his hands up, bringing them down, framing his entire body, “go through you.” He pointed to the ceiling. “From that higher power. Eventually, I went back the next day and hovered my hands again. I asked it to play me more than a diddy and, you know what? It played a full arrangement.”

“Wow.”

“That’s interesting, right?” He crept closer to Arthur, who adjusted his footing.

“I mean,” said Arthur, “yeah, that is interesting.”

“There was this other time where I met a woman, named Veronica, and she was a religious woman,” he said.

“Right,” said Arthur, no longer stroking his beard.

“I entered her room to help fix a table that she had, and when I entered that room she had a statue of Virgin Mary, and it glowed at me.”

“It glowed?”

“Yes, uh, huh, it glowed at me and I knew that it was time to start paying attention. You see, everyone I knew then is dead now, and you have to pay attention to these little hints that God gives you.”

“I’m sorry about your loss –”

“– Thank you, but all I’m getting at is, enjoy your life. This one time I knocked on this woman’s gate, her name was Delilah, and I knocked, she was as far as maybe that door is,” pointing to the entrance to the exhibit, maybe thirty feet away, “and walked it in the time it would take me to touch this painting. Like that.” He snapped his fingers.

“Wow. That is crazy,” said Arthur.

“Isn’t it? Well, she told me of having these problems, and she was maybe forty at the time, so I had her sit down and hold my hands. I told her to close her eyes and think of nothing, but blackness and I saw the darkness inside her heart, after an amount of time of holding her hands, it slowly began to flow from her heart and head toward me, covering me in blackness.”

“What’d you do?”

“I shook it off because that’s what I knew to do in that moment and it left me and she told me that she hasn’t felt so spry in years. It was a good day.”

They had a moment of pause.

“I’m just rambling over here, what do you do – are you with a career or a student?”

Arthur cleared his throat. “I’ll be a student in the fall, I had to wait to become a resident here first. I just moved from out-of-state less than a year ago,” Arthur struggled to continue for Bob seemed genuinely interested as he listened, “but, uh, I’m a writer. I’ve come here to the library to not just see the exhibit, but to write a query letter for my collection of short stories. But I work at a factory making candy.”

“Candy?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Arthur, his face feigning disgust.

Bob laughed. “I have an enormous love for, you know, chocolate.”

“I do, too,” said Arthur. “I know I shouldn’t, but it tastes so dang good, especially fresh off the presses.”

“You see if I ate an entire milk chocolate bar right now my heart would probably stop, and I don’t know where that came from.”

“Oh, that really sucks.”

“I’m sorry if I’m keeping you.”

“Oh, no,” said Arthur, waving his worry away. “You’re fine.”

“My barber used to be a woman, mind you, and one day she was, well, cutting my hair, until I had to get up and run to the restroom. All this terrible hate was just spewing out of me from every orifice. I passed out, you see, and when I came to, she asked me what she should do. You know what I said?”

Arthur waited, but so did Bob. “Oh,” said Arthur, “no. What’d you say?”

“I said, ‘finish my haircut.'” They both had a good laugh from that. “But when I drive home I thought, what would happen if I passed out driving and killed someone? And I saw a stranger in need of a ride, the interesting thing is that I picked him up and that’s how I met my cardiologist.”

“Wait, really?”

“Yes,” said Bob, flashing those whites again and nodding.

“That’s crazy.”

“I’ve had a good life,” said Bob. “Now I should let you go, you have that paper to write and it’s six.” He pulled out his wrist, wearing an actual working, non-ironic watch. “Yeah, it’s almost six.”

“That’s bad?”

“Well, that’s when rush hour happens, and you’ll be stuck in Summerlin for hours, not minutes. Where do you live?”

“Henderson.”

“Ahh, the rainiest town in Nevada. Yeah, then you’ll want to get that paper done before heading out. But if it’s six, I suggest waiting an hour, that’s when the hotels change shifts, you see. Around five.”

“Really? Okay, thank you,” said Arthur.

“You’re very welcome.”

Arthur held out his hand again, giving a firm shake and receiving a limp one in return. “Well, Bob, it was great talking with you.” He began to leave through the exit.

Bob walked out the exit behind Arthur. “You, too, Arthur. We’re disproving …”

Arthur turned around.

“… that, what do they call it?”

“What?”

“That age gap – no that’s not it.”

“Oh, uh, generational gap.”

“Yes, we’re disproving that right now.”

Arthur came closer. “I guess we are.”

“I being in my eighties and you in your twenties, apparently we can have a conversation.”

Arthur laughed. “Apparently! It’s all about good conversation and personality.”

“Right,” said Bob. “Just because we have different life experiences doesn’t mean we have nothing to say to one another.”

“No, not at all,” said Arthur.

“Well, again, sir Arturus,” said Bob, shaking Arthur’s hand and saluting him goodbye. “You have a wonderful life.”

“Thank you, sir, and you as well.” Arthur walked into the library section and took a deep breath. His nerves weren’t steady, his pulse was dense, and his mind was racing. Worth it, he thought to himself. What a chance encounter. “Oh, dang,” he said. The computers were taken, so he’d have to wait. At least I’m in a library. Anything can happen here.

 

About the writer:
Tristan Drue Rogers continues to misspell his name despite it appearing that way on his birth certificate. He is a husband to a teacher and an artist; he is an expectant father and a published author. His novel, Brothers of Blood was released July 19th to publisher Black Rose Writing.

Image: The Beyond by Edelmassala. No medium specified. No size specified. No date specified. By free license.