We may have something more to say about "The Yellow Parrot" soon

Feb 8, 2018

The yellow parrot --- Green Eyes III --- "Ripley under ground" --- teaser



Cool, folks, cool. We somehow failed to get excited about the interaction between Sarah and her robot (the play we had started), but now, out of nothing, blissfully unprepared, we began writing the first chapter of the next installment of the GREEN EYES saga, "The Yellow Parrot"---yes, the previous part had a chapter about her already, an now we are going full Enid Blyton. (I'm fairly certain that a seasoned agent or publisher would advice a change of title, first thing in the morning).




Context: John has been asked by Alice Sandeman to replenish her shrinking stock of Eleanor Beasley paintings---Eleanor Wagner-Beasley, Godehart Wagner's spouse of convenience, now deceased. If your read the first part of the saga, you may remember that Eleanor specialized in canvasses of white dots painted on white backgrounds. So that's what John's doing in Alex's old pad, which has been transformed into a hide-away studio. 

One more thing, the chapter is titled: "Ripley Under Ground." And one more thing, we've hit another speed bump in the space-time-continuum, and were kicked right into the year of the Trump, 2017.


And now what? A typical Ampersant opening:



The doorbell rings. 

Alex’s attic is entirely on the wrong side of the tracks---compliments of his depression when he got the place three years ago---and so the bell is not a RRing, but a squirt of dying electricity. I buzz the buzzer carelessly, Amazon never rings twice.

A middle-aged man scales the stairs, huffing a bit, keeping his eyes on the rickety steps. He’s dressed in a rumpled, yet darkly-precious suit (made of silk-linen from Iran, his home country, we’ll learn later). There’s also a breast pocket handkerchief, which enters my focus when he arrives on the landing and raises his head. “My name is Souren Souleikan,” he says, lips poised, voice mildly accented, his eyes peeking past me into the den where Composition  #117 resides half-baked on its easel. 

He allows for three useless seconds of silence, then asks: “You are Alexander Iglesias, I take it?” 
“No,” I say. 
“Interesting,” he replies, his regard moving from my counterfeit composition to my left, smudge-painted hand. 
“Who are you?” I ask. 
“I’m Suren Souleikan,” he reiterates, smiling falsely. “The art critic.” He allows for more wordless seconds, then adds, “I’ve come at the right moment, I see. There’s some art that might need my attention. May I come in?”
“I’m busy,” I say, raising my dirty hand, but he’s already stepped into the den where he positions himself in front of my composition.
“You are the artist?” he asks, pointing at the canvas with an abstracted gesture. 


I’m slow-witted under duress (as you know), but manage to say, “Don’t you see?” 
“Interesting,” he reiterates. “The composition. White dots on a white background, shan’t we say?” He turns his head sideways, squints his eyes at my thin, hasty brush strokes. “Three dots, is it not….no, two. I count two dots. Why two dots Mister…?” 
“John,” I say.
“Mr. John. Why two?” 
“It’s contemporary art,” I reply, and then, thinking of Alex---what Alex would say, just for fun, or to play one of his tricks---I add: “The epistemology of contemporary art.”

“Oouh, oouh,” Souleikan goes, his regard trained on me. “E-pi-ste…e-pi-ste... Say that again.”
“E-pi-ste-mo-lo-gy,” I repeat.
“You passed the test, Mr. John. But contemporary art it is not. It’s modern art, at best. Contemporary is when feces decay, or sharks swim in formaldehyde, or tons of jelly beans are stacked in the corner of a fashionable Park Avenue address where the hostess fears nothing more than passing sweet tooth.” 

His regard has completed a tour of Alex’s rooms and returned to me with a change in expression---falseness of smile giving way to a certain uneasiness which belies his assertive poise. There’s a certain pudor in his glance, as if he’s undressing me with his second, or third thoughts. Where have we seen this before? We've seen this quite a lot, in fact, because I'm still fairly fuckable. Ask Alex.

“I mean,” I say.
“Something is wrong here but you’re not the culprit--that’s what you meant to say, isn’t it, Mr. John? So, you decided to blame the wrong on the epistemology of contemporary art…like…like the president blames it on the Mexicans?” 
“I mean,” I repeat.
He turns and affects curiosity for a stack of canvasses leaning freshly against the knee walls under the sloped ceiling of Alex’s garret.
“John is your Christian name, I take it?” he asks.
I nod.
“John, your canvasses here, if my unassisted eye does not forsake me, are all of the same dimensions, is it not?”
I’ve never thought about this, but yes, they are. I got them at PaintingsAreUs, the outfit in Lewes where Eleanor Wagner-Beasley bought hers, no questions asked. Thirty pre-framed canvasses, the maximum that would fit into my decrepit SUV. 
“Eighteen by twenty-four inches? The frame size?”
“Why do you ask?” I ask.
“It’s the most popular size of pre-framed canvasses in the US, by far. Curiously, however, it’s also a size long-shunned by another artist, a local artist of this town, to wit, Eleanor Wagner-Beasley, now-deceased---may her soul rest in peace. Do you know her?”
“Ye-es, Sure.”
He has a second look at the second white dot on Composition #117, the dot to the right of the other dot. “White dots on white background. You must be an admirer of her work. Not to mention the e-word.
"E-word?"
"Epigone."
“If you will.”
“Although---hold your breath---a qualification might be in order. Wagner-Beasley had a preference for three dots.”
“I don’t know,” I say. (I never paid attention to the math; two or three dots I always thought, for Alice had told me so.)
“Three dots, not two.” He insists. “And not by coincidence. Women are more industrious than men; they bear children, they crack the glass ceiling. And so, a third dot comes to them more easily than to a male millennial whose dreamy looks speak of a certain indulgence with…leisure and relaxation.” 
“Huh? Male millennial?” (I say).
“I mean you. A freewheeling spirit whose natural answer to the question Shall I go the extra mile and hazard a third dot? is a tepid ‘No’, rather than a resounding ‘Yes’. Wouldn’t you say?”
“Dunno.”
“You are intelligent, aren’t you?”
“No. Not at all. I’m Alex’s…Alex’s sidekick. Next to Alex, nobody is intelligent.”
“Sidekick,” he muses. “Alex would be Alexander Iglesias?”
“Yes.”
“Sidekick…we’ll get to Alex later. Here’s a little IQ-test that you will surely pass: Do you own a bottle of Chateau Margaux of undetermined vintage?” He looks around, steps even into the kitchen corner where the claret might be stored, but returns empty-handed. He continues/elaborates, “Like the talented Mr. Ripley owned a bottle of Margaux---which came in oh-so-handy when he got a visit by a certain Mr. Murchison in the second part of Highsmith’s Ripley saga. Patricia Highsmith. You’ve read the book, surely, you must have.” 
The penny drops. I read the book. Ripley under Ground. Ripley’s engaged in a counterfeit scheme involving a deceased artist, gets a visit from a suspecting connoisseur, grabs a bottle of the Chateau and applies it to the connoisseur’s cranium, thus committing the second murder of his career, but saving his skin, as usual. 

“You can kill me now,” Melikan interrupts my brittle thoughts. “I don’t care.”
“What?”
“I’m so fed up with life, I cannot tell you.” He points at my composition. “Two dots, or three dots, that is the question! Wagner-Beasley really nailed it. I’m so fed up with all of this. I mean it.” He plops onto Alex’s yard-sale couch and studies the dog-eared carpet underneath.

“If you are so fed up with this, why are you coming here?” I ask.

He’s taking his time, visibly trying to collect himself. “I went to Godehart Wagner’s home, the provenance of all of Beasley’s work according to her new catalogue raisonné. The cleaning lady there told me that ‘all the new stuff happens at Alex place’---her words. Remarkably, her eyes---I refer to the cleaning lady, not the deceased artist---her eyes lit up when she mentioned Alex’s name. And she knew his last name and address. A beautiful girl.”
“I mean,” (I swallow), “I mean more in general---why do you go after these dots if you are fed up with them?”
“Holding the middle between Boccaccio’s second muse and his third one. The muse that inspired The Spring…The cleaning lady. My apologies for this aside…What was your question?”
“I mean more in general, why do you…”
“George Lukacs, the noted philanthropist and connoisseur is a friend of mine. He had taken an interest in Wagner-Beasley after her death and bought a few of her paintings, then bought a few more with the rising market. Beasley’s early paintings are all of different sizes and self-framed. Her later ones are standard issue eighteen by twenty-four inches.” 
“Perhaps Eleanor got tired of framing her own work,” I say.
“Perhaps, but there’s another, more subtle point. The brush stroke on the early work is right-handed; the brush strokes on the standard size canvases are all left-handed…left-handed like your work here.” 

“I can’t kill you,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

“I thought so,” he says. “You would rather drink the Margaux yourself. I have an instinct for killers. Anybody who survived the Iran of the 1980’s has an instinct for killers.” His uneasy smile resumes. He’s done undressing me in his mind. There’s only one way out...



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