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TRAVEL PORTRAIT 69: February 25, 2017

Out of the Wilderness [one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | part eight] [listen]

FICTION

I

"Let's pick up the pace a bit. I'm catching a chill," stated Brian to his niece.

"You should've worn a coat," chided Celia. I don't want to work up a sweat."

"C'mon, you know I'm anti-wrinkle. I hate sitting on and bunching up my coat in a theater seat, or folding my coat in my lap."

"Then, why not check your coat?"

"I never check my coat because of the long lines, but mostly because my coat winds up smelling like cigarette smoke or a noxious perfume."

Celia opened her mouth to counterpoint, but she thought best not to mention her uncle's pungent cologne. After the cautious pause, she commented using a playful singsong childish voice, "You're such a whiner."

Brian tugged at Celia's interlocked arm as he began to walk more briskly. Given his height and hoofing lengthy legs, she managed to remain beside him, despite keeping a statuette's pace. To distract her uncle from what she considered a full gallop, Celia asked, "So, who's the geek? Really, what is he to you?"

Instinctively, Brian slowed down to consider the wording of his answer.

"I need him to do research for me--at the library. When I met Frank, he told me that he comes to Manhattan regularly to spend time at a bookstore--and wander through the stacks!

"Eww! That sounds creepy!! Don't you think?!"

"Not so much. I mean, he likes books. He spends hours shopping, albeit for his personal interests. I figure, why not have him do some purposeful wandering for me? If he was dedicated, he could even search the library for me online. That would save me a lot of time. Frank could use my library card."

"Have you asked him yet?"

"No. I haven't. I already know he's curious. I caught him snooping in my office. Well, not actually in my office. He was staring into my office from the living room, transfixed as if he was captured by a window display, trying to decide if he should go into the store. Seriously though, I want Frank to be comfortable with me before I explain the project."

"You mean, comfortable with your spastic temperament?"

"Yeah, well, Frank has seen my passionate attitude for the Arts when we were having lunch--and he saw me blow up at Jeremy.

"Frank met Jeremy?"

"No. I was on the phone with him."

"A full meltdown?"

"I wouldn't say that--just an outburst. Jeremy is such a paranoid. Don't get me started."

Brian's cadence followed Celia's as he became more introspective. She looked over her shoulder to see how close Frank was behind them. She winked at him and hinted a smile.

"He's back there, you know." whispered Celia into Brian's ear.

Brian wrenched his neck feigning concern.

"I thought you wanted to get him to be your assistant. What's the point of keeping him at a distance?"

Brian jerked his arm. "Careful. You'll trip over your own feet twisting around like that."

"Stop it," huffed Celia swinging her shoulder forward, forcing her elbow across her body.

Brian relinquished. He casually put his hand into his pants pocket.


II

Frank, watching the scene play out, wondered what was said that would cause their private conversation to become a disciplinary and rebellious confrontation. From his vantage point, he felt Celia asserted herself not to Brian's liking. Frank thought to intercede, but how aggressive should he approach them? Then after striding along wishing that his duffel bag was not at the apartment, he saw Celia talking to Brian more calmly; her godfather did not remove his hand from his pocket.

Celia asked, "What do you think about Frank's theory?"

Brian did not look at his goddaughter when he replied.

"Oh, he told you about that? I didn't realize that he's such a self-promoter. Do you think he's using me to enhance his career?"

"No--I don't think so. I asked him what his interests were, not his intentions. He told me he was a freelancer, critical essays, I think."

"That's right. Not only can he do research, but he can also write: double bonus, and maybe a pitchman too."

Brian removed his hand from his pocket, but kept the open palm at his side. Celia bumped shoulders with him, then gave him a nudge with her elbow. He made some space between his arm and torso for her to thread hers through. She leaned in to speak with Brian more discretely.

"I cannot stand an intellectual loon."

"Like I said, I only care about his research skills," insisted Brian, speaking out the side of his mouth. "But you bring up a good point. I should've asked him what he thought about the gallery show despite the show's closing. I'll follow up. Thanks for reminding me."

"No problem."

As they continued walking, Celia snuggled. Brian struggled to turn his head to see Frank, who was a good distance away. Holding his free hand up to his mouth to project his voice, but behind Celia's ear, Brian shouted, "We'll be turning at the corner, a left. Almost there."

"Yeah," stated Frank in a conversational voice accompanied with an exaggerated nod.

Jammed in his jacket pockets, Frank's hands were tightfisted. He forced them deeper, widening the corduroy collar, to the extent that his body heat escaped and cool air came rushing down his back. He relaxed from his brooding when he heard footsteps coming from behind. A smartly dressed couple were in a hurry. They surpassed him. He figured they were going to the Hall as well, and that they were concerned about missing the start of the performance. Frank shivered while he checked his watch.

Celia noticed the couple as they caught up with her and Brian.

"This is stupid," she protested.

Celia stopped, turned around, and signaled Frank to catch up.

"We're going to be late. C'mon," she commanded.

Frank removed his hands from his jacket pockets and run-walked up to them. The three strode side by side. Frank was in the middle, between his potential employer and his now activated advocate; he felt stuck.

"Seems as though you have a new friend," mentioned Brian lowly.

Frank heard the mumble in his left ear. His head twitched right. Celia stroked his hand with hers. His head twitched left when he caught a glimpse of her glance as she adjusted the shoulder strap of her carryall. He tried not to panic, though he was becoming more anxious. He did not reply to the utterance; he remained stoic to her touch.


III

They arrived at the Hall and waited in line to enter the building. The threesome were in anticipation mode; however, each had something different in mind.

"You have your ticket, right," confirmed Brian pointing to Frank.

"Yep," he acknowledged waiving the pass.

"We'll meet in the lobby during intermission. The elevator should be along the wall after you go around the stairs," directed Brian.

"Hope you don't get a nosebleed," teased Celia.

"Oh, that's right. Don't bump your head on the ceiling," attempted Brian to be as lighthearted as his niece. Failing miserably, the Freudian slip sounded as if he was giving his guest a fair warning.

"Enjoy the show," snort-guffawed Frank, believing that Brian's unenthusiastic smirk was due to wanting to be somewhere else other than a flamenco guitar concert.

Understanding Brian's innuendo, Celia desired to rile her paternalistic relative even more by tempting his would-be 'business lackey'. She touched Frank's forearm, nodded and replied, "We will. We will."

"See you later," sneered Brian crimson-faced as he gestured to Frank to enter first.

Frank made his way into the lobby and headed towards the elevator. Rounding the corner, he noticed a gaggle of people huddled in front the sliding doors. Frank decided the alternative: climb the stairs to the balcony.

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Copyright © 2018 by Edward K. Brown II, All Rights Reserved.