#48 THE ART EXHIBIT - Part 2
The gallery director and his wife welcomed us, but in an aside to me he mentioned that the paintings were not priced. “The name tags are up Charlotte we just need you to price the inventory sheet, then mark the tags.” When he saw the terror on my face, he added, “Just a moment.”
The director hurried off then reappeared with an art professor from N.A.U. to whom G.B. and I were introduced. “He’ll help you price them Charlotte.”
I turned, reached out to take G.B.’s hand, but he was edging back, “Y’all go Charle.” And when I pleaded he shook his head and said firmly, “No.”
After we had priced Pat’s work and mine, people intercepted me, friends from Ash Fork and strangers, Flag residents and visitors to Arizona. They made interesting comments and inquiries about paintings and the health of Pat and me.
At one point Lorraine led me over to three long white draped refreshment tables. Tempting substantial sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres on one table, incredible petit fours and an imaginatively decorated cakes on another. Beautiful stem glasses sparkled, bottles of Champagnes were being popped and at the end of that third table they had placed an immense, sparkling cut glass antique punch bowl. Scoops of ice cream and raspberries floated in pink ginger ale and topping it all was whipped cream replicas of the nearby mystic San Francisco Peaks.
My thoughts went to G.B and I gazed around the room, hunting for him. I was surprised to see him sitting alone half way up the stairs which led to the loft, I couldn’t climb the stairs so I stood on the floor beside him and offered him refreshments, but he replied softly, “No thanks Charle.”
I had never encountered this mood before and while I was devising a method of attack, Shirley and Lorraine came to drag us off for pictures. But again, G.B. refused. Now I was hurt but the girls made short work of that mood. I was passed from one person to another and received warm appreciation and interest.
A sweet, elderly woman walked up to me and asked, “It’s rather quiet, don’t you think? Would you like me to play the piano for the gathering?”
“Oh that would be lovely!” I replied accustomed to the virtuosity of my family, Then like an electric shock I recalled an elderly man who pulled the plug on a juke box while everyone danced — he sat down at the piano and began to play every wrong note he could find. He had cleared the room in eight minutes.
This woman was elderly, she might make mistakes! She might play mournful old pieces or inappropriate hymns or just play badly! Oh what have I done!
I ran to G.B. and pleaded “G.B. I need your help! I told an elderly lady she could play the piano! What if it sounds awful?”
“Wayll now,” he drawled while he rose and descended the stairs. “After the first song, if it’s real bad I’ll get to talkin’ with her. Don’t y’all worry Sweetheart.” He was needed!
There was a fan fare on the piano and that dainty refined lady let fly with the most rousing rag time music I’d ever heard. She was spectacular and a shaft of electricity shot through everyone in the gallery. But again, G.B. was sad.
I stared at him and thought, this is nothing if I can not share it with my love. If this becomes a sad memory, we will never be able to talk about it, laugh about it or be proud of it. It will represent failure to me if I can not draw his spirit into this night — and I do not know how to do it.
Then like Cinderella’s fairy god mother, a beautiful older lady walked up to us, she smiled at me but addressed G.B. “How do you do Mr. Madison, I am Alice Babbitt.” She was matriarch of Governor Babbits family. G.B. was mightily impressed. Fortunately she turned her full attention to G.B. asking him about his wife and the Arizona quarry paintings. I often wonder if she had been watching him and saw in his body language and facial expressions, his need for special attention.
He was soon a-goin’ an’ a-blowin’ with every person in the hall. He greeted ones he knew and gave each stranger a blow by blow account of his quarries and his strange Canadian Painter lady. He went on to describe how “I sent her out to paintin’ an’ set the carpenter to framin’ an’ kept her at it when Pat got poorly an’ she wanted to give up. I sent people to Prescott to get her paint, an’ sent her friends out with her to keep her at it. She gets scared real easy an’ needs a little poosh once in a while.”
I watched Lorraine - beautiful in her cherry colored sari - warm and gracious, floating with a watchful eye from one person to another, charming them all. I coped well with people’s enquiries and when I felt a need for help it only took a look to bring Shirley or Lorraine to my side where they skillfully diverted the attack.
I passed close by G.B. and heard him saying, “As well as Charle’s quota, we did fifteen extra paintin’s in thirty-three days! Now y’all come down to Ash Fork an’ I’ll show y’all my li’l town an’ take y’all out to m’ quarries.” My sweet Ol’ Okie boy was back and he was the star of the evening. Now I could have fun.
G.B. was elated when he saw his employers, Dina and Whitey Webster and realized they had taken the time to drive up from Phoenix in the storm. He was amazed when he learned they were planning to purchase several paintings.
G.B. and I were enjoying a Pepsi when the director Doug Raide walked up to me and announced “Charle, even if we don’t sell any more paintings, we have sold enough to rate the show a success.”
And G.B. dropped me like a hot rock so he could hurry off to spread the news. The exhibit had been an adventure and discovery for both of us but the deepest emotion I felt was the joy I experienced watching G.B. charm everyone in the room and bloom like a rose as he took credit “fer the whole dang thang.”
On the ride home he took the front passenger seat, glowed with pleasure and began to slowly and methodically review the evening but Shirley and I were far beyond being patient listeners and like over stimulated children at the end of a long day, we met his every word with bursts of hysterical laughter.
“Weyll Godamit Charle what the hayll is the matter with y’all, an’ with y’all too Shirley. WHAT’S FUNNY?” I wish y’all’d tell me so’s I could laugh too.”
I looked at his dear face, lit in splashes of color as we sped past Flagstaff’s neon lights and I saw hurt and confusion. I realized his father never would have allowed him to experience the hysteria in which Shirley and I were indulging. Truly, G.B. did not understand our laughter.
I leaned close to him and spoke tenderly, “I love you G.B. Thank you for coming with me. I needed you so much. Thank you for enduring all the inconveniences this year, and thank you for all your enthusiasm and the endless ways you helped to make the art show a success. There wouldn’t’ have been an exhibit — without you Sweetheart.”
In the rear view mirror I saw Shirley snuggle up to Bill and quietly giggle.
My dear G.B. stared at me with a tender smile that shot through me with a fiery bolt of love, as he declared loud enough for all the world to hear, “I love y’all Charle” then in the next breath my wild ol’ Okie boy was a-goin’, an’ a-blowin’ an’ a-braggin’ — all the way home.