I considered the painting in front of us.
“I rather like it,” I said, my hand thoughtfully stroking my immaculately groomed Van Dyke beard.
“It’s hideous,” said Alexis and took a pointed (and noisy) sip of her martini.
I just continued to apprise the painting thoughtfully. I moved my beard-stroking hand a little to the side and upwards so that I could tap my cheekbone with the tip of my index finger pensively. It is the very sort of hand motion they don’t teach one in art appreciation classes.
Finally, I could stand it no longer and felt I must speak my mind. I would try to speak carefully, trying not to let any pique seep into my voice. Seeping pique was not good. It’s best not to let it peek into one’s voice. No seeping pique peeking to peak one’s ire. “What is it you find hideous?” I asked, “Is it the staggering beauty? The genius use of color? The masterful use of line and shadow?”
“No,” she said, taking another sip of martini and sounding not unlike a horse drinking from a trough. “It is the ghastly lack of talent, the appalling absence of form, and the hideously commercial quality of everything from insipid colors to the choice of media.”
I sniffed in disdain. “Well, that is exactly the sort of appraisal I would expect of someone with such plebian tastes. I dare say you have had one too many martinis. They have had a coarsening effect on your sensibilities.”
“Plebian?” she said, her voice full of pique (which you may remember I earlier indicated was undesirable). “You have the audacity to call my tastes plebian when yours are so … so … so pedestrian?”
“Pedestrian?” I hissed, my own voice full of the pique I had been so careful to avoid up to now. She may as well have stuck a knife in my back.
“You heard me,” she said, swilling down the last of her martini. She picked up the olive by the swizzle stick and popped it into her mouth (sans swizzle stick) and chewed on it spitefully while glaring at me, her beautiful ice colored eyes sparkling with defiance.
“You have some nerve –“ I started to say, but we were interrupted by Miss Johnson, who interrupted us nervously and timidly.
“Sir … ma’am … I so sorry to interrupt, but the open house is closing.”
We both looked at Miss Johnson as our pique subsided.
“I’m terribly sorry,” I said. “I guess we forgot ourselves.”
“Tell me,” said Alexis in her best aristocratic (and martini-slurred voice), “Who painted this . . . this . . . piece of . . . um . . . art?”
“This?” asked Miss Johnson, looking at the painting.
“Yes. This.” Alexis waved at it dismissively as if she were holding a cigarette in a foot-long cigarette holder.
Miss Johnson leaned forward and looked at the tag beside the painting. “It says Timmy Edmonds painted it.” Then added. “Aged 5.”
“Oh, thank God,” said Alexis in a rather relieved voice. “I thought you were going to say it belonged to our boy.”
“No,” said Miss Johnson. “Little Edrington’s drawing is over there.” She pointed at a wall opposite that was festooned with examples of the artistic endeavors of the Wee Tots Preschool Acadamy.
“Is he still in his cubist period?” I asked.
“Mr. and Mrs. Callington, we really need to close. Thank you for coming to our open house.” And then added, “Is that a martini?”
“Yes,” said Alexis. “Would you like one?”
“Good heavens, no!” said Miss Johnson, shocked. “Alcohol is not allowed on the premises.”
“It isn’t?” asked Alexis, seeming nonplussed. “How extraordinary.”
“Where is little Edrington?” I asked, feeling like the time had come to move the conversation away from martinis. I looked around. Apparently, they were fresh out of wee tots, including our own bairn.
“I believe your chauffer already took him out to your limousine.”
“Ah,” I said. “Capital. James, as usual, has things well in hand.” I presented my elbow to Alexis. “Shall we, my dear?”
“Absolutely,” she said as she took my arm. “I need another martini. This exhibit has been most taxing.” We began making our way outside to the limousine.
“I understand there is an exhibition of primitive art at L’Académie Petite Enfance this Thursday,” I said, referring to the exclusive institution we have enrolled our precious little Evangeline in.
“Will there will be an open bar?” asked Alexis.
“One can hope,” I said.