By Jean d’Eau
It was a cold misty winter morning with a winter mist rising off the Seine like a miasma of cold misty winter fog. I had met The Scream the previous evening, on l’Avenue Grande Royale, at the home of my American friends the McDonalds and their son Ron.
As I strolled on the verandah I noticed a wan figure, silhouetted by pale moonlight, smoking two cigarettes at once, as if there would never be enough time. I recognized him as that infamous art icon “The Scream”. Ghostly, insubstantial, isolated and alone, he seemed the quintessential archetype of despair and alienation. The Last Bell Hop at Heartbreak Hotel.
“Nice weather we’re having,” I remarked as a conversational gambit. He was laconic in the brevity of his reply.’ “If it don’t rain!” he said. “Merde!” he exclaimed, “I can’t get warm!” He grinned ruefully. “It is my nature, you see. I can’t get warm!”
From another’s lips a remark of this kind would have had little significance, but the Scream’s pallid, sickly color belied his jocular repartee. I felt compelled to confess to my new friend that I knew of his reputation in the worlds of art and philosophy. “I am a great admirer of yours,” I said, “I must tell you that I have always felt that you crystallized in some way my own dissatisfaction and angst!”
He strained to smile. “Such is my fate! Do you want to know the truth? Edvard Munch and I don’t get along at all. I did not wish to sit for him the day he painted me, but he insisted. I was having a bad day, I had lost my wallet and my car wouldn’t start. Normally I am a cheerful person. How deceptive appearances can be, eh?”
Just then our hostess, Bitsey McDonald swept open the French doors and descended upon us. “Hack, hack, hack,” she wheezed in a cancerous chortle, “Here you are! Come in to the party now, you bad boys!”
The Scream put out his hand and I took it in mine. It truly was limp and cold, like a fish. “Let’s have breakfast tomorrow!” he said warmly. Lukewarmly, actually, but it’s the thought that counts. “Come to the club at nine, I’ll be at my usual table.”
And with that he was gone.
So now I stood on the Rue de Fromage, beneath the windswept portals of Paris’ famed Café des Artistes, the world renowned gathering place for artists and their subjects. As the maitre d’ led me to the table I could not help but notice the famous faces at other tables. The Blue Boy, foppishly attired and engrossed in his muffin spread with Beluga caviar. Whistler’s Mother, alternately ingesting quantities of gruel and castor oil, rocked in one corner. In the periphery of my vision I caught the glint of gold through the pursed lips of Mona Lisa.
At a long table sat the children of Picasso’s “Guernica”, calmly partaking of the rich onion soup. In the distance a nude was descending a staircase,
while nearby a wholesome American family from a Norman Rockwell gave blessings o’er a goose.
big eyed children and
Mr. Natural and Krazy Kat;
all breakfasted happily.
I admit to distraction when an in-the-flesh version of Farrah Fawcett (calendar as art?) presented herself to my amazed eyes,
complete with stuffed pooh bear and attired in a kicky, kinky black teddy trimmed in red lace. In an alcove sat dogs playing poker and a cat dangled by it’s forepaws from a curtain rod. “Hang in there, baby!” she meowed as I passed.
Smiley faces bobbed crazily, sinners from Dante’s Inferno mingled with Max Ernst decadents. Over here bleak faces from Edward Hopper, over there women gleaning wheat.
Little Nemo flew by on a bedstead and on a plate I saw a
My head was spinning! Across the room I saw The Scream at his table. He waved airily. But as I began to move toward him, he seemed to waver and fade, becoming opaque and insubstantial the closer I got. He seemed to be disappearing before my very eyes. “My friend!” he exclaimed, his voice becoming faint, as from far away, “Please join me in a plate of pickled spam! Or perhaps you would prefer kissers? ” But even as he proffered a plate of them to me, he faded away, as an echo fades against stone mountaintops, and the platter of tiny fish clattered to the table and lay still. I knew that I would not see the Scream again.
I pick at my eggs. The ruin of my breakfast lies before me like a fallen empire. I have conquered, am full. Yet I cannot help but shed a tear when I think about The Scream. I wish things had been different, but there you are. One cannot alter destiny, nor cheat fate. Que sera sera, baby. What will be will be.
At the next table Venus rises from the foam and winks at me. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I lower my eyelid in response. The Scream fades in distance.