by Jake Christie

a story.

“We need some artwork for the apartment,” she said. “Which one do you like?”

There were four paintings on the sidewalk, leaning against the steps of the building. Each one had a piece of masking tape on the frame with the reasonable price of “$5” scribbled in marker.

“I like them all,” he said. The yard salesman stood a few feet away, talking to another neighbor.

“Well, it's up to you,” she said. She squeezed his arm. “You pick one.”

He studied the paintings. The first one was an image of a sailboat, floating along a thin line of horizon. Typical kitschy New England stuff, sure, but he liked the boat. The second painting was a portrait of a man in a suit and tie, stonefaced. He didn't think the man was a celebrity or a historical figure; the painting looked like it was lifted off a wall in a law firm. There was something intriguing about the idea of having a portrait of a stranger in their apartment. The third painting was a landscape, rolling hills with patchwork farmland stretching into the distance. Stars twinkled above them. It reminded him of where he grew up. Finally, the fourth painting was abstract, with lines and colors that looked like thick stained glass. Primary colors shouted off the canvas. Jagged edges tore at the frame.

He looked at her and found her watching him. He knew, on some level, there had to be a right choice. But which one?

If he chose the abstract piece would she think he was smart, or pretentious? Would the landscape remind him of home, or would it remind her of that time they visited and his nephew threw up on her shoes? And the boat... did she even like boats? He seemed to remember her saying something, at sometime, about boats. Then there was the old guy. Would she get the joke or would she think he was being creepy?

“Which one do you like?” he said.

“Pick one,” she said.

He looked back and forth, one painting to the other, up and down the line. “I like the ceramic cat,” he said, pointing. “It's only three dollars.”


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