Paradigms Lost – Chapter 13

Chapter 13: Interview With the Artist

The apartment door opened in front of me, at least to the limit that the chain on it would permit. Two bright blue eyes looked somewhat up at me, framed by blue-black hair and set in a pretty, well-defined face. “Hi. Can I help you?”

“I’m Jason Wood.”

“Oh, right, Dad’s expecting you! Hold on, I’ll get the chain off here.” The door closed. I heard rattling, and “Dad! Your guest’s here!”

When the door opened, I saw Sky Hashima walking towards me, wiping his hands on a towel. “Mr. Wood, please come in.” He shook my hand. “This is my daughter, Star,” he said, and I shook hands with the girl who had greeted me. “Star, we’ll be in my studio — this probably won’t take long, but please don’t disturb us.”

“Okay, Dad. You want anything to drink, Dad, Mr. Wood?”

I smiled at her; she obviously knew something was important about my visit. “A soda would be nice — ginger ale?”

“We’ve got that. Dad? Water for you?”

“For now, yes. Thank you, Star.”

Sky led the way into his studio; his hair was longer than his daughter’s, but despite traces of silver here and there, was otherwise just as night-dark. Their features were also similar enough; there wasn’t any doubt about who her father was, and in this case that was a good thing for Star. “A very polite young lady.”

Sky gave a small chuckle. “Ahh, that’s because she thinks you might be a good thing for her dad. If she thought you were trouble, you’d have needed a crowbar to get inside the house.”

“And when she’s old enough to date, I’m sure you’ll be just as protective.”

“Star will be old enough to date when she’s ninety. I’ve told her that already.” We shared another chuckle at that. “I recall meeting you at that little show I did at one of the libraries, Mr. Wood, but I didn’t think you were really interested in art.”

“I’m not, really,” I confessed. “Thanks, Star,” I said, as she came in, handed us each a glass, and left. “I came to that show with Sylvie, who is interested in art and found some of your pieces quite fascinating. But I do have a few other acquaintances who have more than a passing interest in art.”


“And it so happens that one of them is looking to find people to sponsor — to be a sort of patron of the arts. I remembered you and wanted to see what kind of work you were doing, and if (a) you were serious about it, and (b) you were willing to meet with him to discuss it.” I studied some of the canvases set around the studio. One thing that impressed me was Sky’s versatility; I saw paintings which were, to my uneducated gaze, random blots of colors, shapes, and streaks, and others which were landscapes or scenes of such sharp realism you almost thought they were windows rather than paintings, and some in-between, which really didn’t follow the accurate shapes or lines yet somehow conveyed the essence of the thing he was depicting.

Sky had an expression that was almost disbelieving; I realized that it must sound almost like that classic of Hollywood myth, working in a restaurant and being discovered by the famous director who stopped in for a cup of coffee. “You’re joking.”

“Not at all. Would you like to meet him, then?”

“If he’s ready, I’ll go right now.”

I laughed. “Not quite that fast — I have to let him know, then he’ll either set up the meeting, or have me do it. He’s a bit eccentric –“

“That’s almost a requirement for being a private patron these days. Patronage used to be standard practice, back in Leonardo’s day, but those days… long gone.” He took a gulp from his glass and looked at me. “The answer to the first question is yes, I am serious about it. I make an okay living from my framing work, but if you look around you must realize that the stuff I’m producing represents major investment of time and effort. I could do an awful lot of other things with the money I spend on my art, but my art’s worth it to me.” He smiled again. “That doesn’t mean I’m at all averse to seeing my art start making money rather than taking money, however.”

I grinned back. “Excellent. Now, why don’t you just show me a few of your favorites here and explain to me what you’re doing, so I can give my friend a capsule overview and he’ll know what to expect.”

Sky was only too pleased to do that, and I spent a good half-hour or more listening to him describe his intentions and techniques in several of his works. I noticed that he, like almost all artists I’ve ever met, mentioned all the myriad ways in which his works failed to live up to his expectations. It’s always been a source of frustration that someone can produce something that’s clearly amazing, and all they can think about is how it is flawed — often in ways that no one but they themselves can see. It does however seem to be an almost required characteristic for an artist, and I’ve heard similar things about writers.

Finally I shook hands with him again and left. “Thank you, Sky. I’ll be getting back to you very soon. Nice meeting you, Star.”

A short time later I pulled up into the curved driveway which was becoming increasingly familiar to me, and smiled to Morgan as he opened the door. “Good evening, sir. Master Verne is in the study.”

“Morgan, do you ever get tired of playing the butler?”

He gave me a raised eyebrow and slightly miffed expression in reply. “Playing, sir? This is my place in the household, and I assure you it is precisely what I wanted. I have, with some variation in regional standards of propriety, been performing these duties for considerably longer than the Pharaohs endured, sir, and had I found the task overall onerous or distasteful, I assure you I would have asked Master Verne for a change.”

People like Morgan gave the phrase “faithful retainer” an entirely new, and impressive, meaning. “Sorry. It’s just that it sometimes strikes me you’re too good to be true.”

He smiled with a proper level of reserve. “I strive to be good at my job, sir. I feel that a gentleman such as Master Verne deserves to have a household worthy of his age and bloodline, and therefore I shall endeavor to maintain his home at a proper level of respectability.”

“And you succeed admirably, old friend,” Verne said as we entered. “Jason, every member of my household has chosen their lifestyle and I would never hold them to me, if any of them chose to leave. It has been a great pleasure, and immense vindication, that not one of my personal staff has ever made that choice… though on occasion, as of my recent descent into less-than-respectable business, they have made clear some of their personal fears and objections.” He put away a book that he had been reading and gestured for me to sit down as Morgan left. “I have been taking up some considerable portion of your time, Jason. I hope I am not interfering in your personal life — your friends Sylvia and Renee, for instance, are not suffering your absence overly much?”

I laughed. “No, no. Syl’s off on some kind of convention for people in her line of work and isn’t coming back for something like a week from now, and I only get together with Renee once in a while. Most of my other friends, sad to say, aren’t in this area — they’ve gone off to college, moved, and so on, so I only talk with them via phone or email. Really. So have no fear, I’m at your disposal for at least the next week or so; the only other big job I have at the moment I can work on during the day.”

“Excellent.” Morgan came in with his usual sinfully tempting tray of hors d’oeuvres and snacks. “By the way, Morgan, have there been any further problems from my erstwhile business associates?”

“No, sir. They have found that it is not easy to intrude here and have apparently given up after I was forced to injure the one gentleman at the store.”

“Very good. I shall send another message to Carmichael emphasizing that I will be extremely displeased if any more such incidents happen, but it does appear he has learned something about futility.” He turned back to me. “And how did your meeting go?”

“I think he’d be a great choice, Verne. He’s clearly serious about his work, and with my limited grasp of art I think his stuff is really, really good. If you want to meet with him, he’s willing to meet any time you name.”

“Then let us not keep him waiting overlong. Tomorrow evening, at about seven, let us say.”

“I’ll give him a call now.” Suiting actions to words, I picked up a phone and called Sky Hashima. As he’d implied, he was more than willing to meet then, and assured me that he’d be able to assemble a reasonable portfolio by that time.

“I’m glad you’re going to check him over yourself,” I confessed. “I know just enough about art to know that I really don’t know the difference between ‘illustration’ and ‘art,’ and that the latter is what you are interested in.”

Verne smiled. I was, at least, getting used to seeing the fangs at various moments, although I also had to admit that they weren’t that obvious; someone who didn’t know what he was would quite probably just assume he had oddly long canines. “You may be confident, my friend, that I would still wish to see for myself even were you an expert in all things artistic. If I will sponsor anyone, it will be because I am convinced the person deserves my support. Now that that is settled,” he said, pulling out a chessboard, “would you care for a game?”

I pulled my chair up to the table. “Sure… if you take black and a queen handicap. You’ve got a few years on me.”

“A queen? A rook.”

“You’re on.”