by Kate Kearns Views: 0
The doors closed hours ago. The eastern windows are full of moonlight. Joseph isn’t the museum’s only night janitor, but the others leave him the portrait hall in a silent agreement, keep their distance.
Joseph is the only one who hears their voices, though he would never break their confidence. He buffs the floors, expels the refuse of the day’s crowd as quickly as he can, then takes off his shoes and pads noiselessly to his favorite bench. Their little voices can’t compete with the jealousy of one bit of commotion echoing over another against the stone walls all day. Who could hear their breathless murmurings over the din?
Cover me in brown paper. I need a rest from reverent eyes.
“That’s it. Tell old Joseph all about it.”
This practiced scratching, this light contained – I didn’t ask for any of it.
He’s never been to a museum during open hours. Why would he want to, really? Late in the living dark, Joseph can stand as close as he wants, close enough to see the tiny shadows beneath the brushstrokes. He can stand there as long as he wants, too. Imprecise lighting suits the portraits just fine by him.
He sits on a bench in the middle of the expansive room, opens his cheese sandwich. It crinkles in its careful wrapping. “Sorry about all that noise, ladies. Go ahead, say your piece.” He sips from his thermos of tea and listens.
My complexion is a congress of oil and grit.
This infernal glob on my jawline – is it art or error?
“Oh dear, isn’t that just awful.” he consoles, wipes the crumbs from his stubble, brushes them from his lap into his hand, and then into his pocket to be thrown away properly. He gets right up close like a friend on a barstool. He knows the alarm system’s delicate limits, leans in and with his thumbnail, delicately picks the glob into his palm.
“There now. All better.” He returns to his seat.
“Have I told you about my wife? Her hair was just like yours. The same color, at least. But that was years ago. Years don’t mean much to you, though, do they? I thought not. She made lovely pictures. Trees mostly, sometimes flowers.”
If I could just turn my face away. Just for a few minutes.
“She drew me once, my wife. I didn’t know she’d done it, found it in a drawer later on.”
I am false.
“Not at all, dear. You’re right here like the rest of us.”
“Sorry darling. Time for another day.”
Kate has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She enjoys all the equipment on the writing playground, evidenced by her many simultaneous projects. She is a freelance writer and editor, author of the poetry collection How to Love an Introvert, and is working on a piece of non-fiction while dabbling in children’s books and flash fiction. She’s the Platform Manager at Mash Stories and the owner of Black Squirrel Workshop LLC.