Victory over the Sun
The word: BOOK
Simone circulated around the party, sipping from her glass of chilled wine. The night was warm, lights twinkled in the trees, the air smelled of lavender and jasmine. How happy she was to be here in Los Angeles, in October. The rains had begun in Strasbourg, but here it was still sunwarmed July. Down below on the steep slope, lights spread out between the olive trees, reminding her it wasn’t a Sienese hillside, but a city of eight million.
A fattish young man with blue eyes approached her. She knew him as one of the museum trustees hosting the Eva Gruen show she’d curated for the Strasbourg museum. “How’s the wine?” he asked.
“Very nice,” she said. A California Chardonnay. Buttery, though a bit heavy on the oak, in the style of most California wines.
“It’s mine,” he said. It took her a moment to realize what he meant, the he owned the winery. She tried to remember his name… Manette? You met so many people over here. Curlyhaired and fresh-faced, he didn’t look old enough to own a winery, let alone serve on the board of a museum. “Where is your vineyard?” she asked.
“Healdsburg,” he said. “It’s up north. You know it?”
She shook her head. “And is it called after you?” Manchette, that was the name.
“No, we call it ‘iWine.’ Like it? We think it’s, you know, young.”
Simone was not, you know, young. She was fifty-six, a curator with the Frier collection. But in California, everyone was, you know, young. The women her age were all blonde and miniskirted, they looked 24 until you came close. Simone’s hair was salt and pepper, cropped at the jaw, sleek and sideswept, her glasses thickrimmed and unapologetic. Only a few people wore glasses here, and none of the women. “How do you like working with Salverstrom?” The new director.
“He’s okay,” said the man. “Whatever. I just like doing it. You meet a really interesting bunch of people.” But it soon became apparent that Mr. Manchette didn’t mean artists or the local intelligentsia. He meant the other board members–businessmen, attorneys, real estate developers, and began pointing out people around the garden, telling her ‘who was who’.
She was relieved when they were joined by two other guests, a tanned blonde woman in white, wearing a gold necklace thick as a bicycle chain, and a lean grayhaired man with glasses. Her name was Linda, she was also a trustee, and she loved loved loved the Eva Gruen show. She introduced the man with the glasses. “Kevin’s a writer,” she said as Simone shook his hand. “A novelist. He wrote Victory Over the Sun, do you know it?.”
“Uh-uh,” said the fresh-faced trustee. “But I don’t read books.” He seemed actually proud of the fact. “Scripts, yeah, but books? I haven’t read a book since college.”
A man on the board of a major art museum, a supposedly cultured individual, boasting that he didn’t read. In Strasbourg, while that might possibly be true, no one would be so gauche as to admit it.
The writer just sighed. She could see it wasn’t the first time he’d encountered this.
“What is your novel about?” Simone asked.
“Malevich,” he said, guardedly. “The painter.”
“The black square.”
“Yes, that’s right.” He seemed actually surprised, that someone at a museum party would know the most famous Supremacist artist. “It was a Futurist opera, staged briefly in St. Petersburg right before the revolution. Malevich did the most incredible sets–”
“Oh, people don’t want to hear all that,” Linda said, turning back to the fattish young man. “David, we just had to tell you, we loved loved loved the second season of Hotel World.” And they began to talk animatedly about a television program that Mr. Manchette had evidently produced.
Simone stepped behind the blonde woman, and leaned across to the writer. “I do want to hear about it,” she said.
The writer’s eyes lit behind his wire-rimmed spectacles. “And your glass is empty.”
And so it was.
Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”
Next week’s word is: SPINE