Monday, November 22, 2010

The Apollo of Hérouxville (2)

The boy shook his head. “I still…”

The man sat on his stool. “I should have known better. Okay, forget it.”

“Wait! You don’t…. I really want to learn this!”

“Ray, you don’t need to dress it up with a lot of words and gestures. Keep your hands to yourself and just say it. You have to trust me on this: it works. On anyone. On everyone, even the most… Like, okay, that guy over there. The one now pointedly headed in our direction. Try it on him and see what happens.”

“Him? But he’s — !“

The man nodded. “Yes, he is. Do it any way. It’ll be good practice. If you can tell him he’s hot — no matter how unconvincing it might sound — you can tell anyone. So do it.”

“But — “ Anything else the boy might have said were suddenly cut off: ‘ELLIE! MY DEAR, DEAR ELLIE! A DRINK, IF YOU PLEASE!” A head, supported by and swaddled within numerous layers of untended rolls of flesh, swiveled and beaded its sights on the boy. “And may I ask what you’re looking at?”

The boy swallowed. “You. You’re… you’re hot.”

The Head’s eyes blossomed in surprise, then the Mouth ripped open in a braying laugh. “Hot? Me? Child, whatever drugs you’re taking, I want some… immediately! Hot… indeed. You are either blind or else very, very blind.” The Mouth brayed even more loudly.

“You… are.”

“Oh, of course! Darling, I bet you say that to all the boys.”

“No! I swear, this is the first time in my life that I’ve —.”

“First time today, I’m quite sure! Here, let me take that beer bottle and set it a safe distance away, because even now you display all the signs of alcohol-induced dementia.” A flabby Hand wrenched the bottle from the boy’s grasp and set it on the bar with a determined thud, even as the Eyes spun back on him. “Now listen to me, young man. I don’t know who put you up to this cruel trick, but I am far, far, far from amused. Do we make ourselves clear?”

“… I’m sorry.”

“I’m sure you are. And we will speak no more of it. ELLIE, MY DRINK, PLEASE!” There was a long, uncomfortable pause as the bartender silently poured. Then the Head turned ever so slightly towards the boy. “So what, pray tell, possessed you to make that absurd statement?”

“Nothing! I don’t really look at anything in specific! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you! I just thought — “

“You thought I was hot. And you just said it, just blurting it out for all the world to hear.” The Eyes studied him intently. “Boys like you don’t make statements like that. Not unless they want something.” An eyebrow rolled to the ceiling. “You’re not a hustler, are you?”


The Head nodded. “No, I thought not. You are simply not hustler material, and I do speak from some experience. So what pray tell prompted it? My puffy, bloodshot eyes? The pointillist array of liver spots that cascade across my arms? The generous swath of my midsection? Do please feel free to stop me at any time.”

The boy squirmed. “I don’t – it’s just that I don’t look at details, just... the overall… impression,” he finished weakly.

The Head smirked. “The overall impression. Child, I have heard some awkward and lamentable backtracks in my day, but that one, young sir… You might as well say that my shadow…” the Head laughed.

“And why shouldn’t it be your shadow?” the boy said nervously. “After all, what’s a shadow but… an… overall impression?”

“You are quite insane,” the Head replied as it swiveled to look at the wall behind, then stopped in sudden surprise. “Well, I suppose, all things considered, it is a rather remarkable shadow.”

“It is!” the boy said, almost desperately. “It’s a very… imposing shadow. One with… strength! And… power!... and, well, you can see for yourself, right?”

The Body now turned, this way, then that as the Head studied its effect. “Well, perhaps. In the right light, it is a rather imposing shadow, isn’t it.”

“Yes! It is!”

“Indeed. I hadn’t noticed. It has its own graceful line, doesn’t it. It’s almost reminiscent of…”

“The Atlas of Eratosthenes!”

The Head turned in amusement. “The what?”

“The statue of Atlas, supporting the weight of the world! It’s… this famous statue I saw once… that you… look like…”

The Head returned its gaze to its shadow. “Really? I know the piece, of course. Please, who doesn’t? And I suppose that…” The Body raised its arms in a series of contortions, supporting an invisible worldly weight. “Do you really think — ? Atlas? Me? Perhaps… perhaps you might be right. ELLIE! Give this charming boy a drink for me! Sadly, I must return to my husband, whose knowledge of the interplay of light and shadow and form simply pales by comparison. Adieu, you adorable child!” With a sweep, the Head took one final studied glance at the wall, then picked up its drink and rolled away.

The man watched until it was safe, then gave the boy a smile. “Well, it’s a start.”

The boy shuddered. “Not much of one. I felt better talking to your lighter.”

“Practice, my boy. Practice.”

“Maybe next time I could practice with a barstool.”

“You were rewarded for your efforts, weren’t you?”

“… I suppose.”

“The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Here — try it on me.”

“You?” the boy stammered.

“Is that so difficult?”

“No! No, that’s not what I — I mean… you’re hot!”

The man eased his head to one side with a slight smile. “Oh really? How?”

“Your… your silhouette! It’s like the Atlas of — “

The man cut him off with a gentle laugh. “Ray, stop. This whole well-known-statue reference thing is fine and quite charming, perhaps even ingenious, but is that the only classical work you know?”

“The Venus de Milo. But I don’t think it would — “

“No, it wouldn’t. All right, we need to expand your repertory here a bit. Use… Michaelangelo’s Dying Slave. Rodin’s Thinker. Or — even better — the Apollo of Hérouxville.”

“The what?”

“The Apollo of Hérouxville. It’s perfect. It doesn’t exist.”

“So… what does it look like? Or, you know, what would it look like?”

“Anything you want.” The man thought for a moment, then laughed. “A little like me, I suppose. I was born in Hérouxville. It’s a little town in the Mékinac region of Québec.”

“Mékinac? But they say that the men from there aren’t really worth looking at. How is it that you’re so hot?”

The man blushed ever so slightly. “Well, my father was a pretty handsome guy, and I — oh, Ray. Bravo. That was good. Well played, my young friend.”

“I’m not playing anything. After all, you taught me the secret. It wouldn’t work on you, would it?”

The man smiled. “There. You understand.”

(to be continued)

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