"If you've seen one Monet, you've seen them all." Madame X said to herself. She stood before the umpteenth "Water Lily" painting in the Monet exhibit, soon to close.

     Dressed in a long black dress, with auburn hair and pearl straps, she had had to spend eternity lifting one strap to her shoulder. Her artist, John Singer Sargent, was encouraged to paint out her fallen dress strap for a more conventional, if less appealing, strap placed firmly on her shoulder. She was stuck, always having to adjust the strap, just because of the controversy during the Paris Salon of 1884.

     "Water Lilies: 1916," she read the label aloud. The light in the room was dim; the museum was closed. Normally she would be enjoying the revelries of the Toulouse-Lautrec Moulin-Rouge paintings, but she had been putting off Monet all this time. Now, she had finally crawled out of her frame and caught the last of it. She glanced at all the other water lilies and bridges that Monet had painted. Tomorrow, the paintings would be packed and would be off somewhere else.

     She squinted at "Water Lillies: Part 24," and wondered just how many of the studies there actually were. Disappointing. Just more of the same. She glanced about the room. Way too many pictures of the bridge and water, she decided. Supposedly Monet was some sort of genius with all these duplicates. She sighed, and tugged at her strap again. Since Sargent had repainted, Madame X was stuck with pulling it back on her shoulder.

     She headed off to the sculpture exhibit. No security guards, so far. That was good. She wanted to see what she had heard a patron say as the girl soot before her frame. "It's as if the stone is transparent," the woman chirped. She was a young one, no more than a teenager, wearing an assortment of colors and patterns, a gold nose ring in her left nostril. The girl explained to her fella--boyfriend? that Sargent had been forced to paint out the strap, to make Madamee X more acceptable, more--dull. Madame X liked her immediately,

     Madame X grimaced. The statue room she approached was full of shuffling feet, of figures so stiff in stone knees, they had to throw their bodies from side to side to make any headway. The Greek athletes, their heads always turned in mid-motion, were the worst of them all. They couldn't see where they were going. As they shuffled about, she heard 'excuse me' and 'get out of my way,' come from the room.

     She stopped as her favorite exhibit, a reproduction of Michelangelo's "David." The statue was a fraction of his real size, which meant all his male magnificence was usually at eye level. Madame X's groin flushed with the thought. Where was he? Oh, there he was, talking to the Greek discus thrower. They always got along, flexing their muscles and bragging about their achievements. Over there, the ebony mother with child, a modern art of two figures, large and small, had retreated to the shadows. Mama was always trying to suckle the brat, but an oval hole was where her breasts should be. The babe in her arms wailed, hungry for his milk. The poor woman would never get that kid fed.

     Ah, the Bust room. No shuffling her, but facing rows of talking heads. Some had turned to face each other, but a few were quiet and had nothing to say. Madame X, pulling up her strap, stepped over to one bust. "The Veiled Virgin, by Giovanni Strazza," she read aloud. She studied the veil. My, that is extraordinary, she thought to herself. The work was exquisite, the veil, hewn in marble, looked, indeed, transparent.

     "What do you want, sister?" the bust demanded.

     "Why, I was admiring your veil," Madame X stammered.

     "Yeah? Well, that's all anyone sees of me, i'n't it?" she said. Her eyes could not open under the veil, but she looked so demure. Her thick accent startled Madame X. "I'm just another woman, dime-a-dozen. Didja know I was the mother of God? Well, no, not necessarily. I'm just a veil, cut from marble. Hell, I could look like a weasel, or a bottle of wine, or somethin'. Wouldn't have mattered. Just another one of them," her base scraped as she shifted towards the other busts of Mary, "but I got this stupid veil on me. Can't see nothin', it's all marble, you know."

     The Sargent woman did know. She said, "But the work is...."

     "Wha'?" the bust demanded. "Interesting? Unique? Unusual? Dats what dey all say, i'n't? What is it, sister, huh? What is the veil? Speak up!"

     Madame X frowned. "Obviously, far too transparent." The statuary room was beginning to annoy her. All those magnificent bodies, with noisy, exceedingly egos to boot. "I'll head to the modern art room," she said aloud to herself.

     "I'n't that where you always end up?" said the bust.

     "Far more interesting than you grumpy gusses," the Sargent woman sniffed.

     "Yeah? Well, watch out for the whiney Jackson Pollok, there in the corridor. It thinks it's upside down again. Stupid picture...," the veiled woman grumbled.

     The Sargent woman tugged at her strap and swept away to the new modern art exhibit. Here were all sorts of creatures. They peered at her in wonder as she glanced about the room. One red figure with huge teeth and two sets of eyes on top of its head, asked, "Oy! How you do dat?"

     "Do what?" asked Madame X.

     "Move," the image asked.

     "At least you can see," said a purple blob with massive feet. "All I can do is crouch down and hold my toes."

     "They're very nice feet, said Madame X.

     "You really think so?" asked the purple blob. "They're not too big?"

     "Oh, yeah! Definitely!" said Straight Line, slashing the canvass from corner to corner.

     "I'm a delicate woman," said a figure in green and yellow that looked vaguely like up-chuck." Madame X raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. The blue square with extra eyes and cartoon limbs nodded, its frame wiggling on the wall.

     "I must say," said Madame X, soothingly, "You all seem to have unusual features. What big eyes you have, Mr. Blue. And you, Miss Up--yellow, what big breasts you have." Miss Yellow wiggled her frame in delight.

     "How'd you get out of your frame," piped a square with a squeaky voice.

     "Why, I've been here for years," Madame X replied. "After a while, you get bored, just hanging on a wall. One night I peeled myself off my canvas and took to wandering. I've been doing so every night, ever since." She swelled with pride. "How long are you folks here for?" she asked.

     "Six months, maybe, maybe more," replied Purple Feet lady. "Then we're off to New York. Can't wait."

     Madame X sighed. She hadn't left Boston in years. She would have liked to go to London, or, perhaps, Paris, but John Singer Sargent was not nearly as popular as Claude Monet (though heaven knows why).

     She started. The rhythmic rattle of keys was approaching. Security. Quickly, she lifted her skirt and hurried back to the Sargent room. The subjects of the other paintings were hanging about, out of their frames. The children, thought Madame X. "Quickly," she said as she shooed them back to their respective paintings. "Aww," they whined, but they minded her, and climbed back into their frames.

     Keys was drawing closer. The Sargent woman raised her finger to her lips and scowled at each of the girls to silence.

     And not a moment too soon. The security guard entered the room and looked about. He could have sworn he had heard giggling, but there were only the Sargent paintings, of children playing quietly, of lighting paper lanterns, of society women staring out of their frames. And if Madame X's strap had fallen to her shoulder, and she had sighed, well, it was a good thing he hadn't noticed.

March 22, 2024 17:20

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Susan Lamphier
12:03 Mar 31, 2024

Thank you so much! It was great fun to write. I'm glad you got a chuckle out of it!


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Sirref Pen Name
02:12 Mar 30, 2024

Really fun post. Well written and had me chuckling the whole time. “I was the mother of God. Well, no, not necessarily,” in particular is a great line. Good job!


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