Fantasy Funny Adventure

Art Students

Mr. Bloom ventures to the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon. The line to get in is long and reaches all the way outside where it’s drizzling a little and the rain makes New York City even more grey and inhospitable. Mr. Bloom imagines being inside, the moment he’ll check his navy-blue trench coat, take his little number, and then go buy himself a bottle of water so that he can stay hydrated. In front of him is a group of talkative students dressed in black with A3 sketchpads under their arms and elegant watches on their thin wrists. Mr. Bloom smiles wistfully, remembering his youth, when he believed he’d one day become a significant artist and have his work shown in a place like this.

Ticket Girl

The girl at the ticket counter asks if he’d like a regular ticket or a ticket that includes all their special exhibits. She’s about to describe what the exhibits include when Mr. Bloom stops her and says he’d like the special exhibits ticket and he’d rather keep everything a surprise. Her green eyes light up and she looks Mr. Bloom over more carefully, reconsidering him. I think that’s a wonderful idea, she says, I couldn’t be more supportive. The sleek silver printer at her side buzzes. Here you go, she says, and watch out, the art has been known to take people to unexpected places. He thanks her, walks over to a vending machine, and purchases cold water.


Since a young age, he’s believed in wandering, not knowing, and the beauty of discovery. He’d say all the time to anyone who would listen, I want to be a discoverer of something! Later, as an adolescent he was a rebel, nearly foaming at the mouth, whenever someone tried to impose any kind of order on him. Now, walking through this sacred place, he chooses not to take a building map, but rather explore without direction, open to it all. The first room he encounters has black and white photographs primarily of city dwellers in movement. People shuffle around, whispering, and interpreting the images in their own way. Mr. Bloom reads the accompanying biographical text. The photographer’s name is Elena Wallace. She began taking pictures at only four years old with her mother’s Canon AE-1 Program camera. They had lived on a farm, so her first subjects were animals, she had an important artistic phase with cows, and later in life became vegan. The text claims that had it not been for her ‘cow phase’ she simply wouldn’t have become the artist she is today. Mr. Bloom nods his head approvingly and considers how a single moment can change someone’s life. He takes a few gulps of water as he becomes preoccupied with one of her photos depicting a spider perched on a pair of brown leather roller skates.

The Green Lady (1897)

Mr. Bloom’s fast-responding bladder leads him to the restroom sooner than he would have liked. He almost runs but thinks better of it as he doesn’t want to disrespect the art or its patrons. The restroom on this floor is small, with only two stalls and one urinal. The latter is currently occupied by a grunting twenty-something with greasy hair, dressed entirely in black. His stream is audible. Mr. Bloom barricades himself in one of the empty stalls. He unzips his pants and flips up the seat and waits. A slow start to the engines is common for him (in his late fifties). It finally arrives, what relief! He searches for the flush but can’t find it, looks down at the bowl, and there is an image in the reflection of the golden liquid. He blinks disbelievingly and looks again. It’s a face! It’s one he knows and would never forget. The Green Lady: Lawrence Mulligan’s famous 1897 portrait. He almost falls to his knees to get a better look. Then, with a deafening crack, he’s gone!

Young Mulligan

The room is tiny, European, and smells of a thousand cigarettes. Mr. Bloom finds himself on a twin bed, he looks around and tries to scream but nothing comes out. The door opens and a young man with dark hair strides in, his head down and a paintbrush in hand. He twirls it between his long fingers. His pants are dirty and worn and for the moment Mr. Bloom can only see the back of him. He hasn’t noticed his new bed guest, and for some unknown reason Mr. Bloom is glad for this, he feels a strong need to observe him, to see what he’s like when he thinks he’s alone. Who is he and where am I? Mr. Bloom thinks to himself. The boy rolls a cigarette and lights it. He walks over to the window and looks out at the city. Then he turns around and sees Mr. Bloom laying there. Startled, he tosses the brush at Mr. Bloom, leaving a wad of black paint on his forehead. It’s a young Lawrence Mulligan! He looks exactly like the photos provided in the biography that Mr. Bloom has dog-eared extensively. Our art lover faints. Everything goes black!

Unsolicited Advice

A dream. Mulligan’s Green Lady sits on the corner of the bed knitting a scarf by candlelight. She’s intensely focused. Mr. Bloom, she says softly, you’ll have to wake up eventually, in fact, you sleeping like this, it’s awfully rude. Her dulcet voice rouses him out of bed, and he sits up. I don’t know what I’m doing here, he says. Well, she says, in that case, it’s going to be difficult to explain yourself. Her recommendation is more sleep, maybe when he’s rested, he’ll be more prepared to justify himself. He agrees and returns to bed.


Tobacco. Tobacco. The word calls to him like a train slowly arriving at the station. He opens his eyes and sees a cigarette being offered. He’s been tied up to an old wooden chair with rope. Do you want tobacco? Mulligan asks again. Mulligan has bound him and seems to be offering a cigarette to ease the tension. I don’t smoke, he says. Well, I’m sorry old chap, you seem harmless, but had to tie you up as I don’t know who you are, the artist says kindly. Mr. Bloom begins to cry. I’m sorry, I’ll let you go, just have to ask a few questions, says the artist. No, I’m not crying because you’ve tied me up, Mr. Bloom says, I just can’t believe it’s you. Mulligan frowns, confused. Mr. Bloom scans the room and spots an easel with a half-finished painting, so far there’s only the bottom half of a man with his arms crossed, he recognizes it as Blueberry Harvest (1870). Ah! So they must be in Vienna during Mulligan’s ‘fruit basket period.’ Are we in Vienna? Mr. Bloom asks confidently. Mulligan laughs. No, we’re in London of course!


But you’re meant to be in Vienna not London, Mr. Bloom says. Mr. Bloom starts to notice more biographical details amiss: Mulligan’s missing his ear piercings, his teeth haven’t begun to rot, he’s not wearing glasses, and his room is surprisingly devoid of bottles (this should be his severely alcoholic phase). He pieces together that this isn’t the Mulligan he knows, but another, one who never left London in 1865 and therefore never met Gertrude (his dazzling first wife and the inspiration for The Green Lady) who’d bring him to rock bottom but at the same time bring him to his most fulfilling artistic stage. I want to help you, Mr. Bloom announces, trust me! Mulligan’s eyes alight with curiosity and he agrees, after all, he’s an adventurous spirit as all his biographers would later attest.


Mulligan unties Mr. Bloom. It’s night and their first stop is the nearest London pub. They find one with three floors and smelly drunks stumbling out to vomit their suppers. Mr. Bloom orders two whiskeys and the men sit at the bar. Drink up, he tells the painter, we’re just getting started. David Fletcher’s two-volume biography detailed how Mulligan would spend late nights in pubs sketching and drinking. These were some of his most productive and he’d return to his studio the following morning prepared to transcend artistic boundaries. Mr. Bloom keeps smiling in the orange light and repeating to Mulligan how this will improve his art. The young artist smiles at first, but as his companion keeps on about the value of drinking, he starts to get frustrated. He feels his head getting warm. After the third drink, he pukes on the old man’s shoes. Slow and steady, Mr. Bloom says.

The following morning Mulligan sleeps in late. Mr. Bloom is on the uneven floor with a thin pillow and blanket, wide awake as he had been all night. He is puzzled that Mulligan hasn’t risen early to paint.

It must be Gertrude, he thinks, without her Mulligan won’t develop right, no matter how much he drinks. He closes his eyes begrudgingly, wishing there was some way to help him. He must find him a muse! The woman should be as close to Gertrude as possible, that’s the key. She’ll have to be tall, outspoken and literary. Gertrude was a born leader and only her guidance could take Mulligan where he needed to go. He goes out to the hustle and bustle of London and asks around.


Mr. Bloom knocks on Mulligan’s door. Mulligan opens with a cigarette in hand. You again, he says. Mr. Bloom moves out of the way and a young woman is standing behind him. She’s beautiful and her eyes are big and thoughtful. She enters the room with grace and assuredness and announces that her name is Joyce. I’m a very busy woman, with many important affairs of my own, but I’m a lover of art, she says. Joyce walks across the room as though she’d done it a thousand times before. She sits down on Mulligan’s chair and tells him that if he needs to, he can paint her, but he’d better hurry, she’s got appointments in the afternoon. Mulligan doesn’t say anything. He sets up his easel and gets to work. Mr. Bloom watches. What Mulligan paints is the last thing he expects. The image he creates is truer than anything the other Mulligan did in his whole career. So, Mr. Bloom goes home.


A boy and girl wearing black are together at the Museum of Modern Art. He wants to touch her hand but she can’t look away from Mulligan’s famous portrait, Bloom (1871). What sad eyes, she says.

May 05, 2023 22:22

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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