by Anonymous (i.e. not by DF Lewis)
“Don’t argue with me, that’s a Titian.” The rampant child carer sent her rays of wisdom over the child, hoping that they would warm its heart enough to make a sensible comment about the golden section or the mathematics surrounding the masterpieces on view.
Nothing but silence greeted the girl who was too engrossed in the painting to notice that her little chum was flicking his space ship up into the air, only allowed along to keep him company, not to participate in lessons. He made it fly across the room in the general direction of the alcoves full of baroque amusements, seething with day trippers intent on enlightenment, except that they had no intention to go everywhere they wished. They were too lazy for that effort. Instead they took solace with the Titians and left the other wandering much to their mind’s eye.
She had washed up looking after this child for a friend and relied wholly on her patience to see her through rooms and rooms containing treasures that would encompass the great reference points heralding artistic development.
“Come here,” she shouted, beginning to get a little tipsy with exasperation.
“Come over here now!” The child didn’t acknowledge her but everyone else did as they were told, turning round on their haunches to view this new exhibit, this time a living installation.
The space captain bombed down the corridor out of sight, leaving his poor caretaker friend to get on with her bewildering act which ended up unapplauded and most of all unappreciated.
“You’ll be amazed with what he can come up with,” the boy’s mother told her expecting a favourable impression, “he tells me things that go way above my head.”
“Not anymore,” she thought.
He was determined to be as obstructive as possible when she told him that the gallery was today’s treat. The brat was entrusted with a determination to play her up right from morn until this moment in late afternoon, which meant an unsatisfactory arrangement tearing around the place without any debate over the slew of golden oldies from the baroque school.
There was nothing wrong with the painting she was looking at, just the fact that the man’s elbow was half way out of the picture. She was almost sure, that the man wanted to nudge her for a prank, a wilful episode in a very serious situation. She also noticed seemingly little room for mirth in this man’s life, but yet the outward bound elbow would suggest otherwise – like a bit of a wisecrack left in when applying the last brush strokes.
On the way up to this portrait she heard scholarly conversations summoned up by the art apprentices, arch students, some still hazy from excessive drinking away the night before; sprinkling curators leaving words like “painterly” singing in the ears, even after such a long while eyeing up the more classical daubs.
Hurrying down the corridors, the errant boy carried his rocket nestled under his cardigan, stalking his own imagination derived from far off space wars, while displaying how flight could be achieved under the thumb and forefinger clasped tightly around a spindly plastic tube.
“Hey, there young man, who might you be?” It was a Brummie accent, probably a tourist. The boy noticed that his beard was thickly set on a middle aged profile which seemed quite penetrating when one focused on it completely.
“The man tried to grab me,” the youngster yelled.
“Which man?” the adult requested.
“The painting man,”, began the infant. “His arms got stuck and he wants to get out; he told me.”
“Not on my watch”, laughed the old man, “but I know who you are talking about –'The Man with a Blue Sleeve'. "
“Yes. That’s him.”
It was clear that the child hadn’t noticed beforehand that this particular person had a red nose on display which was perched right inside his leather carry bag. As the child went to grab it, the man’s hand intercepted its carriage.
“You know that’s my nose.” The man was becoming plaintive. “Keep those little mittens away from my stuff will you? That’s my box of tricks.”
The boy began his inevitable enquiry, “When do you use that thing?”
“I plonk it on and then march up and down in a silly fashion, just like this.”
He demonstrated with determined gusto shoving his snout up so that it seemed he was balancing a bauble on his nose bridge. Whatever one believed about this man, he seemed quite distinct from the surrounding emporium he’d created – not a realistic probability. He never smiled once during the whole charade. The child watched his feet sweeping along the floor and imagined as if they were detached from his body, a bit like the elbow from the picture.
“I’m a professional clown and that’s all you need to know about me sonny.” He guffawed twice just to make it clear who he was.
“You’re a wicked man, that’s what you are,” the boy retorted. “You’re not good enough to be a clown. Don’t they have make-up or something like that?”
The Brummie carried on his speech regardless with raised eyebrows: “No make-up for me when I’m not on the job - why you must have heard of me? I’m known as the great Robert Elesco, clown extraordinaire. I can whistle as well as sing for my supper.” Oh dear, and he even bowed just to deepen the authenticity, twisting his jowls in an effort to prove he could pull a funny face. “I’ve also seen proper fairies and can talk in fairy language; I’ll teach you if you wish.” He whispered this particular secret as an aside just in case his audience should doubt him even at this point.
But his eyes did not match the description. It was as if these were lines he had learned in a play or he was reeling off catch phrases that had reached past their peak time.
“Well, I’ve never heard or seen of you. My Nan doesn’t like clowns neither!” The child was now becoming visibly angry and its cheeks puffed out from the harassment this silly man was causing, almost making him cry.
“Make sure you tell your mother about me young man and I will give her a free ticket to my show!” he shouted.
But the child had already sped off, gone as fast as his shoes would carry him, trembling lips, quite frightened and greatly flustered: there was not the remotest chance this man had been a clown or would ever wear the blue smock espied in the carry bag under the joke nose. The boy wondered what happened to the real deal – a preoccupation which would take him from now until he reached his awaiting guardian. He definitely knew this man was not who he said he was.
“I’ve seen the man in the painting!” he gasped while grabbing at her hand's iron-clasped grip.
“So what do you think?” she asked with renewed enthusiasm. She had obviously got over her initial shock and embarrassment, remembering that she was supposed to be looking after the boy as requested by her friend.