Pete had a garage that he didn’t use, so Joe had adopted it as a workshop. The rent was one piece of art a year, on the off chance. Some years earlier Pete had spent three months on Joe’s floor, paying only for food and beer. He liked to refer to the returned favour as the Tao of Property.
Joe’s physical paintings were much simpler than his digital ones. Away from the safety net of layers and the Step Backward command he found himself considering where every bit of colour should be laid down. He was using acrylics because he didn’t yet have the patience for oils.
The latest piece was a simple street scene, but the perspective lines twisted slightly, just enough to make the viewer uncomfortable. At street level the business names matched those from his neighbourhood, a little cheat to enhance saleability. He was tidying up the lettering on the newsagent when he realised he was being watched.
Both doors were open, for light and ventilation, and the afternoon sun was so low it lit up the back wall. Joe glanced up and spotted the shadow, but it was a moment before he made the connection.
She was tall, blonde, turned out all neat and business like. Not, historically, his type, but that didn’t stop her being gorgeous. “Joe Wilkinson?”
“That’s me.” He struggled to remember where the brush went, eventually finding the water jar and making busy cleaning it. The silence stretched out a little too long. “I… Would you like some tea or coffee?”
“No thanks. That’s okay.” She walked over, hands behind her back, checking out the work in progress and a few unfinished masterpieces. And Joe. The brush was as clean as it would get, but he dunked it in the water again and stropped the liquid off with an old T-shirt. “I’m Rachel Evans. I’m a buyer for On The Wall. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?”
“Extraordinary art at ordinary prices? I’d heard you were opening a shop in Manchester.”
“It opens on King Street in a couple of months.”
“I don’t think footballers like ordinary prices. They feel ripped off if they don’t pay at least twice what something is worth.”
“We’ll mark things up for them. Including your work, if you’d like.”
“Well, I….” Joe tried to remember things he’d read about On The Wall. Whether they had a good reputation with clients, just how ordinary their prices were, that kind of thing. But the buyer was standing a little closer than required and still had her hands clasped, pulling her shoulders back and pushing her chest forward. He enjoyed the view a little too long, wondering how much of the shape was engineered, how much natural attributes. “Well. Yes. Of course I’d be interested.”
Rachel smiled, “That’s great. We don’t expect exclusivity, but we would like an original every month or so and first refusal on anything else. And a few prints for our online store. I saw your website.”
“Oh yes. I saw one of your pieces in Norton’s deli. They’ve got WiFi.”
“Really? I don’t have the technology, so I don’t really pay attention.”
“They told me where to find you.”
“I’ll never buy hummus from anywhere else again.”
Rachel was swinging her shoulders back and forth, twisting her upper body. The coquettish gesture was completely at odds with the professional appearance. “That’s great. We have a deal.”
“Okay. So, er, what do we do now? I’d shake on it, but….” Joe held up a paint smeared hand.
The buyer produced a business card and pen, wrote a number on the back of the card. “Call me tomorrow, after two. We can arrange a meeting to sort out the paperwork.” Her hands went straight back to being clasped behind her back.
“That’s great.” Joe checked out the card and then the number and very carefully put it into his wallet.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.” With a smile Rachel turned and walked away. When she crossed the threshold of the garage her hands relaxed from their clasped position and she started swinging them a little exaggeratedly. It was only when she got into her Smart car and drove off that Joe began to think she’d looked familiar.
Notes This is a first draft, open to expansion and editing, so please point out any spelling or continuity errors or bits that don’t make sense.
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