Grace was tired and so was I, so we hopped one of the little golf carts that took folks to the rooms. Grace smiled at the driver and his buddy, climbed into the backseat and muttered in Gaelic, "the commercial quoters."
I grunted and steeled myself to hear them sing "Puff the Magic Dragon" or something. They remained quiet however, except when one would mutter, "O horror," and the other would laugh. It seemed a private joke, so I ignored them.
As we passed Gozon's room, the door opened and Brunhilde stepped out, carrying a large exercise duffel and wearing a long, silky bathrobe and high heels. Our jokers slowed down to gape, then burst into song, "Oh, Bwuunhiwlda! You are so Wuuuuv-weee!" She tittered and waved.
Grace clutched her cross. I knew she was thinking about what we hadn't seen more than what we had. "She and Gozon are adults--and nonhuman," I muttered. She nodded, but I knew it was hard for her to accept non-humans flaunting their different moral obligations. Each species had its own sins as defined by God and taboos set by their society. Wasn't my place to question--and Grace knew it wasn't hers.
Still. "But does Siegfried know?" she replied in Gaelic.
I shrugged and set my tail on her shoulder. "Let's not borrow trouble. We're in enough debt already." She set her hand on my tail and nodded.
She'd moved on to other things by the time we'd reached our room. "I should apologize to Shirley," she said as she set her harp in the closet. "It really wasn't fair to her that we got so…enthusiastic."
No sooner had she stepped toward the door than someone began pounding on it.
"Please! My seminar is coming up in half an hour!" Our knocker brushed past Grace and dumped his portfolio bag on the bed. The briefcase, I noticed, looked almost exactly like Gozon's--did the store have a sale or something?
More interesting, however, were the photos littering Grace's bed: men and women in suggestive poses, wearing traditional Faerie dress. The clothes were skillfully but obviously added in after the photos were taken. The captions read Melchoir Rawling Art Studio.
Looked like the brownies had found the Erotic Photography lecture.
Grace pursed her lips. "Interesting medium."
"Medium, smedium! Those…" He flipped his hands.
"--Brownies have painted clothing on all my nudes! My art! It's just too much to process! Deep breaths! Deep breaths! Please, tell me you can remove this, this violation!"
Grace faked a sigh. "I can't." She didn't say she was sorry.
He pressed his fingers to his temples theatrically. I thought he was going to start crying.
High strung, this one was. But since I'm a nice dragon, I said, "Mel, babe. Deep breaths. You need to change your perspective. Work with me: what if you don't think of them as ruined art? Think of them as trend-setting expressions of social repression using an unexplored combination of medium, flaunting the modern Mundane's rebellion against morality and enticing viewers to experience the seductiveness of modesty."
Grace's jaw dropped, and Rawling glared at me from beneath his hand. I tilted my head compellingly. "You'll be a pioneer. 'Daring juxtaposition of primitive, yet radical gestures.'"
We watched as his face moved through expressions of anger, doubt, uncertainty and then the joy of discovery. "You're right! What a commentary on the base impulse of the masses incapable of appreciating a culturally promiscuous environment where the body is art! You're genius!"
He gathered up his photos, muttering artsy commentary to himself, and all but flittered out of our room.
When I nodded that he was well out of earshot, we hooted with laughter. "'The seductiveness of modesty'?" Grace laughed. "Some days, you still amaze me."
"Sister, some days, I amaze even myself!"
Many thanks to Lisa Mladinich of New York City for tips in art-critic-speak.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
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(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg