About the Story
This story began, as you might expect, with a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, and the common idea of “what might these paintings and sculptures have to say if they could move and speak?” Which led, me being me, to the notion of someone stealing art by bringing it alive. Which led, in turn, to the question of “who suffers from this?” which is what drives character and story.
I didn’t actually write the story for some years after I had the idea, but most of the artworks in the story are specific ones from the Art Institute’s collection. However, when I returned to the Art Institute some years later, and I made a point of visiting “my” artworks, I discovered that I’d completely misremembered some of them. Pocahontas, for example, is much smaller than life.
Oh well. That’s why we call it “fiction.” So why does it bug me that the walking, talking statue is not the correct height?
One of the uniformed guards spoke up. “‘Scuse me, miss, but there’s no smoking in here.”
My eyes turned automatically to the source of the disturbance: a tall redhead with porcelain skin and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Her dress was a vivid burgundy, and she had an extravagant broad‑brimmed black hat with a white scarf for a hatband. Her eyes were brown, not green, but gorgeous anyway. Intense. I was jealous of whatever painting she’d come to see.
She held out her hands, fingers spread wide, and said “I’m not smoking.”
“Sorry, miss, I thought I saw…”
“Well, you didn’t. Excuse me.” She resumed walking toward the door.
Now I saw what the guard had seen ‑‑ a wisp of smoke right behind the redhead ‑‑ but there was no cigarette in her hands or in her mouth, and no smell of tobacco. Was it smoke at all? It looked funny, more like a tangle of fine wire than a puff of smoke, and it moved funny too. Not drifting. More like it was keeping pace with her.
Then a crazy thing happened: she held the revolving door for a moment so the smoke could get in along with her. At least, that’s what it looked like…