The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer, Part One: The Baker 35

Short Fiction Series

Serial Fiction Novel

The Baker was so sober that his head hurt. He was dreaming of alcohol or just about anything that would numb his mind. What was the point of being sober any more. He didn’t paint. He had people doing everything for him. He had an office and a full staff sitting on desks busy on the phones, handing papers to each other, fighting his battles, slaughtering numbers. Art gave way to business, dull, monetary transactions.

He had never exchanged a single word with most of these people. Yet they knew everything about him. They wrote quotes about his art, negotiated prices, scheduled shows and exhibitions. Auctions too, God, he hated auctions. It seemed the only people that he had touched are the ones putting his painting away in safes waiting for the price to go up. They even gave discounts for quantities. Prints, t-shirts, coffee mugs. He had a financial officer. The man was a magician. He could take a piece of art and turn it into a revenue stream until it was art no more. But it was on every mantelpiece. That man scared the Baker, for him, he was a spoiled brat. For the Baker, he was the man of steel with iron nerves and solid handshakes. He was in charge, not the Baker. Art was dead.

He wanted to go talk to the pipe then chug on a bottle of whiskey and dip his hands in paint. But no! He needed to be available for publicity stunts, school visits and such. Once it was arranged for him to be arrested while graffitiing a subway cart so he can make the news and sell more plastic to the world.

He would exchange all that for his studio, a million empty canvases and a few beers. His daily routine was sterile and strict, booked ahead paving the way to capital gains. He just did what he was told by the business manager. The guy used to run a network. He was all about exposure, profit margins, new markets and driving the price up. The Baker was getting claustrophobic.

‘Isn’t that what you wanted.’ Said Archibald briskly, standing in the door way. ‘You are free from your family’s money. I hear, however, that you disagree with our methods. If you want your art to get popular you need these ‘bad’ people on your side. They need to be paid. Nothing is free. Eventually your art will be all that matters. That is the only way. You either take it and grow into a unmovable tree or you stay green and flap with the wind.’

‘Unless it’s a kangaroo eating a pineapple I don’t want to fucking know!’ The financial manager barged in intrusively, screaming over his shoulder. The expression he used had become pop-culture from an exhibition in the Butcher’s museum. The Baker wondered how was he taking the fat end of the stick these days.

The CFO stared persistently in Archibald’s eyebrows, glanced at the Baker and then back to him. He seemed at least a little bit nervous. Which was a lot for him since he had the reputation of a gladiator. He tilted his head subtly inviting Archibald to follow him.

‘Nothing can be that urgent.’ Said Archibald calmly.

‘It’s Meko!’ Insisted the manager.

‘We are talking.’ Insisted Archibald.

The CFO turned around and walked away. That was a nice example of the chain of command. The shirt on his back was covered in sweaty spots. Archibald stared at it for a few moments as his calm slowly evaporated.

‘Something wrong?’ Inquired the Baker.

‘Probably money matters again.’ He pushed it aside but seemed concerned. ‘You look whiter than usual. Take a few days. What’s the point of winning if you can’t enjoy it.’ He was suddenly singing a completely different song.

‘May be I’ll do just that.’

‘Yes, do be seen. Order the entire menu, taste everything once, cheat on your wife, get in a fight with a black guy, make the news.’ He was good humered but the Baker sensed some heavy weight on his mind. His gestures were too animated and he kept fixing his tie.

‘That kind of a break ha! I can’t just disappear in the mountains.’

‘You are the boss.’ Archibald said with unweighted indifference.

For a first time the Baker witnessed him loosen the ever-so-firm grip on his emotions.

‘Had the Butcher been tamed?’ He switched to the ailing topic.

‘I will find out now. Would you like to come?’ He was all business. Unusually open, as if he had given up on conspiracy. Something about something.

‘No! I’ll see you in a few days. I am tired. I feel like a shadow.’ Gave up the Baker on his turn. He could taste freedom in his spit. It tasted like vodka.

‘The thickness of the shadow depends on the strength of the light.’ Archibald said and left.

He didn’t think about it then but it didn’t make sense. The thickness of the shadow depends on the solidity of the object. It depends on the fact that you are a leaf, a bottle of scotch, a tree or a brick wall. It depends on what you are made of.

He left the cold office building aimless. Without a neuron of his considering to look back. He wanted to go to places he loved.




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