The Gallery

 

Come in, my fellows, come in.

Well, make up your mind. Don’t just stand there with the door open, letting in the cold. Ah, you’ve decided to join us for a moment, then? Good.

I think you’ll enjoy viewing the displays. Warm yourself by the fire and then I’ll give you the tour.

Here, try a sip of this. Never mind what it is. It’ll numb you against the cold, and maybe a few other things as well. You look like you might need it.

There, that’s better. Ready to begin? Follow me. Through this doorway, and then . . . wait a moment, your eyes will adjust to the poor lighting conditions.

So, what do you think? I always like to watch new visitors’ faces. There’s something so simple–so beautiful, yet so grotesque– about all this. Like a bird’s fascination for a snake, you want to look away, but you can’t, can you? I thought not.

Let’s take a moment while you get used to it. Sorry, poor choice of words; you never get used to it. You just learn to shut it all out sometimes.

Yes, I brought my flask with me; why don’t you keep it for the tour. Drink up, there’s more where that came from.

Here’s a trick: Don’t look at it all at once. Focus on one display at a time. For instance, look to your left. Here’s one of my favorites.

Savor the feeling of misery that comes upon you when you see the stories, when you hear the pain. Notice the very special blend of love and hate, agony and anger, all mixed together in one person’s life.

Feel free to stare. She can’t see you; she’s not really here. That’s craftsmanship, that is, and she’s one of our finest artists. Some people might think that her display is too crowded, that she’s trying to fit too many things in too small an area, but I disagree. It makes me weep to stay here too long, so let’s move along.

Okay, we might as well get this one over with. A lot of people insist on displaying this kind of stuff, although I don’t much care for it myself. I categorize these kind of displays as “unrequited love,” though of course you’re free to make your own judgement. I only wish there weren’t so many of them.

At this point, I probably should warn you. Not all the displays are harmless. See the ones over there, covered with cheap burlap? Most of ’em are just sales pitches, annoying but innocuous, but there are a few others. Feel free to peek, but I’ve learned better. Oh, and if you decide to look at the one on the end, there, you may wish to have me lash you to the mast.

Eh? Nothing. Just an old man’s joke. Working here has made me a good bit stranger, or so say my friends and relatives. And here we come to another one of my favorites.

What do you see? Nothing. What do you hear? Nothing. What do you feel? Nothing. It’s a very subtle display; not everybody appreciates it at first, but I tell you it’s high art. If you look at this one long enough, you’ll begin to question your own existence, or at least your own sanity. It’s a powerful message of hopelessness and despair.

Here, you, come away from there! It’s a trap. Notice the outline, there on the ground? You ring that bell, and the floor drops out from under you.

Executed well, it can be really fun to watch. From a distance. Unfortunately, few are so skilled.

Well, I’ve shown you a few of the displays, but you really should experience them on your own. Pretty soon you’ll realize that anybody can create one, but I do warn you. It’s not as easy as it looks. Some people adjust their displays almost every day, moving this a bit, straightening up that. It’s very consuming.

Unless you have any questions, I’m going to head back to the fire, and finish that bottle. Take as long as you like, we never close.

What? You want to see my display? I’m flattered, but there isn’t much to show. That’s it right there. No, it’s not just an empty room. Look carefully at the carpet. Notice anything? See where the piles have been pressed down?

Yes, that’s right, there used to be furniture there. Bookcases, dressers, a bed. And that’s not all; if you look carefully, you might notice a tarnished money clip. It’s a short story, but a long time between tells.

This part’s hardest of all. Look straight ahead, but at nothing in particular. There! Did you see that? You didn’t? Keep trying, if you like, but I’m going back. I really can’t stay here long.

Oh, just ghosts. The people who helped make me who and what I am today.

Sometimes I can see ’em, sometimes not. Most of the time I don’t want to see them.

One last question? Sure, shoot. How to get started on your own display?

But I thought you knew. Look up. Look around you. You’ve already started, and someone is watching you this very instant. Like it or not, what you’ve seen here today will affect your life, your work, your art.

I’m leaving now. Thanks for stopping by. You’ll be back.

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