From the Editor:
When Gene sent these two vignettes to us for possible publication, I saw the word count and thought the story might be too short (thinking I was looking at a short essay of some sort). However, after I read the two pieces and realized they were vignettes of prose and were both well written, held deeper subtexts, were both interesting, and an excellent lesson in writing for new writers, I knew I had to publish these. I loved them, and I hope you do as well.
“Withdrawn” is randomly stamped several times on the front endpaper of the book, and a pocket containing a checkout card is glued inside the front cover, an obsolete procedure discontinued decades ago with the advent of computers and scanning equipment. The card has the dates the book is due back stamped on it, the last being August 7, 1993, nearly a quarter of a century ago. For twenty-four years, the book has been shelved in the public library, unread.
The six dates on the checkout card are so close together in time, between March 6 and August 7, that it may have been the same person reading the book, renewing it when due but maybe not: it is a slim book, 181 pages, and is a biography of sorts of Victorine Meurent, the lesbian model Eduard Manet used when painting Olympia and other museum-quality paintings.
The book has no happy endings. Manet died early and painfully of syphilis. Long thought to be enamored of painter Berthe Morisot, their relationship was unrequited with Morisot marrying Manet’s brother. Meurent lived into maturity despite being an alcoholic and, eventually, putain; she led a life of “degradation, poverty, and humiliation” although finding a compatible same-sex partner late in life.
The biography is priced at one dollar on the ‘Books for Sale’ shelf.
Olympia is on the walls of Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Meurent looks directly toward viewers wearing only a thin black ribbon around her neck with a locket, small gold-colored earrings, and a pink flower in her hair.
A Night At The Opera
First the woodwinds then, in less than a minute, the strings, and once the rhythm is set, abafando horns.
He discretely elbows her and leans to whisper in the darkened auditorium, but she is concentrating on Puccini, shakes her head to shrug him off. He elbows her again, and she pokes him back firmly: Leave me alone. They are on the aisle; he gets up and leaves which means little to her in her scented elegance, enraptured by the woodwinds. Now forte.
At intermission, she explains Peter’s absence as business related and is asked to join an after party which will include the conductor or, at the very least, the lead soprano.
Peter is now in a different part of town among strangers who smoke cigarettes, wear brown shoes and talk sports and he is the only one wearing a tuxedo.
Gene has had twenty books published, a mix of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. His writing regularly appears in small press publications throughout the United States and Europe. He has a novel, in narrative poetry form, coming out this fall from Middle Island Press: Obsessions. He also paints and has paintings in commercial and private collections nationwide. He has illustrated ten or so books (covers and interiors) and is the illustrator for Misfitmagazine.net.
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink: