11,041 vagabonds plus:
'And this is the place where he wrote'?
'Yes. It is here,' the 89 year-old man replied patiently after being asked one thousand times.
'It's virtually bare,' gasped the young woman. She noticed the lack of dust, her high heels echoing after she halted then preceded again upon uneven stained wood, but most of all she sensed the calming effect of a natural scented warmth.
The hunched-over man turned and smiled graciously.
'My Grandfather sketched in his notebook standing at that very window'. He nodded towards one of two modest sized south-facing views. 'I have disturbed nothing'.
'Imagine', Tatyana wondered aloud, 'his greatest - Thee Greatest - novel ever penned right where we stand'.
'Kind of does something to you, my dear, doesn't it'?
She shuddered. Positioning at a slight angle to the infamous spot, she raised her cell phone towards the window, panning slightly to capture an ancient clock sitting above the fireplace. With his back turned the old man thought he heard a solitary cricket chirp, became confused and startled momentarily to straighten up. 'What in the hell?' he began, bending to the fireplace searching. He shook his head.
'And there', she laughed, 'is the infamous bust'.
'What?', he said, looking at her mouth for the first time to decipher.
'Tell me. Who sent it first?'
'Oh. First? I believe my Grandfather told me once that he sent it to Charles Noonan Avery, and that witty old fellow returned it with the inscription scrawled on the back of Ludwig's head, then....'
'...I believe Granddad shipped it back where it wound up at the foot of Avery's bed while he slept. Imagine waking and seeing that puss first thing in the morning. Jokers', he wheezed, 'and now it rests here'.
She turned the bust slowly, the base crumbling slightly, and twisting awkwardly, her hair draping over Beethoven, she read: Some Days You Are The Pigeon, Some Days You Are The Statue ~CNA. She thought about it, then smiled, carefully turning the stern face back into shadow. She looked at the old curator. He was quiet as a statue looking out the other window, hands clasped behind. She spoke to him softly.
'What was it about the book, sir?'
He shrugged his shoulders.
'You of all must have an opinion', she mused kindly.
'The learned can tell you. I can not', he stated impatiently.
'He must have conceived it where you stand, sir'.
'Perhaps', he nodded, a bobbing head facing out the rear window of her dad's automobile is what the twenty three year-old thought. Tatyana turned to go.
'Young lady', his voice cracked, barely audible, a momentary silence disturbed by two bells of the clock high on the mantel. They both watched the grand clock until it finished singing. He looked at her, then looked down at his slippers.
'Tatyana, is it'?
She nodded, but he didn't see. 'Yes', she whispered.
He turned to the window and looked up.
Big Room (1948)
by Andrew Wyeth
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