Five Million Yen: Prolog

Five Million Yen

A NOVEL BY

D. R. Harris

Synopsis

The prolog to my novel: Five Million Yen.  Ben Clarone, A-list musician, and his friend Anatoly Gringovitch, a fast-rising art world star, become involved in an art forgery caper that results in music, murder, betrayal, and romance played out in the rarified art and music worlds of New York, Paris, Hollywood, Nice, and Monte Carlo.

Prologue

July 21, 1948. Sherman, Connecticut

The lanky broken man walked with short quick steps on the uneven path. His long-fingered right hand held a length of cheap grocery store clothesline. He wore jeans, a black-and-white checked wool shirt and dress slip-on shoes without socks. His thinning black hair framed his pallid complexion. The whites of his eyes had a faint blue patina. A heavy leather-and-steel orthopedic brace encircled his neck. If he was in pain, it was not apparent from his facial expression, which seemed to relax into a beatific smile with each step. His legs, which initially felt heavy, shed weight as he switched his gait to a drag-leg hop-skip. In his native Turkish-Armenian, he repeated a three-word phrase until it became an unintelligible rhythmic singsong. A large mixed-breed dog and a dachshund followed the man. Ahead was a small three-sided shack situated beside a large stone crusher, remnants of a former resident’s mining ambitions. In the shack were stacks of empty wooden wine crates. The man entered the shack, took one of the wine crates and situated it under a roof joist. Standing on the wine crate, he tied the clothesline to the joist and made a slipknot at the lower end. He stepped off the crate and pulled a piece of white chalk from his pocket. On another wine crate he wrote Good-by all my loved. He wanted to write more, but the chalk broke. He tossed the pieces of chalk out the open side of the shack onto the grass. His mind was not his own. He was ready to escape the physical pain, misery, humiliation, career failure, ridicule and recent cuckoldry he had suffered. His life had become a lie. Even his American name was a lie. He had devoted his life to art, but art had walked out on him. He removed the leather and metal brace from his neck, dropping it on the earthen floor. He could smell the rising summer heat from the quarry. He stood on the crate, put the loop of clothesline around his neck, and without hesitation kicked the wine crate from under his feet. The clothesline stretched until his toes were an inch from the earth. His weakened neck made a sharp click sound. His last exhale caused his jeans to drop to his pubis revealing the bandages around his abdomen from his recent colon surgery. The dachshund began barking. The dead man was the acknowledged father of Abstract Expressionism: the painter Arshile Gorky.

July 21, 1948. Union Square, New York City

Unknown to the thief, the click of the lock on Gorky’s Union Square studio door in New York City coincided with the crack of Gorky’s neck in Sherman, Connecticut. The object he sought was the painting on the studio’s large easel. That painting, The Unfaithful Wife, depicted a nude woman lying on her back on an unmade bed, legs akimbo. She beckoned to the man who stood at one side of the bed. Her figure was foreshortened making her head appear smaller as it receded toward the headboard at the top of the picture frame while exaggerating the size of her legs and hips. The perspective made the naked man’s erection appear larger than normal; his eyes were glistening in anticipation of sexual pleasure. Both figures were painted with wild stabbing brush and palette knife strokes. The setting was a room filled with a pale rose and yellow fog, like blood in urine. Bodily details were intensified by impasto, a technique Gorky rarely used. There was enough detail to reveal, to those who knew the subjects and the painter, that the woman was Gorky’s wife Agnes Magruder and her lover the Chilean painter Roberto Matta. The painting was small for Gorky, 20 inches wide by 26 inches high; but with the neck brace and broken collarbone from a recent auto accident, it was as large a painting as he could manage. It was signed “a Gorky.” On the back was the date 19 July 1948. The title, The Unfaithful Wife, was crudely printed in cadmium red oil paint on the back of the painting along the upper stretcher bar.

The painting had been slashed with a knife from the upper left corner to the bottom right separating the woman from the man. The knife had been thrown into the wooden floor a foot from the easel with such force that the point was buried an inch deep. The thief, Roberto Matta, removed the painting from the easel; the paint had not dried and was tacky. He carefully wrapped it in white butcher paper. He locked the door of the studio and left with the painting. Gorky’s body had yet to be discovered in Connecticut. Matta began thinking about lunch with Agnes.

December 29, 1975. 12th Arrondissement, Paris

The man, a tall handsome Russian-American artist with jet black hair, full lips and soft dark eyes, sat at a table in a cozy non-descript bar near Gare de Lyon. The room consisted of a six-stool bar with three tables along the opposite mirrored wall. Ice from the freezing rain covered the small table outside on the sidewalk. Two prostitutes sat at the bar smoking and drinking wine. The sleet blanketed holiday decorations and rendered the Monday evening rush hour streets and sidewalks treacherous. From his position behind the bar, the bartender, a short stocky man with a Stalin mustache and thick blond hair, watched the sleet and rain blur the reflected automobile lights in the bar window.

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Darcy Eastland

He was the oldest person attending the wedding and reception. His brother Nick, the groom’s father, was only ten months younger than himself. His youngest brother Jack, five years his junior, was still the third oldest person there. Except for the groom’s extended family, the majority of the attendees were equally split between twenty-somethings and early-middle-aged relatives of the groom’s mother. To him the younger women, contemporaries of the bride, all sounded as if they were breathing helium. In addition to high inarticulate voices, their conversations were filled with up-talk, conjunctions conjoined to conjunctions and OMG’s in various flavors.

He was not drinking. He had been dry for three months and this was his first social gathering. He’d flown in from Paris, not so much for the wedding, but to be together with his brothers for probably the last time. The previous time they had all been together was fifteen years ago at their mother’s funeral.

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The Butterfly Effect

This is my first creative non-fiction story. It was published in the multi-media magazine Mad Hatters’ Review (Issue 13, May 2012; homepage). The Butterfly Effect was a designated “Notable Story” by storySouth Million Writers Award.

Click on the magazine cover to hear/read my story. (The printed version is updated from the earlier read version.) Elsewhere in the issue is my music Mouth Parts, performed in Paris by Trio Rare < here >

mad-hatters-review-issue-13-copy

Fiction Catalog

I have assembled an Excel spreadsheet of all my fiction writings from my first effort in June 2012 to December 2016. The catalog gives the title, date of publication, type of story, genre, publisher, word count and URL for on-line publications. The URLs are not “hot” and will have to be copied and pasted in your browser.

In four and half years, I have published 430,019 words which includes 2 novels, a novella, 29 short stories, 36 flash fictions, 3 micro fictions, an elegy and a poem.

The links to Five Million YenThe Nude Pianist, and The Judge’s Wife (retitled RASH) are to the current versions. They were all serialized on Fictionaut.

fiction-catalog

Reckonings: A Western

The angry man drove into the setting sun.  He was tired and fought to keep his ‘69 Volkswagen squareback from skidding off the unplowed snow-covered road. He slapped the steering wheel mouthing a vulgarity when he lost control of the car.  Why did he agree to drive his estranged wife from Chicago to her sister’s home in Los Angeles? Their marriage was over. Why this last chivalry?

According to his wife, there was a small county park where they could car-camp for the night off this side road. That wife was sick with the flu, sleeping in the back of the car. They had spent the first night in a similar park in Oklahoma. Now he was on a narrow back road looking for the park twenty miles off I-40, west of Albuquerque. He had been driving for twelve hours and had to piss.

To make extra money for her move to Los Angles, his wife took a job substitute teaching in a Chicago junior high school between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. She caught a virulent flu from her charges.  Even though, as she claimed, she was being “extra careful” because she knew she was coming down with something, she lost her wallet with her driver’s license. She couldn’t help with the driving. But nothing could protect her from the approaching full moon in Ares. She was in for a spate of turbulent times. No amount of precaution could stop the power of the cosmos. What bull shit. She was an idiot. Astrology crap drove him crazy. It excused all sorts of nonsensical behavior. Now he could feel the flu coming on: scratchy throat, fever, headache, stomach cramps. He slammed the steering wheel with his palm and cursed his wife.

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Showtime

A man in a black wool overcoat stood at an ATM in the lobby of a bank on Broadway. A black and white Shetland collie sat at his right foot. It was after 1 a.m. The man withdrew $100, put the money in a trifold wallet, and returned the wallet to the inside breast pocket of his tuxedo. The man snapped his thumb and middle finger. The dog, ever alert to his master’s movements, walked out of the bank lobby, his head even with the man’s right knee.

Man and dog walked two blocks down Broadway to a produce market. The man purchased a Gala apple and a Bosc pear. The store clerk, a sullen man, put the purchases in a small plastic bag.
—No dog in store.
The man ignored the clerk.
—Every night the same. Next time, no dog in store.
The man turned and left the store, the dog heeled next to his right knee.

The man and dog continued down Broadway. Near the corner of 79th Street, the man stopped. In the window of a women’s boutique, stood five naked, bald mannequins.  A lithe, athletic woman, early thirties, was dressing the mannequins. The window display lights were not on. The only light was a bare bulb in a clamp lamp attached to the back of a metal folding chair. The store specialized in women’s dance and exercise wear. It was called Femme Nikki.

Man and dog watched as the window-dresser removed an exercise garment from her body and put it on a mannequin. After she dressed the mannequin, the woman seductively removed another layer of clothing and dressed the next mannequin. When all five mannequins were attired, the woman wore only a scanty white leotard. The striptease took a half hour. At no time did the window dresser make eye contact with the man or the dog. But before she left the window, the woman looked upon her observers, waved, and switched off the light. The dog barked once, jumping against the window. The man snapped his finger and the dog trotted to his post at his master’s right knee.

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Two Wives

Two Wives was originally published on Fictionaut in September 2013. It has been significantly rewritten and is included in my collection: Considered Fiction.

Two Wives

Two women sat at a small outside table at a neighborhood restaurant waiting for the same man. The older woman, older by only twenty-four hours, was tall and slender, almost anorexic. She wore a newsboy cap, which covered her thinning short coif. She had large white teeth that were prominent when she laughed, which she did in a theatrical way. She was wearing a blue work shirt, Calvin Klein jeans and Brevitt boots. The combination of tight jeans and heeled boots accentuated her shapely hips and stems.

Her companion, junior to her by twenty-four hours, was a raven-haired beauty with, as they say, good bones and a wineglass figure. Her perfect complexion and classic high-cheek-boned face were framed by a crimson wide-brimmed hat decorated with a feather and a gold butterfly pin. She wore a white ruffled blouse with a straight black skirt. Her ensemble was accessorized by an Hermès scarf and black sling-back heels. Neither woman would ever see fifty again.

The man they were waiting for was the painter, Jack Mahler. Jack had been married to the older woman, his ex-wife, for three years. His current spouse of twenty-five years was the younger woman.

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RASH, A novella of love, revenge, perversion, and the paranormal

Rash, inspired by the classic Pygmalion myth, is a story of love, revenge, perversion, vanity, and the supernatural. Jack Mahler, a painter and sculptor, befriends Margaux Howland at the local gym. Margaux is in a loveless marriage with a powerful judge, Leland Howland. The judge commissions Jack to make a portrait statue of his wife. Margaux and Jack begin a love affair. When the Judge discovers the affair, he sends Margaux to their Santa Fe home. The gardener at the Santa Fe home, Carlos, is a well-regarded shaman. Observing the unhappy Margaux, Carlos uses his powers to bedevil the judge. He also gives the statue magical properties. The vanity of human behavior clashes with the power of the paranormal as the story unfolds in unexpected ways.

rash-cover

Click on cover to read.

Lending Books

In the late 60’s, I lived on West 71st Street in Manhattan and borrowed books from a store.  It was a stationary/news store. In the back of the store were books for purchase and a big section of books available to borrow. It was located on West 72nd Street between West End and Broadway, next to where I had my shirts laundered. There was a five-dollar membership fee. Books were free for three days and ten cents a week afterward.

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