The Main Street dips and makes a dramatic right turn down toward the water. If a person weren’t paying attention, you think, they might take a terrible tumble. What looks like an old sea captain’s home has an eye-catching plaque above the door – Flint’s Fine Art Gallery! How can you resist? You climb the steep stone steps with difficulty, feeling every muscle from your waist down protesting in memory of the bicycle ride. You pass under a whale jaw archway as you follow the bricked path to the open door. You stare up at the skull white bones, frightened a little by their size. “Wide enough for a coach to drive through” … hadn’t Mr. Melville written something of that sort?
A huge canvas greets you, hanging over the fireplace. The mantle is currently filled with bouquet of wildflowers. The painting depicts a red-haired mermaid, not unlike Clovis’ soft fur, you think, picking a few hairs from your white blouse. The mermaid is beached on a rock; cracking open the lid of a golden treasure box with exotic landscapes like willow pattern on the sides. Her emerald green scales begin far her back where moonlit bare skin morphs into an oily-looking, glittering hide. The delicate tips of her tail seem to twist in anticipation — or mischief.
“Would you open the box?” a rumpled looking character asks, standing oppressively close to you.
“Why, I don’t know. Maybe.” You stammer, taking a step back. “I mean, look what happened to Pandora?”
“Quite. All the troubles of the world unleashed by one nosy woman.”
“Curious,” you correct. “Not nosy.”
He reclaims his step closer to you and introduces himself as Mr. Flint. He is at your service. You feel far from rejoicing at this nauseating offer as he ogles you, leering.
“My dear, any specimen of womanhood, whether underwater or ashore, would have one little peep under the lid of a golden trunk! Including you.”
“I might, indeed.”
“And would you call me nosy, Mr. Flint?” you ask, suddenly wondering why you’ve allowed yourself a dalliance into this lecherous character’s ramblings.
“I would call you . . . lovely.”
Mr. Flint moves forward, eclipsing the sliver of space between you with his formidable bulk and moves to kiss your hand. Suddenly a shadow surely the only thing that could fit between you and the villainous Mr. Flint, intercedes.
“Sir!” The shadow booms in a most urgent tone. “I’m in rather a rush and I’m looking for something a little better dressed and on dry land.”
“I am at your service.” Flint bows panderingly low and precedes this heroic young man into an adjoining room. The young man quickly removes his hat and nods respectfully.
“Accept my apologies on behalf of the rummy old cove, Miss.”
“Oh! Thank you . . .” And you don’t even get the “Sir” out before he’s gone. You hear footsteps creeping to the wooden floor above. You look up and see the white-washed ceiling beams looking like the belly of a boat. Of course you should cease the charitably-given opportunity to escape Flint’s Gallery, but perhaps your “nosiness” is calling you onward. Room after room, you recognize figures from literature and folklore nearly springing from their canvases amidst jewel-colored seas and fire-colored skies. So much color! And the glossy surfaces betray not a single brushstroke. You find yourself nose to nose with an angry Aurora and you still can’t see anything but the perfect creaminess of fine oil painting.
Suddenly you feel a hot tantrum coming on, igniting itself with the familiar and futile complaint – Why did I have to be born a woman? If I was a man I’d be painting with oil and not fiddle-faddling with watercolors. Watercolors! Defiantly, you snatch your sketchpad from your pocket and wrest one of Mrs. Moreau’s pencils from her package. You begin madly sketching Aurora – bare breasts and all. The splintering sound of wood creaking grows increasingly louder. Mr. Flint and your personal knight must be coming back. You make a most unladylike lunge for the door and in the process nearly trample an young man attempting to enter. He’s wearing a bicycle club badge with a codfish swimming across it. He does beg your pardon, Miss. Vying loudly for pardon of your own, you complete your graceless exit, and then realize he must be one of the Cod Haven Cyclists.
1) Now that you’ve made your unnecessarily mysterious exit, will you pause your adventures for a chocolate croissant lunch? If so, choose A.
2) Or has your hunger abated? Will you finish your perusal of the Main Street with a renewed commitment to avoid bodily collisions? Choose B