The painter

“Going to Forest Grove today,” Carl said. “Who wants to come?”

Joe looked to one side, then the other. He was the only other person in the kitchen.

“Guess I do,” he said.

“Alrighty, then,” Carl said. “Let’s go.”

Twenty minutes later the truck merged from the 217 north onto the 26 westbound, the Sunset Highway. Past Beaverton, the swath of development yielded to countryside.

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

Joe had asked the obvious questions—”what’s in Forest Grove?” (“a painter”) and “isn’t it kinda far away?” (“kinda”). When the only sound inside the truck cab was road noise, Joe took out his iPod and earbuds.

“Whoa, whoa,” Carl said. “That’s uncouth, son. You’re not in the back seat.”

“You want me to sit in the back seat?”

“No, I want you to remove your hearing aids.”

Joe didn’t appreciate the humor. “Okay, how about the radio?”

“I think you’ll be disappointed with the reception.”

Joe pushed the power button. Nothing happened.

“Said you’d be disappointed,” Carl said. Joe let out a long sigh. He stared out the window at the green vineyards at the base of the foothills. A cavalry of clouds rode over them. Carl took the Glencoe exit and turned left. They zipped along the two-lane road.

“This painter must either be pretty good or pretty desperate,” Joe said.

“Why do you say that?”

“To get you to come way the hell out here to check out his work. Don’t you have a regular painting contractor closer to home?”

“Yep.”

“Then he lowballed the bid, right?” Joe had convinced himself. “Desperate.”

Carl smiled. “She’s not desperate.”

“She, huh? Never seen a woman painter.”

“Sure you have.”

“Mom doesn’t count,” Joe said. “Painting your own kitchen doesn’t make you a painter.”

“Ho, I wouldn’t press that point with your mom.”

“Don’t worry,” Joe said. “Is she hot?”

“Unnaturally hot.”

Joe grinned. “Thanks for sharing, dad.”

They were entering the city limits of Forest Grove, population 21,000. They found their way to a commercial street near the university, parked and walked inside a small art gallery. Carl introduced his son to the unnaturally hot resident artist, a fine painter of landscapes and assistant professor of art whom Carl and Audrey had met at an art show last fall. This is when Audrey had commented on the unnaturally hot artist’s work: “Put that on our wish list,” she’d said. “And lucky us, our twenty-fifth anniversary is right around the corner. Next April.”

Carl and Joe spent a good hour studying the great art before them. They agreed that the painter’s use of color captured a heightened sense of reality. Finally they chose a vineyard scene with a sky of brilliant clouds. Before heading home, they found a beer scene at the Yardhouse Pub that served Terminator Stout and Communication Breakdown burgers. They had enough to talk about.

©2010 Pam Wells

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