© 2011 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved
About two weeks after Gustav stopped by with my belated birthday cake, he called me in an agitated state.
‘Hallo!’ he shouted, ‘what are you doing?’
‘Laundry,’ I replied. ‘You sound – elated? New girlfriend?’
’Nein! More permanent, less exhausting and, in the long run, more emotionally rewarding,’ he cried. ‘And you must come by to see. Leave the wet clothes and make haste.’
‘It must be pretty special for you to be so anxious to show off whatever it is,’ I laughed, ‘give me half an hour.’
‘If you must wait that long – all right, then,’ grumbled Gustav and slammed down the phone.
After tossing the laundry into the dryer, I drove to Gustav’s place, all the while wondering what could have gotten him into such a state. Usually when he was like this, it meant he’d seduced yet another charming young thing with his unique combination of worldly charm, knowledge of all things cultural and wry, amusing anecdotes. I grew curiouser and curiouser the closer I got to his house.
Gustav was standing in the doorway watching for me as I pulled up.
‘Come in, come in and see my treasure!’ he crowed as I trotted briskly up the walk.
‘All right, I’m here – impress me,’ I drawled with what I hoped was worldly ennui.
Ushering me inside, he led me to his formal parlor. Against the far wall sat something covered in muslin. ‘Now for the unveiling,’ he said. ‘But before – can you guess what it is?’
‘Gustav, it’s clearly not a new painting, unless you’ve taken to long and narrow panel work, it’s too short in the height to be a car, so just show me!’ I cried exasperatedly.
Hurrying over to the thing, he grasped a corner of the cover and, like a magician, cried, ‘Le voila!’, yanking away the muslin.
There it was – an elaborately carved, velvet-upholstered couch. It was certainly of a venerable age and extremely well-preserved.
‘Gustav,’ I said condescendingly, ’it’s a couch.’
Glaring at me, he said, ‘It is not a couch, it’s a Louis XV-style canapé settee – 130 years old, hand-carved in France, and I paid a pittance for it.’
‘Bravo!’ I cried sarcastically. ’The great master cheats yet another destitute widow out of a family treasure.’
’Gottverdammt, nein! Because of a few smalls tears in the velvet it was considered beyond repair and almost worthless. Was für ein Unsinn! I myself took up thread and needle and defy you to find my handiwork.’
I shook my head, trying not to laugh as I imagined Gustav as a little tailor, sitting cross-legged in an apron, sewing diligently.
‘No thanks, I’d rather sit upon it and have coffee and canapés – you did say it was a canapé settee?’
At this Gustav roared with unrestrained glee. ‘Ignorant child! Canapé is French for sofa!’
I blushed in shame, muttering, ‘Sofa – couch – all the same’.
Gustav, seeing my discomfort, continued kindly, ‘But I will into the kitchen take myself and rustle up, as you say, some refreshment.’
Digital oils from an original photograph shot April 24, 2011 at the Gelston House restaurant, East Haddam, Connecticut.
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