Chapter 1 – I Can’t Help It, I’m a Thief
“You what?” Roger said.
“I pinched it.”
“You mean you stole it?”
“Yes, dear. That’s what pinched means. To steal.”
“Because it belonged to my family a long time ago, and I wanted it back. It looks great where it is now.”
“Where is it, Gwen?”
“In the living room, over the piano.”
“You stole the most famous painting in Charleston, and stuck it in our living room? In our house? Where people can see it?”
“Where else would I put it? If I want to see it, it has to be in our house.”
My husband didn’t say anything for a minute, which wasn’t a bad thing. It meant he was trying to understand me, rather than simply figure out his own point of view on the matter, which is what most husbands do when their wives do something unexpected. Roger is really good at corralling his own thoughts when I throw something at him, which happens now and then, and waiting to hear what I have to say before he offers a response. He’s not like most guys who turn on their opinion formation machinery before really knowing their friend’s thoughts and feelings. He’s a good boy in that department, which is one reason I love him after all these years. All these years of getting into trouble with him, and sometimes, like now, without him. If I’d known I was going to steal the painting before he left on his trip, I’d have told him. Honest I would’ve.
He said, “Well for God’s sake watch who you invite over for cocktails. Especially the Mayor. You know how he likes to play chopsticks on the Steinway with you sitting next to him.”
“I promise not to invite the Mayor over while you’re gone. Or anybody else who knows about art stuff. Really, wait till you see it. It’s back where it belongs.”
“Ok, but be careful. They’re not going to let that go without a big investigation, even if it’s covered by insurance, which I’m sure it is. I don’t want to come home to an empty house, knowing I only can visit you in the slammer once a month for an hour.”
“I’ll try to avoid that. But if it were to happen you’d still have the dog to keep you company.”
“The fact that the dog talks to us telepathically is not the same thing as having a wife to play with after we polish off a bottle of wine with lunch.”
“Why does everything with you always revolve around sex?”
“Because I’m married to a woman who, in terms of sexual attractiveness, would make Sharon Stone cry. That’s why. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with you. Don’t try to pin my libidinous inclinations on me; I’ve got nothing to do with that. If I was married to Sharon Stone rather than you, I’d probably be taking some testosterone drug, and I’m only forty-four. I’m pleased that you assist me in coming by my inclinations in an honest and natural way.”
“So far,” I added, just to stick it to him a little. My hubby.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“By the way, what are you doing with your inclinations over there in France, far away from me, the dog, and your home?”
“I’m doing what every guy does when he doesn’t have a playmate. What are you doing while I’m so far away, here in the vineyards? When you’re not stealing things from museums?”
“I told you one big secret today, can’t tell them all.”
“Wonderful. My wife either will end up in jail for twenty years or married to someone else after she gets rid of me. I do so look forward to my return home.”
“Chin up, Roggy. If I do leave you for another man I promise to leave the painting here in the living room for you to enjoy, as a token of the esteem in which I once, formerly, held you.”
“Will you leave the dog, too, so I’ll have someone to talk to, ensconced in my loneliness?”
“Don’t get greedy, or I may take the painting, the dog, and the Steinway with me. When are you coming home, assuming I’m not in jail or living in a mansion on Lake Como with Adonis?”
“Adonis. Adonis. Oh, the Greek god.”
“I’m not going to leave you for chopped liver, darling.”
“That’s reassuring. Is that his first name or last, as in Mr. Adonis?”
“He’s like the Brazilian soccer players who are so famous in their country they only use one name. Sometimes, when we’re alone, he lets me call him Donny. But never in public. Image thing.”
“I’m still on schedule here, so two more months. You can come over here and visit if you want. You know that.”
“Let me see how I feel in a week or so. The excitement of the heist hasn’t worn off yet, stilling buzzing on the high. I’ve slept on the living room sofa the last three nights just to be near the painting.”
“Yes dear, for the time being, just me and the big piece of canvas.”
“I love you, Gwenny.”
“I know, dear, and I love you. See you soon.”
Chapter 2 – The Painting
While my hubby was in France writing the script for a little doco on the wines of Burgundy, I was stealing paintings from the Charleston Museum. One painting that is, not multiple. That’s not such a bad thing to do, is it? One little painting that was owned by my family in the early 1800s. A girl’s gotta do something when her husband’s away, right? Some girl’s have flings, which despite my teasing is not something I do, and others, well, steal things. Or, as I rationalized it to myself, reclaimed some long lost family property. And I was a little bored without Roger, me liking the wine with lunch and the apre lunch roll in the hay as much, or more, than him. But it was seeing the painting hanging in the museum with that little card pasted on the wall next to it that said, “Formerly in the collection of Manigault Bedgewood,” who was my great great great great great granddaddy, died in 1825. Bedgewood was my maiden name until Roger showed up, him being lucky as hell to meet me and have me grant him access to afternoon delights nonpareil. The Charleston Museum, being the oldest museum in the United States, founded in 1773, stole the painting from ole Manigualt and made it the cornerstone of their collection of paintings. At least that’s my family lore, though whether the museum staff would agree is another matter. The card was enough to rile up my sense of injustice the day I saw it, one of the first days after Roger left for France, and already I was bored. Ergo the trip to the museum.
And there it was on the wall, all four feet by six feet of it, showing Manigault’s wife standing next to the fireplace in full flowing white dress with a crystal goblet wine glass in her elegant hand. Whenever Roger and I have visited the museum and looked at the painting, he has said, “That’s you, you know. She’s you; or you’re her. Same face, same body under the dress, same hands. Same wine lush of a personality,” and he’d smile at me with the last part. I don’t know if I love the painting because of what he said, or because the woman at the fireplace is quite beautiful, or because she represents the history of my Charleston family going way back, or if I love it because of the artist’s skill who painted it. I just know I love it, and now I can love it at home, rather than in the museum. Or, maybe, just between you and me, and not to put too fine a point on it, I love it because I stole it, and doing that was a lot of fun.