mr. and mrs. dick

We were served four pretentious courses, plus a citrusy Verdejo with hints of burnt rubber, in the following order: Foie gras, dried out and dusty mini-empanadas. Homemade fettuccine with Icelandic basil and fleur de sel from a Cro-Magnon cave in the better part of France, whatever the meaning of that phrase was, and it sure felt insidious…”

 

by david moscovich

 

 

1.

Dear Aliana, my gentle love, my blessing, my one and only habibi,

I wanted to tell you about the brunch party at those scheming Dicks’ new apartment in the Financial District — if you could call it a party, since in the end it did not feel like a celebration, nor did we part friends.
The occasion: Housewarming for those filthy, bloated, impish, fraudulent Dicks. You do know that I wuv, wuv, wuv you.
Aside from Dave Dick and Filomena Maria de Sousa Ribera Carvalho Smith-Dick — uncharming hosts, loser-saboteurs, artificial flimflams — the other persons present at this charade were:
Bob (always wears tweed) & Maria (wool sweaters) — Connecticut very newlyweds who only said one thing, after which they were shuttered from verbalizing: Is this something people do now? Is this a millennial thing? Honey, maybe it’s a generational thing. Bob & Maria are in their mid-twenties.
Sheena — a candid and bubbly person who officially, legally married herself in a Unitarian ceremony. Here’s what I remember she said most: What is this for, The Learning Channel? I know they do this reality stuff, I just never understood what we are supposed to learn from it — except the guy who obsessively brushed his teeth until they detached from his gums.
Keiko — I have the highest level of respect for this fearless journalist who interviewed Basquiat and Yoko Ono, traded olives with Joseph Beuys, and who for years battled the stereotype of acquiescence and naïveté attributed to her kind. Her line: You greedy bastards. We were never really friends and now look at you, overcharging for your shitty empanadas.
I got there way too early and saw how Sheena, like everyone else, tripped on the half-door coming in.
Just step right over. We haven’t been able to open the lower half yet.
How charming, it’s one of those funky Dutch doors.
It’s from the time of Melville, just like this whole city block, said Dave Dick, that walking burlap.
The host made a show of the tea pots they collected from their travels through China — in his amateurish demonstration he neglected to properly measure the temperature of the water. It’s not supposed to boil for twenty minutes. I kept silent, knowing Dave had just ruined a perfectly good kyusu by oversteeping Earl Grey, cursing the absorbent Yixing with oil of bergamot.
We were served four pretentious courses, plus a citrusy Verdejo with hints of burnt rubber, in the following order: Foie gras, dried out and dusty mini-empanadas. Homemade fettuccine with Icelandic basil and fleur de sel from a Cro-Magnon cave in the better part of France, whatever the meaning of that phrase was, and it sure felt insidious. Keiko, the moment the dish landed: How the freak did they grow basil in Iceland? Cornish hens, one per person, organs in — because the latest craze is to narrowly avoid food poisoning.
Then, flaming coconut balls that nearly seared my unibrow, after which Sheena asked, Is this an itemized check?
Dave explained, The hens were $18.95 — the Verdejo Rueda was $7 per glass but you only had what — two? That’s a steal, considering.
Considering what?
It’s not our happy hour, but it’s not unreasonable for a world class Verdejo.
Financial District, indeed.
This is a joke right? Sheena was panicking. Please tell me this is a joke.
Why? said Filomena. Would that make you feel more comfortable?
What’s gung-fu style — $12.95? Keiko said.
Dave puffed up.
Gung-fu style refers to traditional Chinese tea preparation, using the bamboo catch as I did, typically done with a greenish oolong or other lightly oxidized, airy, green tea, perhaps a Lotus Ancien or a classic Yunan Mist.
This is ridiculous.
We offer a 10% discount if you pay cash. Dave produced a credit card machine.
You offer?
This takes those new chip cards, too.
Dave thinks of everything, Filomena said, massaging Dave’s shoulders.
You can’t charge people for something they thought would be free. Keiko was wiggling into a leather jacket a la Errol Flynn.
Why would you think it was free? Dave said. It wasn’t free for us.
Filomena then announced the availability of their Picabia forgery.
Dave says it’s a very respectable copy. We even have a certificate of authentication from the year of the original sketch — 1911. It’s a note from Picabia to his wife: to Gabrielle on her birthday.
Shouldn’t that be in French? I said.
Bob and Maria, who hadn’t said mulligatawny, were the first to pay, and on their polite way out the Dicks easily unlocked the bottom half of the door.
I would prefer not to pay, I said, attempting to invoke the wrath of Melville in a kind of literary sub-humor that nobody heard — bad juju, to be sure.
Dave has this theory, Filomena said, that if one makes a situation awkward, it defuses potential conflict before it even begins. It’s his way of promoting world peace.
The door wasn’t really stuck, Keiko observed. You people are sick.
That’s a compliment, right? As in, LeBron James has a sick freethrow.
No, I mean truly sick, as in mentally ill.
Tender this, said Sheena, and crumpled a dollar bill on the table, then deployed the red oyster sauce on it.
Pay to the order of screw you, Keiko said.
I watched as Keiko kicked Dave in the knee with the heel of her British boot, an act which in itself was relatively harmless, but then he tumbled down the stairs and broke two ribs, if I am to believe the emergency room bill — how I ache for you, my moonflower, my buttery croissant.
Oh, curious sidenote. When I was back home, I was going through some old photographs with mom, and there I was at age eleven, climbing the Bighorns in a Mets cap. I have no recollection of being a fan.
Then there was Filomena’s jujitsu stranglehold, which landed me as Dave’s floormate at Metropolitan Hospital, where I am writing you from, just down the block from all the billionaires. The neck brace is far more soothing than it looks in the photo, probably because of the black and white.
I wanted to tell you this, darling, although I know the ending is a bag of staples. Just knowing that you are reading this is enough for me. May you find this letter perfumed with eight billion gadzillion kisses.
Maybe we can finally get that drink you agreed to?

-Milton

 

2.

Dave has this theory, Filomena said, that if one makes a situation awkward, it defuses potential conflict.
The door wasn’t really stuck? Keiko.
Therein lies the awkwardness.
Filomena changed her tone from distant superiority to intimate shame. Dave, should we go ahead and debrief this one now?
Dave Dick held the check up to the light as if scrutinizing an unwelcome guest, and ripped it down the middle, then folded and bifurcated it once more.
I’m not sure this can be debriefed, said Sheena. I don’t appreciate being the butt of your foodie psychological testing ground.
Now, now, Dave said. Let’s not get carried away.
We’re getting a divorce, Filomena said. And we didn’t know how to communicate it to our best friends.
We’re liberating each other from our inner oppressors, said Dave.
We thought this would bind us together as friends, a kind of weird symbolic ploy to express our appreciation.
Weird is probably the only thing that came across.
But we are staying together.
We’re tight.
We’re awful tight.
We’re still very much in love, profoundly engaged with each other.
It’s that engagement that really matters.
It’s the institution we’re protesting.
The institution of marriage itself.
Marriage is the problem, not us.
We’re not the problem.
We wanted to have a kind of send-off party.
For the death of marriage.
We’re saying goodbye to marriage.
We’re saying fuck you to marriage and the laws and flaws that go with it.
I think we’re more confused than they are, Filomena.
And I just rhymed, which is cheesy.
We’re a bit misguided, maybe or misdirected.
We might have misdirected our energies.
I’m sorry it had to hurt.
We’re dramatic.
We’re way dramatic.
Maybe this was a bad idea.
This was definitely a bad idea.
Can you forgive us?
Got any whiskey? said Sheena.

 

3.

Filomena then announced the availability of their Picabia forgery. The sketch hung low on the wall in a rust-colored bronze frame of disproportioned sunflowers. It was lightly drawn in a hazy reminiscence of incompletely rendered clockwork.
Dave says it’s a very respectable copy. We even have a certificate of authentication from the year of the original sketch — 1911. It’s a note from Picabia to his wife: to Gabrielle on her birthday.
Shouldn’t that be in French? I said.
It is in French. I was just translating. Filomena read the note in the original.
Let me get this straight. You guys are charging us for lunch, and now you’re trying to sell us a forgery?
That’s right. Hadn’t you been expecting one thing and gotten another? That’s what forgery is, only we’re letting you in on the prize.
We’re giving you first dibs on this masterpiece. Dave.
After we pay for lunch? I said.
You people are sick, Keiko said.
You mean sick as in LeBron James has a sick freethrow? Dave.
No. I mean truly sick. Demented, perverted, clinically ill. Keiko.
How much for the Picabia? said Sheena, making all of our heads go wobbly.
Filomena cleared her throat by way of Why don’t you make an offer?
Show me the certificate first.
You mean the fake certificate.
Filomena went to the oak bookshelf which lined the wall behind the kitchen nook. She reached in between A People’s History of The United States by Howard Zinn and a foggy stack of National Geographic magazines and pulled a silver parchment from a transparent sleeve, all brittle from the years. The certificate was just yellowed enough around the edges to appear authentic. The ink, written in what was supposed to be Picabia’s handwriting, was appropriately almost smeared, and the script was narrowed in tight loops and flourished with a vaguely centenarian flair.
Ten thousand, Sheena said. And if knowledge of this never leaves this room, I bet I could flip it for triple that.
You can’t talk that way about great art. Nobody says flip it.
If I’m giving you ten thousand in hard cash I can say whatever the fuck I want.
Cash?
American currency.
There’s only one thing — I lied when I said it was a forgery.
What?
This was sketched by the hand of Francis Picabia, a few short months before the famous Armory Show. You can smell how real it is. Filomena moved her prodigious nostrils over the certificate and swooned with demonstrative breath.
First you say it’s a forgery, then you say it’s genuine. That makes me think it’s definitely fake. The question is, why would you discredit yourself?
Dave has this theory, Filomena said, that if one makes a situation awkward…
It defuses potential conflict? Keiko. Where have I heard that before?
Besides, didn’t you just offer to buy it for ten thousand bucks? Isn’t that a steal for a Picabia?
All of these games do nothing to drive the price up. I’m lowering my offer, or I might withdraw.
But you’re not.
Not what? Sheena.
Not withdrawing. Imagine I sketched this myself in the course of an afternoon. Then it would be worthless.
But you didn’t.
And you know that I didn’t, because it carries the ambience of authenticity. You know with your most primal instinct what this is. This is an opportunity that won’t repeat, and in a moment, it could be gone.

 

Originally published:
Issue Seventy-Four
May 2017

 


David Moscovich is the Romanian-American author of You Are Make Very Important Bathtime (JEF Books, Chicago, IL) and LIFE+70[Redacted]a print version of the single most expensive literary e-book to ever be hacked (Lit Fest Press.) This story is from a collection in progress called Bad Juju and Other Stories, which was the title of his master’s thesis completed at NYU. He is editor and publisher of Louffa Press, a micro-press dedicated to printing innovative fiction in collectible, handprinted chapbooks. He lives and works in New York City.  More from David Moscovich can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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