Story Excerpts: Worth a Thousand Words
From: A Conversation Between Two Great Friends
The great friends sipped their flavored steamers. They felt silly and lightheaded on this December evening, hearts carefree and minds receptive, open to infinite possibilities.
Holiday energy and excitement charged the atmosphere in the coffee shop, inspired, perhaps, by the view of Christmas shoppers seen through the many-paned window in front of their table. The friends experienced amazement at its dimensions, reaching nearly from ceiling to floor and spanning most of the front wall.
Maybe the flavorings in their hazelnut steamed milk, their holiday drink, contained a touch of alcohol, which caused inhibitions to relax a bit. They leaned their heads together like young girls and tittered over inanities.
After an uncharacteristic episode of the giggles, and in an attempt to recover their breaths and their decorum, they sat back in their chairs and struggled to look like proper ladies. They avoided eye contact, which could easily set them off again, and glanced out at the snow-encrusted streets and sidewalks, shop awnings, and mountain peaks silhouetted against the lowering skies above the nineteenth century shops across the way. All the small panes of glass were accented by the curious light streaming through them, a mixture of twilight and street lamps.
Mrs. Sparkle's gaze rested on one pane in particular. She whispered softly to herself, "It's a Currier and Ives."
"What?" Miss Jolley asked, craning to hear what her friend said.
"A Currier and Ives painting. Truly. "
"Where?" Miss Jolley glanced from side to side and scanned the walls for a piece of art she had somehow missed, unconsciously pushing her lose fitting glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. They constantly slid down and threatened to fall to the floor.
"No, not in here," Mrs. Sparkle responded. "Out there, through this single pane of glass."
Miss Jolley leaned across the table and peered intently where Mrs. Sparkle gestured genteelly with an open-palmed hand. She narrowed her visual focus to the single pane and squealed like a delighted child.
"A Currier and Ives! All the people in their winter finery enjoying the beautiful holiday displays in the shop windows. The children playing tag around the legs of the adults. It resembles a modern Main Street painting. How wonderful!"
Mesmerized, they stared at the scene until Miss Jolley's back cramped, and she had to push herself upright with an effort. At the same time, she and Mrs. Sparkle noticed David standing patiently by their table, two more steamed milks on his serving tray and a Cheshire cat grin on his face.
His usual silent self, David served their steamers, leaned down and looked through the Currier and Ives pane. Giving them a thumbs-up, he smiled broadly and retrieved their empty mugs. As he left their table, he performed a quick two-step as if to say ta da. Both ladies smiled, pleased that he delighted in their discovery.
"What an artist's eye you have," Miss Jolley remarked to Mrs. Sparkle. "All I've ever seen through this window is the hustle and bustle of peoples' lives as they pass by, but you see the beauty of a classical painting. I wish I had such vision."
"Pretend you're at the art gallery on one of our excursions. Look through a different pair of glasses, as it were. Now, concentrate on one pane of the window."
Miss Jolley's eyes darted from one pane to another until she grew dizzy and impatient with the exercise.
"Slow down. Just pick one pane. Try this one." Mrs. Sparkle chose the pane directly in front of Miss Jolley at eye level.
For several minutes, Miss Jolley stared at the indicated pane, but when no picture materialized, she shook her head in frustration, sending her glasses to the floor at her feet. She bent to pick them up, but froze in that position for several seconds and began to laugh.
"Do you feel alright?" Mrs. Sparkle inquired.
"Look, look, look!" Miss Jolley said.
"I can't see anything from here. What do you see?"
"Come over here and look ... please," Miss Jolly insisted.
Mrs. Sparkle stood, walked behind her friend, and looked down. Miss Jolley remained doubled over looking through the window pane close to ground level. She hadn't put her glasses on, so she’d scrunched her eyes trying to focus. On the other side of the glass, a small white dog looked like a pen and ink sketch against the black-trousered legs of its owner.
"What is it?"
"It looks remarkably like the sketches James Thurber did of dogs for one of his stories." Miss Jolley laughed again. She seemed quite pleased she’d found a pane picture.
Mrs. Sparkle gave her friend's shoulder a congratulatory squeeze but didn’t stoop down to see what Miss Jolley saw. She thought she might not get up again, and, of course, propriety must be maintained, so she returned to her seat.
Now, both ladies took up the hunt. Mrs. Sparkle saw a large red amaryllis blossom on the plant a lady carried past, framed in a single pane – a Georgia O'Keefe.
Miss Jolley saw a Picasso in a little boy's face, squished out of shape against one of the panes.
Together they found a Klee, a Beardsley, and a Monet.
The small coffee shop, packed with holiday shoppers and celebrants, hadn’t enough tables or chairs, so many stood sardine-packed between the seated groups. Eavesdropping proved inevitable.
Like a wave flowing outward from the friends, others joined the game. They bobbed and weaved to look through the window and find more pieces of pane art. The coffee shop rang with laughter and exclamations of discovery.
The evening developed into one of the most enriching holiday celebrations the great friends had shared together. They enjoyed the gifts of imagination and living art, enveloped by the warmth and joy of others.