Selling Romance

Emma makes a disgusted noise. “Well, so much for Bud’s expensive photographer! Look at what our webmistress did with it!”

Drin stares at her aged computer screen, turns his head sidwise like an owl, and makes her laugh. “I saw those pictures. The original shots were wonderful.”

To his puzzled look, Emma says, “I know, I know–you’re going to say, ‘How did she do that to them?'”

“It’s a gift,” Drin says solemnly.

“She ought to love the originals, they were all very pretty pretty, ribbons and organza and all.”

“Not your choice of style?”

Emma squints. “Not for Robert. I always thought he was the rumpled pillows type.”

Drin laughs, surprised by the bluntness.

She waves a pen at the screen. “Okay, let’s imagine the real Romantics here. The Wild Bunch. Keats and Byron and that lot, stormy fights and fucking like bunnies and all. Knock it off with the pretty bowdlerized drippy Pre-Rafaelite simpering over Robert’s curls. Oh hell no. Let’s do some shoots with him looking debauched and liking it, let’s do some goddamn powerful Caravaggio with that pretty cock-teasing face. That’s Robert’s truth. That’s what Robert’s patrons are looking for. Aside from Bud, they’re not into longevity. Get that big fluffy poet’s shirt unbuttoned for crying out loud, he’s got a string player’s chest! Put the puppy in the window, man.”

“But don’t let him talk.”

Emma laughs.

Memory persists in resurrecting the penetrating whine of Robert’s voice. He’d much rather listen to Emma’s laugh. Or stare at Dance’s smile. Drin’s brain irritably erases Robert in the poet’s shirt, and puts Dance there instead. Much better contrast. Far more dangerous, too, when you catch the arousal glinting under those lowered eyelids. The image makes him want to go find a camera and yank back the bedcovers on Dance’s nap. Eventually he manages to form words. “Not the only one who’d look great like that. Contrast.”

She grins at him. “Oh, yeah. Use textures, too, but something better than all those corny mud-splattered wedding shots in the park.”

He can imagine the younger members dressed in half-nothing, and some of them would look pretty damn good that way. And so pan-ethnic, too, the Anglo-Saxon pale peppered with golden-brown and deep ebony and everything in between. “Yes. Dead leaves and satin. Lace fallen in the woods. Fairy candles and park lamposts and old trees. Bare skin and instruments and bark.”

Emma groans, and gives that gurgling laugh. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”

Thinking it out, he says, “Do some other styles too. Get the playboy jazz guys with the basses all decked out in sharp suits, against neon lights, looking like the limo is waiting. Trip out on patterns and drumsticks flying with that sweet little mustachioed percussion player who loves batik prints. And that great big solemn guy among his xylophones, with all his huge collection of African thumb pianos, get a shot of how he loves showing them off.”

She nods, paws through paper, taps a catalog. “Hell, you could do classy shots in black and white, elegantly, and end up with the kind of graphics that go into these high-end things they put out for fund-raising. Have you seen how boring the Metro’s schedules are? It’s such a good idea, and the other day I went to email to send it off to… Who? fuck, absolutely no one in the steering committee has that kind of vision!”

“Fixing that is on my to-do list,” he says. He can’t help it. Looking at her determined expression, he starts to chuckle.

Emma flings her hand out toward the bedrooms. “You know how pretty Dance is!”

Drin just smiles.

Another wave. “Christ, has anybody ever taken a decent picture of him?”

Drin looks at the soft lamplight on the curves of the librarian’s passionate face. God, she’s fabulous in her own right. “He’s always moving.”

She nods. “Get those cheekbones lit properly. Have him wear–”

Have him naked– have him right on that chair– just take him, right there– It’s been a couple of weeks and he’s still thinking up new ways to get that soft cry out of Dance: Oh! He wrestles back his rioting imagination. He interrupts firmly. “Have Dance wear dark clothes with a hint of gold. I can see him wearing a good slubbed silk jacket. If I can talk him into letting my tailor work on him.”

Her eyes catch a sudden pale marine light. Reminds him of glitter on waves. “–oh yes, I’ll have a chat about that one– shots of him playing with the quartet–”

He can see them all, Dance playing in what they call jokingly the Genghis Khan quartet, with the scowling Polish cellist, the sad lantern-jawed Russian bassist, and the violist, a sheet-pale Armenian girl with Slavic eyes who’s stacked like an emperor’s concubine. He nods. “In a different series, have them all dressed in brocades, in ethnic costume–”

“In the Library atrium, against the marbles. All that cold blue light for the winter events. Get those contrasts going. Perfect. I bet their violist knows where to find great costumes, she’s a real fashionista.” Emma paws out a notepad and scribbles madly, consulting her calendar and nodding. She jabs out a finger at the air. “Oh yeah, we should talk to Bud about figuring out how best to retire some of the non-visual fogeys on the steering committee to jobs better suited to their real talents in admin–because they do have some serious and valuable capabilities there–but that’s a longer project.”

“Adding it to the to-do list.” Drin smiles. “Now, about getting some decent, interesting rehearsal and summer performance shots.”

“Get some of the other smaller groups in their best outfits, too,” Emma adds more notes to her pad.”–and ask Bud’s photographer to get outdoor shots of the Metro’s musicians for promo graphics and the website. ”

“Add that to our to-do list too.”

“Our list? You’re sure? You know what a terrible nag I am, right?”

He nods at her solemnly. She can probably see he’s trying not to laugh. He says, “Get all the women into some outdoor photography with pretty leaf shadows, gauzy stuff like Midsummer Night’s Dream gone wacky.”

She waves her hand in agreement. “Oh yes. And before we get them all muddy, put the flute-and-harp ladies with a really big floral arrangement behind them, self-referential irony.”

Emma the much-feared coordinator will leap on that with her teeth bared, joyfully wrangling it into play.

Drin can feel his lips twitching. “I have it on very good authority that you eat florists for snacks, and terrify delivery men.”

“They aren’t crunchy if you take the bones out!” and she gives him that laugh of hers. “Put the ladies posed in front of a huge billowy charity ball display, warm colors… get some better lights, yes, use pale peach walls… they begged us to show off the porcelain room in the museum wing more often… get everyone laced up into period clothes, show off all of that formidable pink and brown frontage cinched up on show. Make sure the charity credits are big and unmissable. Shameless promotion, that’s the ticket.”

His brain insists on putting Emma’s own frontage right in the middle of the picture, supported in truly outrageous eighteenth-century fashion. Just because he has his beautiful musician now does not silence the monkey-brain. Oh, it’s always commenting on Emma’s particular beauties. It can be distracting. “Antique fans,” he manages to say weakly, at last. “Gloves. Little silk bags. Frilly things.”

“Absolutely! Plus, we can catch great garter belt shots for your infamous Metro underwear calendar. Get Robert to make a nice leg too. Have you noticed he looks his best when he’s bowing and scraping, the insufferable brat? Now, what are we doing with Dance for the underpants calendar? Sports netting on those abs, or microscopic Lycra trunks and a wet towel, or bending over in baggy shorts that fall down off his butt– Ummm, Drin, luv? Would you mind swabbing off my keyboard? You’re drooling.”
He’s becoming absurdly fond of making that sound come out of her, too.

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