by A.E. Weisgerber
There were always Klee studies and paintings in Paul’s father’s house, and now there are Klee paintings and studies in Paul’s. Paul says there are eighteen. He thought he’d have gotten six, and his sister Lilliane six, and six to his older brother David. No. All the Klees came to Paul. That was when Paul was twelve, easily divisible by three.
One day, Father toppled in the lush lawn of fescue and ryegrass surrounding Henry Moore. The grass imprinted father’s left cheek, leaving him looking bruised. He must have enjoyed knowing, Paul always thought, how the smell of green and good earth makes a heaven of this world.
Father’s last will and testament was a codex, a loose-bound collection of transfers and bills-of-sale, notarized linen leafs and onion skin, mothy old paper napkins stippled with figures and names, as well as rose-faded photographs of Father and Maman, all kept in a life-sized safe in heavy envelopes stamped Havenold Lagerfeld.
Paul didn’t get the Moores or the diSuveros. The Moores, uncomplicated and clean-lined and lounging about heavy as locomotives, stayed put and were deeded to David with father’s house, with its hill sloping down to the soft pretty banks of the old Raritan. Lilliane, who was away in New England when it happened, received the diSuveros, those massive, simple and colorful, playful Corten forms. Lilliane and David agreed that she would leave these at Father’s house, until she married a boy with a house big as Father’s who might take them and her together.
The Klees became Paul’s. Each amusing, childlike, primitive work was fragile and playful and spiritual. Father and Maman were not Sunday-go-meeting people, yet they contemplated what Klee’s eyes contemplated, making Moore and diSuvero the chapel bollards. Their gardeners mixed ryegrass and fescue like water and wine; their chauffeur could wield a digger.
Paul was confused to have the Klees. They were like strangers gazing upon him, ancestral portraits in some Chekhov tale. There were delicate watercolors of acrobats on paper, balloon-headed portraits in oils on cardboard, pastel jig-jag roses on jute, each in its turn displaced, cotton-gloved, from Father’s vaulted halls. All were wrapped in paper and crated, all to vaults in locations known only to Havenold Lagerfeld until Paul was twenty-one. To bide the time, Paul contemplated the photograph of Father and Maman, who died two days after Paul’s birth.
Paul wondered, time-to-time, if he might divvy up the Klees and share them with Lilliane and David. But when Paul was one and twenty, he was told the value of the Klees by the partners. As Paul’s childhood loped away and into the pretty bank, Havenold said, “Paul, when it gets to be so much money, there’s really no trusting anybody.” Lagerfeld said, “Son, this is true.” Alone, Paul did not see Lilliane or David, Moore or diSuvero, ever again.
One backlit afternoon Paul, in glass reflected, saw his Father. Klee’s jig-jag roses deckled Paul’s cheek, much like ryegrass and fescue had Father’s. Attentive, Paul heard humming like a distant locomotive transmitted through the walls, a lullaby of Maman’s the great Master repeated.