(An imagined drama based on a painting found in a thrift shop basement.)
— She hates it.
— But I captured her perfectly.
— That’s the problem. You painted her the way she looks. And she looks like Agnes Moorehead with cramps. Her eyebrows look like a cursive letter “M.”
— Her eyebrows do look like cursive letter “M.”
— Believe me, I know. But she feels the expression you’ve captured makes her look angry and judgmental.
— I think she looks… thoughtful.
— She does look thoughtful, but she’s thinking about how much money we wasted on hiring you to do her portrait.
— Has it occurred to you that your wife simply complains a lot?
— And has it occurred to you that if I painted her with an unfurrowed brow, she wouldn’t look like your wife?
— It has. In fact, unfurrowed, she’d look like her younger sister, Gladys, who is radiant and beatific.
— Well, I’m sorry if you’re not happy.
— No, I said she hates it.
— I… don’t follow.
— Young man, you’re very talented, very perceptive. You spend a days with Lorina, and I do feel that in capturing her likeness in this painting, you captured the essence of who she is as a person. I’ve been married to Lorina Dunlop for thirty-seven years — thirty-seven inconsolable years spent under the scowl you’ve re-created in this painting. That’s thirty-seven years of wine-drunk cackling at my expense, the majority of that time with an increasing brood of children who share their mother’s disposition. So please don’t misunderstand my message when I tell you that my wife hates the painting.
— I’d like your most elaborate frame — gold and shiny, if you can, something showy. I’m hanging in the living room, immediately opposite the front door.