I made my way up the hill and saw Samwell sitting on his front porch. Still holding Miss Mabel’s plate, I slowly walked up to the house, trying my best to not look like a salesperson.
“Afternoon,” he said. “You lost?” I laughed and said “no, I live down the street and I was wondering if you could give me a moment of your time.”
When he said “I’m not buying anything.” it was apparent that I hadn’t succeeded in not looking like a peddler. I smiled and told him that I wasn’t selling anything. He looked at the little plate and said “I thought maybe you were selling dishes.”
I laughed and said “no, not selling dishes. I heard there had once been a painting in your basement.”
“Still is,” he said.
I don’t know why but I was feeling like a child on Christmas morning. I was so afraid that he had painted over it and when he said “still is,” I felt like I had been given a gift.
He said “take a seat and let me get you a glass of cold lemonade.” I begged off, having so far escaped my diabetic coma, not to mention I had just eaten lemon pie. I told him I would settle for some water.
He got up and went inside. He walked sort of bent over and it looked like every step he took was painful. I imagined it was from age as much as anything but I didn’t know. He came back with a glass of lemonade and a glass of water.
Samwell was a little abrupt but not in a rude way. He looked at me with stern eyes and said “so, what have you got on your mind? You say you’re not selling dishes and I know you didn’t come here for water.”
I told him that I was there to “talk” about the painting but what I really wanted was to see it. As we chatted, I told him about the mural in Miss Mabel’s house as well as Dawn’s. I told him that I heard about him from Dawn, when she mentioned “Samwell’s dilema.” He laughed and said “yeah. She’s a real character.”
Samwell looked at me and said “I expect you’re wanting to see it.”
“Could I?” I asked. He said “Come on in the house but mind you, be careful of Cujo.”
“Cujo?” I said. I had seen that movie, based on a Stephen King novel and that was one dog I would never want to tangle with, rabies or not.
We went in and on a satin pillow sat this tiny, wiry-haired dog that could have fit into the palm of my hand. He growled when I went in and his teeth looked like little hypodermic needles. A snap of Samwell’s fingers accompanied with the order to behave was all Cujo needed to hear.
He smiled and said “he thinks he’s a lot bigger than he is.” Naming that little snip of a dog Cujo, made me appreciate Samwell’s sense of humor.
We made our way down into the basement and when he turned on the light, I was witness to another of Katy’s unbelievable masterpieces.
Samwell said “I understand that this was painted for the folks who lived here before I bought the house. It sat empty for years you know, because apparently they left no will and everything had to go through probate. I used to wonder why none of the children wanted it, especially given that this paining is here but you know young folks. They don’t appreciate much these days.”
He didn’t mention a wife or children of his own but his statement about young folks not appreciating much made me think that maybe he had an ungrateful child or two.
I stood there, looking at the wall. She had painted the couple’s children playing in the back yard. Like the mural of the beach and the stallion, those children looked almost alive.
I quickly realized that Samwell was one of those old souls who saw beyond the mundaneness of the world. Modernization was unimportant when it came to saving a piece of art like this. He looked at me and said “don’t you feel like you can almost hear them laughing? But look at their eyes. Their eyes look almost sorrowful somehow.” He was right and I wondered if the family had seen it.
A little boy was in a swing and if your imagination allowed, you could hear him begging for someone to push him higher. A little girl was holding a floppy rag doll, while stooping to pick a dandelion, or “wet the beds” as children used to call them. I could almost smell its fragrance.
A third child was peeping from behind a tree as if playing hide and seek. The bark on the tree was so realistic, I felt like I could pull a piece off.
I wondered aloud where those children were now. I wondered if they had no appreciation for having had their young lives captured for eternity. This wasn’t like a photograph, which could fade or possibly be misplaced. This was a rendition that would last through the ages. In this picture, they would remain forever young.
It was dated 1966 and like the others, hadn’t been signed. I asked Samwell if he knew who painted it and he said he didn’t. I told him it was a girl named Katy and she used to live in my house.
“Is that right?” he said. “Well, she sure was an artist.”
We walked back upstairs and he asked if I wanted to sit a spell so I told him I could stay for a little while. “Why are you interested in these paintings?” he asked.
I told him about the notes and pictures I had been finding in the house. I told him that all the notes were written to God and so far, the dates ranged from 1956 through 1964 but that two sketches I found were dated 1956 and I believed, 1968.
Samwell asked if there was a painting in my house. I told him about “The Mysterious Blue Forest” painting I found but it was on canvas and had not been dated nor of course, had it been signed. If there had been a mural, which for some reason I doubted, it had long ago been painted or plastered over.
It was time for me to go back home and “crash and burn.” Samwell gave me a standing invitation to come visit any time and I reciprocated. I liked him. He seemed the type to have no time for bullshit and neither did I.
The next day, I planned to return Miss Mabel’s little plate and find out the reason Katy never signed her paintings.
To be continued___________________