Parker slumped into the office, crept past the receptionist that reminded him, for some reason, of Gossamer from those old Bugs Bunny cartoons, and quietly sat down at his desk. The rain had wet his shirt and it stuck uncomfortably to his chest and back. He shook out his hair, spraying a fine mist on his keyboard and monitor. He sneezed.
“Bless you,” came a timid voice over
the cubicle wall.
“Thanks,” he answered.
“You sick?” the timid voice asked again.
“Nah, just allergies,” Parker lied.
He turned his computer on and stared
at the monitor, waiting for it to come to life. He was motionless
for almost a minute before he realized that the monitor hadn’t
yet been turned on. He reached forw—
“Packer!” A voice boomed from behind
Parker jumped. His hand moved forward violently and knocked his monitor, making it teeter on the edge of its base. He immediately launched for it with too much enthusiasm and caught it before it fell. He paused for a moment, hugging the computer screen.
“Heh heh! Just checking!” his boss bellowed, putting extra emphasis on “checking.” Parker
never understood this little catchphrase that he used all the time.
Parker let go of his monitor, sat back
in his chair, and took a few moments to calm himself down. After
his heart rate returned to normal, he pressed the “ON” button on his monitor, and the screen lit up. He stared blankly at the desktop background, a picture of Mondrian’s
1927 Composition with red, yellow, and blue, and waited.
“Parker?” It was the timid voice again.
“Why do you let him talk to you like
Parker paused, then, “I don’t know, Jesse. I couldn’t
There was silence, punctuated almost
imperceptibly by the tiny clicking noise that never quite went
away. Parker stared at the Mondrian, studying it. He appreciated
the crispness of it, the subtle difference between the whites,
the slight fade in the yellow, the sharpness of the red. He leaned
closer, staring more intently. He could make out the brushstrokes
in the black for Christ’s sake! He inhaled, convinced that he would be able to smell the stale smoke of Mondrian’s
cigarette as it hung loosely from his mouth.
“I could kill him for you, if you wanted?”
“Yes Jesse, I know you could, but I don’t
“Well, just let me know, okay?
Parker leaned back in his chair and
closed his eyes. He tried to imagine what Mondrian looked like.
He had seen images of him, but he wanted to know what it was like
be near him, in the same room. What were his mannerisms? How did
he carry himself? What did his voice sound like? Parker decided
that he’d like it if his voice were high pitched and nasal. Not too high pitched, but just enough to cause people to think “Hmm, I didn’t
imagine his voice to sound like that.”
“I was late this morning.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah. I cut my dog open and I had to clean it up, that’s why I was late. I snuck right past Jackie. She didn’t
even see me.”
“That’s great, Jesse.”
Parker opened his internet browser and
did a search for “Piet Mondrian.” The first link was to Mondrian’s Wikipedia page. He clicked it. He had read this article, every word, over 100 times, yet he began to read it again. He went slowly, absorbing every word, every minute fact. He was born Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan on 7 March, 1872, but changed the spelling to “Mondrian” in
1912. He was an important contributor to the De Stijl art movement.
He died on 1 February, 1944. Parker wished that he had been alive
back then so he could have met him. He imagined what it would have
been like to shake his hand, to look into his eyes. He—
“What did you bring for lunch today?”
“I don’t know, um, peanut butter and
“And a bag of chips.”
“I brought some gazpacho I made this morning. It’s
in the fridge, cooling down.”
“Nice. I don’t like gazpacho.”
Parker finished the article and closed
it. He’d read it again later, he told himself. He took his notebook and a pencil, and, turning to a blank page, began to draw. He drew a square first, then some crisscrossing lines, then started to lightly shade in some of the smaller squares the lines had formed. He worked on this piece for perhaps a minute, then turned to a new page and began another. He completed four in this manner and was about to begin a fifth, but he stopped drawing and put away his notebook. He sat motionless for a few moments, staring at the image on his desktop background. He reopened the internet browser and searched for “Piet Mondrian” again.
He clicked on the Wikipedia article and began to read it again,
from the beginning.
available in Big Pulp Fall 2011 issue)