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Bob and Jane in the
National Gallery

by David Holzel



I was so absorbed in the Breughel that I didn't see her closing in on me until she was practically at my side. I wasn't able to lower my mask of blank attentiveness in time.

"Bob! I thought it was you. I wasn't sure so I came right over here to find out. And it is you."

I had composed myself. "Yes, it's me. How are you, Jane?"

"Good. Real good. Good now. Since 1998 real good. Yeah."

The Breughel suddenly caught her attention. She peered at it, clutching a large handbag. For the moment I was inclined to believe it was hers. She was older, yes. The chestnut hair I remembered had been infiltrated by spidery, gray strands. She'd be about 42 now. She still dressed carelessly, a weedy patterned dress, but now her style of carelessness seemed out of date.

"I love these open rooms, don't you, Bob?"

  "Then you should try the abstract expressionist wing," I said and immediately regretted it. I needed to project a sense of active indifference, not make light of this young woman's recent experience.

"I didn't expect to meet you here, Jane." That sounded sufficiently dry.

"Well I got time off. I thought you would have known that."

"Yes, but I mean here. Today. Now."

She grinned as if she had stumped me. I briefly saw the young woman she was 20 years ago.

"I followed you, Bob."

I tried to reply calmly, but the image of the bloody corpse, a favorite uncle, stabbed 36 times, its right thigh showing signs of being cannibalized, made it difficult.

"You followed me in?"

"Yeah, yeah." She bobbed her head like she did when I first interviewed her in jail, when the doctor diagnosed her schizophrenia, and when despite my vigorous defense, the judge sentenced her to 30 years in prison. I didn't believe she comprehended any of it.

"Since you left your house this morning. I told you I wanted to see you when I got out. Oh...." She went fishing in her bag and pulled out a pair of scissors. "You dropped this."

Pieter Breughel's The Triumph of Death from Mark Harden's Artchive.
The Jewish Angle
Copyright 2000 by David Holzel