We rented a small flat in the city. It was close enough to the state art gallery that I could go there daily to study the kind of security measures we would be up against for the heist, and it allowed Rory a place to work without distraction or intrusion. At the end of our first week though, he had not painted a thing; he just sat there eating cheese and staring at the wall. It dawned on me I had hitched my criminal design to the artistic talents of a man about whom I knew nothing other than that he may or may not have been a janitor.
One morning as I was on my way out to the gallery, Rory called from his workroom, “Hey, wait.”
“Yeah mate,” I said, barely cloaking my frustration at what I assumed would be another request for me to buy cheese.
“What’s something good to paint?” he asked.
“You know those famous painters? What sort of things do they paint? What’s something nice?”
It sounded like some progress was about to be made, and I was thrilled. I went into Rory’s workroom to personally deliver some encouragement. “There are plenty of things you could paint,” I said. “I know those famous painters liked to do portraits of people.”
“Hmm, maybe,” he shrugged.
“Well, they were always painting people in the nude,” I suggested, and gave him a nudge. “How about that, eh? Paint some boobs, or some blokes running ’round with their junk hanging out for all the world to see. You could do that.”
He laughed and shook his head. “Nah, that’s not really my thing.”
“What about a nice bit of scenery? Maybe some people by a river, or a picnic in the park—what do you reckon?”
He thought for a moment. A smile crept across his face. “Yeah, a picnic. That’s nice. I could do that.”
“All right,” I said. “Well, I’ll leave you to it then. Hey, I’ll pick up some cheese on the way home. What’s the one you like? Gouda?”
As I left the room I could see in Rory’s face the wheels of creativity were already in motion. That’s good, I thought. I can finally see if this thing has a chance.
I spent a good hour at the gallery coming up with ideas on how to get around the nuisance of security cameras. Afterward, I visited a deli to pick up a big chunk of Gouda, and then headed back to the flat. I wondered what I would find upon my return. Would Rory have painted anything? Would it be any good? Would he have what it takes to replicate a masterwork? It was strange, but in that moment I wouldn’t have cared if the whole crazy scheme came to nothing; it felt good just to help Rory find some artistic inspiration. Whether he could really paint or not, I had a hunch we were going to be friends. I got back to find him sitting on the couch watching T.V. and eating soup.
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