Janet vs The Barbarians

Written with my Thursday Writing Group with the prompts: Silver spoon, marked safe, no desire to join them, it hurts, out the door, an old guy in a dark suit and red tie, “step over here, little lady,” I don’t belong here, hey–how did you get in here?, back to the times, traffic moved along, the early bus to Prague, she repeated it but louder, there was Janet.


There was Janet, stationed in her usual spot, in the hallway between the old museum and the avant gard wing, watching an old white guy in a dark suit and a red tie as he shuffled slowly toward her.  “How did he get in here?” she mumbled under her breath.  He looked like a throw-back to a darker time, when men wore ties that dangled below their belt buckles to identify them as the ruling elite.  Janet would have none of that crap in her museum.

“Step over here, little lady,” the old man called and Janet winced as if it hurt to hear such condescension.  She was tempted to pull out her Taser, but he was probably harmless.  Just an old man, who probably wandered away from his tour. He should be down in the gift shop, purchasing a commemorative silver spoon.

“Hey,” she said, affecting a friendly tone, “how did you get in here?”

“Well, darling,” he began, and she dropped all niceties.

“How did you get in here?” she repeated, but louder and meaner.

He stopped shuffling and grinned malevolently at her.  He seemed taller suddenly.  Janet’s eyes narrowed.  He was younger, blonder, stronger than she had imagined.  She pulled out her baton, ready to defend the exhibit of women’s modern art that lay down the south corridor.

“Where’d you come from?” she asked sternly, though she suspected he’d emerged from the medieval wing, or maybe from one of those paintings of people burning in hell.  No wait, she recognized him now.  He used to be the man with the whip that beat the rowers in that painting of the Roman ship.  Where he’d gotten the suit and tie, Janet didn’t know, but she needed to chase him back to the times where he belonged.  He was glaring at her now, and she glared back, unwilling to show apprehension.  “So you think I don’t belong here,” he taunted.  “Well, nothing you can do about it.”

He spun on his heel, took off running with a speed Janet could not have imagined.  He raced past the African masks and the Native American carved canoe.   He threw himself into the Impressionist gallery, slipping past paintings of sunrises and sunsets so fast that Janet felt years passing.  He was at the head of the staircase now, just beneath the humongous oil painting of the gold miners on a Sunday morning, half of them praying, the other half cavorting with drink, dice, and loose women.  He laughed and slid down the bannister, ready to bolt out the door.

Janet rushed outside, scanning the crowds.  Traffic moved along in front of the park across the street.  She caught sight of him, just about to board the early bus to Prague, Oklahoma.  He caught her eye, shot an imaginary gun of thumb and index finger at her.  She knew what he meant.  She was powerless to stop his evil.  Last week they’d lost a marble statue of Zeus, who sprung to life then ran off to rape swans in William Land Park.  Before that they’d lost a whole regimen of Napoleon’s soldiers.  They escaped from a huge painting in the European wing one morning in full regalia:  no one could stop them.  They were spreading out everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, and all the docents could do was chant and pray.  Janet had no desire to join them.  She went back to the new women’s exhibit and sat between the jazz singers of Faith Ringgold and the deserts of Georgia O’Keefe.  She wondered which painting would welcome her in, where she could mark herself safe.



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