And He Walked a Crooked Mile

The Quentin Teal Art Museum was nothing if not tranquil. Its walls were a tasteful beige, the lighting, subdued, the art pieces were respectable, and its outdoor cafe called its 8 dollar tuna fish sandwiches Neptune’s Delight au pain. It was 11 o’clock on a Wednesday morning in mid-autumn and the museum was practically empty. An older couple were walking hand in hand admiring some Old Masters, a handful of artists were bundling up their portable easels and deciding on a place for lunch, a bus load of children from Heinlein Elementary all who would have much preferred to visit the aquarium were unloading at the front entrance, and Moose. Moose was rail thin, all knees and elbows. He had a prominent Adam’s apple and always looked as if he needed a good bath even straight from the shower. Right now Moose was angry.
“Who would I be hurting? I don’t need to set up my gear, just my sketchbook.” Moose’s voice squeaked when he was frustrated.
The nice lady behind the registration desk explained again in soft tones about the rules of the museum.
“But there’s no one here—what the hell—I came all the way downtown,” Moose shouted.
The nice lady raised a graceful eyebrow. Moose looked around exasperated. The older couple stared at him with disapproval. Moose shoved his fists into his carpenter orange barn coat and fished for some dollars. Muttering loudly, he handed the nice lady the admission fee. Her placid smile returned as she handed Moose a brochure map.
“Battle axe! Some people get a little power and …” Moose grumbled as he walked. Shaking their heads, the older couple strolled towards the late Impressionists.
“Just because a guy is a few hours late,” he said loudly. Moose stalked past the artists on their way to hamburgers. “I can’t go all the home. What’s guy to do?” Moose pictured his mother, stony face and arms folded. He could hear her nagging drumming in his brain, her helpful advice“Just because a guy needs a little time to find his path—“
Moose stopped in his tracks in front of a painting of a rickety path through a marsh leading to a misty seaside townscape. The painting was harsh. Moose was struck by the work’s thick crude brushstrokes. The Teal didn’t run to folk art or self taught artists. Even though Moose knew the museum by heart, he glanced through the brochure in his hand wondering if this was a new exhibit. From the glossy pages Moose wasn’t even sure what room he was in. Rubbing his stubbly chin Moose glanced around.
He examined the painting again. His big body leaned towards the painting. It was a detailed watercolor, delicate see grass up close and a translucent shimmering townscape.
“What the—“
Moose checked for the artist’s name. “There Was a Crooked Man” by Wallace Taylor Moore.
“That’s my name! What the—“
Moose spun back to the photograph. His nose nearly touched the glass. Softly Moose heard the sound of the ocean, the salt in the air.
“And he walked a crooked mile,” the voice rang out. Startled, Moose whirled around towards the cry and fell backwards into video screen.
Suddenly Moose was up to his waist in the cold marshy water. His coat dragged him under as twisted and turned, turned and twisted.
“Bobby, hush. We are quiet in the Teal,” Mrs. Turnball hissed.
“But I like the crooked man.” Bobby pointed at the amateurish wild oil painting of a man drowning in a marsh by a trailing path.
Children are such little ghouls, Mrs. Turnball thought as led her third graders from the briny air towards the peace of the sculpture garden.

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