Odd Jobs; part one - AN ARTSY JOURNEY #9
I opened my apartment door and a dead bird was at my feet. Six months ago I felt like that fragile bird with its life whisked out of him. It was the day Robert said good-bye and I was left to forge alone in Bismarck. Now I floated back and forth through the five stages of grief, presently hovering between anger and bargaining.
It was lucky Robert had packed up to the Carolinas because if he were in the neighborhood my anger would drown him in the Missouri River, where as the next minute, my bargaining would invite him for Beef Stroganoff hoping his favorite meal would win back our romance. Within the five stages of grief, I had passed the first stage of denial, but wasn’t close to acceptance.
Annie, the Springer Spaniel from next door, yipped, pulling me out of my trance. The pup sat with her head high, and tail wildly thumping the ground like a drum.
“Ruff,” Annie let out another yelp, lowering her wet nose to nudge the lifeless bird.
I folded my arms, raised an eyebrow and gave Annie the fish eye. “Why on earth did you plant that dead bird here?”
“Ruff-ruff,” The frisky pup did a double yip, all the while bouncing about, tail wagging non-stop.
Then I remembered.
Less than an hour ago I made a phone call to Mr. Stahl, the facility manager of one of my major art accounts. He was Bismarck born and bred making him the perfect person to help me locate some pheasant feathers I needed for an art collage.
In a period of twenty minutes, a dozen silky bronze and black feathers, all longer than my arm, were delivered to my doorstep for free! Apparently when it’s October in North Dakota and the small game season is in full swing it’s not a difficult chore. I was amazed, and apparently Annie was, too. She had followed the pheasant scent to my doorstop and had spun in circles, yapping excitedly as I collected the tail-feathers.
Now, the Springer Spaniel’s retrieving instincts kicked in, bringing me the dead bird, her prized possession. I buried the thing behind Marge’s old shed, and said a little prayer wondering if my landlord’s dead mama and husband’s spirits would approve. A little shiver went through me, but Annie was her frisky self, bouncing about.
Unable to resist the incredible huggable pup, I scooped her into my arms. “Would you like to assist me in another odd job?” I asked out loud, nuzzling my nose into her soft fur.
As I cuddled the pup, my brain ran through the crafty ways I had found to earn a living in the visual arts. It took tenacity more than anything else. Once I had to lug out my entire art fair booth, set it up, snap a photo, and then be judged on it before qualifying for a show. Another contest had me haul three oversize paintings so a committee could whittle it down to one. I also had to sweet-talk a store owner into letting me design the graphic layouts for newspaper ads even though my art portfolio had been quoted as: “Too fine art.”
But I persevered. This next job took even more grit. I’d be a security guard of all things.
The Bismarck Art and Gallery Association, BAGA, was hosting a grandiose exhibit in the Elan Gallery. So swanky their insurance company wouldn’t honor BAGA’s policy unless they installed expensive, high-tech surveillance cameras, of which this non-profit organization didn’t have the funds.
There was, however, another solution. If BAGA had 24-hour residence in the Elan Gallery the insurance company would respect their contract. So I volunteered to sleep at Elan. In return, BAGA executive director, Greta Johansson, scheduled a private exhibit of my work and waved BAGA’s commission.
A show at the prestigious Elan was a feather in my cap. But to wave the commission, that was better than the dozen pristine pheasant feathers I had just received. I was tail-wagging just like Annie.
“So,” I said out loud to the pup still cradled in my arms. “How would like to sleep in a spooky old house?
It wasn’t fear that made evenings miserable for me, it was homesickness. The community was supporting me with income to grow in the arts, but I ached for my family. It was a hollow feeling that never left me. I’d been stranded in Bismarck for more than six months and I realized the yearning for them would never leave. My heart told me I had to do anything and everything to move back to Michigan. My head told me that meant sleeping in an even bigger and emptier house than mine, but why not take Annie with me?
I checked with my next door neighbors the Grunners, and they said yes. Shortly, the pooch and I were off to Elan. I had no idea how rattled I’d become.