Short story from Doug Hawley

Twin Sisters

I knew I wanted her for a model when I saw the portrait selection at the Portland Art Museum.  She was painted hanging out of the passenger seat of a car waving at something unseen by the museum visitors.  I don’t know if I’m right, but I thought of early Marilyn Monroe.

Despite that my usual work is painting high-priced portraits for the city’s makers and shakers, politicians and business people; I knew I had to paint her.  Didn’t matter if I didn’t sell anything that I painted of her, I’d be happy to keep anything with her in it.  She had an aura which came through the dead canvas.

I checked the artist of her painting – it was George Shaw, somebody I knew well.  As soon as I got home, I asked him how to contact the woman in his painting.  He told me he would check with her to see if she wanted to contact me.  This was highly unusual because most models would welcome a new client without screening him first.

My obsession with the unknown woman kept me fidgeting at home hoping for her call.  Fortunately she called quickly.  “Hi, this is Janice Fellows.  George said you’d like me to model for some paintings.  In all honesty, I’m in high demand, but I’ve been keeping Fridays clear in case something good comes up.  You should be happy to know that you are in high regard among other local painters.  Let’s get acquainted this Friday, say at 3, and see if this works for both of us.  If it works out, bring your paints in case you want to start.”

I had a client meeting about a portrait of a much married tech multi-millionaire who wanted a painting with his adult children and his much younger wife.  Didn’t care, even if it cost me a five figure commission, I would not miss meeting Janice.  She gave me her West Hills address, a couple of miles from my place close to Portland State University.

It was three days until Friday.  Keeping my mind focused on my projects while awaiting our meeting was hell.  I felt like a teenager with a burning crush.  When the time came, after a mile or two of walking to Janice’s house, a very different woman met me at the door.  This woman was clearly older than Janice, had mousy brown hair, a bit of a paunch, and a pock marked face.  She could tell from my face that she was not what I expected.

“Hi, I’m Janice’s sister, fraternal twin, Jody.  You must be Frank.  Yes, I know we look nothing alike.  One of us is the brains, one is the beauty.  I’m obviously the beauty”.  This last was followed by a cackle.

“Now that you’ve heard my standard joke, here is the reality.  She does the modeling which brings in plenty of coin.  She isn’t dumb, but uninterested in the business end.  I do the buying, pay the bills, collect the money, do the accounting.  Between the two of us, we do alright.  She is always late to her meetings, it’s not a bug it’s a feature.”  She laughed at her joke again, while I tried to make sense of the situation.  “Want to sit down, have a drink, or discuss politics while you wait?  By the way, her fee is the going rate.”  At the time, the going rate was $100 per hour, more or less.  As an independent contractor she didn’t get Social Security or unemployment pay from a client.

Given those choices, I asked for a Scotch.  We ended up talking about painting and art in general while we waited.  After a while, Jody said she had some business to take care of and went through a door marked “Business Office”.  I finished my drink, and after a few minutes Janice came out to usher me into her studio.

If possible Janice was more than I expected from the painting.  I very much appreciate soft, voluptuous female flesh, and Janice had it in abundance.  She asked in a voice like honey “What do you want to do today?”

I almost slipped up and told her what I really wanted to do, but instead said “How about I take a few sketches”.  She agreed, and I spent a few minutes with my sketch pad.

“Janice, how do you feel about plein art?”

“Frank, I don’t leave my house.  Jody takes care of everything so I have no reason to leave.”

“It’s too bad; I’d really like to paint you at the beach.”

Janice laughed, and went to a trunk.  She pulled out a folded coastal backdrop with crab shells, a mix of different colored sand, with waves in the background.  Think you can paint me now?”

She was dressed quite modestly, so I told her she wasn’t dressed for the beach.

“No problem”, and with that she completely disrobed and went to her wardrobe and put on a swimsuit.

I did what I could to hide my arousal.  She looked and laughed again.  “So you are happy to see me.”

We went through the posing and lighting until we were both pleased.  I spent the next hour painting.

When finished, I got ready to go.  She grabbed my hand before I could leave and said “I like you, why don’t we get really happy before you go.  You won’t be charged for the extra work.”

Her very comfortable couch got a strenuous workout.  She inspired me to perform like my long gone teen years.

On my way out Jody gave me a very lecherous look including winks and asked “Want to schedule this for the Fridays into the future?”

I managed a strangled “Uh, yes.”

George knew about my meeting with Janice and called me later that day to ask about it.  I told him that it went well.  After a pregnant pause during which I suspected George was expecting something a little risqué, he said “Uh, good.   Glad it went well.”  This made me wonder about George’s sessions with Janice.

The next several Fridays seemed literally magical.  Janice looked different every Friday and not just hair, lighting or makeup.  Her nose changed size, both up and down.  After wondering if she could be too voluptuous, the next week she was slightly, but visibly thinner.  Whenever I would think of an outdoor setting for a painting, she would pull an appropriate backdrop out her trunk.

Did imagining her behaving as we did every Friday with her other clients bother me?  Sure, but one day a week with Janice, was worth all week with someone else.

At the same time, I got closer to Jody.  She was so intelligent and charming, her looks ceased to matter.  If we talked about something as boring as weather, she could quote outstanding world rainfall or heat statistics.  She was an expert on all the areas of art – painting, writing, acting, all of it.  She solved math puzzles for fun.

After the fifth modeling session with Janice, I invited Jody out to dinner at my place.  After eating, we started telling jokes.  “A priest, a parson and a rabbi go into a bar.  The bartender asks ‘Is this some kind of joke?’”

Next we went into dirty stories.  I surprised both of us by telling her “You can sleep here tonight if you want.”

The next morning I woke up with a different woman – Janice.  I jumped out of bed and yelled “What the hell!?”

Janice said “The short answer is that I’m what you might call a witch or a really good hypnotist.  I can appear to people any way I want.  It’s called casting glamors.”

“I don’t believe it.  You and Jody pranked me.  You switched while I was asleep.”

“You think so?  Then how about this.”  Jody appeared where Janice had been.

I spent a couple of days in a catatonic state.  During that time I had a lucid dream.  It took place in Janice’s apartment.  I wasn’t there, but I could see what was happening.  Instead of Jody going into her business office, it was Dinah who had a crush on me in college.  I hadn’t treated her well then, so I yelled at her “I’m sorry, I treated you badly”.

She looked around and said “It sounds like you Frank, but I don’t see anyone”.  Dinah’s clothes and appearance slowly morphed into Janice as she went through Jody’s office and through a door into Jody’s studio.  I was in the studio, but I woke up before anything else happened.

I knew then how and when the Jody to Janice transformation was hidden from me and I remembered that I had never seen them together.

Coming out of catatonia, I realized how fortunate I was.  Now it’s Fridays with Janice, and other times with Jody.  Rather than try to make sense of it, I just accept that I’m the luckiest man alive.  I don’t dwell on what Janice does on days that I don’t see her.

Before meeting Jody and Janice, I was a twice divorced sad sack chasing money.  I now know that I can accept and give love.  I’ve cut back on some of my lucrative work, and do pro bono or inexpensive work for poorly funded charities, houses of worship, and uplifting murals.  The Art Museum now has a small room with a permanent exhibition of several paintings of Janice and Jody.  They should be shared with the world.

One thought on “Short story from Doug Hawley

  1. I like this story. It’s not as Hawleyesque as other of Dukes’ work, except that the narrator has a low opinion of himself. It shows that even a money-grubbing free wheeler can discover the best of both worlds and find a kinder, gentler side to himself as well. Yay, Duke.

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