"Dude, get up." Said the disembodied voice.
Marv mumbled to no one in particular and turned over, tugging the blanket higher on his shoulder.
"I can hear you breathing." There it was again.
His reply was muffled by the thick blankets, but it was obviously less than pleasant.
"MARV GET YOUR LAZY ASS OUT OF BED!!" The loud screech came from somewhere near his head.
So startled by the loud voice in his ear, he flung the sheets and the cell phone off one side of the bed as he fell off the other. "Jesus Christ!"
His head rang like a thousand church bells doing a bender. Crawling around on the floor he managed to locate the cell phone and put it to his tender ear. "Do you have to do that shit?"
"You were out last night drinking again, weren't you?"
"What are you, my mother?"
"No, your best friend, doing the thankless job of keeping you employed. Listen, I booked you the gig."
"Gig? What gig?" Marv scratched his head and tried to focus on the wall through one barely opened eye.
"Dammit Marv, the Torres Gallery? On 31st? They'll take you."
"Just one thing though."
"If they're askin' for my first born, they're gonna have a hell of a wait."
"No. They want some new pieces. They've seen all of your other works and they think you're brilliant. If anyone actually believes that. But they want something new, something edgy."
"New, edgy. Great. Any other requirements?" Marv wasn't listening, he was too busy digging through a pile of laundry and trash for his pack of cigs.
"They're hoping you might come up with something red."
"Red? The hell kind of request is that?"
"Don't know, don't care. They want a red center piece for the Gallery, a focal point if you will. You've got three months."
"Grand." Marv shook the pack and frowned at his last cig. "Fuck it. I'll give it to 'em."
Marv tossed the cell phone on the broken bed stand.
"Marv you lazy-assed bastard, get the hell out of bed."
He stuck an arm up in the air and motioned to the wall. "Painin's ofer ther."
"They've already been shipped, come on, get your ass in the shower."
"Wha fer?" Marv raised his head up and tried to focus on the face currently glaring at him. "I did ma bess." He flopped face down on his pillow and started to doze.
"You're supposed to be there today."
"You said nothin' about havin' to go."
"Yes, I did. Every Saturday for the past three damned months I have told you."
"Thass yer problem. Nah my fault."
The freezing water was a shock to the system and Marv flopped out of the bed on to the floor. "The fuck was that about Rory?"
Rory clunked Marv in the head with the plastic pitcher. "You're going to get cleaned up, get into something that's not foul smelling and you are going to go to this gig and play nice, or I swear to god I will make sure every bar in a 50 mile radius thinks you're in AA recovery."
"You wouldn't dare."
They glared at each other for several moments before Marv begrudgingly disentangled himself from the sheet.
"Oh, God, man. Do you always sleep naked?"
"Ugh, just... go shower."
Several moments later, Marv stared out of the car window as Rory drove in silence. His damned shirt was tucked in. What was this mess? What gallery gave two shits about the artists they featured? He needed a drink. Just a little something to take the edge off, but Rory, the sneaky bastard, had swiped his stash.
"You are going to behave and answer the nice questions of your adoring public and maybe, just maybe we can make a few sales."
"Yeah, whatever. I'll play the good boy." Marv scrubbed his hand across is fuzzy chin. He had forgotten when he had shaved last. His breath may have been minty fresh, but his mouth still tasted like he'd licked the backside of a very sandy cow.
They arrived at the swanky uptown gallery and Marv nodded in approval at the large glass front. "Cool."
"I know, it took me months of pleading, but you finally made it, man. All you have to do is make them love you, and you're solid gold. Don't screw this up." Rory's voice darkened on this last statement.
Marv shrugged and stuffed his hands in his jean pockets. Rory had been unhappy that Marv didn't own a single pair of dress pants, but at least these didn't have any holes or tears, and only minimal paint. "added to the look" Rory had decided. The red dress shirt was Rory's though.
"What's the deal with red?"
"Oh, it's Patricia's favorite color." Rory said absently.
"Owner of the gallery. Did you hear a damned thing I've said in the past three months?"
"No. You bangin' her?"
"The hell kind of question is that? No, she's married. God help me if that's the way you're going to be tonight."
"Nah man, nah. Jus' curious."
They were approached by a reasonably good looking man leading a woman in a bright red tea dress. Marv whistled appreciatively at the long legs and nicely curved body. His appreciation of the woman in front of him didn't completely blind him to Rory's own expression. Marv's eyes narrowed.
"Ah! This must be our delightful artist! I have heard so much of you! Our James here has worked very hard to bring you to us!" The woman's voice broke any desire he may have held for her. It was a shrieky, broken glass sounding terror.
"James? Who's James?"
"My first name is James you idiot." Rory gritted under his teeth.
"Oh, right. Right. I'm sorry, long day arting and all that." He shot out a hand and smiled as the woman's nose shot up another inch.
She gently took his hand and smiled again. "Well, I must say, you do brilliant work. I was just telling Richard here that we must buy the special work you did for me. I must say the red is really quite fetching."
Marv received a quick elbow jab to the ribs. "Richard is Patricia's husband."
"Right. Right, sorry I've been in that studio a touch too long."
Richard laughed and Patricia smiled in that wry way of hers. "Yes, Richard often gets stuck in the office late nights and comes home forgetful. Don't you darling?"
Without seeing or touching him, Marv felt Rory shift uncomfortably beside him as Richard nodded and laughed, pointedly looking at Rory. "Oh of course darling, you know how those business meetings get."
"Come, I must show you the displays!"
They were led through the gallery and shown each one of Marv's paintings. Patricia went on and on about lighting and positions or some such non-sense. He really didn't care about how his works were displayed, or any of the mundane crap she was babbling about. He really wanted a drink. He tried several times to snag a drink from a passing tray, but Rory kept stealing them back.
Patricia and Richard finally left Marv and Rory to "mingle".
"Seriously this time. Who the fuck is James?"
"I am. For the moment."
"The hell is that about?"
"Look, they wouldn't give "Rory" the time of day. But "James" a nice and respectable name is given a chance, so I took it. Sue me."
"That's some bullshit."
"It got you in didn't it?"
"I'd rather have my best friend Rory get me in, instead of some fuckwad named James."
Rory grabbed a drink off a nearby table and shoved it at James. "Maybe you're not drunk enough after all."
"Well, thank you kindly, "James"." Marv raised his glass in a mock toast before chugging it down.
Marv wandered around the gallery, looking at some of the other pieces. He stopped at the red monstrosity he had painted specifically for this showing. He briefly debated tossing his drink on the thing but decided it was a waste of good quality hooch.
"Excuse me, but aren't you the artist?"
Twins, they had to be. Oh man, oh man. They were stunning.
"Yes, yes I am."
"This piece is so beautiful!" said one.
"It speaks to me!" Supplied the other.
Well, that kind of killed it. Bubbleheads are okay, but not entirely fun.
"The flow of color."
"The expression of form."
Oh right, this is why he didn't enjoy twins. "So you say." It came out a little flatter than he had intended.
"Oh, we do. We both agree it's the best of the showing!"
Marv snatched another drink as a waiter passed. "You don't say."
They started babbling then, taking his words as an affirmation of their opinions. Rory was right, he wasn't drunk enough for this.
"So clever of you to wear a shirt the same color!"
"Tell us, what is your inspiration?"
Marv stopped, his glass halfway to his mouth. "My inspiration? You really want to know my inspiration?"
"Please, tell us!"
They had clasped their hands together in front of them, almost as in prayer and both were bouncing like eager puppies.
"A pissy woman on her bloody fucking period. That was my inspiration for this piece of garbage. A pissy, bitching woman nagging in my damned ear about how fucking RED It had to be."
They both looked as if they had been slapped, and one of the girls had even turned an interesting shade of red herself. Apparently Marv's voice had carried over the din of the room because all noise had stopped. Even the waiters paused in their duties.
"You asked." He strolled over to the closest waiter and snagged another drink, chucking it back before grabbing another.
"Well, that was rude!" It was Patricia standing beside the painting, her hands also clasped in front of her, but in the upside down way that made Marv think of school marms and angry nuns.
"They asked, I answered, it's not that damned hard."
"You have ruined the value of this painting."
"That painting never had a damned value. You asked for something red, I gave you red. You sent it back, and I gave you something better, you sent that back too. I gave you something you fucking wanted, and I fucking hated."
"It is about the customer..."
"Excuse me?" She all but shrieked. Marv was impressed, her voice could get more obnoxious to hear.
"Art is about the artist. It is ALWAYS about the artist. Do I look like a fucking wal-mart to you? Do I look like a goddamned food service to you?"
Rory had materialized out of air and was currently trying to herd Marv to the door. The problem was, Marv had always been built like a line backer, and Rory, not so much. He didn't budge. In fact, no one did.
"You will respect-"
"I respect nothing of your sort. You're a whiny, pissy bitch who thinks she's supposed to get what she wants. You can't respect anyone who doesn't fit into your precious mold, even going so far as to shun someone who's name you don't like. Fuck that noise."
"Marv, shut up and let's go."
"What are you talking about?"
"My friend's name is Rory."
"Aaaaand there goes my career. Marv shut your mouth and LET'S GO!"
"Well! I see I was right, he brought your kind into my gallery! Get your worthless art out of my gallery."
" I am taking MY art out of your worthless gallery. You can keep your shitty red painting."
"Marv, you're killing me here."
"It ain't my problem you're fuckin' her husband."
It was Rory's turn to freeze in place.
"I saw you. I see the way you look at him. There's more to this and you won't tell me. I figured it out."
"You're wrong." It was quiet, but there.
"How am I wrong?"
"Look, let's go before you ruin us both completely. You're in enough shit as is."
"No. I'm not leaving until I get the truth." Marv glared at Rory.
Rory stared back at Marv, silently pleading with him. "Fuck it, we're boned either way. I'm not involved with Richard. Richard is boning his personal trainer. I walked in on it last week and he threatened to cancel your show if I opened my mouth."
"Ah, shit." Marv slapped his hand to his face.
"NOW can we go?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I think we should."