2007 Rodney Cox

Bill Peterson took his girlfriend Marla and her daughter Tanya to see a friend of his, Galen McTaggart. Galen was an artist, a man driven to create. His days were spent with creative juices and paint flowing, producing extraordinary paintings and drawings. Galen was in a constant state of creation. Even his doodles could be considered works of art.

Galen was a college buddy of Bill's. They had been out of touch for a long while, but Bill recently received an invitation to a showing of Galen's paintings at a local gallery. Since Bill had been more social of late, he called his friend to see how he was doing. They spent a long time talking and reminiscing about college. With Bill's interest in making model boats, they had taken several of the same classes and had quite a bit in common.

Bill was looking forward to seeing Galen again. It came as little surprise that Galen had made a name for himself as an artist. As they drove, Bill described Galen from college and his art.

"Galen was very versatile. He could do a photorealistic piece one day and an abstract the next. And all of it was good. He worked mostly with oils but would do pencil or ink drawings as well. The only thing he didn't like using was charcoal and pastels. It wouldn't move right, he always said."

"Move right?" asked Marla.

"Yeah, that's what he would say. Something about how it worked on the paper. All I know was he hated the stuff."

"Seems like an interesting guy," Marla observed.

Bill grinned. "Strange, you mean. Galen was not what you would call mainstream, but he was a nice guy. His whole life revolved around his art. He always had paint in his hair on smeared on his face or on his hands."

"So he didn't socialize much then?" asked Marla.

"Actually, he socialized more than anyone. Being an artist, he was always asking the pretty girls to pose for him. I'm not sure why, but they mostly said yes," Bill answered. "But it wasn't just a pick up line, although I'm sure there was a lot of fooling around. He actually used them as models."

Marla just shook her head.

They drove on for awhile until they came to Galen's home, which was in the country. The house seemed large and in a modern style. It was surrounded by gardens filled with beautiful flours and shrubbery. Everyone was impressed with the quality of the landscaping, even Tanya.

"Wow," mused Bill. "Galen must be doing well as an artist to have a place like this."

Bill pulled his car up the long driveway, parking next to the house. When they got out of the car, they were greeted by Galen coming down the steps to meet them. He was tall and on the thin side. His hair was sandy brown, and fell to his shoulders. His eyes were merry and a bright shade of green.

"Bill!" Galen exclaimed. "It's good to see you."

"It's great to see you too. It's been too long," Bill said to his old friend, shaking his hand. Then he turned to Marla and Tanya. "Galen, I would like you to meet my girlfriend Marla and her daughter Tanya."

"My, what lovely ladies you brought. You both must pose for me. I've been working on a painting you would be perfect for," Galen told them.

Marla smiled. "You want us to pose?"

"You haven't changed a bit, Galen," Bill said.

"Oh, I didn't mean that as a come on. I'm a married man after all. I'm working on a book cover about Vikings. Marla, you and Tanya are exactly what I was looking for. It won't take long. I work from photographs, so I would only need to take a few pictures. Please?"

Marla looked down at Tanya standing by her side. "What do you think darling? Do you want to have your picture taken?"

Tanya nodded. "It sounds neat."

Galen's face lit up. "Oh thank you, thank you. But where are my manners? Let me show you around first."

"Okay," said Bill.

Galen led them around the gardens first. It turns out that he had done all of the landscaping, including planting all of the flowers.

"It seems I have a green thumb," he told them. "I can't seem to kill a plant if I wanted to."

One part of the garden was a trove of topiary. Shrubs were cut in a wide variety of animal shapes, from rabbits to deer to wolves.

"You do these as well, Galen?" asked Marla.

"Oh, no. My wife, Selene, did those. She's a sculptor," answered Galen.

"That's handy," said Bill. "So do you have any kids?"

Galen's face darkened a little. "No, I'm afraid that I'm not able to have kids. Selene and I have been to all the specialists, but no luck. We're on an adoption waiting list, but who knows how long that will take."

"I'm sorry," said Bill. "I had no idea. I didn't mean to bring up a sensitive subject."

Galen grinned at his friend. "That's okay. You had no way of knowing. Let me show you around inside."

They followed Galen into the house. There seemed to be art and sculpture everywhere, yet it was all very tastefully arranged and did not give a cluttered feel.

"The paintings are mostly mine, and the sculptures are mostly Selene's," Galen told them as the moved from room to room. In the Kitchen, they met Selene. She was almost as tall as Galen and was very beautiful. Her hair was black and straight and fell down her back. Her eyes were a twinkling green.

"Selene, honey, this is my old college buddy, Bill Peterson, I've told you so much about. And this is his girlfriend Marla and her daughter Tanya."

"How do you do," said Selene. Her voice was smooth and thick like honey. She had an extra kind look for Tanya. Smiling at Marla, she said, "So did Galen ask you to pose for him?"

"Actually he did," replied Marla.

"How long did he wait before asking?"

"About a second or two."

Selene turned to smack Galen in the arm. "Galen, how many times have I asked not to be rude to guests. You could have waited a bit before asking."

Galen laughed. "I tried, I really did."

Selene turned to Marla and Tanya. "I hope you both weren't too embarrassed. Galen is so impulsive sometimes."

"Not at all," Marla said. "We accepted his offer. I for one was very flattered."

Galen showed them the rest of the house and then the five of them sat down in the kitchen for some lunch. Their conversation was easy and light, and their hosts made sure Tanya was made to feel comfortable and included. Galen was constantly doodling in a notebook he kept with him. Mostly what he was doing was blocking out the poses he wanted Marla and Tanya to take.

After lunch, Galen clapped his hands together. "Well, ladies, are you up to posing for me now?" Both nodded yes.

"Fantastic! Please come with me." He led them to his studio and to a large walk-in closet. He picked out a couple of outfits for them to wear. "Would you both try these on? There's a changing room right through there," he said pointing.

Marla and Tanya left Bill and Galen alone while they changed.

"So, Bill, how did you meet Marla?" Galen asked.

"Well actually it was because of Tanya. I was at the City Park feeling sorry for myself when Tanya came running by with a miniature replica of a Viking long boat-"

"You and your boats," interrupted Galen. "You should have been a shipwright."

Bill smiled. "Tanya came running by and tripped, breaking the boat. I offered to help fix it. I made repairs and Tanya was able to sail it in the pond. I got to talking to Marla and the rest is history."

"What a fascinating tale. What were you feeling sorry about, if I may ask?" Galen wanted to know.

"Well, I had just realized that I didn't have a life. All I did was work, eat and sleep. I work with Stan Morris, you remember him? Well Stan had always tried to get me involved, going out for drinks with co-workers, but I never did until that day. I guess I needed a change. I hadn't built a model in years. I'm glad I found the time for life."

Galen nodded sagely. "Have you gotten back to your models?"

"Yes, I have. I just finished a 19th century sloop. It's a good four feet long. It even has sails. Tanya helped me paint it," Bill said.

"Marvelous," said Galen. "I would like to see it sometime."

"Sure. I'll invite you over to have dinner."

"It's a deal. Ah, the ladies have returned," Galen said turning to see Marla and Tanya come out of the dressing room.

Bill's breath caught in his throat. They looked like they had stepped out of time, straight from Norway in the 1100's. They were both blond and had their hair braided. Their appearance was truly remarkable.

"Well, how do we look?" asked Marla.

"Like proper Viking women," Galen told them with a grin.

"Well we should, being Heathens and all," Marla said.

"Heathens?" asked Galen.

"They worship the old Norse Gods," supplied Bill.

Galen was delighted. "I knew when I first set eyes on you that you would be perfect for this."

"Most people don't accept it with such aplomb," Marla told him. Tanya was smiling, like she knew all along what Galen's reaction would be.

"I'm not most people, Madam," Galen said. "Now let us get you both posing."

Galen set them at a central location in the studio and set up the lighting he wanted. Then he fussed about how they should stand and where they should look. He took many pictures, including some close-ups of they faces. After about a half hour, he put his camera away.

"Thank you both for putting up with me and my work," Galen said.

"It was no trouble at all," said Marla.

"It was fun," added Tanya.

"Well as payment for your modeling services, how would you both like to keep the outfits?" Galen asked.

Marla shook her head. "Oh, you shouldn't. These outfits must be very expensive."

But Galen would have none of that. "Nonsense. They don't cost that much. And besides, you both look so appropriate in them that it would break my heart to see you parted from them."

"And besides," came Selene's voice from behind. "I wouldn't speak to him if he let you leave here with out them. Don't worry Marla, his commission for the painting, plus royalties will more than make up for the loss of two outfits. Galen was frantic to find models for this painting. He must have gone through a hundred candidates before finding you two."

"Ah, the voice of reason," said Galen. "Please, accept this gift in return for all that you've done for me."

Marla nodded. "Well a gift demands a gift. We will gladly accept the outfits."

Tanya made a cheering noise. "Thank you, Galen," she said.

"You are most welcome little one," said Galen.

"I must ask," Marla said. "Where did you get this splendid clothing."

"Well when I first learned about this particular project, I did research into authentic Viking clothing. I visited museums, read books and made many drawings and notes. When I felt I had enough material, I made the clothes myself."

"Galen," said Bill. "You have to be the most creative person I've ever met."

"Well, it keeps me busy."

They said their good-byes and Galen made all three to promise to attend his showing. He told them that they would receive copies of the book when it came out so they could see the final product. Before they knew it, they were driving off, waving goodbye to their hosts.

"I had a great time, Bill," Tanya said from the backseat.

"So did I," Marla said. She reached over and kissed him. "Thank you."

Bill smiled as he drove Marla and Tanya home, happy with their new cloths and the knowledge that they had been part of a creative process.

"I think I'll start a new boat tomorrow," Bill said. Marla and Tanya merely smiled in understanding.


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