Act 2 – Chapter 16: Max Fails to Gather the Flock

I call PUNCH but he’s not answering. IN fact, his phone’s off.

I call Monday. He tells me he’s not sure he’s in the mood to talk right now. Says he just got off a call with PUNCH who’s getting all tinfoil hat on us.

I call Lola. She tells me that she’s made it up with PUNCH, but asks me to forget about her getting involved ever again. She says it was hard enough convincing him she was not somehow in cahoots with me in the first place. She says she can’t imagine what’s going on between us but it’s time to stop using her. She tells me she can forgive me playing everyone else but she won’t be played. And then she shuts off. Just like that.

I am not a man who gets shut off. I get yelled at. I get threatened. I get invited to fuck off politely. But I do not get shut off.

Claudine calls and I tell her to stop calling Lola “he” and she asks if she has a wrong number and I say yes.

Then I call Boo who has been very busy gathering work for her first solo show at my gallery. She’s been very excited about it, and I was feeling the need for some uplift, to be honest.

Sure enough as soon as she has my hairy old ear she’s full on Boo with more energy than I could have prepared for.

— I’m having a party, Maxie! I’ve moved all my stuff to the mover’s loft! He’ll have it for you on Thursday. It’s a pre-preview party! Tomorrow night. So the mover is Gene Hardwick. I think you know him! He’s friends with that techie guy you work with. Marcus! We’re all set up at his flat! All my work stuff! It looks so great together! Maxie! You’re going to LOVE it! Oh, hey: you can come, right?

— Uh, yeah. Of coarse. Um. Will PUNCH? Have you heard from him? You know. Since…

— Nope. I mean: he texted. He’ll be there. I made him promise.

— And Lola?

— Yes. EVERYbody!


Everybody has spoken to PUNCH and everybody is going to Boo’s party. And nobody is talking to Max.


Boo Dolly, born Bluebell Doyle, if you can swallow that, had made a name for herself creating ragged, dreamlike objects that capture the subconscious connections we make in unguarded moments: sleep, trauma, trance — childhood. It was easier for her in Tennessee where the gritty aspect of her work was more shocking; she found it harder to impact New York. In New York, she found that the raw edges and mud that she thought were so resonant appeared practiced amongst throngs of similarly grubby pieces on the walls of other east village gallery.

She kept afloat her first year in New York with some modeling and hostessing jobs. Then a few small pieces at a show called “Forensic Feel” — at a tiny artist-run pop-up gallery called BoxBox — caught the attention of Kate Calvacca who thought she saw “something outsider” about them.

With Kate, Boo showed a triptych called “Making Mouths” which, much to her satisfaction, raised  the ire of parents and protectors due to  its daring imagery of children’s mouths, open, spit-glossed, and Vermeer-sensual.

But despite Kate’s efforts to leverage the outrage and make Boo look like the new Tracey Emmins, serious critics panned the work. They looked too “slick” and “winked rather obviously at Marilyn Minter,” according to SuperGenius which declared Boo Dolly to be all PR and no substance: “not to be taken seriously” said Jerry Saltz and although Roberta Smith did not agree, she also withheld any ringing endorsement, labeling the work, “promising at best,” and “realling, perhaps the controversies brought up by Sally Mann.” In all honesty, Kate lost her enthusiasm for Boo and Boo, not used to being slighted, came to me, wounded.

You’d think she’d be grateful. But, no: her queenly assumption has been, rather, that she’s finally getting her due.


This year her concentration on crosses has attracted the controversy she always longed for. “Fine Figure of a Man”which showed in my summer show, hit the art mags all at once: two covers, and multiple lengthy reviews later, Boo is on everyone’s radar. She’s being taken seriously enough for now.


Kate Calvacca tells me she’ll be at Boo’s party. She wants to suggest that one of Boo’s pieces go in Punch’s upcoming show. Does he know about this? Not yet, she tells me; but he says he’s looking forward to seeing it.

I don’t hear “I” from Punch these days. I hear “he” and it’s killing me: I am being screened, blocked, ghosted: not to be taken seriously.

When I arrive everyone is there except the ones I’m eager to see. Right away Molly Bowen is in my line of vision, in fact. Because she’s stuffing a rather large canapé into her square little face, I swiftly maneuver to stand in front of her, relishing her slow recovery.

— I thought Kate had a put a restraining order on you.

— Mmm-smf —Jesus, PoeG great timing!. You look —big— today.

— How small of you to notice.

— (licking her fingers) I haven’t seen Kate.

— Maybe she’s hiding from you.

— Why on earth: it’s not HER I’m interested in.

— Only her manservant and her cattle.

— Do you think Boo’s worth all the fuss?

— My respected opinion? As her dealer?

— Yeah: excuse me, Poe Boy (shoving me aside with the backs of her soiled hands): that’s Dodi Salles and he’s remiss. Owes me like, four commissioned pieces.

— Glad to see he’s taking more time with his work these days.

But my quip rebounds off Molly’s back. Meantime Claudine Dumas emerges in my periphery, a blast of floral prints and  handsome perfume.

— Max-eee-mil-li-on! I —

— Claudine! Hold that thought: I’ve got to catch this guy before he sneaks off

It’s not a very showy man I’m indicating. Marcus Denezes looks like Woodie Allen or any one of a million guys who wear the plaid shirt like a uniform. Dog colored hair. Serious Warby Parkers. Green suede sneakers.

—Hey, Max! What up? Punch asked me to come here and help him to ward off evil.

— Huh?

— He said he was going to use me as a shield against you and whatever horrid plan you were cooking up.

— You know, if he weren’t so paranoid he’d see that all I’m up to is saving his slacker tail. Anyway: I’m glad you’re here. I gotta corner you at some point to help me figure out this radio thing you set up for me.

— Radio? Oh. Podcast. Okay. Cool. Where’s PUNCH anyway? I’ve got a gift for him out front.

— A gift? Why? Did I forget something? His birth—

— Just. He’s like. Lonely. Um. Lately. And like really down on the whole dating/hooking up thing so. Well. I got him a bird.

— A? A bird?

— Yeah: a cockatoo. They. Um. They mate for life. In the wild, so when they. Um. When they aren’t in the wild, they. Well, they BOND. You know. With. With their owners.

— And you want Punch to bond with this bird.

— He. He could. I mean. He might he. He seems like he. Well, maybe he’s lonely. So.

— I hope not. Look: are we early or something? I mean. Where in shit ARE they? She said seven, no?

— Well. Kate was here but she ran out. You don’t like the show?

— N-what do you mean? You mean why am I not looking around? Shit: I’ve seen all this.

— All together this way?

— Not JUST this way, but, Yes. Am I missing something? Where’s Boo?

— Boo left with Kate. I heard them tell the orange girl over there that they’d be right back.

— The “orange” g—?

— I saw the girl he was referring to: orange hair the way lots of Japanese girls have when they go blond. And then she was wearing orange as well and topaz earrings: a bit of sunshine, this one.

Marcus shrugs.

— I take it she’s. She’s Kate’s new intern? Like. She’s helping out.

— Latest victim. Okay. Good then. I’ll just go have a word with her. We’ll circle back? I have something to run by you.

— Catch ya later.

Thirty, what? six? and the guy still talks like a kid. He and his boyfriend Gene, who’s loft is serving as Boo’s gallery tonight, do very little but play. It’s work. But it’s play. Digital consultants. They do a lot of work for artists these days. In fact, I met Marcus through PUNCH.

Turns out the orange girl is Keiko. Keiko Junahari. She’s got this thing glued over her eye, just under her eyebrow, causing me to stare. This, and her difficulty with English, make me lose my train of thought several times while I quiz her about Kate’s business. Apparently things are going well. Apparently Kate has been selling her personal collection of Lewis Boeys and has only three items left.

Of course I disapprove. I can unload because I’ve got Lola and Lola is Lewis and Lewis is mine. But Kate does NOT have Lola and if she’s unloading Her Boeys, it’s going to make us look bad. Maybe I’ll buy them up at respectable prices and get them to Claudine before any rumors escape. You heard nothing. Okay?

Keiko also tells me that Kate and Boo ran out because they were supposed to have a package to give me and PUNCH and they’d left it uptown.

— You haven’t seen PUNCH, have you?

— He called. He said he’s not feeling well and he can’t make it.

— What? Phoned in sick? Lying bastard.

— Boo said to show you her latest: it’s over here.

She’s motioning toward a canvass of putty color with stitching that bisects the upper third, and center of the canvass.

— It was sewn after it was painted.

— Boo said you’d like this one very much.

— Because?

— I don’t know. She just said. Hey: you are agent for Peter Monday, don’t you? I like him. I mean, I like his art!

— I’ll let him know.

— Yeah: he’s great. Makes fun of all the serious business, you know?

— That’s him alright. Making fun of the serious business.

Boo enters first. The same girl that came into my gallery one day three years ago holding her book out in front of her like an offering. Kate follows. She’s got a manila envelope under her arm. Keiko, at my side, gives a jump, holds up a finger to indicate that she’s on it, whatever Kate’s latest “it” is.

Boo crosses her arms and admires her work.

— I see you found my latest.

— I do like it. I like the way the threads are splintering the paint here and here: violent.

— I called it “Breakthrough.”

— It’s set to self-destruct a bit, no?

— A bit. Tell you what? How about you let IT worry about its self-destruction and you just sell it for me? Isn’t that what you do?

Boo is looking at me with giant guileless window-wide eyes.

— If you’ve been talking to PUNCH, ask him to tell you how many times I’ve had to worry about his self-destruction and how many times I’ve had to sell it as a feature of his work. Ask him that. Ask him what in fuck is left to sell if he gives me nothing but utter crap. Ask him how many times ol’ Max has got to spin shit into gold? AND where is that fucker anyway? AND why can’t he man up and talk to me?

Throughout my tirade, Boo has not stopped looking at me. And she looks at me for two more beats before she walks away.

Good going Max, cut your last lines of communication. (PUNCH off somewhere building a word golem that no one can look at without yawning…)

Kate has been standing by through all this. I turn from staring nails into Boo’s back to see that Kate is looking almost a little —sorry? —for me —meaning that she, too, has been privy to an earful. An earful I’d give my right arm to hear first hand.

She just hands me the envelope, and tells me to “hang on to this for Punch’s upcoming.” I tell her I really should be getting along…

— I didn’t think you’d mingle.

— Looking for Marcus. Where’d he get to? We’ve got business.

— Beats me. I don’t even know wh- OH! Yes. Marcus. That techno artist.

— Um: he’s not an artist. He’s a consultant.

— There he is. He’s talking to Molly.

— Well. I’m going to run along, then.

— Ha! Coward.

— No: I already did my Molly duty today.

On the way out I catch a glimpse of  Marcus on the street. He’s climbing atop a rather too tall bicycle and he’s holding an unwieldy cage with a canvas over it.

I wave at him and cross the street. Even I have my limits.



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