Thursday, February 22, 2024

the last book I ever read (Lost in the City: Stories by Edward P. Jones, excerpt four)

from Lost in the City: Stories by Edward P. Jones:

The pictures were of a security guard standing with folded arms between two paintings in what was clearly a museum. The man seemed to stand with an air of importance and authority, but the more Caesar studied the first pictures the more he saw that the man would never be anything more than a guard whose job was simply to stand between two paintings. The man’s expression changed but slightly in the series of photographs, but in the last one, as if he was finally aware that he was the photographer’s real subject, he was turning his head away and the camera caught only a blur. The guard, in a dark blue uniform, wore a dark blue hat with a shiny shield in the front, and though the hat was pulled down low over his forehead, Caesar could see that the mouth and chin were Sherman’s. “My father gave me my eyes and nose, but I got my mouth and chin from my old lady.” Sherman had been on his own since he was ten, but he always spoke of his parents as if he had had a full life with them.

“They were taken in the Smithsonian,” Manny was saying. “Not the one with that big elephant—that’s my favorite—but the art museum, the one with the paintings. When I heard he was working there, I just had to see it. So I had this guy and his whore that owed me a favor: Act like tourists and go down there and pretend they were Bamas in town to see the pictures, heh, heh.” Manny tapped his forehead. “Smart. Real smart.”

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