Gerald Burns signature    



Wilson Williams

Williams invited me in. I was pleased to be invited. Curious,
not having been to his apartment before. The door opened on
to his study (as it happened the only room I was to see.)
It was done up in browns, the carpet the color of old tobacco,
mouldings stained brown, the chairs brown cloth and leather;
I remember thinking it was like being inside a humidor.
My host was wearing a black suit. I like them too
but that day had on a favorite old brown corduroy.
It made me feel slightly disembodied. "Ah, Jerrol,”
he said, leaning against the brown mantel,
"I'm glad you've come." "I very nearly didn't," I replied,
"but wanted to see your place, catch the ambience." He nodded.
As he knew I've made something of a niche for myself
as a drawer of caricatures. Poets and painters were my favorite
subjects. I'd never drawn Wil, who was neither.
He may have been a bit too ordinary-looking, or something
else, it now seems to me, may have put me off. His elbow
rested by a brownish-bronze clock, a skeleton
recumbent, in a cloak of some sort, with a scythe
the arc of which cradled a glazed clock-face.
I couldn't see the time (there was a window reflection.)
He turned to a brown wicker wheeled tray. "Drink?"
"It's only afternoon," I said, but saw he had stocked a
cream sherry of which I'm fond he may have bought for me,
"but yes I will." He at once uncorked it and poured
one for each ofus in little trumpetshaped glasses.
"Cheers," he said, and sipped, and put his glass on the mantel,
"I want to show you something." Embarrassed? Apologetic?
"Where is it?" I asked him. "Not where; it's something I can do.
Perhaps I should ask you to sit down. You're the only
person I could think of who'd not be alarmed or tiresome."
"I'll stand," I said, I hope not too warily. Late
afternoon sun through a window to my right
picked out glass prisms dangling from an aged bronze
candelabrum by his sherry so the wine glowed
like the very best antique briar. I remember
noticing the light cast by its crystals on the buff
wall seemed to cast no spectrum. Perhaps the wall absorbed it.
He pointed to a dining table at my far left. "Would
you bring me the salt and pepper?" I crossed over and peered
at the brown table. On an old square doily just off-center
I recognized two blobby squashy things. Pink speckware,
collectible, one labeled S, one P. "Taste the salt."
I shook some in my hand. Oddly brownish-gray, I thought,
and tasted pepper. "What's in P?" He smiled at me. "Salt.
Please bring them over here." I gave them to him and he held
one in each hand as if still offering me sherry.
His eyes flickered shut. I sensed he'd rather I were quiet.
A minute passed and suddenly he seemed to grow taller,
and then I saw his shoes no longer touched the umber tile
extending from the fireplace to underneath the rug.

Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997

  back next