The drilling sound that I heard through the walls of the Bone Room turned into the sounds of paintings being drilled into the other side of the wall. This turns out to be one of the walls of the gymnasium of Dodge City High, where both Professor Dalton and the Silent Professor have held forth in recent months, and where Big Pharmakos used to through the ol’ pigskin to some acclaim and with some notoriety, and where Jeff Bridges and Hank Williams and Jimmy Dean or whoever and who knows who all else got together to have a kind of moment one day long ago.

 

I pass through a chink in this wall, and, hearing nothing at all behind me, turn to discover that the Silent Professor has followed me through. So we’ll both be going to whatever’s happening in here.

 

We emerge into glaring lights and begin making our way among tables laid out with fingerfood. There’s a wine station, and a corner where some guys are drinking beers from a red cooler on wheels, and look to be giving them out too, to some people anyway, or maybe those people put in for the beers earlier and are now merely picking them up.

 

The Silent Professor stays near me, slouching in such a way that it looks exactly as though he’s leaning on a tall, narrow stool, though I see no evidence of such a thing. I keep trying to check behind him, but he keeps his front turned toward me, as if aware of my intentions and determined to thwart them. To shake off my wondering, I decide definitively that he is leaning on a stool, and wish I could have one too, as my feet are starting to get tired from wandering around this gym, looking at these pictures up on the wall.

 

Most of them are of frogs, some of daffodils, one or two are of what look like tonsils, and there’s one large one of those black and red candied raspberry / blackberries. Up near the ceiling hangs a banner so long that the two walls do nothing to pull it taut. It reads “Welcome to the Lucian Freud Exhibit,” but it’s crinkled and sagging in such a way that it looks more like “Welcome Lucian Freud.”

 

“Did you know he was really going to be here?” I turn and see Rigid Steve and Fiscal Steven, each dressed in period garb. “That’s him, over there,” says Rigid Steve, pointing across the room at a guy with his back turned to us, who looks like he may be a security guard. The Silent Professor, relaxing on his stool, does not follow their pointing finger, and I sort of envy his resolve, or his apathy.

 

“He’d dead,” I say, and then we all together look back at that security guard. Seeing how alive he looks from here, I begin to doubt the statement I’ve just made.

 

Describing their period garb, Rigid Steve tells me, “The first pictures from Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film Django Unchained, due out Christmas Day, were released this evening, so I dressed up as one of them. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character. A ruthless, hammer-wielding plantation owner from the Old South. Who will stop at nothing.” I look at Fiscal Steven, expecting the explanation to continue. “He thought it was about Django Reinhardt,” explains Rigid Steve. “So that’s who he’s dressed as. Or something,” he adds, having clearly lost interest.

 

Near our stretch of wall, I spot what looks like John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, checking out one of the frog paintings. “How did you get all these Lucian Freud’s in here?” I ask Rigid Steve.

 

“A truck overturned near the overpass out on US 447, couple miles out of town. Driver didn’t survive. Some scavengers scooped ’em up, brought ’em here.”

 

“A Lucian Freud truck?”

 

“Fur coats,” says Rigid Steve.

 

“My mother remembers the days. Whenever a fur coat truck overturned outside of Dodge City, there’d be a huge glut of ’em here in town. All the ladies would go down to the stores and grab ’em up. Then, for weeks after, they’d all be wearing exactly the same coat. Whenever they went to town it’d be a whole scene, everyone arguing about whose day it was to wear it, you know?”

 

I leave Rigid Steve to tell the rest of his story on his own. Walking away, I try to picture an overturning truck full of actual Lucian Freud paintings. Then I look back at the paintings on the wall. The one nearest me, where John Darnielle was a few seconds ago, is of a pitcher of cream with some flies on a little island drinking coffee in its center.

 

I take out my iPhone from my back pocket, thinking to double check what Lucian Freud’s paintings actually look like, just to be completely certain that these aren’t them. I wait for the Wikipedia App to load, but it doesn’t. I look back at the painting of the flies on their island, then I look to the Silent Professor, who’s looking neither at me nor at the painting.

 

As a mindgame, I try to remember the last five US Presidents. I come up zero for five. Okay, the last four. At the end of this game, I find that I can’t even remember the current President. The only name I come up with is Lucian Freud. I look back at the security guard, standing in the corner. Then back up at the sagging banner.

 

That’s him, I think. I better go over there.

 

Just as I start making my way over, getting my questions ready, wiping the sweat from my palms on the sides of my pants, I see John Darnielle picking up his guitar from one of the benches near the basketball hoop at the far end of the gym, and I dash off after him instead, humming No Children as my theme song.

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