Brian Goes To College

by Nick Brady

Chapter 9

Copyright © 2015-2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.

After a long day cooped up during the drive from Tulsa to Santa Fe, the pool felt great. Samuel, Benjamin and Brian splashed and played in the water like the teens they were. While Sam and Ben were getting stronger, at 14 they were still no match for 1-year old Brian and found themselves underwater much of the time. There was a lot of yelling and screaming which disturbed no one as the pool was otherwise unoccupied.

An hour later the three wrapped in towels, dripped their way back to the hotel room and changed out of their swim suits for dinner.

"Where are we going for to eat?" Ben asked.

"I don't know," Brian replied, "but Marty said it would be nice. This trip is kind of his gift to Marco and he wants to go first class."

"That works for me," Sam grinned as he bounced on the queen sized bed, "This is a nice room."

"Right, it's a treat for all of us," Brian agreed.

When Marty tapped on their door, they were ready.

"How was your swim?" Marty asked.

"It was fun," Ben told him, "but Brian is hard to dunk."

Brian laughed, "You guys will be able to take me one of these days, but not yet."

"Where are we going to have dinner?" Sam wondered.

"It's a really nice restaurant right here in the hotel, The Old House restaurant," Marty told him, "We have reservations ready so let's go."

"Hey, this should be nice," Ben whispered to Sam, "we don't need reservations to go to McDonald's."

They walked through the hotels spacious lobby to the entrance to the restaurant. It was small and elegant. They were greeted by the maitre d' and escorted to a round table covered with white linen and set nicely for five people.

"Wow, this is nice," Ben exclaimed.

"I figured after ten hours in the van, we deserved a nice dinner," Marty told him.

"It's very nice," Marco agreed, "Thank you Marty."

They sat and found ice water in stemmed glasses and more cutlery than they knew how to use. They ordered fancy appetizers, then looked at the entrées. It was hard to choose.

The specialty of the house is their dry aged rib-eye," Marco pointed out. "It comes with mac and cheese if that sounds good to you boys, but if you really want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I'm sure they can accommodate you."

Marco, Brian, Sam and Ben went for the rib-eye except that Marco asked for a baked potato. Marty decided he wanted to try the pan-seared Scottish Salmon. They were not disappointed. The dessert menu looked tempting but no one had the appetite to try one.

By the time they were finished with their dinner it was after eight o'clock and they were all fading. They walked around the lobby and checked out the nice gift shop, then headed back to their rooms. The room adjoining that of the boys was a large room with a king-sized bed on one side and a sitting area with a comfortable sofa and chairs. They sat and relaxed.

"That was the best meal I ever ate," Brian admitted, "That beef was so tender and juicy. Thanks Marty." Everyone agreed on the dinner and expressed their thanks.

"Look guys," Marty explained, "We normally live a frugal life at home. This weekend is a treat for all of us, Marco in particular. This art show is a big opportunity for Marco to increase recognition for his work. It's also a chance to enjoy some good times together as a family and I want this to be a nice experience for all of us. I realize that Marco does a lot of the heavy lifting to keep things going at home. I'm tied down with my job and don't get to be as much of a parent as I would like. This is my way of telling you how much I love all of you and how grateful I am to Marco for making it work. Thanks Marco, I love you very much."

Marty raised his glass and the others joined him. "Here's to Marco," Brian said.

"Here's to us all," Marco replied.

Brian hesitated then said, "Maybe this would be a good time to try and tell you how much all of you mean to me. Every good thing that has ever happened to me has come after I became a part of this family. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your love and encouragement. That goes for Sam and Ben too. I love all of you very much."

"And we love you too," Sam added, "even if you won't let us dunk you."

"So what are you going to do tomorrow," Brian asked, "Do you need any help?"

"I do as a matter of fact," Marco admitted, "but I don't want to spoil the fun for you guys. Maybe Brian could give me a hand and Marty, Sam and Ben could snoop around Santa Fe. It's a neat old town. Brian and I might look at some of the highlights later in the weekend. Make a list of what you liked best and we will check it out if we have time."

Sam and Ben were anxious to explore Santa Fe and liked the idea. Marty smiled and agreed. Brian was pleased to be able to be helpful to Marco. It looked like a good day coming up.

Morning came and Marco and Brian went down to breakfast early without waking the others. "I appreciate your volunteering to help me," Marco said.

"It's nice to be useful," Brian answered, "Besides, I am anxious to see what you brought."

Once in the van, Marco told Brian, "This crate is heavy, I think I will pull up to the loading area and you can help me set it out, then stay with it until I find a place to park and get back to you."

"Fine with me," Brian assured him, "I will guard it with my life."

After a few minutes Marco returned by which time Brian had secured a dolly to carry the heavy case of Marco's paintings.

"Great! Where did you find the dolly?"

"It was just inside the door. I never took my eyes off of your paintings," Brian assured him.

"No problem. Let's get these inside."

"I am eager to see these," Brian said. "I have a feeling that they are some of your best."

"I hope so, or rather I hope the critics and buyers will think so."

They found their way into the exhibit area to a booth with Marco's name on it. "Here we are. I will hang most of them around the sides but I need a couple of easels for the big ones. Will you see if you can locate a couple for me?"

Brian went off in search of easels while Marco carefully placed his paintings. When Brian returned he helped Marco with the paintings then they stepped back to inspect their work.

"Wow, these are beautiful!" Brian said very sincerely, "These are mostly of the powwow dancing. I recognize Sam and Ben in several of them."

"That's right. Marty always takes photos of the dancing that I can use as the basis for a painting. There are several of Joshua doing the hoop dances, but I have altered the background. I hope people like them."

"How could they not? These are fantastic, all the color and movement is captured so beautifully."

"The display looks nice Brian, thanks for helping. I need to check with the exhibit director to find out a few things. Hang on a minute and I'll be right back."

Brian waited for Marco and spent the time looking closely at the paintings. They were in Marco's distinctive style of line ink drawings overlaid with splashes of vivid color, some things expressed in detail and others as blurs of motion. They looked very good to Brian.

After fifteen minutes Marco returned. "I think I have all I need," he said, "That's it until tomorrow morning. I think Marty and the twins will be back at the hotel for lunch. Let's go see how their morning went."

Sam and Ben were happy to report their quick tour of Santa Fe, "There is this old church with a cool staircase," Ben reported. "It curves around and nobody knows how it was put together. It was really cool looking."

"And this long building with lots of people selling stuff off of blankets spread out in front of them," Sam reported, "Lots of really cool jewelry and silver and stuff. The artists are the ones selling them so you can ask them about things. It was really interesting."

"I guess I have some catching up to do," Marco said, "I am ready for the show with Brian's help. I think I am free for the afternoon."

They had a light lunch at a place that Marty had spotted not far from the hotel, then walked around looking at the many shops that were along the streets. Santa Fe had become a tourist mecca over the years and many artisans displayed their work there. There were paintings in every media, native American pottery, sculpture and beadwork. Too much to take in really, but they enjoyed looking at it all. They showed Brian the old church with the impossible staircase, then spent quite a bit of time looking at the things displayed by their creators along the long portico.

There was a lot to see and by the time they had seen enough, it was time for dinner.

"As you guys all know, I love seafood, "Marty admitted, "I want to try a place I read about called Marisco's La Playa, It's Mexican style seafood. Are you game?"

"Sounds good to me," Ben said, "I'm starving."

"You're always starving," Marco laughed. "Lead the way Marty, I think we are all ready."

They got in the Sienna and drove a little distance away to an old adobe building with a red awning over the front. "This is it," Marty announced. "Let's see if it lives up to its reputation."

It was a small place inside, and the menu was written in Spanish with English subtitles.

They looked over the menu and decided to share a pair of appetizers. "Look at this one, Brian pointed out, 'Coctel de Camaron; Mexican shrimp cocktail, served in its own juice, clamato with avocado, tomato, cucumber and cilantro', that looks good.

"Sounds like a plan, now for the entrées, what looks good to you guys?" Marty asked. "I already know what I want."

"What's that?" Marco asked.

"I want to try the, here it is; 'La Mariscada Caliente; Mixed grill of fish, shrimp, scallops, calamari and octopus combined Mexican style and served with corn tortillas', how can you beat that?"

"Actually, that sounds terrific," Marco agreed, "I think I will have that too. What about you guys? Bear in mind that I think the portions are large."

Sam, Ben and Brian scowled over the menu as they tried to decide. "I don't know, this all looks good," Brian observed. "Actually, I think fish sounds pretty good. I want to try the 'Pescado Posteado; Fried whole Red Snapper, sliced and smothered in chipotle sauce'."

"I don't know about fish," Ben considered, "but this one looks good. 'Fajitas Costeñas; A generous portion of marinated steak strips and shrimp sautéed with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes. Served with rice, fries, avocado and your choice of corn or flour tortillas'. Does generous mean there is enough for us to split one or should we get two orders? What do you think, Sam?" Sam shrugged.

"I don't mind the expense but it's a shame to waste good food. All these portions are large. Why don't you try to split one and if it isn't quite enough I'm sure you can share some of ours," Marty suggested.

That was agreeable and they placed their order, enjoying the generous shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were large and tender, and the sauce was full of interesting things. It served to take a little edge from their appetites but they were ready for dinner.

The platters were brought, the smell was fantastic, the food was beautifully presented and the portion size more than generous. With no further discussion they dived in.

"How do you like the mixed grill?" Marco asked Marty.

"I think it's great, what about you? Did I lead you astray?"

"No, not at all. This is all delicious. I can't believe I am enjoying the calamari and octopus. They are tender and crispy, and the spicy sauce is terrific. How is your red snapper, Brian?"

"Man, they weren't kidding, this is a whole fish and it is tender and delicious, but it's looking at me," Brian replied.

"Well it's the whole thing," Ben pointed out, "Fish have eyes you know."

"It's good anyway," Brian told him. "You guys want a bite? It's too much for me."

Goodies were sampled from plate to plate and before long everyone was satisfied. They ate and burped and had their fill. Marty picked up the tab and they drove back to the hotel.

"It's not all that late," Marco said, "How about a walk to settle our dinner and see Santa Fe at night?"

It was a pleasant evening and the walk felt good. Santa Fe looked different at night with many places lit up with colorful lights. As they passed a bar and grill called 'Flying Star' Marco and Marty noticed that the patrons were mostly same sex couples. At another time in their lives they might have been tempted to investigate, but with the family in tow, they gladly passed it by without comment. They had want they wanted.

After walking around for an hour or so they were ready to call it quits. They would have an early start in the morning for Marco's big day.

They were all up early to get ready. "I have been told that it is an advantage for the artist to be with his work when the judges and buyers pass through this morning," Marco told them. "I think it would be good to look the part. I will wear the leather breeches that Aunt Eunice made for me and that nice ribbon shirt. I would like for Sam and Ben to do the same if you don't mind?"

"Sure," they said almost in unison. they were excited to be a part of this big event.

"Great, I brought your powwow regalia to wear, you look great in those."

"But we don't have anything to paint our faces with," Ben reminded him.

"No, silly, we aren't going to dance or anything. We are just kind of ornamental," Sam explained.

"Marco laughed, "Actually, that's about right, but you do look terrific. People will come over to see you and then look at my paintings."

"So we are kind of like, bait?" Ben asked.

"You got it. Let's get dressed," Marco agreed.

In a few minutes the three Seminoles looked the part. Marco brushed his long black hair to let it fall across his back. The twins were dressed in buckskin shirt and pants with their beaded sashes across their chests. They looked very handsome. They arrived at the exhibition area a half hour before the show was to begin and Marco made some minor adjustments to the way his paintings were displayed. It looked good.

When the doors opened, the first to walk through were the judges who examined everything and consulted with each other, making notes on the clipboards they carried. Not far behind them were art buyers who did much the same. Marco was pleased that they spent some time in his booth and made quite a few notes. He heard one tell the other that he had seen a few of Marco's paintings in Dallas but these were finer. That felt good.

As the general public began to walk through, Sam and Ben were attracting people to Marco's booth. They and Marco certainly looked the part. "Oh, are you the artist?" Several asked Marco. "And are these your boys? How handsome." It was a good idea. Marty and Brian hung around for awhile then decided that they would do some sightseeing and left the hall.

Several individuals had questions on the style of the paintings and the subject matter. It was no coincidence that the boys in the paintings looked like the boys in the booth which was noted with pleasure. By the end of Friday several painting had a sold sign affixed to the frame. By the time the show closed for the day they had sustained themselves with sandwiches from the concession stand but were ready for dinner.

Marco called Marty on his cell phone to confer about plans for dinner. "Marty is suggesting pizza. Are you guys OK with that?"

"We are always ready for pizza," Ben replied and Sam nodded in agreement.

"They found a pizza place and ordered some pie. "So how was the day?" Marty asked.

"Good I think," Marco told him. I sold several things and had lots of lookers. The judges and buyers seemed interested, so I have my hopes up. I think Sam and Ben were a big help. They attracted attention and I saw them talking to people. How did it go for you guys?"

"That was fun," Ben assured him. "They wanted to know if that was us in the paintings and we were telling them about powwow dancing and all that."

"Yeah, and they wanted to know if we were real Indians," Sam said, "This one lady wanted to know if we lived in a regular house. I think she was kind of disappointed to find out that we don't live in a teepee."

Marty laughed loudly, "Maybe I should shop for a four bedroom teepee."

"What about you two," Marco asked Marty and Brian, "Did you find some things to look at?"

"We had a nice day. It was nice to spend time just me and Marty," Brian said, "But I about got enough of looking at cool things that I can't afford."

"Really, the prices on some of those things were just astronomical," Marty reported.

"Right, it is a seller's market here. The prices that Mr Vandergraff advised me to put on my paintings took my breath away. But he tried to explain to me that if you price things too low people think it's not as good as something expensive."

"So are you getting any takers?" Marty asked.

"Well, the two I sold today went for over seven thousand dollars," Marco replied. Four set of eyebrows shot up.

It had been a good day. Marco gave Sam and Ben the option of spending the day sight seeing but they prefered to be bait again for another day. When they arrived at the booth there were several ribbons on Marco's paintings.

"Hey, the judges have been through already," Marco noticed.

"They looked the ribbons over. There were several white ribboned 'Honorable Mentions', a blue 'Best Watercolor", and a red "Second in Show' ribbon.

"WOW! You did good Daddy," Sam exclaimed. "You're going to sell them all I bet."

"It looks pretty good doesn't it?" Marco smiled. "Let's see what happens when the buyers come back through."

When the buyers did come by, it was to ask about the technique and the subject matter. It was to dicker on the prices, and several offered to pay a lessor price for a small group of related paintings. Marco was excited but tried not to look like it. He held firm to his prices and soon found that almost without exception the buyers agreed. He did make an exception for a buyer from Albuquerque who wanted a group of six paintings that she favored. There were just three paintings left.

At dinner that night the family was very excited for Marco. "You are being very successful here," Marty said with pleasure.

"Yes, it looks like it. I am amazed to tell the truth. I will say that Sam and Ben have been a great help. They have provided visitors as much information as I have. They are quite the good salesmen. I think maybe I should pay you guys a commission."

"Is that like give us money?" Ben asked.

"I'll have to think about it," Marco smiled.

On the last day Marty and Brian hung out in the exhibit hall to look around. Brian went off by himself and looked in some of the booths. He was admiring some really nice silver and Turquoise jewelry when he heard a voice at his shoulder.

"Can I help you with anything?" Brian turned to see a tall slender Native American man dressed in jeans and gray sweat shirt.

"These are really nice," Brian replied. "Are you the artist?"

"Yes," the handsome young man replied, "Do you see anything you like?"

"I don't know, they are all nice. I really like this necklace with the Turquoise and hammered silver. That's beautiful."

"Would you like to have that?"

"Well yes, but I don't have the money," Brian laughed.

"Prices are negotiable," the young man replied.

Brian looked at him again and felt a little thrill.

"Are you from the area?"

"No, I am here with my family from Tulsa," Brian told him.

"That's quite a way from here," the young man observed, "Are you buyers, collectors?"

"No, my dad is an exhibitor. Over there," Brian pointed to Marco's booth several stalls over.

"Oh, the watercolors? Those are really nice. I'm Simon Whitebear by the way."

"I'm Brian Montgomery," Brian extended his hand and felt another small thrill when he felt Simon's smooth hand in his. "Nice to meet you."

"Will you be around for awhile?" Simon asked.

"No, we have to leave first thing tomorrow morning. This is our last day here."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I could show you around."

"That's nice of you to offer, but maybe another time. We may come back next year," Brian stuttered.

"I am here every year. I live in Santa Fe. I have my own apartment," he handed Brian a card. "If you come back again, look me up when you get here and I can show you some interesting places," Simon smiled again. He was very handsome.

"Thanks, I'll do that," Brian felt his face flush a little. "I need to be getting back, nice to meet you."

Brian walked back to join Marco at his booth. He wondered why Louisa didn't affect him like that.

"How was your day?" Brian asked.

"I would have to say it was pretty good. Everything sold," Marco replied.

"Really? But the paintings are still here."

"That's because they are still part of the exhibition. The buyers will pick them up tomorrow," Marco explained.

"Wow, so how did you do?" Ben asked.

Marco smiled very broadly. "I made just over fifty-five thousand dollars and have orders for more from a couple of dealers. I would have to say that it was a good trip."

Marty looked very pleased. "You're making a name for yourself. I am so happy that you finally seem to be getting the recognition that you deserve. Congratulations."

That night they went to the Jinja Bar and Bistro and tried out the best of Santa Fe's Asian Cuisine. It was Marco's treat. They enjoyed the food and even more the comical attempts by the twins to use chopsticks properly. It was a learning experience, but they became sufficiently skilled to eat all their dinner with the help of a fork.

Back in the room, they set about packing to get an early start the next morning. Spirits were high and Marco indicated that he would like to return the next year.

When they turned in for the night, Brian let Sam and Ben shower first. He wondered if either of them had ever taken a shower alone. They seemed to do everything together. He thought it would be nice to have someone so closely tied to you. He showered after the twins had toweled off and settled into bed. When he returned he looked at the contents of his pockets that he had emptied out onto his nightstand. He picked up Simon's card and looked at the number. He would probably never come back, but still. He thought briefly that he should toss it away, then slipped it into his wallet. What could it hurt to save it?

Brian slipped under the covers and recalled the day. After a few minutes he reached over and took a handful of tissues then settled down again. He thought about the tall young man and emptied himself quietly into the tissue.

They were up early in the morning and stopped just long enough to have breakfast. When Marty checked out, there was a small package for Brian. "Here, this is for you."

"What is it?" Ben asked with curiosity.

"I don't know, let me look." Inside was a round silver medallion with a turtle incised on it and hung from a silver chain. "Gee, this is nice." He looked at the card to see Simon's name, and on the back was written, "Next time call me."

"Who's it from?" Ben wondered.

"Oh, some guy who was wanting to sell me something expensive. Maybe this is like a teaser or something." He put it around Ben's neck. "Here, wear it home for me."

The drive home was long but uneventful. Brian, Marco and Marty took turns driving while Sam and Ben alternated between sleeping and watching videos.

They were glad to be home.

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