The Thunder of Nautilus

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James and Justin

James was the firstborn son of two. His mother had died when he was eight, his father had remarried a year later, and his half brother was born the following year. The brothers were not only far apart in years, but in aspects of personality as well. James was outgoing and made friends easily, while Justin tended to be withdrawn and socially inept.

James had excelled in school, had gained a double major degree in art history and business studies, and had thereafter been given a managerial position in his father’s import business of furniture and artifacts from Asia. Justin, on the other hand, was less gifted academically but had shown musical talent from an early age. His parents had supported his talent, and Justin had learned to play the piano reasonably and the guitar exceptionally well. But since he’d shown no interest in or improvement in any other subject, when he’d turned sixteen they’d sent him to a private international school in Switzerland known to prepare even the most difficult students for matriculation.

At first he hated boarding school and had kept to himself until he found someone who was like him—a loner and dedicated musician. His name was Julian, a Swiss national and a pianist with a strong singing voice. They’d formed a band with a drummer and a bass player outside of school, and soon they were playing weddings and a few paid gigs around town. After Justin had matriculated, he returned to England, having made plans with Julian to travel to the United States in the New Year to check out the famed music scenes of New Orleans and Nashville.

Meanwhile, James had profitably managed his father’s import business and opened an art gallery in a fashionable part of London. The idea to open his own gallery came to him through a friend and business associate, a successful interior designer named Nigel Wordsworth. Nigel and James had been working on a project of furnishing and redesigning a luxurious apartment when Jim noticed a large painting Nigel had mounted in between the stairwell of the double-level flat. Jim had asked Nigel who the artist was, and Nigel told him her name was Rebecca Noland, who was having an exhibition the following week. He invited Jim to come along.

When James arrived at the exhibition, the place was already packed, and he had difficulty fighting his way to the bar, where he grabbed a glass of white wine before he started looking for Nigel. He saw him standing next to a couple of guys and a very attractive woman with long blonde hair and wearing a long black dress. He caught Nigel’s eye and saw him coming towards him smiling. Nigel greeted Jim, saying, “Let me introduce you to Rebecca.”

Once introductions were made, Rebecca took Jim’s hand and said, “Come with me.”

She maneuvered them through the crowd and up a stairwell where people were sitting, and one of them said, “Hey, Becca— great exhibition.”

Rebecca replied, “Thank you, darling—we’ll talk later.” When they’d reached the second level, remarkably only a

few people were present and actually looking at the exhibition pieces, which included elaborately constructed sculptures as well as a series of photographic portraits. Rebecca, still holding Jim’s hand, guided him to a painting at the end of the room, asked him to halt a few meters before it, and said, “What do you think?”

James was looking at a two-by-two-meter canvas, painted with only the color of red, concentrically drawing the view of the observer inward. When Rebecca looked at Jim, he simply said, “Brilliant!”

A few hours later, Jim and Nigel and a few others were invited to Rebecca’s flat, which was part of a converted warehouse and within walking distance from the gallery. Her flat was elegantly minimalist, consisting of only one big room filled with paintings, either hanging or leaning against the walls. At the back of the room was a low platform indicating a sitting area, with large pillows thrown in apparent disarray around a low, round table where the guests had already settled—talking, drinking, and passing a joint. Before James joined the others around the table, Rebecca showed him a few more of her paintings, and when he asked if she was selling her art through the gallery, she laughed and said, “I wish.”

She told James that she’d financed the exhibition through the recent sale of a painting commissioned by Nigel, and that she was still waiting for the “big break.” They then joined the party and a few drinks and a joint later, Jim began to seriously think about opening his own gallery. He talked with Nigel about a joint venture until the glow of daylight began to invade through the curtain less floor-to-ceiling windows and the other guests had left.

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