Sleepwalking on Stilts – Stephen Lodge [Fiction]

I suppose I’d spent about 15 years tracking down some of the world’s great art masterpieces that had disappeared in smoke (not literally), some great literary pieces (first editions, scribbled notes, even lyrics of timeless rock classics written on the back of a beermat in some squat pub in the middle of winter/nowhere. Music was my passion. Does anyone remember my band, Running Over Rooftops?).

I’ve travelled too. Amazing, for example, where these Old Masters turn up. Well, that, as my art critic friends would tell me, is symptomatic of the times. Art following life. Artists reacting to the signs of the times. Where the artist went for inspiration, I followed.

In the last couple of years I’d had a lot of call for help in locating work by the prolific Wolfgang Avadayoff. Paintings such as “Mangrove Shoots,” “Turning to sea-greens,” and “Don’t Give Money To The Monkeys,” were highly sought after because they were the last three he painted before going into a huddle with himself for four days, looking for a kind of redefinition of his art, a new path. To this end, he symbolically tossed his half-finished “Signpost Interruptus,” off Waterloo Bridge in London. Then he wandered off and began to dabble in Eastern philosophy now and zen. His seminal painting and book both entitled “Sleepwalking On Stilts,” were great testimony to those mystical times.

He met with a wellspring of undesirable reactions from the old brigade of art critics when he presented some abstract works he’d done atop a mountain in the Himalayas. Wolfgang was proud of his work “Abstract Sensuality.” The establishment condemned it as “pretentious crap.”

“Abstract Sensuality” introduced the art world to the lowly tenderleaf from the balaclava tree. Wolfgang stitched several together, vomited on them and then stuck his shopping list torn in two to the pieces of vomit. Once hardened, baked and painted sea-green, the finished item was exhibited in London.

“Ghastly,” enthused Will Jackfruit. “If any of my readers are interested in going to see this effort, I respectfully suggest they seek quite urgent medical advice.”

I found it haunting, in a reckless and haphazard manner, but perhaps Avadayoff had included  too many mixed signals in this particular work. For many, he’ll always remain an enigma within an establishment.

No matter. For me it was time to relax. I left that night for the Luxembourg Soft Cheese And Jazz Festival. I knew Silas and Drench would be playing there. The Soft Cheese, I think it was. We spoke for hours about putting the band back together again. Sniffy would have wanted us to. In his memory. I made my usual after-dinner speech (a belch that started somewhere near my boots and was heard in the neighbouring town).

The following day, somewhere between Jazz and breakfast, I discovered a passion for ketchup on my cereal. It was the highlight of the day. Silas headed off for the beach, until I told him Luxembourg had no beach. He stood there in the hotel lobby, sipping his favourite cocktail, “A Passionate Kiss With A Distant Relative.” In his shorts, his veined legs looked like pillars of Danish Blue. My English breakfast was poorly. The bread roll tasted like a cricket ball. I reminded Silas and Drench of our last cricket match, playing for The Strollers in the county town of Midwicket. We had lost to a sack of potatoes.

By Stephen Lodge

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