I met Arthur Closden last year, at the “No Shame” after hours club. I don’t go there often, but when they have a jazz musician that I like, I spend the entire evening at a side table near the front. I like to relax to the music and draw the musicians and audience members as the music inspires moods in me.
On this occasion, the group was Theresa Margolis and her band. The drummer, the keyboardist and the bassist were always with her throughout her career. I had long been a fan of the Margolis group, so I spent the evening, as I’ve said, at the table, sketching the musicians and some of the patrons. It was a rich treasure of characters.
One character was Arthur Closden. He studied the room from the entrance doorway, seeking a table in the full-house club. I watched as he spotted me, off to the side at a table alone and immediately made his way in my direction. He flowed among the tables like an eel gliding through obstacles. His long, boney legs moved with a smooth, swift gait that brought him to my table in just a few seconds.
He towered over the table from the opposite side, his long, boney face disguised by a handlebar mustache and long goatee. He wore a straw farmers’ hat and a thick tweed jacket with worn and faded leather patches on the elbows. His trousers appeared to be from a pinstriped suit, and the cuffs crumpled on well-worn desert boots from a previous era. Nothing on him was harmonious with anything else on him.
“D’yuh need ‘dis whole table?” he said, a threat hidden in his voice.
“Not at all,” I said. “Take a chair.” He didn’t say thanks, he just sat down and took a lined notebook out of his jacket pocket and three partly worn pencils. He ignored me, so I was able to watch him openly. I sketched him while the band got settled for this final set. When they began to play, I ignored Arthur and started sketching the musicians. I didn’t notice him watching me as I sketched until he asked me what I was doing.
“I’m just doing some preliminary sketches that I can refer to later, if I want to develop them further,” I said.
“You uh artist?” he grunted.
“An illustrator, actually,” I said. “I just like to do random art for my own pleasure.”
“D’yuh put it up anywhere?”
“Do you mean show? Not yet. Don’t know if I ever want to.”
“Dat’s idiotish.” He scoffed. “Yuh might git money!”
“I’m well paid for my illustrations, but I do them to order, for clients. I believe that putting a commercial motivation into my personal work would taint it.”
“What d’hell you talkin’ ‘bout?” he barked. “Y’some kinda commie?”
“I do my work in my studio, and earn a living at it.” I said. I was getting pissed off with Arthur Closden. “When I do things like these sketches, I’m nourishing myself, and this nourishment isn’t for sale”
“Well,” he said, “eva’ting I write is fo’ sellin’.”
“Have you published anything I might have seen?” I said.
“Can’t,” he said. “Damned publishas an’ mag-editers doan know nuttin’ ‘bout lit’rature. I outta kill ‘em all.”
“I’m sure you don’t mean that, friend,” I said. He was quite strange. I didn’t know what he might do.
I didn’t see Arthur Closden around for several weeks, and I forgot about him as my life filled up with other activities.
The next time I saw Arthur’s face, it was on my desktop monitor. He had used a high-powered hunting rifle to murder two publishers and three editors. I thought it was all talk, like Don Trump claiming he’s the rightful president of the United States. I wonder if I could have done anything to stop Arthur… or Donald.