Despite a snowy day, most of the expected guests arrived at the gallery without an incident. Dagly’s exhibition was a hit. The important critics, whose pieces ran the next morning, were impressed. Especially with the sculpture he titled “Wall”.
It was a wall of skulls. Names of gunshot victims were on the skulls, each skull containing a name painted in gold. At the bottom was a quote from the Gospels, signifying that we should love one another.
“Fat chance,” said one of the critics who was overheard.
Still many were moved. They had put in an extra effort to get to the show. They were not disappointed. Dagly never disappointed.
A president of one of the universities bought another piece called “Potholes in the Ceiling”. It was a a painting of a sky with seven black spots on it. He knew just the place on his campus where it was to be displayed.
“You’ll never regret it,” the head of his art department encouraged.
“Of course, I won’t,” the president assented. He never regretted anything he did. Especially if it benefited the school. A man with a giant ego, he knew he was always right. No matter what. Well, he had made one bad decision. But he had patched up that decision by firing the s.o.b. who talked him into it.
Wilhelmina also knew she was always right. Even the affair with Dagly was one that had worked out to her advantage. She was invited to all his parties. At her arm, she had one of her new toys. A blond young thing who had given her the kind of pleasure she had not had in a long time. She turned and smiled her radiance upon him. She had decided to keep him. At least, until she was distracted. Eventually she always became distracted.
She leaned over and whispered to the blond young thing, “I’m going to have to get you a gift. Decide what you would like and tell me later.”
The blond young thing was pleased. His machinations in bed the night before had done their magic. That karma sutra stuff was just aces. And even though Wilhelmina was entering her old age, she was still hot stuff in the sack.
Emma Wardell spied the blond young thing across the room. A woman in her early fifties, she had slept with half the eligible bachelors in the City. She watched him whisper something in Wilhelmina’s ear. She nodded and he slipped away.
Emma sat her drink down and walked across the room and headed to the ladies room. Then she switched her path and went into the men’s room. The blond young thing was alone. He was just zipping up. She stood and watched as he washed his hands. He turned and saw Emma.
“What’s a nice young man,” she said, “like yourself doing in a place like this.”
When the blond young thing saw opportunity, he never turned his back on it. Nothing said he couldn’t have his entrée and dessert as well. Emma looked like dessert. “Waiting on you,” he said.
She lifted her skirt and said, “You were waiting on this, weren’t you?”
Of course, he had been waiting on what was under the skirt. He unzipped and pushed Emma against the door.
“Now,” she said, “not so fast. Question is are you willing to pay the price.”
He kissed her on the neck.
“What’s the price?” he asked, then kissed her mouth.
“You leave with me.”
Suddenly he backed away. “I can’t do that,” he said. “Wilhelmina would kill me.”
She dropped her skirt. “That’s the deal. Take it or leave. You have to choose between paradise or hell.”
He stood in the middle of the bathroom, stunned.
“I’m leaving in fifteen minutes. If you don’t leave with me, you’ve missed the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“What are you saying?”
“Just that you’ll never have another chance like this.” She showed her nipple, then buttoned her blouse and was out the door.
A few minutes later, he left the bathroom. Dagly saw him and walked over. “So,” the artist said to the blond young thing, “you’ve been given the Wilhelmina-Emma treatment.”
“Treatment? What do you mean?”
“I’ve been where you are before. How do you think I got where I am?”
“What do I do?”
“You play them against each other.”
“If I leave with Emma, Wilhelmina will never speak to me again. If I stay with Wilhelmina, Emma will never speak to me again. I want them both.”
“Of course, you do,” Dagly said. “We all want them both.”
“So, what do I do?”
“Leave without either. Then they’ll both come after you. Plus half the other women in this place. You’ll make out like a bandit.”
“You mean I won’t lose them.”
“They won’t be able to let you go. They can’t take rejection. They’ll feel that everybody is laughing at them. All that money and they can’t get what they want. You’ll make out like crazy. I know I did.”
“You’re right,” the blond young thing said. He turned and headed toward Wilhelmina.
Dagly grabbed him by the shoulder. “What are doing?”
“I am saying good night to Wilhelmina.”
“You can’t do that,” Dagly insisted. “Emma sees you and she’s going to be mad. You have to leave without saying a word. Otherwise you’ll be showing favoritism. You do not want to show favoritism, do you?”
“You’re right,” the blond young thing said. “Thanks, Mr. Dagly.’
“Don’t mention it. I hate to see a young man like yourself being taken advantage of.”
The blond young thing sauntered over to the door and walked out of the gallery.
Emma and Wilhelmina watched. Then they both went over to Dagly. They each kissed him on the cheek.
Wilhelmina was first. “Another great show you put on tonight.
Emma then joined in. “Dagly, you’ve done it again.”
Wilhelmina said, “Too bad about him. Well, it was fun while it lasted.”
All three raised their champagne glasses and said, “Another one bites the dust.”
Then Emma said, “I think I’m going to buy that Wall thing and donate it.”
Wilhelmina said, “Whatever she’s paying, I’ll pay a dollar more.”
As the two women walked away, Dagly smiled. Some years earlier, he had come up with the game. Emma or Wilhelmina brought a young man to one of Dagly’s parties. When he separated from his host, the other cornered him. Once the young man was alone again, Dagly stepped in and tried to convince him to leave without either. If he left, the women bought a piece of art. If he went off with one of the women, Dagly lost a sale. Dagly never lost a sale.