Booming banging rattling crash she yanks down the overhead door to close with a clang, driving home the bolt with a shove, snapping shut a conspicuously shiny padlock. Up out of the dying echoes a slender guitar-line picks its way to a shambling arpeggio, out in the cavernous space all around the low walls of the narrow stall about her, lined with framed, postcard-sized drawings of street corners, storefronts, houses hatched in ink with fiendish care. She stumps her way through confetti and bobbing drifting balloons, blue and white and silvery mylar, skirts of her high-waisted gown bobbing and belling, her long black hair threaded with silvery ribbons and gathered in two great hanks.
Next stall over, the door’s already closed, an enormous photo hung over it, all silvery black bared legs and buttocks bunched and ropey with muscle in a plié, filmy skirt lifted high by a rusted hook at the end of a heavy chain. A woman stands before it, black jeans, a slick black jacket, turning at the rustle of skirts, “Oh,” she says, “are you closing? Is it time to go?”
“We’ll probably shut the lights off, in a bit?” says Gloria Monday, and off behind her that guitar’s settled into a swaying round of strums and plucks, climbing and falling and back again. “But we’re not yet kicking anybody out.”
“Okay,” says the woman all in black, and then, “but, do you need any help? Sweeping up, or anything?”
“What, this?” says Gloria, kicking a blue balloon away. “Nah, we got this, thanks.” She bustles out into the open cavernous warehouse, her skirts dragging glitter across the concrete floor, shining in pools of harsh light from the fluorescent bars racked here and there, the ceiling far above, lost in shadow. The raised stage at the end of the space ablaze in spotlights shining on the canvases displayed there, leaned up against the worktable, a couple of stools, the nubbled green couch, each other, the splashing dancing figure leaping twirling spinning from one to the next. “Actually,” the woman all in black is saying, hurrying after, “I was, curious? Some of the galleries, are, ah, empty,” she looks back, at the stalls that brightly lit march one by one down the long high walls, “I was wondering, who do I talk to? About, about maybe showing something? Sometime?”
“What?” says Gloria, and then, “Oh! Oh, yeah, no, that would be me. Any of us, really.” There’s a kid sitting on the edge of the stage, curled about a big-bellied acoustic guitar, and Marfisa sits beside him in her sheepskin coat, swaying back and forth, a hand up to hold onto Carol’s hand, Carol stood behind them in a gown of greens and purpled blues, her eyes closed as she harmonizes with Marfisa, no woman, no cry; no woman no cry. “What do you do?” says Gloria. “What is it you want to show?”
“Photography,” says the woman all in black. “Stuff I shoot, that I see, when I’m walking around the city. I’m trying to play with color?” She holds out her hand. “Petra,” she says.
“Well hello, Petra,” says Gloria, taking it. “Gloria Monday. Bring ’em by sometime, there’s pretty much always somebody here. Because that’s what this is all about, you know? Working for each other? Those of us who know?”
As Petra heads off to climb up on the stage, gazing up at all those canvases, Thorpe saunters up, that trim grey snap-brim hat on her head, and silver buttons winking down the front of her long black coat. “Was that an actual sale?” she says.
“Somebody else to show,” says Gloria.
“You had, what, a dozen people here tonight? And how many of them want to hang here, too?”
“It was damn well more than a dozen,” says Gloria. “You better not put that crap in your column.”
“I’ll write whatever I damn well please,” says Thorpe, with a smirk. Pointing. “But hey, looks like Hilda’s maybe chatting up another new exhibitor for you.”
Over by the big main overhead door, half-raised, an older woman’s sitting in a wheelchair, a big brown scaley purse in her lap, speaking with a wave of her hand and a shake of her head to a tall woman in a pale blue ski jacket, her blond hair chin-length, severely straight. A spotlight shining on the wall behind them lights up a giant curl of a question mark, painted with elaborate fronds and spots over a much older sign, faded, worn, that once said Eastside Italian Market & Grocery. “Hello,” says Gloria, heading over, “Ms. Donovan, hey.”
“Gloria,” says the woman in the wheelchair.
“Are you in charge here?” says the woman in the ski jacket.
“Sure,” says Gloria. “Why not. Gloria Monday.”
“Stephanie,” says the woman in the ski jacket. “Stef, Stef’s fine. So, so this. This is all about her, right?” She holds up a crumpled goldenrod handbill. “You’re doing, something? About her?”
Gloria nods. “She asked you? So you know?”
“Know?” says Stef, says Ettie. “Know what? It’s my sister. She has my sister, and I don’t, I don’t know. What to do. At all.”
“No Woman, No Cry,” possibly written by Vincent Ford, copyright holder unknown.