The Contract

Ben burst into the loft a few minutes later. “They were impressed with us. We’ve got the job,” he said, hugging her. “What are you doing?”

“We need to figure out the costs for the contract. This is much more complicated than just printing like we’ve been doing. And I think one of us will have to quit their job.” The thought of losing a steady income scared her.

“It should be me,” said Ben. “I’ll give notice tomorrow.” 

“I agree. I’ll work at the school until the term is over. That’ll give you a month to complete all the plates. I’ll be available to print the editions.” 

Ben took her hand and kissed it. “We have the whole weekend to compile a list of the supplies and costs. And unlike me, you’re good at math. It’ll be fine.”

Ben was an easy-going optimist. On their first date, he’d arrived at her dorm room with fresh divorce papers in hand but had forgotten his wallet. She didn’t realize at the time, but that told her everything she needed to know about Ben.

“I wish we knew someone with experience who could give us advice,” said Celeste.

She slept badly worrying that the project with Tzvi might be too complicated for them, but she said nothing to Ben. She could see how excited he was. On her lunch hour she went to the art store and made copies of all the printmaking material prices. Ben promised to get costs at two other art stores on his way home from work.

*

On Monday morning, Ben lay in bed reading the paper, while Celeste took her shower. “Ben, someone knocked. Can you answer the door?” she asked from the bathroom.

 “Sure.” He pulled on his jeans and padded to the door. 

“Hello, Tzvi how’d you get into the building?”

“Your neighbors are very accommodating. All I uttered was ‘Ben and Celeste’ and the door opened like magic. Can I leave my bike here?”

Ben leaned it against the wall. “Celeste, Tzvi is here.”

“Can you bring me some clothes?” 

 “We didn’t expect you so early, Tzvi.” Ben passed a robe to Celeste.

“I’m anxious to get started.” He opened his backpack and unrolled a large sheaf of papers on the closest worktable. “My plan is to create a series of twelve etchings, each 30” x 40” with four plates each. Each etching will have a geometrical grid base plate of a different size, like a fence or a barrier. Then there will be two plates of diaphanous transparent tones like watercolor washes. The final plate will be deeply etched to form a raised image of a swash, like a sword or a claw. I want a very violent gesture above a serene background. It is brilliant, isn’t it? I want to make a statement about the forces of chaos conquering order. Harold has agreed to pay for everything including editions of 100 for each.”

Celeste joined them. “Forty-eight plates? That’s a huge project.”

 “Interesting. Very complex,” said Ben.

 “Correct. Also, I wake with the birds.”

“How early?” Celeste noticed that Tzvi’s open backpack was stuffed with clothes and a sleeping bag was tied to his bike. 

“I start at eight o’clock.” 

“I guess we can do that. How many hours do you plan to work each day? I’m sure you have other projects you’re working on at your studio.”

“No. I am very excited to do these etchings. I work all day. I have lots of energy.”

 “Where do you live?” Celeste asked.

“A tiny dismal sublet Harold found for me in Manhattan. I do not like the area. It is too noisy and smells of rotten food. It is very quiet here.”

“Wait until our space heater turns on. It sounds like a jet engine. And the subway train makes a terrible racket when it rumbles over the bridge all day and night,” said Ben.

4 thoughts on “The Contract

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