We went to see him at night. Upstairs, third door on the right. One room with a bed, chair and table. Clothes hung on a metal rack. A bathroom down the hall. He was working—taking the foil from an empty cigarette pack, folding it, cutting it with a razor blade, unfolding and folding it again, cutting it again. Finished, he laid it flat on the table and slowly pressed the creases out with his thumb. I couldn’t stop looking. Do you have more we can see? We moved aside as he got down on hands and knees beside the bed and pulled out one large ring binder after another. Is this all of them? He smiled. No. I’ve got more. Fascinated by nature with edges, creases and spaces, I spend an hour sitting cross-legged on the floor, slowly turning pages, examining each one up close just as I have Van Goghs, Mondrians and Kandinskys. No two are remotely alike.
On the way home:
How did you find him?
I heard about him from a friend.
We should show his work.
What about the committee?
We’re going to show his work.
I’ll talk to him about it.
What do you mean?
We’ll see. I’ll do my best.
Opening night, the place is packed. The artist has brought his daughter and granddaughter.
He has a daughter?
I don’t get it.
Something else I didn’t tell you. He has cancer. He’s dying.
Why didn’t you tell me?
Would it have changed anything?
I look at his daughter’s face. Proud of her father. Astonished at the hundred or more people milling around and the dozens standing in front of his work, politely jostling to get close enough to see in detail the corners of the cuts, the faint lines of the creases.
Under the light, I look at his face, covered with creases, intricate in design. Shiny. Perfect.
Michael Harold, who also goes by the name Michael Aro (his father’s birth name), is the author of five novels, five volumes of poetry and two chapbooks. His work has been published in The American Poet, The Journal of Experimental Fiction, Identity Theory, Smokebox, Harvey Bialy’s bialystocker.net, Steve McCaffery’s North American Center for Interdisciplinary Poetics, Unlikely Stories, In Posse Review and in the Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind Anthology by Unlikely Stories and the Dirty, Dirty: Anthology by Jaded Ibis Press. He has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, once for a poem, once for a novel. He lives and works in Louisiana.