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"Who's Da Vinci?"
About the Author: A veteran of World War II, Dr. Delbert R. Gardner ( taught English literature and creative writing at Keuka College. Recent publications include stories in From Sac: Outsider, Unbridled II, and Lamplight and poetry in Tales of the Talisman, Star*Line, Goblin Fruit, and four Rhysling Award anthologies, among others.

In the back seat of the speeding taxicab rode two passengers: one a large muscular man lounging back in the seat, the other a thin, nervous-looking man perched forward on the seat with three paintings upright on his knees. The attitudes of the two men reflected the fact that one was in charge and the other did not know where they were going—or when he would return, if ever, from the trip.

“What have I let myself in for?” thought Jed Pinto, as he tried to keep his paintings from being damaged by the jouncing of the cab. Was he really on his way to see a wealthy art-lover who was interested in becoming his patron? He had thought so when he entered the cab at the invitation of his companion.

“My boss will love your paintings,” was the burly man’s promise as they had left Jed’s luggage shop.

But now after riding for most of an hour, Jed was not at all sure he was about to gain a patron. On the contrary, he felt that he might lose something—and he hoped it was only material possessions. For one thing, his companion’s manner had changed from one of affability while in Jed’s luggage shop to one of cool reserve in the taxi. Jed began to regret the big man’s interest in his hobby of painting.

Wondering about it, Jed remembered that the various combinations of paintings he displayed in the shop window had stirred only mild interest among his luggage customers—that is, until the previous week, when he had included his latest painting in the display. Considerably more than the usual number of passers-by had paused since then to take in the display. The more he thought about it, the surer he was that it was the new picture that had sparked the big man’s interest.

The curious thing about the new picture was that Jed did not remember painting it—though he knew he had done so. It was a Realdream product, and the way in which it had come about seemed little short of miraculous.

Through a combination of influences, Jed had found himself knocking on an office door in an obscure part of the city. The door was opened by a short, balding man in a white smock.

“So you want to be a famous painter?” asked the doctor of hypnology, holding wide the door. “I think you indicated such a desire on the phone.”

Jed stepped past the open door with its legend “Realdream Inc.,” and said, “Well, I didn’t mean to say that, but I am interested in painting. I’ve been dabbling in paints off and on for almost twenty years, and some of my friends say my pictures are good. Of course, there’s one or two others that say my paintings are nothing but daubs.”

“Daubs?” smiled the doctor, closing the door. “Strong criticism from friends!”

“Well, they don’t say that first thing; they beat about the bush till I ask for their honest opinion. And it’s not many of them who say that,” Jed continued as he took the blank canvas from under his arm and held it out to the doctor. “Anyway, now that my luggage business is doing pretty good, I figured I could spare the time and money to find out if I’ve really got the makings of a painter.”

Taking the canvas from Jed’s hand, the doctor led him to a chair that might have been useful in a dentist’s office. “Sit down, please, and relax, Mr. Pinto. Your ‘dabbling in paints’ is a good sign—”

“Yes,” Jed broke in as he climbed into the chair, “and there’s another thing that made me think of coming here. I’ve had a couple of dreams lately about a fellow named Da Vinci.”

“Da Vinci?” echoed the doctor. “Of course, the great Leonardo, of Mona Lisa fame.”

“I never got his full name,” said Jed earnestly, “but I got the main idea very clearly: he wanted me to work on my painting. He even suggested I should come to you for help.”

“Is that a fact?” asked the doctor with interest. “Well, sir, these are most definitely encouraging signs that I can help you realize your dream of becoming a painter. But you understand, of course, that I can’t give you talent—in the unlikely event that you have none.”

“You can’t? Someone said you could.”

“Oh, no,” the doctor hastened to assure him. “Professional integrity bids me tell you that’s in the hands of Someone Higher Up. All we can do is encourage and develop whatever talent you’ve been given. Now it’s true that sometimes a person has a talent that he’s unaware of—in that case we can bring it to the surface and help him develop it.”

This story appears in our APR 2017 Issue
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