The Price of Vanity-Flash Fiction

by Chandrika R Krishnan
She considered herself a connoisseur of art forms. She walked into the gallery, her overpowering perfume surrounding her like a halo. She was a regular patron, yet the staff associated with the gallery sent a friendly greeting her way but did not rush to be by her side. After years of association, they knew that her knowledge just about skimmed the surface, and on many occasions, it floated a good couple of inches above the surface.
Compounded by her vanity of not wearing her ‘seeing glasses,’ we all knew that most of the exhibits were a blur to her.
From my vantage position, I could see all that was happening. I was Mohini of the famed Mohini on the Swing, painted by Raja Ravi Varma.
This newly renovated state-of-the-art gallery was to showcase all those trying to make their mark in the art world, but then I was a fixture here. Forgive me for sounding immodest. There is no man or woman who does not pause at the door and drink me in, for I am a masterpiece. But for our lady here, I was but a haze.
  She paused here, nodded sagely, and spent some moments drinking in the colour there. She spent more time admiring a canvas that was not the artist’s best work but gave a cursory glance to a prominent masterpiece. She displayed the studied nonchalance of one who was a regular and smiled thinly at the awed look of the freshly minted patrons of the gallery. As she floated around and ventured around the gallery, she stopped with her back to the room. I gasped in horror from my perch, for I did get an inkling of what she was at and hoped I was horribly wrong.
She called out to one of the employees with a flick of her fingers and caught the attention of one who was not yet a man. She pointed out at the cute little fixture that glinted on the backdrop of an ivory canvas. So busy was she in her admiration of the canvas that she missed the gurgle of the employee that sounded like a man drowning and trying to clutch at straws but not landing any.
The conversation went on something like this:
“Look at this! Why is there no artist statement? ” The accusing tone made it clear what she thought about this dereliction of duty.
”’am,” he gurgled, turning a fine shade of purple, trying to maintain a straight face while turning a deaf ear to the others’ chortle.
“What does the artist call it?”  she asked finally.
Wondering if the time has come for him to look out for another job, the boy answered, “Ma’am, I do not know, but we call it a control switch for the display lights.”
I could see her walk off. It might be the last we see of her…I sighed. If only she had her ‘looking glasses’ on.
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