Fan Fiction: Picasso Comes to Lunch

Miss Stein, Mr Picasso and Miss Toklas enjoy the sunshine in Bilgnin © annie fahy 2017

Pablo Picasso sat at the table under the tree behind the big house in Bilignin near Lyons. It was rare for Gertrude to have only one guest, but since Leo had left, as a mad dog bites and leaves, Alice made sure that life was a house party, especially throughout the summer. Olga did not arrive with Picasso, as expected, and when asked, he offered a speechless shrug that conveyed the fact that Picasso probably had a new model. When he was in a painting, it often became erotic; even if he didn’t act on it… but he most always acted on it. Picasso had many shrugs for Alice’s questions, leaving her room to fill in the details with her own imagination. He saved his conversation for Gertrude.

Alice had been awake before the sky offered clues about the personality of the day, looking for wild strawberries for lunch under the trees. She had planned to make Jugged Hare with a local red wine and green mashed potatoes but instead at the market, she had found a large bass that demanded cooking that very day.

Picasso could go on a rant about a spice or an addition that irritated him, like the time she had put fennel in the moules, but when he was pleased, then he laughed and teased, and Gertrude flushed pink on her beautiful cheeks. This rose-flush accompanied by Gertrude’s devil grin became Alice’s complete mission that warm morning, as she returned with a basket of berries, also flushed and kissed by Alice one by one as she dropped them into the basket. She spent about a half hour gazing at the glittering bass and remembering her grandmother’s guidance about fish. They only know the ocean and their death is always a cruelty expelling them from the one constant in their life. Alice could hear the old woman’s voice in that long ago San Francisco kitchen.

She thought about the fish in the ocean, and Picasso sleeping late, as he often did in the country, having noisy sex with Olga, although not this morning. She began pounding a bread dough for a heavenly loaf that Gertrude insisted on, and still thinking of Picasso. When his appetites were satisfied and he was well-fed, then Gertrude was happy because she said: that food cooked well and eaten together made the peristalsis of their guts move as one…Alice had not heard Gertrude join her in the kitchen, and did not know if she had actually said this out loud or Gertrude had just read her thought, and continued it… Art is such a lonely endeavor, Miss Stein whispered to Alice, her warm breath in the hollow where her short hair dipped to her collar, that we must join together in pleasure and sensuality to sustain us through la désolation de la création.

The feeling of Gertrude’s warm breath on her neck gave Alice an unexpected jolt of connection that moved down the back stairs of her spine to the bottoms of her feet standing nude on the cool red tile. She could feel Gertrude’s body girth shadowing but not touching any part of her. These were the moments that Alice stored like poems to be written later. Gertrude then, hearing Picasso asking the servant for coffee, turned to join him leaving the little cook to her tasks.

The lunch was a success. The bass was coaxed and poached, (in a fragrant bath of dry white wine, salt whole pepper corns and a laurel leaf), like the ocean it had lost. The bouillon repaired the fishes’ despair into brilliant flavor. Alice, feeling playful after the precious moment with Miss Stein, added to the magnificent taste by a festive decoration made with mayonnaise and tomato paste and swirled into delicate designs like a pretty girl’s dress at a party.

Picasso’s only criticism was that it looked like a fish that Matisse would paint. His face scowled when he mentioned Henri’s name. Gertrude had begun inviting them separately since Picasso had written Matisse a letter essentially asking for a divorce. Alice quickly mastered the moment by asking the servant to bring the glistening bowl of strawberries and Crème Fraîche to the table with small lapis blue bowls. Gertrude winked at Alice while Picasso spooned out the clouds of cream to his berries.

The threesome sat under the trees. Picasso began picking his teeth and ranting about American’s cluttering up Paris, although not including these women in his complaint. He dug at the grooves and gaps in his teeth, stopping to examine the decay on the end of the pick as if measuring his own deterioration. Also missing a piece of parsley that clung to one tooth making it look absent and giving him the look of a peasant farmer in the Basque region instead of the one man that Gertrude cared about pleasing. Alice felt in her pocket and her fingers travelled over a ragged bit of seam as a distraction from the impervious dental explorations of Picasso into his own mouth. Gertrude, finally reached to Alice’s knee as the afternoon light began insisting on a nap.
© 2017, annie fahy

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