The thin faced Drone is taking me to see The Big Guy. I’m not surprised. The day I arrived he’d told me The Big Guy was a fan of my work. I’m just happy to get away from the endless filing.
We walk through the office. It’s the greyest place I’ve ever seen. The walls, the floors, even the plants are grey. It saps your spirit, makes your limbs ache and the worst thing is, it isn’t even the end of the line. On our way to The Big Guy, we pass a long corridor which ends in a door with no handle. A door you only go through one way.
We reach The Big Guys’ office and the Drone stops and peers at me over his glasses.
‘There are some rules you’ll need to follow,’ he says, ‘do not speak until spoken to, do not look him in the eye and always laugh at his jokes. It’s likely he’ll want to stay and chat.’
‘Likes to talk does he?’ I ask.
‘As long as someone’s around to listen,’ says the Drone, opening the door, ‘and there always is.’
The room is like an old fashioned study. A fire burns in the grate, there is a smell of tobacco and whisky. Dark, wood panels lining the walls and black and white tiles covering the floor. A desk topped with green leather stands in a pool of light. As for the man himself, I can only see his feet, propped up on the desk. The rest of him is in shadow.
‘Robert Harris Kirk. Fifty six years old. Born in Glasgow. Deceased.’
He could do voiceovers for movie trailers, if it weren’t for the effect of making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
‘You can call me Robbie eh, Sir.’
‘Oh please no need for formalities. I don’t have “His” ego. Come in, come in, I have everything you need just over there.’
I see a large easel, perfectly lit, perfectly angled, with a palette that contains every colour I could possibly need and more brushes than I’ll ever use. I settle into the comfy, posture-correcting chair.
‘Very nice,’ I say, ‘so what’s my subject?’
‘You’ll be painting from life – I hope that’s acceptable?’
‘You’re the boss.’
The Big Guy whistles sharply. The ground shakes as something big runs toward us. I try not to be scared. After all nothing can hurt me, but old habits and all that. The creature is nearly on top of me before it gets yanked back by the chain around its neck. It’s breath is like a thousand sewers, it’s teeth large and yellow. It’s thick black coat gives of a fetid air. And it has a pink bow around its neck. Well one around each of it’s three necks actually. The Big Guy reaches out and strokes the beast, making cooing noises. I suppress an urge to throw up.
‘You want any background?’ I ask, as the creature settles down.
‘I was thinking something a bit “Sound of Music”,’ said The Big Guy, ‘I love that film. You know if the Nazis’ had just got that family into the Third Reich spirit, the war would have ended very differently. But you know, you put things on a platter and people just wander off looking for the buffet.’
He clicks his fingers and an Austrian hillside appears that’s so real I can smell the sweet air and feel the warm sun on my face. The three-headed monstrosity thumps its way into the beautiful scene and flops down.
’Make sure you get his paws in,’ says The Big Guy, ‘I had them manicured specially.’
I start to prepare my brushes.
‘He’s a fine beasty,’ I say.
‘Thank you. He’s a throw back to the old days of course, but when I got rid of the boiling lava, the bloody knives, the forked tongues etc I felt a little bereft. So I kept him.’
‘I used to have a dog of my own when I was a boy. Called him Banner.’
‘Ah yes. A boy and his dog, so classic. Until your father killed him with a cricket bat.’
He states the fact without ceremony and there’s no move to apologise. I pause, then start to paint. Stroke after stroke, it fills me up, makes me feel, well, alive again.
‘It won’t distract you to talk whilst you paint will it?’
‘I’m a captive audience.’
‘Capital! I like a man who knows his place.’
The subject of my work has fallen asleep and a line of dribble is making its way down the green Austrian hillside.
‘Tell me your story Robbie.’
‘Don’t you already know it?’
‘Of course, but I like to hear it in your own words. Don’t worry, I’ve heard it all, I’m not going to judge. That’s not my job.’