is still shining, dodging incidental clouds, delineating shadows. Apples and cheese, four
bottles of wine, a baguette and attendant fixings are scattered over Gillian's
checkerboard picnic cloth. The surrounding trees are lush, having sucked up winter rains. The air is
thick with springtime pollination. Paul holds court; his listeners basking
listlessly, lounging with indifference.
"For two and a half hours, eight times a week, thirty-two shows a month they've watched our every move, studied our every gesture, hung on our every word, our every syllable. To what end, I ask my comrades, peers, accomplices? How has what we've given them altered them one iota? Can anyone tell me? No?" He lights a cigarette. "Of course you can't. Why? Because it hasn't." He takes a long drag. "Shall I explain?" Imitating Gillian, almost perfectly, he answers on her behalf. "Oh, Paul, do tell us," then nods in her direction. "How kind of you to encourage me, dear. Because the Arts, my friends, my pals, are Mankind's biggest sham." He takes another puff. "Here's an example: take this play, this last one. We breathed our very souls into each of its characters, did we not? We busted our balls—and their compliment—to give each role some zing. We laughed, we cried, we shouted with elation, whispered our despair. In short, we mimicked the lives of those for whom we were performing, dramatized their oh so un-dramatic lives, expecting them to be moved and henceforth transfigured. But why should they be? All we've really done is flaunted their silly foibles. What's the point of holding up a mirror, if the reflection people see has no effect? There is no point. Art is like a dog that bites its tail... then gnaws and gnaws and gnaws and gnaws ad nauseam." Paul expels a string of smoke rings for punctuation.
"Do you hear a buzzing sound, a voice, perhaps?"
"Flies. A pair of them, I think. Mating. There on the brie."
"Not mating; masturbating."
"Best tuck in your tongue, my sweet, before you trip on it."
"Mine is not so stiff and rude as yours."
"Tut-tut, children. Do be civil. Some of what Paul says, I agree, rings true."
"Which some would that be? Seems he's just feeling sorry for himself because he's out of work."
"Low blow, Gillian. Why can't we make peace and part as friends? Is not this picnic lunch the cast's last supper? Quell thy rancor, curb thy spleen, forgive, forget, relax, and shut the fuck up." Paul extends his hand, adding (as Gillian decides whether or not to shake it), "'Behold an unborn baby's death; behold a mother's love that lies stillborn.'"
All heads turn, dumbstruck by Paul's deft impersonation. Gillian, no less shocked, accepts his hand.