He was a square jaw in khaki shorts. A head of luscious, perfectly coiffed hair wearing socks with sandals. Broad shoulders and meaty arms with a tiny wristwatch. Not since Charlton Heston descended from that mountain top in his finest robe and slippers has a chiseled work of divine art commanded the attention of all those in attendance. So it didn’t surprise Harold that, even as he stood on his chair, he was but a boy, in both stature and dress, to the animated slab of beef before him. And all he could think to say was this: “Is that a tailored polo shirt?” (It was.)
“Harold,” Sophia interjected, just before Harold could physically inspect the beefy man’s arms without permission. “This is my husband, Oliver.”
“Doctor,” Oliver corrected, extending his hand to Harold like a Greek God reaching out to a chimp, “actually.”
“Of course you are,” the chimp said without thinking.
But before Harold could even begin to consider constructing a lie to hide this strange and confusing mix of fear, insecurity, and pure animal attraction, he realized that what can only be described as Oliver’s massive paw was crushing his teeny-tiny baby-man hand. And as the bones and joints bent and popped in ways they never evolved to do, Harold recalled a date with a petite Vietnamese woman at a Japanese seafood restaurant. He couldn’t remember the woman’s name, or even why this scenario occurred in the first place. But he did remember the way he struggled to crack the shell of a crab with the big metal cracker they’d given him. And the way he felt uncomfortable watching his date rip and tear crab leg after lobster claw with her bare hands.
“I said, ‘You’re crushing my hand.’”
Oliver released what remained of Harold’s hand. “Sorry.”
“Oliver’s an experimental surgeon,” Sophia added, for some reason.
“Experimental? What, like ripping people open with his bare hands?”
“Wait,” Oliver said, with a not-insignificant amount of concern in his voice. “What have you heard about my bear hands?”
Harold looked at Sophia. “Is he serious?”
“Sweetie?” Oliver said, his eyes never leaving Harold, which made Harold all sorts of uncomfortable, if we’re being perfectly honest.
“Why are you introducing me to the janitor?”
Harold looked over and quickly examined himself in the glass of a photograph depicting a young interracial couple mid-coutis beneath a pier, the sunset behind them, the long shadows of the pillars caressing their naked flesh as the waves threaten to consume them whole. All-in-all, a rather impressive image. And it hardly took any convincing from Harold to get the couple to sign a release form. “Do I really dress that bad?”
“He’s a photographer, Oliver.”
“Always good to have a hobby, I suppose. But why are we speaking with the help?”
Harold snapped his attention back to the beefy man and pretty lady. “Rude.”
“No,” Sophia said. “This is his show. These are his photographs on the wall.”
“My face is on the poster, man.”
“Bit gratuitous though,” Oliver added as he looked about at the skillful, if poorly marketed work around them, “all these pictures of naked people and their wobbly bits. Don’t people share this sort of thing on the internet for free these days?”
“It’s okay,” Harold said. “He’s not wrong.”
Sophia rolled her eyes. “Yes. Well. I want to book Harold’s services for a private session.”
“Is that right?” Oliver asked, once more staring deep into Harold’s soul.
Harold shrugged. “Yeah, I don’t get it either.”
“You want to take private, erotic photographs my wife?”
“Possibly in some state of undress.”
“And you want to be paid to do such a thing?”
And just when it seemed like something might come about from all this awful tension, Brennifer took a moment from her nonsensical ramblings on the internet to stick her head back inside the gallery long enough to ask if someone’s latest model luxury vehicle was parked in the handicap spot across the street.
“Yes,” Oliver replied. “Why?”
“Because they’re towing it, Dude,” Brennifer duh’ed.
“Not again,” Oliver groaned. “Okay. Look. Henry?”
“Harold,” Harold and Sophia corrected.
“Don’t correct a man when he’s giving you a job, Henry.”
“Yes, Sir,” Harold said, realized what he’d done (in response to Oliver, with his life), then accepted how stupid he truly was.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a total stranger take erotic photos of my naked wife.”
“I mean, when you put it that way–”
“Right,” Harold conceded, spineless, gutless. “Well. Let me get you a business card, and–”
“No,” Oliver said, shaking his head and slapping Harold’s hand away from his own pocket. “Nope. No business cards.”
“What the hell?”
Oliver wiped his hands clean on the back of Sophia’s dress. “I don’t do business cards.”
Harold puzzled this, then decided it hurt too much. “What?”
Oliver dismissed this with a wave of his hand, muttered something about poor people, then took Sophia by the wrist. “Don’t worry about it, Hank. We’ll find you.”
Harold attempted to correct Oliver once more, saw Oliver and Sophia were somehow already out the door, then stepped off his chair.
“Did he threaten me?” Harold asked no one in particular. “‘Cuz that sounded like he was threatening me, maybe.”
“A little,” Brennifer said, still standing in the gallery’s doorway. “But if it helps any, they totally towed his car away. He’s super pissed.”
Harold smiled. “Yeah. That does kinda help.”