Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities


Jonathan B. Ferrini
La Jolla, California, United States


“Forest Stream.” Photo by John D. on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

“I live in a world of spring showers of acrylic and watercolor droplets painting the score on the pavement of a Chopin nocturne.”

These were the last words my brother Marshal spoke to me ten years ago at our dad’s funeral. I welcomed the opportunity to see him again and express my regret for the lost time we could have enjoyed together. He had invited me for the unveiling of a painting and an “important announcement.”

Marshal lived amongst the patrons, curators, and creators of fine art. He lived in a high-rise apartment resembling an art gallery with polished concrete floors, mid-century modern furniture, a grand piano, and expansive white walls featuring his eclectic art collection expertly placed, hung, and lit opposite floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing Central Park like a painting. He was a talented painter and art collector who was timely in his acquisitions and had become very wealthy. He was a highly sought-after fine art consultant catering to the uber-rich, keeping busy with exhibitions, fundraisers, cocktail parties, Broadway shows, and dinner out nightly.

He was a handsome, tall, elegant man wearing a bespoke grey pin stripped double-breasted suit, crisp white poplin cuffed shirt with a pastel yellow bow tie, matching yellow pocket square, and black baroque shoes polished like mirrors. He was greeted like a prince by staff and seated customers who waived or said hello as he passed them.

An elegant cart with the tea service arrived, along with our waiter, adorned in a tuxedo and white gloves. “Welcome back to the Pierre, sir,” he said. “Please allow me to pour your tea.” Then the hotel-chauffeured Bentley drove us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon entering, the staff greeted Marshal like a VIP.

We were guided into a room resembling an operating theatre where museum staff were preparing to remove the cover of a painting standing nearly twelve feet high and five feet wide. The protective covering was carefully removed, revealing a heart-stopping image of a pristine lake shining in the sun mirroring happy people lining the banks. The painting was so lifelike and remarkable that it resembled a photograph.

The museum director addressed the assembled audience: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honored to present Marshal’s treasured gift to the museum, a Renoir Impressionist masterpiece!”

A reporter was present and asked why he was gifting the Renoir to the museum, and could he confirm its estimated value at over one hundred million dollars?

Marshall tactfully replied: “I’ve tracked the provenance of this masterpiece my entire career. It was thought lost or destroyed, but I recovered it from a government with a dubious history of secreting stolen art. My exhaustive efforts to locate relatives of the original owners were of no avail and the courts granted me ownership. The frame with the painting’s title by Renoir was missing, so we have agreed to name it Romantique.”

He said it was his duty and privilege to share Romantique with the world. The gathering broke out into applause. I was proud of my brother and embraced him. We were ushered into a reception where caviar and champagne were served. I was distracted by many people wanting to know my relation to Marshal. I was proud to proclaim, “I’m his brother.”

The director asked me to follow him into the printshop where the museum’s catalogues, brochures, and announcements were produced. He led me to a printer preparing a glossy brochure. It said “In Memoriam: The Marshal Calibre Estate Collection.” Before I could process the implications of this, Marshal greeted me. “I’ve been looking for you,” he said. “I didn’t think the museum would provide you with so much fascination.” He was exhausted from the lengthy proceedings of the afternoon.

As we walked arm-in-arm down the stairway of the museum and onto the sidewalk, Marshal whispered, “I’m dying from pancreatic cancer, Bernard.” We hugged as a spring shower gently fell upon us. He broke free from our embrace, hailed an approaching cab, and was gone before I could say, “Goodbye. I love you.”



JONATHAN B. FERRINI is a published author who resides in San Diego. He has recently published a collection of short stories titled Hearts Without Sleeves: Twenty-Three Stories. He received his MFA in motion picture and television production from UCLA.


Fall 2022  |  Sections  |  Fiction

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