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8 8 8 8 8 Spike D’Arthenay Outstanding, we’re the first ones in. Until today, only authorized personnel made it through the electrified gates to the Museum—builders, painters, plumbers and electricians, tech support and curators. Next month the hundred galleries open for the great American public to look on the works of the mighty and admire. If the public wants to come. Today there’s nobody here but us. They want us going in all tabula rasa, with nobody around to get between us and The Donor’s intentions. Like we’re his special, expensive, living crash test dummies or the canaries that they drop into mines to test the air. If we come back dead, will he put off the Grand Opening another year? Stupid gig, but for people like us, success hangs on stupid things. The Donor is intolerably rich and seriously connected. He says who gets remembered here, and who ends on the Remainders heap. Do this right and we get our own pedestals . Or our portrait in the ’Oughties hall. Worst-case scenario: a footnote on The Wall of Fame. In a business built on making something out of nothing, you travel on hope. You hope you can do it, hope it’s good, hope to God somebody will take it and you’ll get paid, reviewed. Remembered. It’s about making it. It’s always about making it, but. Through every gallery in this place? Out alive? Too soon to tell. We don’t have long. In today, out by Thursday, and the marble monster crouching on the hilltop is enormous. You could land a Learjet on that roof, and on the facade . . . Holy crap. The facade. Bronze block letters stomp across the marble, shouting: the museum of great american writers Gasping, Charlee gropes for my hand, but I’m too wild and distracted to grope back. Stan yips like a virgin interruptus, and somebody—Melanie?—goes, “Wow.” One of us—me?—says, “It’s so big.” Thinking: we are so small. Wherein We Enter the Museum Wherein We Enter the Museum 53 Stan glares, thinking whatever Stan thinks. “All for one.” Charlee’s voice flutters up. “Right?” “As if!” In those wide boots, Mel looks like a castaway raised by pirates. Tough girl, she races Stan up the steps and hammers on the bell. I’m not the only one thinking, me, me! Electronically controlled from somewhere, the bronze doors swing wide. Mr. Me-First muscles past. “Onward and upward with the fucking arts.” Our ears pop as the doors snap shut behind us like the doors to a new Rolls-Royce. Charlee says into the hush, “We’re here,” but we are neither here nor there. With one exception, all the doors leading out of the Rotunda are locked but one. That one, we are avoiding. For reasons. We’re stranded until the docent brings the keys, four wannabes eddying around a mammoth bronze. The craggy hulk dominates the Rotunda like the centerpiece at an A-list banquet, too bad we’re not invited. It’s just like the Iwo Jima Memorial but bigger, and those aren’t Marines struggling to raise the flag. This sculptor put Thoreau and Emerson and Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott up there, struggling with the flagpole; the rockets’ red glare turns out to be a light show in the dome and, Right. The flag lights up as we approach. Stan says, “the transcendentalists, how over are they?” and frankly, he has a point. All the statues in niches ringing the Rotunda are of people like that, as in, long dead and too gone to be competition: Theodore Dreiser and Willa Cather and Richard Wright, along with Frank Norris; so, what did he write? Plus Margaret Mitchell that we all know about but face it, she’s dead, and a bunch of others I’ve never heard of, as well as Michael Wigglesworth who, in the posterity sweepstakes, is not what you would call a threat, so, in my career? No problem. Every museum has to make its manners to the past, but face it. Who cares which hairy old scribblers mattered back in the pen-and-ink days before we had Twitter so everybody knew? Mel backs off to take a screen shot of the bronze to post at TwitPic, gropes for her phone and smacks her head: doh! They took our electronics at the checkpoint. The Committee sent us in here with nothing...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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