To Look at Art

By Andrew Looney

Peter took the elevator down to the lobby. From there, he exited the hotel and got into a waiting taxi.

"Take me to the Museum of Modern Art," he said to the driver. The driver nodded, and pulled away from the curb.

Peter sat in the taxi, looking around. Every cab was different. Different smell, different type of wall separating the back seat from the front seat, different arrangement of registration information and pinup pictures plastered on the ceiling liner and dashboard, different radio selection drifting back towards the passenger, different characteristics and attitudes of the driver.

This driver was the silent type. As they drove through New York's hallway like streets, the driver said absolutely nothing to Peter. Even his curses and complaints about other drivers and road conditions were minimal, and spoken under his breath.

Peter didn't mind, nor did he attempt conversation himself. He just looked out of the window.

At the museum, Peter paid his fare and got out of the cab. He stood on the sidewalk, looking around him at bustle of New York City. It was just a few minutes after two in the afternoon. Peter looked straight up, at the rectangle of sky you could see where the skyscrapers ended. As he brought his head back down, he became acutely aware of someone else. As his face became level, there was another face looking into it, barely 5 inches from his.

"What are you looking at?" asked the face.

The face belonged to a smart looking gentleman, wearing a black suit, white shirt, blue and green tie, gold wire-rimmed glasses.

Peter stammered. He was very surprised by the man's sudden appearance. "Just looking up," he said.

The man smiled ever so slightly. "Well, be careful," he said. Then he looked from one side to the other, as if making sure no one were eavesdropping. "That IS where They'll come from, you know, the sky. It's best to keep an eye on the sky." He said this quietly, secretively, and as he spoke, he slipped a small card into Peter's hand. "Don't look at this until I'm gone," he said, in the softest of whispers. Honking cars made it hard for Peter to understand what the man was saying. Then the man strode away, disappearing into the crowd.

Peter put the card into his pocket. He was very nervous and shaken by the encounter with the well dressed man, and didn't want to look at the card until he was completely alone. He was afraid he'd get into trouble, even danger maybe, if anyone saw him with the card. So he put it away and went into the museum as casually and nonchalantly as he could. He paid his admission and headed straight for the men's room.

In the Men's Room, Peter located an empty stall and locked himself in. He was so completely paranoid that he even took down his trousers and sat on the toilet, so that he'd look normal if anyone stooped to look at the feet of those in the stalls. Then, finally, he felt he could look at the card. He took it out of his pocket gingerly, reverently.

It was a business card, black lettering on gray cardstock. On the left side of the card was a small picture of a flying saucer. The text was as follows:

"Worried about financial difficulties in the event of an alien invasion? Then call THE UFO INSURANCE CORPORATION. We offer the highest paying policies with the lowest possible premiums. With one of our policies, you'll have the cash you need when Earth is suddenly conquered by UFO's."

The insurance agent's name, Milton W. Blackapple, was printed in the bottom right hand corner of the card, along with a phone number.

Peter stood up, put his pants back on, and dropped the card into the toilet. He flushed it away, and then went out to look at some art.

On Saturday, the saucers landed.

This story appears in My Secret World. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew Looney.

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