With Edward Hopper
by Rose DeShaw
The coffee shop I am often
at, used to have four fine Edward Hopper prints.
His best known work is a man and woman, back in
the thirties, sitting in a diner late at night,
the streets dark and silent around them through
big plate glass windows. But the shop redecorated,
the large, framed works were now sitting beside
the dumpster in the alley.
Take them if you want,
the waitress said when I asked.
Well, I DID want but
I wasnt sure my friend would agree and we
were using her car.
Sitting at a table next to
us was a panhandler and small time thief whom I
knew from the many times hed solicited
money from my easy-going husband till I realized
hed been using us as a daily payroll.
Youre subsidizing him to the tune of
65 bucks a month, I said.
My husband looked horrified.I
hadnt been keeping track, he said.
Just a bit here and there.
Every day, I
nodded my head. So next time he turned up, my
husband said I had pointed out we couldnt
afford to do this anymore. The guy gave me a dark
look and went off.
I knew him better than my
husband did. He was always swiping backpacks from
unlocked student doors and once kidnapped a puppy
and sold it to someone else.
I ignored his glare when he
spotted me, telling my friend about the Hopper
prints in the alley without bothering to keep my
voice down. Her car was immaculate and I knew
itd take a bit of persuading to get her to
take them home with us.
I suppose we can pick
them up, she said, unhappily. Tell me
about Hopper again?
He was a realist
painter in the depression. Did a lot of dark
urban stuff. Makes the city come alive. He always
said he most liked painting the way sunlight
falls on a wall.
Okay, she said.
But lets leave them by the dumpster
till were done here.
I didnt realize the
reason I felt uneasy about her decision was
because the panhandler had pricked up his ears as
I spoke, set down his coffee and quickly vanished
into the alley.
When we finished our coffee,
the prints were gone.
Perhaps hed been too
intent on the easy pickings among the students to
remember the benefits of a regular dumpster check
but now Id helped him focus on the delights
of discards. I hoped the Hoppers on which
hed gotten his hands, would go to a good
I saw him about a month
later, early one morning. He didnt have the
Hoppers but he was making a rapid exit from the
dumpster behind the downtown Macdonalds,
looking somewhat unnerved as he headed in the
direction of the park.
Behind him a lumpy,
disgruntled raccoon was climbing out of the
opposite end and stomping grumpily away home. The
levels of annoyance in both cases were
startlingly similar. While this was all far away
from art connoisseurship, it made me feel just a
little bit better about missing out on the