Sarah Hogg

Sarah Hogg writes short stories that are hard to categorize. Magical Realism, folklore, and fairy tales all influence her writing. Her work has been published in "Three Rivers Review," and she recently won second place in the San Antonio Writers' Guild Annual Contest. She lives in south Texas with her husband and two cats.

Sarah Hogg writes short stories that are hard to categorize. Magical Realism, folklore, and fairy tales all influence her writing. Her work has been published in "Three Rivers Review," and she recently won second place in the San Antonio Writers' Guild Annual Contest. She lives in south Texas with her husband and two cats.

The Exchange

Evan met the love of his life while he was on an awkward date with someone else. It had been arranged by a professional matchmaker. His date was Liz, and she managed accounts at a corporate medical sales company. Her profile suggested a beautiful, intelligent woman, so Evan decided to give the date an honest attempt.

They went to a seafood restaurant and the art museum downtown. She picked her teeth at dinner and discussed her dog’s lengthy veterinarian history. Evan tried to be interested. He tried not to stare at her cleavage, which served as a landing place for bits of food throughout dinner. He tried to ask her about music, philosophy, sports or anything else, but she kept veering back to her damn dog. He tried, and that was what mattered, wasn’t it? That’s what he would tell people later: he tried. By the time they arrived at the museum, he was already counting the minutes before it was socially acceptable to part ways.

Her heels clacked on the white tile floor. The corners of her mouth were still stained with au jus from her prime rib. Yes, she had ordered prime rib at the city’s finest seafood establishment. He should have met her at a chicken wings restaurant.
In the bright museum lights, her black dress was obviously faded and stretched beyond its capacity on her stomach and hips. Chopin’s Nocturnes fell like soft rain through the speakers, and Evan tried to let the music absorb his negative feelings.

“Ugh, I hate it when the pictures are blurry like that,” she said, pointing at Monet’s “Water Lilies.”

“It’s Impressionist art. It’s supposed to look like that,” Evan said, barely able to disguise his disgust. “You’ve heard of Monet before, right?” Please say yes.

“Yes, duh. I’ve heard of him,” she said with an eye roll. “I just think it’s stupid that we’re supposed to stand here and praise something that looks like a child did it.”

“Are you being serious?”

“Yeah. I mean, ok, so my friend Caroline went to one of those drink and paint places. You know, the kind where you bring a bottle of wine, and they tell you what to paint. Well, her wine was French, and the class was for a Monet painting, which she thought was fun because Monet was French. So the instructor was this absolutely fine specimen of man, but he was gay, not that she minded. He was just eye candy for the evening, you know. So they start drinking and he tells them what to paint, one stroke at a time. And Caroline was totally sloshed by the end. I mean just wasted. She had to take a cab home, and she said the cab driver smelled like marijuana. So they’re painting and getting drunk, and at the end, her painting looked almost just like this. So why should I respect it if my friend Caroline, who couldn’t paint to save her life, could go get toasted with a class of other ladies and a gorgeous gay man and come home with basically the same thing?”

All of her stories were like that, meandering and full of extraneous details.

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” he said as they wandered away from the Impressionist exhibit.

“Well, here’s what I suggest. Say this: ‘Hey Liz, let’s leave this boring museum and hit a night club and go dancing.’ That sounds pretty good,” she said with a horse-toothed grin.

“How about this? Hey, Liz, why don’t you leave this museum since you find it boring? Go find a nightclub or whatever you want. I don’t think this is going to work out.”

She frowned and tilted her head to the right.

“Fine,” Liz said. “You’re a terrible listener, by the way. You should work on that before your next date.”

Then she spun on her heels and clacked out of the museum. Evan wandered to other exhibits, his sense of relief growing with each new room. Why was it so hard to find a good date? The women his friends set him up with tended to be one thing or another: beauty or brains, sports or art, fashion or philosophy. The women the matchmaker set him up with were bottom of the barrel types who were so desperate that he couldn’t tell what else they were. Or they were so classless that he couldn’t imagine any man of taste wanting them, like Liz. They were all so damn talkative. He’d barely said a word the entire evening. She hadn’t even asked what he did for a living.

Evan plopped on a bench in the sculpture hall and gazed around him. And that was where he saw her. At first it was curiosity that drew him to her. She stood alone under an arch in the wall, a Roman style toga draped over her body, carefully arranged so that the right half of her torso was exposed. He circled her looking for a plaque or some indication of her name and creator.
As he walked around her, Evan studied her features. The delicate curve of her breast and up-tilted nipple was superbly crafted. Her waist formed a gentle concave slope to her hip. Evan sucked in his breath. Her face was exquisitely carved with high cheekbones, eyes that were neither too round or too almond shaped, and wisps of wavy hair were sculpted into bands atop her head which cascaded down to frame her face. She was perfection in white marble.

“I wish I knew your name,” he whispered. “I wish I knew anything about you. Where you’re from, who made you, anything.”

Did she tremble? Was there warmth emanating from her marble curves? Perhaps it was his imagination. A raspy alto female voice interrupted the eerily eloquent violin strains of Ravel’s Berceuse sur la nom de Gabriel Faure, startling Evan.

“Attention visitors. It is now 9 pm, and the museum is closing. The museum will reopen at 10 am tomorrow. Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful evening.”

Tomorrow, Evan thought. Tomorrow I’ll come back and see what I can learn about her. He walked slowly away from her, looking back often. The security guard was too busy scrolling through his phone to notice the strange look on Evan’s face.
The next morning, Evan returned, and after casually strolling the other rooms as long as he could stand it, he hurried to the sculpture hall. The bench was too far from her for Evan to study her features with the attention she deserved. When he asked the burly security guard to move the bench, the guard laughed in his face.

“Sure, buddy,” he said. “Anything else you’d like to rearrange in here? Want me to move the sculptures around too?”