The mid-nineties. A particular shop on Twenty-third Street in Oklahoma City. I live not far away, and the store is close to my office. The sign over the shop door says Provénce. No joke. Misspelled and all, a lost accent to add authenticity and continental flair. Provaynce. Two men owned the shop. Maybe they said it like that. It was full of bronze angels, pewter teaspoon racks, plaster cherubs, Hobby Lobby craft tapestries and faux Louis XVI gilt.
I bought a pair of bookends there. Two angels, identical. On sale for twenty dollars because one was chipped. A white glimpse of the polymer from which they were cast gleamed like a tooth. They weighed a ton. I wrote a check for them.
I brought them home and took them out of the paper Provénce bag. I immediately noted that both angels faced in the same direction, as though they had lost their mates in the original sets of two, so one angel in my improvised pair now always faced the wall, as though ashamed. I regretted not having noticed this in the shop. I tried to make the chipped angel alone face the wall, but that didn’t work, because the chip faced outward, so the chip was visible. If one faced the wall, they both faced the wall. I could not hide the cherubic chip. It was like a cruel puzzle. Even as I try to explain it now, I fail. But like some Mobius angel, the chip always showed. The bookends never made sense and never looked right. This was why the cherub bookends had been marked down on sale.
I kept browsing the merchandise in Provénce anyway, looking at brass inkwells and pewter salt cellars and lavender-scented the candles. I missed France. But I couldn’t find it in Provénce.
I finally gave the chipped cherubs away, years later, after I twice shipped them across country. The final jettison was precipitated by our move to Italy in 2016. Someone in Oklahoma has the chipped twins now. I wonder where they are. On a mantle? Other bookshelves?
Good day, Monica. The chipped cherub reminds me of a bust with a chipped nose in Wolverhampton, England (not quite England’s answer to OKC, but close) and the adventure in donating it to the local art museum. A story to be told over a pint of ale or a glass of wine (or two)!
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I can picture the angel bookends in my mind’s eye.
I hope their new owner loves them.