Front Street, in downtown Conway (Arkansas), was deserted as I fast-walked along the sidewalk. Not surprising since it was 8:30 on a Sunday morning; but you could pick any time and day of the week – for the past 10 weeks – and the street would look the same. The Mexican restaurant on the corner moved the week before COVID-19 became a household word. The New Orleans style restaurant closed until June 1. The jewelry store and clothing boutique closed until further notice. What remains is the glass storefront display by the Conway League of Artists.
I slowed down to browse the watercolors, oils, glass sculptures and photographs; then stopped in front of a colorful scene, which I couldn't distinguish between painting or photograph. Touching my nose to the glass and squinting as closely as possible, I decided it was a painting. The artist's name was taped to the glass. I was in the process of snapping a photo when the front door of the gallery opened.
"Need some help?" a man asked.
"Well...sure." I said, looking around to see if anyone else noticed a man pop out of nowhere. But the street was as empty as ever.
"I was just looking at this painting." I commented, tapping my finger on the glass.
"Oh, the cardinals? That's not a painting. It's my photograph."
As we stood at a social distance on the sidewalk, Don Byram explained that he was working on the display windows when he saw me stop.
"It's got a story behind it," he laughed. "I call it Decisions because it looks like the female cardinal in the middle is trying to decide which of those males she finds the most attractive. The joke is that there was a bird feeder a couple of feet off camera to the right, and they were intently waiting for me to get out of the way."
On that drizzly, gray morning, I needed those splashes of red in my life.
"How much are you selling it for?" I asked.
He quoted me a price. I accepted, but then realized I had no money with me.
"Just take it with you," he said. "Drop me a check in the mail."
Only in a small town, I smiled to myself.
"Or better yet, I can drop it off on your porch later this morning so you don't have to carry it,"
I smiled, again, and thanked him.
Don arrived two hours later and we exchanged art and check.
The cardinals have found a home above the bed in the guest room. Each time I pass by, I half expect them to start singing. But they remain silent, allowing me to quietly ponder the opportunities presented by doors, which open unexpectedly.