“You’re still angry with Fred.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement as Jim pulled up a chair to join Arthur for lunch.
“Of course I’m still angry with Fred,” said Arthur, shaking too much salt over his soup, setting the shaker aside harder than he’d meant. Jim didn’t flinch.
“He punched you in the face,” the younger artist persisted, shoveling a spoonful of soup into his mouth. It burned his tongue and brought tears to his eyes.
“Yes, well,” Jim began, and Arthur scowled at him for the familiar devil’s advocate tone, “I provoked him.”
“Jim.” Arthur’s spoon landed in his bowl with a splash as he splayed both hands on the table between them. “You were defending Tom’s name! I don’t recall exactly, but I’m sure I was there too on account of the fact that I had to drag Fred off. What I saw was Fred mouthing off about Tom having more pieces in the exhibition than he did, you politely—very politely—told Fred that he was out of line, and then he boxed you in the eye.”
“The two of you shouldn’t let the issue fester,” said Jim.
Arthur stared, his mouth slightly open. “You collapsed two weeks ago, and now he’s gone and punched you in the head, and knocked the sense right out of you, apparently. And if he does it again I’ll kill him, and I told him that.”
“And here we are, on the brink of a weekend sketching trip and I’m wondering if we’ll all make it out alive,” said James, averting his eyes meditatively to the ceiling as he started on his own lunch. “I thought the war was over.”