Art by Melissa Mead
The Artwork of the Knid
by John Parke Davis
By the time I was twenty-five, I had grown used to the knid, seeing them standing alone at a bus stop, a small cleared out circle around them; watching them sitting by themselves in the park contemplating ants or trees or the paint peeling on a bench. The stooped, fragile little creatures had grown more prevalent in those days, but were still fairly rare, even in the larger cities.
I had spoken to one once, and of course, "spoken to" is the right phrase, since they don't speak back. It was at a college party, one I was too old to go to. The knid was there as some kind of joke among frat brothers, and when I was drunk enough to approach it as it huddled in a back corner, I asked it how it felt about that. It turned its eyes to me and nodded its head, as they do. I smiled at it, and it waved its mouth tentacles lightly in what I took to be a friendly gesture.
I encountered the same knid some time later at a gallery review for an artist friend of mine, a talented girl who painted portraits of imaginary things in charcoal with dabs of watercolor.I'm not sure how I recognized it--I didn't know then how to tell one knid from another. they have no distinguishing features beyond the length of the feeding tentacles and the shade of blue in their fan-shaped eyes, and to this day I cannot tell them apart without serious examination. I approached it and asked it what it thought of the show. As always, it nodded its heavy head, and its tentacles flared slightly.
"What is it saying?" asked Sue, the artist, who had wandered over when she saw me standing next to the little creature.
"The same thing they always say," I told her. "It thinks it's very interesting." The knid looked back at me and blinked, then slowly nodded its head again.
"Thanks!" Sue said, chipper as always. "I think you're interesting too," and she winked at it. Sue was cute then, in the days before she got involved with harder drugs. She had a vaguely Filipino cast to her features that gave her an ineffable sense of the exotic, and she played herself up with bright skirts and new-bohemian accessories, though she was anything but unkempt. I think it was the coke that ruined her, but I never really got close enough, at the end, to find out.
She hooked my arm and dragged me over to one of her works, a lopsided portrait of a man's face crying. A dab of cerulean accented each tear, and the lines they left behind were rainbow trails down his rugged face.
"I like this one," I told her.
"You should," she said. "It's you in forty years. See the resemblance?" I squinted at it.
"No," I said.
She slapped my arm. "You wouldn't. The knid likes this one too, you know. The little guy has been looking at it all night long."