The woman, on the other end, sounded like a mix between someone who really knew him and a cold caller. Her tone was tinged with nerves and anticipation.
The moment she said he’d won, he felt his heart pump loudly. He didn’t want to look the fool, so he quipped “yeah, right.”
She confirmed she represented the award and his portrait had won.
He was now convinced that Doug had put someone up to calling him, to judge how well he’d take the news should a major prize ever decide he was worthy of winning.
She then questioned which title was the title. And he recalled changing the title on the back of the canvas. It was one of those last-minute decisions. He never understood why artists needed to use words, be it the title or some justification for their work. The work was the work.
The moment she asked him, he knew this was real. He asked her to read them both out to him, and with certainty, he went with the change. It was perfect. As those last bursts of creativity always are.
The call ended, and he immediately called Doug.
“Fuck you,” he said.
“Why,” Doug asked.
“Now my work will be actually worth something.”
There was a pause on the other end.
“Fuck me, indeed.”