Title: ...and the Obvious Conclusion
Caroline in the City
Caroline/Richard, Caroline/Randy
Rating: PG

Caroline owns two Richard Karinsky originals. She just doesn't know where to put them.

The one she bought—bought back, actually, for two thousand dollars and a side of blackmail—has hung, at various times, on nearly every wall in her apartment. But it's a big, black splotch with a blue line across it.

It doesn't go with anything she owns.


Love. Marriage. Children. It's been the Big Plan in Caroline's life, since she first heard, "Caroline and Adam sittin' in a tree..." on the Peshtigo Elementary School playground.

She was six.


Del assigns a company colorist to her the day after Richard flies to Rome.

Ruth is fifty-seven and displays photos of her grandchildren all around her workspace. Caroline makes friends with her in twenty minutes flat.

But she sells the desk.


Richard Karinsky is a regularly featured artist in Rebecca Abbott's gallery.

Caroline visits once, when Randy is stuck in Peshtigo for a week and she cannot take another second of Annie and Del pretending not to be in love. She wears a long coat, sunglasses, a scarf around her hair. She sneaks in like a thief, like a cheating wife on the way to an illicit rendezvous.

She stares at his paintings, tries to find the deeper meanings in them. Fails. She always fails.

So she listens to other people talk about them, about the beauty of his despair, how he encapsulates the meaninglessness of life, turns the canvases into godless wastelands.

All Caroline sees are buckets of water under a roof that leaked, a heater that had to be hit, and roaches on the floor.


The company runs another focus group about her comic. Nobody likes cartoon Caroline with her Weird Assistant. He's a loser, not in her league. They miss the veterinarian.

Caroline goes home and sobs into a pint of cookie dough ice cream.

The next week, she introduces a new character into her strip: Randall, the classically handsome doctor from her home town. He's a big hit.


Sometimes—mostly when she's drunk—she stares at the black splotch with the blue line running through it. She wonders if the blue represents her, wonders if that would be a good thing. Has another drink.


Randy makes her laugh. He has never made her cry. He believes in Love. Marriage. Children. He sits on the Peshtigo City Council. He's a doctor. Her family loves him. He asks her to marry him. She says yes.

Why shouldn't she? He goes with everything she owns.


She returns to Rebecca's gallery a week after her engagement. Advertisements announce the newest Karinsky original. She listens to patrons debate the new stage in the artist's development, what new influences have entered his life, his use of colors—soft yellows, bright orange, soothing greens—to represent hope.

Caroline stares at the painting and finds a tiny human hand amid the swirling sunrise. She doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. She does both, then leaves with a smile on her face.


Her days are filled with dress fittings, cake testings, seating arrangements. Drawing cartoons making fun of all those things. She smiles so much her dimples hurt.

Her nights are spent walking beside a river she's only seen in paintings, her hand clasped tightly by long, slender fingers.

He says, "I love you, Caroline, and if I recover, I think we should move to Paris."

She promises, "We will."


Packing up her things is so easy. She can visualize exactly what counter Puss-Puss will sit on in the old kitchen. Randy has made space for every beloved Pottery Barn item and family heirloom. Granny Duffy's old room has already been converted into a studio.

Caroline can't stop smiling as she carefully wraps her china.

"Hey, honey, where are we going to put this?"

She looks up at Randy's latest find from the storage area under her stairs. A black splotch, a blue line. The plate falls, shatters.


The problem: Randy has never met Trevor. Trevor would have warned him.


Sincere amore. She's talked about it for years—ever since he first told her what it was—but she has never understood what it meant. Not until she hears a baby cry in the silence of a church.

Caroline doesn't question for a moment. Just runs.


Her second—or rather, her first—Richard Karinsky original is a gift from a lonely Christmas. Paris, the Seine from Pont Neuf.

She hangs it over their bed in their new apartment and builds a home around it. He helps.