out of our minds, wild stories by wild women


Sixteen short stories by carmi cosmos and sarah bates.


Barnes & Noble

Oceanside, California

Book Launch, Fallbrook Bonsall/Village News, Fallbrook, California

Excerpt -

                                            Moving Mona


                                             Sarah Bates

My classmates at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles joked that I spoke in an unending stream of art metaphors. I couldn’t help it, painting is my passion. Eager to see art’s greatest paintings first hand, after graduation in April I loaded my backpack with art supplies and flew to France–destination: the Louvre. 

I glanced at the gray sky growing brilliant with magenta and azure then bounded down the stairs to the Métro entrance near my hotel. Few passengers boarded the train at dawn, so the tall young man dressed in black who hopped on at the Louvre Rivoli stop caught my attention. He resembled my favorite paintbrush: a sleek shock of sable-colored hair atop a slender body, wide at the shoulders, tapering long-legged to the bottom. A canvas satchel hung from his shoulder. Eyes closed, he grasped a rail and leaned into the forward movement of the train. He exited behind me at the Musée de Louvre station, keeping pace as I hurried toward the museum’s entrance gate, then stopped a few paces away and fumbled in his satchel. Soon I smelled the aroma of a Gauloises cigarette. I wondered if he’d seen me staring at him.

At precisely 9:00 a.m. a burly guard opened the massive gate. I flashed my museum day pass, retrieved my map, sketchpad, and charcoal pencils then headed for the bag-check room. I’d lost track of the man in black until he pushed into the Louvre elevator behind me just as the doors closed. We were alone.

“Bonjour,” he said.

“Bonjour.” The sound of my high-school French surprised me.

“Quelle huere, est-il?” He tapped his bare wrist. A strand of hair fell over his brown eyes; long fingers brushed it back.

“Nine o’clock…I mean, neuf hueres,” I said, looking up at him. Tiny laugh lines crinkled at the corners of his eyes. I felt my skin grow hot.

“You are not...a....zee French?” he said, arching his eyebrows.

“Non…I’m sorry…,” I muttered.


I could barely understand him, but I liked his soft accent.

“Oui...yes,  American.” I turned away, fumbled with the charcoal pencils–almost dropping the sketchpad in the process–then unfolded my map.

“Ah, what do you see in zee Louvre?” he said, peering at the map over my shoulder. He smelled clean and woodsy.

“Monet, DaVinci...oui, DaVinci...” I said, proud that my accent sounded good in my head. Images of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa filled my mind–I’d only seen the painting in books.

“Quel étage?” he said, pointing to the buttons on the elevator panel.

Suddenly, I realized the doors were closed but the car hadn’t moved.

“Fifth,” I said. “Denon Wing. Mona Lisa.” 

“Vous certaine?” The man’s expression challenged my choice.

“Oui!” I nodded. Why is he asking me this? I’m following the map.

He punched the number 5 button then slumped against the corner of the elevator car, gazing up at the ceiling. For the first time, I noticed a heavy engraved signet ring on his finger; a small red stone glimmered in its center. 

“USC?” I blurted. The University of Southern California, Los Angeles, practically flowed onto the Otis campus. The man started to laugh.

“I wondered how long it would take you to figure out I’m not French,” he said. “I’m American, too. Brian Mathews.”

“Why didn’t you just say something?  Pretending to be French. That’s mean!” 

“Look, at first I thought you were French; you look like a French girl to me. Cute, petite, cocky; dark hair, with those high cheekbones French girls have.”

“Cocky?  I was being confident, polite.” I smoothed the short hair that cupped my cheekbones like a sleek black cap.  “Pretending to have a French accent, too. What’s that ‘zee’ business? Jerk!”

Brian’s face fell. The moment the words were out of my mouth I regretted them. He looked uncomfortable, like he’d made a mistake, too.

“Hey, look, I’m sorry, that was mean. Forgive me?” he said, thrusting out his hand. “Shake?”

I looked into his eyes. They sparkled with forgiveness. Besides, I liked his face; all right angles and sharp planes except for his wide-lipped mouth. Maybe I did look French.

“Okay,” I said, clasping his hand in mine. The warm touch of his skin felt nice.

“What’re you doing here?” Brian asked. “Just looking for the Mona Lisa?” 

“I’m an artist. Just finished at Otis. I’ve always wanted to see the Mona Lisa in person...Monet’s Water Lilies, and...”

“The Water Lilies aren’t here, you know, they’re at Musée D’Orsay.” Brian said.

“I know. That’s next. Perhaps tomorrow or...I’m here for a month.”

“Maybe I can go with you?” he said, looking at me intently.

Intrigued, I considered the suggestion. “Uh...I don’t know. I can’t just go off with some stranger–even a USC grad.”

“Well, you know my name,” he pulled out his passport and jabbed a finger at the awful photo that just barely resembled him, “and I’m from California, LA. See?”

“Right...” I looked at the photograph, recognized the street name, and relaxed. “But why are you here?”

“I work here,” Brian said, tucking the passport into his satchel.

“What do you do?” 

“I work for the architect who designed the new Mona Lisa display,” he said, his voice rising in animation. His eyes danced with excitement. “Do you want to see it? I can take you.”

“That’s where I’m heading, right?”

“Not today...wait, what time is it?” He looked at my watch. “Oh, my gosh, I’m late!” Brian punched another button on the elevator panel and within seconds the doors flew open revealing the entrance to the Grand Gallery. “Come on,” he shouted, grabbing my hand, “They’re moving Mona!”  We ran through the Grand Gallery, Brian racing in long strides, dragging me behind him. A long line of people trailed into the gallery, but Brian pushed through the cluster of television cameras, big Nikons and microphones, and a group of men in blue suits standing before a soaring ochre-colored wall. He pulled me closer and shouldered his way to the front.

“Look,” he pointed to the middle of the wall. Sunlight filtered through a glass ceiling illuminating a small painting. “The natural light is exactly like it was when DaVinci painted her.”  I barely heard his words. I stared breathless at the famous face, pondering that mysterious smile. Maybe she’s in love?  I squeezed Brian’s hand, and considered April in Paris with a man whose appreciation of all things beautiful matched my own. Had I found more to be passionate about than painting?

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