The day after it was reported that someone had stolen a Mark Chagall painting from Manhattan’s Jewish Museum I was asked by the housekeeper of one of the tenants in the Upper Eastside apartment building I was working in as a handyman if I could hang a painting in the tenant’s study.
The guy was a good tipper and as a consequence he rarely heard the words, ‘Sorry I can’t.’ Hell, he never heard it from me. I told the housekeeper I was a little busy but that I’d be up as soon as I was done. When The Jerry Springer Show finished I grabbed a few tools and asked the elevator operator (yep, one of those kinds of buildings) to take me to the 17th floor. I rang the back doorbell and let myself in. The housekeeper and the cook were having a bite to eat and a coffee. I was offered and accepted some food and a coffee. We sat and chatted for a while, the tenants were out and the chat was the usual gossip, mostly about the tenants and their family and a bit about the new nanny in 12D who had, the housekeeper informed me, a tattoo on her ankle!
In the study was an envelope addressed to me that contained a note detailing instructions on where to hang the picture and a $50 bill. On the floor, leaning against the wall behind the tenant’s desk wrapped in brown paper and tied with cord was the painting in question. I knelt down and undid the packaging. That was the first time I’d ever seen a Chagall in the flesh.