"Okay," Ian called from behind the peeling paint of the old wooden door. "It's ready."
I opened the door and walked into a tunnel, a structure of dried yellow bamboo stalks and corn husks threaded together with fine cotton fibers like spiderwebs. I closed the door behind me. It was dim inside; the sunlight that streamed through the windows I knew were somewhere out there filtered ethereally through the lacework of layers. The floor and rounded walls were speckled with dots and narrow streamers of light. When I walked forward tentatively, more cornhusks rustled underneath my sandals and poked my toes.
"You made this?" I asked Ian. His voice came back somewhat muffled; all I could tell was he was standing somewhere ahead and to my right.
"Took me five months," he said, a barely perceptible note of pride in his voice.
"So this is where you've been hiding." I kept walking, slowly; turned a corner. The sun bored its way in a little more brightly here, and it was almost as if I could feel it like little warm spots freckling the skin of my face and arms.
"Not hiding. Working." The pride gave way to tension, and I could imagine him standing there with his arms crossed, his hands rubbing up and down his biceps. "This show could lead to a major commission. Some City Council bigwigs are going to be at the opening."
"And your father?" I asked softly.
The pause was almost excruciatingly long, and all I could hear was the shuffling of my feet through the cornhusks. I walked a little faster. Dangling fibers snagged against my hair, feeling like gentle fingers. The skin of my scalp crawled. After another turn in the opposite direction I walked through a curtain of cornsilk and emerged into the almost painful brightness of the room. I let out a breath; relief, or frustration, I wasn't sure. Ian was standing in front of the window, staring out with a blank expression. For a minute I was afraid that he was going into one of his moods, that I wouldn't be able to reach him and I would have to leave again not knowing how to fix things.
He turned around, looked right at me and smiled brightly. The glare of the sun didn't let me see his eyes.
"Champagne," he said. "They're shelling out for champagne. Can you believe it?"