Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rotten Apple in box




This is done on canvas, oil. Trying for some painterly effects because the canvas was not that smooth. I use liquin original as a medium. Underpainting is done with orderless mineral spirits and Asphaltum.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The All American Kid


"Billy! Billy, are you listening or are you gonna be dead all day?”
Billy picks his bullet-ridden body off the ground, brushes some lint from his ice cream cone and looks at me with meatball eyes.
“Okay Billy, let me finish my story. I’m on this raft, see? I built myself out of old paint cans and plywood. But I can’t keep my balance. My arms are thrashing and my hips are moving up and down and around and around trying to stay on. It’s a really funky raft, see? The cans are tied together with old twine rope.” I gyrate around for effect.
He licks his cone while standing on the lip of the huge city fountain, leaning back toward the water. “Can a bear kill a whale if it could swim fast like a whale?”
“Watch it!” I say, pleased he may fall in, horrified for thinking it.
He’s my sister’s kid, wearing shorts, bleached canvas Keds sneakers, one white, and the other grey. His white socks have fallen down around his ankles.
Knees locked at an impossible double-jointed angle, he stands surveying his domain.
“Don’t you get it?” I ask, “I couldn’t get the raft to float. But I kept trying anyway and I fell into the water and got all wet.”
“He fell in the water? Hah, hah, hah!” Billy forces a groaning laugh.
“Yes. He fell in the water,” I say, my enthusiasm trailing off. “He, me, she, it, whatever Kid.” I check my watch. Yet another hour of babysitting torture to go.
“Can tigers swim?” He closes one eye and cocks his head up at a pine tree, his mouth outlined in white foam. “I think I see a bird.”
“Yeah,” I say, “birds live in trees.”
“If tigers could swim in the ocean they could kill whales.”
“If tigers could fly, they would swoop down and take you to a cave somewhere.”
He cocks his head again and looks at me with the one eye. “Tigers don’t live in caves.”
“Yes they do. Big fat caves and they eat ice cream right out of little boy’s hands.” I laugh maniacally, snort and clench my fingers at him.
He rolls his eyes and makes a farting noise with his lips.
“Hey, that’s impolite.”
“Tigers do that.”
“They do not.”
“I heard one at the zoo.”
“I doubt it.” I look around for witnesses, I want no one video of this..
“My mother says everyone passes gas.”
“Mary Finn didn’t.”
“Who’s she?”
“A girl I knew.”
“If horses can’t fart, they die,” Billy says.
“Who told you that?”
“The horse lady, who my sister rides her horses with sometimes and they had a horse die of it!”
His cone falls into the water..
“Is there anything you don’t know, Billy?”
He turns on the lip of the fountain and reaches in for the cone. It slips between his fingers and sinks. Fishing around, he pulls out a wad of muck before I can stop him.
“Hey, look what I got.”
Yeah, real neat, kid. Now I have to touch that stinking little hand and run it under the sink. I look around for a park bathroom.
“See?” He holds up a funky blob of something and drops it onto the ground like a crane dredging swamp muck.
“Can I keep it?”
“Keep what?”
He kicks the wad and it takes the shape of an open wallet.
“Hey, look at that.” I lean in toward the slime.
“I found it.”
“That belongs to somebody, Billy. Don’t touch it.”
I grab a stick from a near by bush and poke at the blob. Billy ignores the stick and picks up the wallet.
“Give me that.” I let my fingers touch the slippery leather and rinse it in the fountain. A driver’s license falls out. Billy is on it like a kitten on yarn.
“It’s a grandpa.”
I see the photo of a bald man, seventy-ish, wide eyed, looking like he’d been caught doing a felony. The license reads: James Richard Collier, 39 Pleasant St., Northborough, Massachusetts.
“That’s right around here,” I say.
“Let’s go.” Billy jumps up and down and runs in a circle.
“We should take this to the police, Billy. I don’t want to get involved.”
“Uncle John, he’s a grandpa lost his money.”
I look inside the wallet and pull out Costco and Visa cards, an AARP membership card, triple A and AMC Movie Watcher cards. No cash.
I know the address is around the corner from the park. We can be there in five minutes.
“Come on, Uncle John. Let’s go to his house.”
“There’s probably a police report on this, Billy. They’ll know what to do with it.”
“The grandpa needs to go shopping. Let’s go!”
I look at my watch. There’s still time to kill before my sister retrieves him. I stand up and point to the left.
“That way.”
A tree lined street off the park named Walnut leads to Pleasant Street and tenement houses lining a small hillside lane. I knock at number thirty-nine. Billy has hit every part of the front metal railing with the stick and I am about to take it away from him when a small dark woman comes to the door.
“Yes?” she asks.
Billy darts behind me. I nearly fall over, goosed from his head between my legs. I recover, laughing sheepishly.
“We’re looking for a Mr. Collier.”
“Oh, and who are you?” The woman pulls back a step, holding a hand to her heart.
“Is he a Grandpa?” Billy asks, suddenly poking his head out from between my legs.
“Why, yes he is. And who are you?”
“I’m Billy the Kid. Pow!” Billy shoots her between the eyes with his finger, then draws back, staggering in a death throw. He lands on the stoop between my feet.
“We found this wallet in the park.”
I hold out the wallet. It takes a minute to sink in before she opens it and pulls out the license.
“Where did you say you found this?”
“It was in the fountain at the park,” I answer.
She stares at the photo.
“Has it been lost long?” I ask.
“Since last fall. He was walking and...” She begins to choke up but stops herself. “It was days before we realized. He can’t remember the simplest things.”
“I’m sorry,” I say feeling uncomfortable.
“Is the grandpa home?” Billy asks.
“Don’t bother the lady,” I scold.
“It’s all right. He’s right in here.” She turns to her left, then back to us. “You want to see him? He’s having a good day.” She smiles at Billy.
“Was he in the war?” Billy asks, climbing back up my leg.
“Yes, he was. He was a Captain in the infantry.”
“Did he shoot anybody?” The ack, ack, ack of anti-aircraft fire suddenly explodes from Billy as he sights enemy bombers over head. “If they had tanks in the olden days, they would have won,” he offers without missing a beat.
“Who would have won?” She asks.
“The ones with the tanks.”
She looks up at me and I smile.
“Come on in.” She steps aside and Billy is in before I can grab his shirt.
“Grandpa, there’s someone here to see you,” she says, politely.
She walks us into a dark living room. The old man is sitting on a stuffed chair, cane at rest between his knees. He looks up with a start.
“Grandpa, these gentlemen found your wallet and returned it.”
“What’s that?” He asks, looking at me.
“They found your wallet.”
“Oh.”
He takes the wallet from her and, without missing a beat, stuffs it into his back pocket.
“It’s kind of wet,” I say, but no one seems to hear me.
“Grandpa, this is Billy and?” She looks at me.
“I’m John.”
“Good to meet you. And who is this young man?” He asks, smiling at Billy.
I am goosed again, as Billy’s head pops out from between my legs.
“I’m a tiger. Grrrr.” Billy runs around the room and lands hard next to the old man at the chair. “If polar bears and tigers had a fight, who would win?” Billy asks.
“Polar bears?” The old man shouts. “Who cares about polar bears?
Billy furrows his brow.
“Tiger’s beat polar bears every time.”
Billy zooms around the room, looping past vases and framed photos, landing safely at the old man’s feet. “What if the polar bear had wings?”
“There were flying tigers once. They kicked all comers. Best pilots in the world.”
“There can’t be flying tigers,” Billy snorts. “Can there?”
“No, Billy,” I offer. “That was the name of a group of flyers in world war two.
“That’s right,” the Old Man says. “So, you see, tigers kick polar bear butt.”
Billy looks puzzled. “You were in the war, huh?”
The Old Man coughs, moves his cane around nervously. “My brother Dicky made all American!” The old man’s eyes light up. “He was in the paper and Life magazine.”
“I’m an America,” Billy shouts.
“How fast can you run?” Asks the Old Man.
Billy jumps around the room like a ping bong ball and crashes into the Old Man’s chair.
“Fast!” Billy says.
“That’s not running, Dicky. You bounced too much. You got to step into it, take long ones.”
The Old Man gets up and nearly falls back into the chair. I lean forward, but he catches himself with the cane. “Spread your legs out and make it smooth, like the runners at the track meet. The best ones take long strides.”
Billy cocks his head and looks at the Old Man with one eye. “You can’t beat me.”
“Billy,” I chastise.
“I can beat you any day of the week. I hurt my leg is all.” The Old Man slaps his bad leg and points his cane at Billy. “Lets you and me take it outside, if you think you’re man enough!”
“Dad, you know you can’t go outside,” the woman says.
“Dicky thinks he…” The Old Man’s voice trails off as he catches sight of his granddaughter. His eyes grow dim and he slowly sits back in the chair. Billy grows quiet, places a hand on the Old Man’s knee.
“Can I see your cane?” Billy asks.
“It’s not a toy,” I say.

The Old Man lets go of the cane and Billy pulls it away. “Bam! Bam!” Billy suddenly has a shotgun in his hands and races to the other side of the room. Taking cover behind a stuffed chair, Billy jumps up aims and fires. “Bam! Bam! Bam!”
“Ahhh, got me got!” The Old Man slouches in his chair, dead.
“Ah hah, hah, hah, yah dirty rat! I got yah!” Billy screams.
I start toward Billy, but he races past me to the Old Man. Billy leans close to the Old Man’s face, his nose almost touching his. The Old Man springs to life and grabs the cane from Billy, aims and unloads a few blasts into Billy’s chest. Blam! Blam!
Billy staggers back, leans right, left, forward, then back and crumples to his knees.
I clear my throat. “Well, thanks so much for letting us visit,” I say. “We really should get going. Come on Billy.”
I start walking to the door, but Billy hasn’t moved. I turn to see the Old Man hovering over Billy holding the cane in firing position. “Move and you get plugged again,” the Old Man says.
“Grandpa, they have to go now.”
“But, Dicky just got here.” The Old Man’s voice has a child-like quality. I see the glint back in his eye.
“Aw, do we have to?” Billy asks.
“Come on, Billy. Your Mom should be home by now.”
“Will you come back and see me soon?” The Old Man asks enthusiastically.
“Sure, if we can,” Billy says.
The woman gives me a knowing glance. I smile.
Billy drags himself to his feet and slowly clomps his way to the door. The woman comes with us.
“That’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long while,” she says. “Thank you for returning his wallet.”
“Sorry he’s not feeling well,” I say.
“Hey Dicky!” The Old Man calls, “I’ll race you next time!”
“Yeah and I’ll beat you.” Billy answers.
“Fat chance, fat chance. You never beat me yet, Dicky!”
Billy turns to me. “Whose Dicky?”
“You are,” I say.
“Oh. Why am I Dicky?”
Billy spreads his arms and takes off from the back porch, circles around and zooms out toward the street.
“Come on Uncle John. I’ll beat you, I’m an All American!
I walk down the steps and turn to see the Old Man smiling at me from the window. I nod as I follow Billy on his bombing run back to the park.

The End