Archive for March 15th, 2012

15th March
2012
written by amber

Rooster

A young man walks along the hallway of a university art department, carrying a painting wrapped in brown paper. He’s dressed in ragged jeans and a plaid shirt, his hair is short.

He thinks – they tell writers to write what they know, but they don’t tell artists to paint what they know. Someone should have told me this before, but I figured it out on my own. This is the best painting I’ve ever done.

A pretty girl comes up to him. She’s also carrying a painting.

He looks at her, infatuation plain on his face. He greets her, “Hi, Janelle!”

She says in a bored tone, “So, Jordan. Is that your piece for the juried show?”

“Yeah, I finished it just a couple hours ago. I’ve never spent this long on a painting.”

“Oh, that’s great.” Her boredom disappears as she begins to talk about her own work. “It took me a week to come up with the concept for my work, then another week to-”

A young man dressed entirely in black swirls down the hall. His hair is long beneath a soft velvet cap. Several other young men follow behind him, carrying something large on a plank. It’s draped with black fabric.

“Well, if it isn’t Jordan, the farmer astronaut. What lurid pulp fiction cover have you scribbled for us this time?” He seizes Jordan’s painting and rips the paper to reveal a painting of a brightly-hued rooster standing in front of a space scape of bright stars, cosmic clouds and a ringed planet. “Well, I’ll be gobsmacked! Golleeee! Hey, guys, look at this! It’s a galactic chicken! Perfect mix of your two obsessions, Jordan. I’m sure Professor Greene will love it.”

He then drops Jordan’s work and grabs the girl’s canvas. “Let’s see yours, Janelle.”

As Romo’s entourage picks up Jordan’s painting, passing it among themselves and chuckling, Janelle protests, “No, Romo, it needs to be viewed under a black light.”

“That’s fine, Janelle, I’ll do my best to imagine it the way you want it seen.” The painting is a small work in a black frame. It appears to be entirely black.

Romo drapes an arm over Janelle’s shoulder. “Tell me about it, Jannie. It’s very intriguing.”

As they walk down the hall, Janelle says, “My piece is about the existential ennui of everyday life. When the black light blinks on, the viewer can perceive tiny multi-coloured dots. They represent disparate discordant entities…”

Jordan picks up his piece and trudges down the hall with it. At a waste receptacle, he hesitates, holding the painting over it, then shakes his head, keeps the painting and continues walking.

***

Jordan enters the gallery. An officious girl with a clip-board and a too-long skirt greets him. “Oh, Jordan. Your spot is on the back wall. I made sure you got a really well-lit section of wall. I hope you like it. And thanks for lending me those Asimov’s magazines. They were cool.”

Jordan nods, distantly, his gaze focussed on Janelle who is still expounding on her painting to Romo, while Romo’s helpers set up a black amorphous sculpture made of spray-painted wooden shapes.

Jordan hangs his painting, then sits on the floor beneath it, looking glum and tired. A man in a suit comes by. Jordan scrambles to his feet. “Professor Greene.”

The man examines the picture, scowling, then says, “Well, Mr. Kowalski, I see you’ve produced more of your bad commercial art. The rooster is interesting – maybe you can think about something to say about it that would convince me you’ve finally understood the deeper purposes of modern artistic expression. But it’s not me you’ll have to impress today. A friend of mine, one of the top artists’ agents in the country, will be judging the show.”

***

Professor Greene guides the agent, a silver-haired man, over to view Romo’s sculpture. “Romo is one of my best students,” he gushes.

The agent pokes at the work. “What is this? Balsa wood?”

“Yes,” Romo pronounces, “It’s meant to illuminate the basic fragility of our jury-rigged society, the imperfect associations between existentially barren individuals-”

“Fragility is correct,” says the agent, flipping one of the loosely-glued sections off the sculpture. “Even as a working model of a piece you might eventually produce in stone or metal, this is amateur stuff. Assemblage sculptures like this are a dime a dozen. The public has lost their taste for them. And if you were aiming at some kind of soul-sucking blackness, another couple of coats of paint might have helped. I can see the wood through this haphazard effort.”

The agent walks away, leaving Romo open-mouthed.

***

The agent stands before Jordan’s canvas, chin in hand, deep in thought. Finally, he turns and says, “That galactic landscape is very skilfully rendered. You must have been honing your skill for a long time.”

Jordan nods, and says, “Since I was eleven.”

“Have you done any covers?”

“Yes, I had two works on a local fanzine.”

“And the rooster – that’s brilliant. Something so mundane in such otherworldly surroundings. Whatever made you think of that?”

“Well, I grew up on a farm and the first things I ever drew were chickens. And then I heard about Ali Toure’s next book, the one she’s going to call Rhode Island Red Planet.”

“Genius! I work with her publisher. I’ll present your piece to them. I think it would be perfect.”

Jordan and the agent walk out of the room, arm in arm, leaving Professor Greene and Romo staring after them in astonishment. Janelle trails after them, wistfully, saying, “Jordan, Jordan, wait for me.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story was written with suggestions for a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre supplied by Arlene Dahl. I’m practicing for the script I’ll be writing for the 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge in Calgary on March 30. Arlene gave me: 1. Rooster. 2. Well, I’ll be gobsmacked! 3. Comedy Thanks, Arlene!