The Sacrifice of Art: A Tryptich

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 57

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Submitted: June 12, 2019



The Sacrifice of Art:

A Triptych































Panel One




The town of Olef tumbles down the slopes of lumpen hills in what is known as the Interior of British Columbia. You don’t know it, you say? That’s not surprising, since it’s a pee break en route to somewhere else, an extended one even for some of its inhabitants. No one ever asks what the Interior is interior to, but if the locals did think about it, some might liken the Interior to the inside of a cactus, concealing succulent juices, with the lower mainland the exterior, covered in prickly sophistication. Cacti do grow here, if only to three or four inches (not that size matters, since they proliferate just fine.) Others might view it as the negative of a photograph of all that lush, vibrant coastal splendour – the Douglas firs, the dinosaur-sized ferns and hostas, rhododendrons and azaleas. In the Interior, bleached-out rangeland and tumbleweed prevail, big-horned sheep still descend to the town’s fringes to forage in sage, and the rattlesnake can occasionally be seen doing his sinister dance further up those hills baked in sunlight.

The inhabitants tend to be as transient as that tumbleweed, prey to the whims of mine owners, beef prices, and forestry conglomerates, to the vagaries of the so-distant marketplace, or, of late the pine beetle, probably the most ubiquitous dweller, or marauder, even if rarely seen. During their indeterminate stays, Olefians too enjoy basking in the sunlight, which they do rather more sociably than their reptilian cohabitants.

Olef itself cannot quite claim to be nestled in the mountains, yet they can be seen in the distance when the pulp mill’s plume allows, a reminder that Olef’s hills have been tossed down like a child’s mud patties between two ranges, the Coastal and the famous Rockies. Nor can Olef quite boast of being a city, although there are those who insist that it is the largest one this side of the prairies – at least in square miles.

Today spring seems to have arrived in Olef, and it does come early (though not quite so early as down at the coast). The two rivers swell and surge, churning against each other where they converge, out from the town wharf. A fresh scent wafts through promise-filled air, temporarily subduing the dust that will dominate the summer. The day has been warm and everyone has been out and about. Early evening still retains a pleasant glow, but most Olefians have retreated to their wide-screens.

Imogen Farmor, one of Olef’s most recent arrivals, sits in St. Thomas the Apostle Square, on an unusual park bench.  Constructed with two metal train rails covered by fake wooden ties, it is supported at either end by what look to Imogen like old-fashioned switching gears. On either side of her, red, yellow, purple and orange tulips have started to unfold, to fulfill their destiny, just as her life has recently, and she smiles. Her attention turns to the building opposite, which she scrutinizes with an artist’s eye as she waits for her employer, Geraldine Rommel. Now what exactly can the Arts Council architect have been hoping to achieve there? The red is, well, particularly vivid, but is almost outdone by the blinding chrome-like trim and door handles. The building is otherwise squat and rectangular, outsized by those around it, as though someone felt it needed to compensate for small building syndrome by applying these vibrant, one might almost say aggressive, colours.

In the midst of her study, a large black and blue Eldorado throbs up, stopping abruptly in one of the metered slots. Out lumbers Mrs. Rommel, and the Eldorado bounces with relief. Imogen waves, scampers to the crosswalk, and then crosses the street. Her curly hair, running the gamut from brown to blonde, cascades down her back, swinging as she walks. Her size suggests the pixie, an impression supported by sparkling eyes that occasionally have a far-away gaze, a delicate nose and a grin that when not nervous, has something of the puckish about it.

“Mrs. Rommel?”

“Eh? Ah, there you are,” she puffs. “I wondered where you were.” Geraldine Rommel, by contrast, possesses the build and rough-cut features of an Eastern European peasant, with the gait, her detractors might say, of a tank missing a tread.

“I was just enjoying the view from the square. You know, this is such a striking building, isn’t it? It reminds me of something – a large red box – a children’s toy box? I know, one of those red metal tool boxes.”

“You’ve hit the nail on the head there, dear.” Rommel flings out her arm and makes an arc, stumbling as she does.

Imogen reaches out and steadies her new boss. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, dear. Thank you. These heels sometimes don’t give me the support I deserve – after what I paid for them.” She guffaws and points at her black pumps that look stretched to the breaking point. “As I was saying, the building’s a fabulous representational piece, complete with these chrome latches for door handles – it’s the details that count, don’t you think?”

“I suppose so.”

“Just wait till you see the interior. Open concept, you know.” Geraldine explains that the floors are meant to resemble an upper tray and a lower tray, just like a toolbox. Their very own Arts Council member Billy Brede has designed it to honor Rebar Olef, the city’s founder. “Speak of the devil... wearing flip-flops no less.”

Imogen follows Rommel’s gaze and sees a man approaching, large-boned, with a barrel belly and sleek black hair harnessed in a pony tail so perfect that it might have been a clip-on. “Mr. Olef?” she ventures.

Rommel’s laugh shakes her entire body up and down like a jack hammer. “No, no. Olef’s long gone – into his self-made mahogany box. No, this is Billy Brede himself.” As suddenly as a jack hammer resuming, Geraldine shouts, “Olef Arts’ for real…”

“For art’s sake!” Brede shouts back. And then, in a higher, thinner pitch, “You say that with such gusto, Geraldine.”

“I ought to. I designed our Olef Arts brand slam myself, Ms. Farmor…”

Even more startlingly to Imogen, who takes a step back, her two acquaintances take each other’s hand to shake, then give a quick twist, pull away their hands, and wrap them around each other’s midriff, giving a quick jerk of their balled fists into the other’s back.

 “…As well as our handshake. Quite distinctive, wouldn’t you say? Now Billy, meet Imogen Farmor, our new Arts Coordinator.”

“Ah, so this is the lucky lady. Good visuals.”

Imogen feels his beady black eyes burrowing under her skin like ticks. She has a fleeting fear of Lyme disease and resists the urge to brush off her chest. “Pardon? I do feel lucky, what with this economic downturn, to have secured such a worthy and relevant position.”

“Your previous job lost you? What were they thinking?”

Imogen can’t help noticing that Brede’s voice modulates upwards like the valley girl twang she heard so often at university. She hadn’t realized there is a male equivalent. “No, actually this is my first one. I just graduated.”

“She’s on a probationary contract.” Rommel beams.

“Well, we’ll have to keep an eye on you, then,” Billy titters.

Rommel’s beam switches off. “And she’s about to get married this summer.”

“A somewhat more permanent contract.” Brede’s titter soars. “How lovely.”

Imogen brings together the top part of her blouse with her hand. “Everything has fallen into place so perfectly. I really needed this position, with our wedding plans, you know… And I feel so privileged to be able to promote the higher cause of art in Olef, especially when the arts world is being threatened on all sides by philistine governments. I want to show them why art matters to the woman on the street, to capture the essence of the moment of creation, which according to Kierkegaard…”

 “Hold that thought, for now, dear.” Rommel flings up her meaty hand like a traffic cop. Leaning towards Brede, she asserts, “Imogen’s going to present her vision tonight, isn’t that right?” The beam is back.

“Well, I hope so.” Imogen’s hands open, palms upward, almost involuntarily. “I’m sorry, I just feel so passionate about the transforming potential of art. I know I’ve just started, but I think I’m already getting a handle on what Olef Arts needs to do in the future...”

“That’s fabulous, Imogen. A handle’s the best way to pull out the drawer of the future! And we certainly need to search those drawers.” The titter takes on a more sinister tone.

Imogen stifles a shudder.

 “We could use an infusion of new blood in here – as long as it doesn’t clash with the toolbox red.” Billy says. “I’ve got big plans for Olef Arts myself.”

“Don’t we all, Billy,” Geraldine booms. “Billy does murals, and he’s going to make this the mural capital of British Columbia.”

“The world actually. Chemainus on Vancouver Island has already grabbed the trademark

on mural capital of North America.”

Rommel buries her fists in her hips. “That’s a little greedy.”

“Damn good marketing.”

“Wouldn’t you have stiff competition from the classical sites – Ravenna, Pompeii?” asks Imogen, tentatively, innocently.

Brede’s voice lowers ever so slightly. “Those are mosaics, technically quite different. Besides, if those places aren’t branded, they’re toast.”

“I see. So you do murals for a living? That’s quite impressive.” Imogen aims at complimentary without sliding into slavishly adoring female.

“Oh, you’re sweet, but no, I’m a real estate artist mainly, just like Geraldine here. I bet you’ve heard of Billy Brede, ‘Sayings to sell by’?”

“I just arrived in…”

“No?  I pen those galvanizing, gripping descriptions of product that make customers drool and reach for the phone. I can generate adjectives and synonyms like a Billy-goat in heat.” Billy bleats loudly. “Murals I just do on the side, murals, public art, and sculpted reproductions in general... lots of mini-Billys to feed, you know.... Are you up on real estate art?”

“I’d never really thought about it before....” Never has Imogen been more sincere.

“Billy is incredibly versatile, and prolific – in all senses of the word.”

“I don’t let the grass grow under this Billy’s feet, heh, heh. Have I told you about the latest extension of the mural project, Gerry? I want to make a film of the murals. Really dynamic stuff, you know. If I have my way, Olef will be the film capital of North America – especially if the big quake comes. So much for California, for Vancouver.... We’ll have ocean-front property up here in these over-heated desert hills. Hollywood of the true North.”

“What a visionary!” Geraldine slams her hand down on Billy’s slab of a back.

“Heinrich’s inspiring the movement as well. He’s buying up, well, let’s say key plots of land. All hush, hush. But first we have to deal with the retrograde City Council. Might as well get started.” As Brede yanks on the door, a man’s yelling assaults Imogen’s ears.

“Oh, oh. Sounds like Heinrich’s already launching missiles – he’s the Arts Council Foreman. We’d better get in there.”

“Come along, Imogen,” says Geraldine cheerily. “The Annual Board Awards Meeting is going to be a doozy this year!”


© Copyright 2019 George M. Johnson. All rights reserved.


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