The Cost of Class

Reads: 38  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story on how one young man rides to art infamy in mid 20th century Italy. His life is derailed once he meets a old, cryptic fellow who thinks this young man's art has much work left to be done.

Submitted: January 08, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 08, 2012

A A A

A A A


The Cost of Class:

A play by Erick Torres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE ONE

It is 20th century Italy, mid 1900’s. Competition for art supremacy is at its peak. A rain-riddled cobblestone crossway shows a spruce, thin young man, JULIEN, walking in a neatly pressed suit with satin trim. He passes a deserted alley corner where a window gives sight into a near-empty gallery. Positioned in the corner is a crookedly framed, elderly man, ACHILLE, hoisting up and brushing off one of his displayed artworks with his liver-spotted hands. His concentration is undaunted until JULIEN enters, pouring wet from the rain, and approaches his rear.

JULIEN

That’s quite a piece you have there. Although it seems business is a little slow, is it?

ACHILLE

(Quickly pauses his cleaning. Drops his rag and slightly turns to address JULIEN in a raspy, aged voice)

No other gallery is better than my own. I display the best art that Genoa has to offer.

JULIEN

(Mockingly replies)

Now, don’t you think that is quite the claim? Your showcase looks as if you hadn’t had a visitor in months.

ACHILLE

Visitors never earn the credit. Less of a crowd to interrupt my craftwork the way I see it.

JULIEN

 Well the way I see it, you either have an undiscovered gold mine on your hands or are the most pretentious old crock I’ve ever met in my life.

ACHILLE

19 years in this business and I can say confidence is a one-man game, lad. All the best-kept secrets lie within the life that these pieces hold. Without the ability to hold life in your art you might as well trade your brush for a hammer and get to work. If you’re successful enough you’ll learn that yourself one day.

 

JULIEN

(Curiously follows ACHILLE towards one of the displays and a nearby chair)

Well, you do have quite the spirit old man. I admire that. You know, I’m an artist myself.

ACHILLE

With the time it took you to walk in here I hope you came with more than just a compliment and a pat on the back.

JULIEN

Well I’ll admit, your venue here is flaunting some pretty infamous names. I noticed the Balthus hanging by the entrance. That alone must have cost you a pretty penny.

ACHILLE

(Wiping the sweat from his brow, devilishly half-grins)

Fancy that, do ya? I’ll tell you what; the cost of getting that was cheaper than that half-assed shoddy rag you’re wearin’ that you call a sport coat. Surer than a prophet I am you got some sort of buttoned down, middle-class superiority complex eh?

JULIEN

Hey listen old timer I’m just trying to make innocent conversation. But if that’s not your cup of tea then I’ll just leave you in all your pompous glory. You’re pretty cocky for little amount of business you’ve got.

ACHILLE

(Amusingly laughs into his palm while nodding his head)

JULIEN

Now just what’s so damn funny?

ACHILLE

That’s how it starts for everyone, chap. Still going by the “chitchat” method as they call it I see?

JULEN

What on earth are you talking about?

 

 

ACHILLE

(Quickly snaps back in a frustrated tone)

If you want some business you come out and make it! Don’t walk in here with that elbow-rubbing, friendly stranger bullshit. You say you’re an artist, so if you want to get your hands on one of these gems quit dusting my bits and ask my price…

JULIEN

(Half-heartedly responds while looking around the room)

O-o-ok then. Well then how much for the Egon Schiele piece mounted on the east wall over there?

ACHILLE

Studio displays are not for sale. Sorry.

JULIEN

What?! You make such a squabble over something that has no price? You know, I’m starting think this space will be better used as counseling center for you and any other senile war-horses in this town.

ACHILLE

No price that you can value. Of that and the service I give, I am certain.

JULIEN

Must be a high price considering the ghost town you have in here.

ACHILLE

You got a name to go along with that spunk you’ve got, kid?

JUILIEN

Excuse me?

ACHILLE

A name do ya have a name! Christ, for a hopeful artist you sure lose the battle in details don’t ya?

JULIEN

Julien. Julien Pisano. I’d ask yours and your trait but I’m a little weary to get another grand, artistic inquisition.

 

 

ACHILLE

Achille, family name’s Conti. So you say you want to be an artist. You sure don’t look the part. I’ve never seen a future artiste with such a bony physique.

JULIEN

If you must know I’m working towards my own gallery one day. And what makes you so quick to think you’re allowed to question? I’ve never even seen or heard your name on any canvas. Not to mention the weak excuses of renditions you have of other peoples work.

ACHILLE

(Shakes head in discernment)

You keep up your barking and you’ll grow a tail! You juvenile little dupes think art’s about some self-induced thrill ride to fame. Now, it’s true you may go from living off scraps to complaining about your tailored bed’s thread count but you’ll still have the integrity of a class-A putz.

JULIEN

Alright, alright now just calm yourself. I wouldn’t still be here if I thought you were some make-shift connoisseur. The way I see it you could be any old, day-working haberdasher or actually worth my time.

ACHILLE

Worth YOUR time, is that right? I suppose I should thank you for the visit.

JULIEN

Now I didn’t mean it like that. No need for the tired grin, I’m sure you have your medals-worth by some measure. You definitely look old :clears throat: ehh I mean traveled enough.

ACHILLE

“Traveled” we’re calling it? Well, traveled may be humorous for you but it still won’t give the best kept secrets to capturing the life of any piece of work.

JULIEN

Best kept? Now I’m not one to reiterate here but I will point out the fact that you have NO people in this gallery, so whatever that secret is I’m sure you’re “keeping” it just fine.

 

 

 

ACHILLE

(Sarcastically replies)

Well I suppose calling out some of this town’s self-made, fur-wearing critics will get your approval??

JULIEN

Well, hell, any publicity is good publicity right?

ACHILLE

So r’ya an artist or some kind of agent??

JULIEN

Well you have to admit in order to get known you’ve got to play the crowd to your game don’t you?

ACHILLE

Pft. Sure, let them come in on their high, imaginary pedestals… easier for me to toss them right on their haughty asses.

JULIEN

No need for that now, just recommending some of the right people to get yourself heard is all.

ACHILLE

You don’t need people to know you’re the best kid, just the right parts.

JULIEN

Parts??

ACHILLE

Fame’s just some socially mandated cloak. No “true” artist has anything unless they have the parts inside of their work.

JULIEN

I’m sorry but I don’t follow. You can save me the “you have to BE the painting” speech, if that’s what you mean.

 

 

 

ACHILLE

(Compresses his eyes, faces JULIEN as if to ‘size him up’)

You said you the liked the Schiele didn’t ya?

JULIEN

Oh well, absolutely!  He was one of my favorites.

ACHILLE

(Palms JULIEN’s shoulder and directs his torso)

You go over and look real hard at that piece. Who do you see here? Look past the title and headings, and who do you see here? That’s the beauty of art. No caption, structured idea, or attempted ideological barrier can limit what makes up the story behind the piece itself. “Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives”, as Giorgio de Chirico would say. But once you pass that restriction, that’s when you enter the purpose that the artist is called to fulfill. You start an ambition in this line of work, and you take on a debt to your admirers to offer them your best, and no less. Be a shame to rob them of that.

JULIEN

(Empathetic tone of voice)

I must say Mr. Conti, you make quite the point. It’s unfortunate…hell, a damn shame you’re not at full advantage with all that’s offered these days.

ACHILLE

(Ends his insightfully nostalgic rant and resumes to his cleaning)

What say you that?

JULIEN

Well, surely you must know the world has lost some of the best artist in the world this decade alone. Dozens of galleries have been paying homage to all genres alike all over town. Signac, Zorn, Arkhipov, all the greats. Or have you not heard of any of this? Though, you being a hermit wouldn’t be a total surprise.

ACHILLE

(Now seated, grins while dusting off his heel plated boots)

Yes yes, I’ve heard. But I do alright for myself.

 

JULIEN

Alright?! No offense but if you call these half-assed renditions alright then your name will never be carried further than that doorway.

ACHILLE

I already told’ya, I don’t need people. All I need are my parts. Now, I asked you who you see in these paintings, so are you gonna put it to use or not??

JULIEN

As a matter of fact, I will. Although your crazy-eyed ambition seems a little unnatural, I suppose it takes an atypical effort for extraordinary attention. I’ll tell you what; I’ll pay you for your insight with a visit once I get my start with the famed. Maybe I can make word of mouth one of your ‘parts’… get you some business. Then you can show me more of your work.

ACHILLE

Well, I don’t see why not. A little luck and you’ll be just as known as the rest…

(Continues murmuring to himself as JULIEN exits)

 …and maybe this place will have some new work to display too.

END SCENE I.

SCENE TWO

Now, with the passing of several months, lights come on to show a crowded room, filled with people glaring at mounted frameworks. JULIEN is seen in a corner accompanied by his colleague, VINCENT. Both are surveying the turnout of what is set as the unveiling of JULIEN’s new gallery. Dialogue is started between the two within the distant sounds of lightly tussling silverware and social repartee.

 

 

JULIEN

(Continuously adjusting himself nervously towards VINCENT)

How do I look?

 

 

VINCENT

You look just as fine as any other. You should stop your pouting and be glad you shaped such a good audience. I’ve never seen this much recognition this early in someone’s career.

JULIEN

Exactly the reason for it! These high-end ‘friends’ one tends to make look just as unforgiving as the work it took for me to get here.

VINCENT

Well stop rattling yourself around or you’ll look like a high-end jackass. Come on now; let’s take this talk out of sight before you become a complete nervous wreck. You’ve played host long enough you deserve some fresh air.

JULIEN

You’re right, best idea if I’ve ever heard one. Besides, I think if I see one more high-browed yuppie glare his monocle at me I’m trading your company for a bottle of wine. If I’m going to self-loath I’ll prefer it in the comfort of my own home.

(Both men take post outside the gallery exit; palely lit street lights tower above them)

VINCENT

(Begins pounding a pack of cigarettes against his palm)

You know, I’d be hard pressed to find one good reason for all your worry. You should be proud! Whatever you did was obviously good enough for those saps in there to take a look at you.

JULIEN

(Lights a cigarette and steadies his breathe, and wavering hands)

I suppose you’re right. Besides, if I keep this behavior up no one will believe some stammering youngster can get this kind of respect.

VINCENT

Now you’re thinking with your head. I’d kill for whatever gimmick it is that you’re keeping up for this crowd.

JULIEN

I leave the gimmicks for the drifters and peddlers. Gotta’ maintain my brand as they say. I did put the best parts I had into my work.

 

VINCENT

(Lightheartedly mocks in response)

Must be one hell of a brand to sell! It seemed like damn near an eternity would pass before someone like you would finally turn the corner.

JULIEN

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

VINCENT

Not one thing, I’m just making a point.

JULIEN

(Grows defensive as a crooked, shadowed male silhouette glances from a far corner)

Well why don’t you ‘make it’ a little clearer for me.

VINCENT

I get your point, sorry I said anything. I’m just getting at your newfound confidence.

JULIEN

(Closely faces Vincent, firmly nudges his shoulder)

Well get at it all you’d like but do it like a man instead of some pubescent pup!

VINCENT

Watch it will ya?! Not a few weeks on the public wire and already you’re letting all this get to your head. I’m on your team, remember?

&


© Copyright 2017 EMTorres. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Unknown

More Literary Fiction Scripts