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Bushman lives, p.12
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       Bushman Lives!, p.12

           Daniel Pinkwater
 
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“And Lash O’Hara, and presumably other artists . . . they all do what Lydia Bogenswerfer tells them?”

  “A stable. It’s called a stable of artists. They have to. It’s a contract.”

  “A stable, like horses? That doesn’t sound so good to me.”

  “It’s good. It’s the way you get to be a famous artist.”

  “What if you didn’t care about being a famous artist?”

  “Who doesn’t care about that?”

  “Do you want to be a famous artist?”

  “Sure, or just famous—it wouldn’t have to be as an artist.”

  “So why don’t you show Lydia Bogenswerfer your art, and maybe get her to give you a contract?”

  “I think she only likes boy artists. Which, come to think of it, I do too.”

  And then, Miranda Sheldrake took hold of my shoulders, turned me around, and smooched me. It took me completely by surprise. Except for some fairly dismal experiments when I was a lot younger, I had never had a full-on lip lock—and Miranda clearly knew what she was doing. It was interesting how my brain completely stopped working—that is, it was interesting thinking back on it, when my brain started to work again.

  It was just about this time when we arrived at the weird white house. The lizardy ragamuffins were at work, getting in some night whitewashing, and who should be standing in the street in front of the house but Molly?

  “Who’s this?” Molly asked.

  “This is Miranda. I’m taking her in to see my drawings.”

  “Like fun you are.” And then, to Miranda, “Push off, girlie.”

  “What?” Miranda asked.

  “Sling your hook. Fade. Disappear.”

  Then the Wolluf rose up from the bushes and did not so much snarl or growl as smile at Miranda. I imagined I heard him say—or maybe he really did say . . . in English . . .“She wants you to go away. I think you should.”

  We could hear Miranda’s tiny sandals clicking rapidly on the pavement after she had disappeared into the darkness.

  “What was the idea of that?” I asked Molly.

  “You can’t just bring people in here.”

  “You brought me in.”

  “That’s different. You belong here. You’re an artist.”

  “How do you know she isn’t an artist?”

  “Is she?”

  “She might be.”

  Molly stared at me.

  “Anyway, she smooched me. I was thinking she might do it again.”

  “Don’t let your lips lead your life, pal,” Molly said. “By the way, be here tomorrow morning—I’m taking you to meet someone.”

  Chapter 67

  Late Movie

  My father was up, watching the late movie, when I came home.

  “King Kong,” he said. “Ever see this movie?”

  “Parts of it,” I said.

  “It’s a sad and disappointing movie on so many levels,” he said.

  “I just thought it was dumb.”

  “It’s that, too. It was a big sensation because of the special effects, which were advanced for its time. But all the characters have bad motives, and it’s full of racism. The most sympathetic character is the ape, who is himself sort of an idiot—but more likable than the humans. So how is your art career coming along?”

  “Funny you should put it like that.”

  “Oh?”

  “Well, I never actually gave any thought to it being a career—I mean, I have just been enjoying learning to draw, and going around drawing stuff. But tonight someone took me to an art gallery and I found out a few things about the business.”

  “What did you find out?”

  “Well, it’s sad and disappointing on many levels.”

  “Careers can be like that,” my father said. “If you’re thinking about a job, I repeat, you can’t do better than work for the Salami Council. If you’d like to enter a profession, I suggest you think about medicine, law, or accountancy. You could also go out west and work on a ranch, if that appeals to you, or be a dentist. But if you want to do art, you ought to do it as an art and not worry too much about how it’s used to make money.”

  We watched the movie for a while. King Kong, who did not strike me as such a great special effect, had square teeth like a human instead of gorilla-looking teeth. For some reason, I found this embarrassing.

  “I think I’ll go to bed,” I said.

  “Good night, son,” my father said.

  Chapter 68

  Three Dimensions

  Who should Molly take me to meet the next morning but the sculptor Julius Hargrove? He had a place in a cobblestone alley. It had obviously been a stable for horses. There was a wide door, wide enough to drive a carriage through, and above that a loft door with a wooden beam sticking out and a pulley on the end. That must have been for hoisting bales of hay. Molly put two fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly, and Hargrove appeared above us and slid down the rope attached to the pulley.

  “This is Harold Knishke,” Molly said. “He wants to help you.”

  “Ah! The guy from the party! You ever done any sculpture?” Julius asked me.

  “No.”

  “Know anything about it?”

  “Not really.”

  “But you have always wanted to do it.”

  “Well, I can say I haven’t not wanted to do it.”

  “Are you willing to work for nothing?”

  “Pretty much.”

  “Good. You are now my apprentice.”

  “Shouldn’t I clear this with Golyat Thornapple?”

  “I already did that,” Molly said. “It’s all right with him.”

  “Let’s get to work,” Julius said. “I have a big project going, and only a week to finish it. The other apprentices are in there.”

  I went through the stable doors. In a large room, four tall, fat, pale, spiky-haired, bespectacled guys—Lake Scouts—were hacking at a gigantic hunk of wood.

  Julius Hargrove put an odd-looking tool in my hand. It was a little like a hatchet and a little like a hoe, with a slightly curved blade.

  “This is an adze,” Julius said. “It’s sharp, so make a point of not driving it into your calf or knocking off any fingers. As you see, I have marked off sections of this gigantic hunk of wood with my Flo-Master marking pen. What you apprentices have to do is whack away the markings. As you do this, I will come around with the Flo-Master and mark more. Once we get past the adzing phase, you will learn the handling of gouges and chisels for the finer carving. Lunch is at noon—it’s little hot dogs wrapped in bacon, and cheap wine today. Be happy in your work.”

  The hunk of wood was obviously a section of trunk from some really huge and ancient tree. The Lake Scouts had taken off their sailor blouses and were working in their T-shirts, chipping away where Julius had Flo-Mastered cross-hatching on the wood. As they chipped, they sang radio commercial jingles.

  Any time of the year, it’s the beer of good cheer

  Drink Canadian Ace, Drink Canadian

  Aeeeece!

  Drink Edelweis, it tastes so nice

  It tastes so nice, drink Edelweis

  Ticonderoga, has won its way to fame

  It’s a great American pencil, with a great

  American name

  Pepsi-Cola hits the spot

  Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot

  Nickel, nickel, nickel, nickel . . .

  They didn’t converse, or respond to anything I said to them. They just sang the jingles under their breath, and adzed. These guys all looked exactly alike, so much so that I wondered if they were identical quadruplets . . . or maybe not regular human beings. And of course there was Geets’s theory that they were Neanderthals. It crossed my mind that they might have been some sort of robot—but how would such a thing be possible?

  Chapter 69

  What Is It?

  When we broke for lunch and were sitting around eating the somewhat stale tiny hot dogs and drinking the cheap wine, which was more disgusting at r
oom temperature than it had been at the art gallery, and tasted slightly of plastic—evidently Julius had poured it into a freezer bag—I asked him what this thing we were carving was.

  “Gorilla head,” Julius Hargrove said. “It’s a commission. Also, for some reason it’s top secret. I was given a page of specs about what size, and how the back side of it should be carved. You’ll notice, as we progress with it, that it doesn’t have a base or a flat bottom so it can stand on its own. It’s obviously intended to be attached to something. I wasn’t given any information about that, but it’s my guess it’s a figurehead for some kind of boat or ship.”

  “Who are you making it for?”

  “I had to sign something promising I wouldn’t say,” Julius said. “Not that I have any idea who the person is, beyond the name on the check I was given.”

  “So, you got paid, and we . . .”

  “You’re getting lessons in basic techniques of wood carving, and lunch, and I am not charging you a cent.”

  Chapter 70

  A Week of Sculpting

  Lunch the next day, and for the rest of the week, was bologna on white, and room temperature Kool-Aid. I did learn a lot about handling carving tools, also these curvy rasps called rifflers. The thing got smaller, and smaller, and began to take the shape of a gorilla head. Julius would mark areas with his Flo-Master, and show us how to hold the tools, and which way to cut. As we got closer to the finished head, he did more and more of the carving and rasping himself. It was turning out to be a pretty good gorilla head, with a noble expression, and I was proud to have worked on it. I couldn’t tell if the Lake Scouts were proud or not. I didn’t have an actual conversation with any of them beyond exchanging a few words about how it was a warm day, and hand me that chisel please. They sang the radio jingles constantly. Toward the end, Julius gave us sandpaper and had us smooth certain areas.

  We were allowed to cover it with a base coat of white lead paint. Julius painted it in gorilla colors—he did all that himself, and inserted glass eyes, which made it really lifelike. Then we gave the thing three coats of marine varnish, and it looked splendid.

  I was only a little surprised when the two lizardlike, wrapped-head-to-toe types who whitewashed the weird house were on the truck that came for the head. All of us, the whitewashing guys, Julius, the Lake Scouts, and I, lifted it onto the truck and covered it with a tarpaulin. Then the truck rolled away, Julius gave each of us a pack of Picayune cigarettes and a bottle of Dad’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer, and that was the end of my week as a sculptor’s apprentice.

  Chapter 71

  So How Is It Done?

  “I wonder if I could really be an artist.”

  “What makes you think you’re not one now?” Golyat Thornapple asked.

  “Well, I guess I am if just drawing stuff makes one an artist. But I think there’s more to it.”

  “Like what?”

  “Oh, like having an idea. Or being able to make stuff that . . . um . . . sort of organizes the way someone sees or thinks. It’s like this—there is stuff in the Art Institute, starting with that painting by de Kooning, that, after I look at it, nothing is ever quite the same. It changes me. I think that’s art, at least the possibility of something like that happening.”

  “Well said. Of course, not all art has to rock your world and make you a different person, not in a big way, necessarily—but I would agree it ought to have a heartbeat, and not be just lines or dabs of color on a surface.”

  “So how do you get to be someone who can do that, or how would you know if you have a heartbeat?”

  “Everyone has a heartbeat.”

  “You know what I mean. So far I’ve learned something about how to draw, and a little about color—and I just spent a week helping to make a piece of sculpture—but those are just skills.”

  “Skills are important.”

  “Sure, but how about the other thing? Are you just born with it, and some people have it and some people don’t, or can you develop it?”

  “It’s my opinion that everyone is born with it to some extent, but you still have to develop it.”

  “Well, that’s my question. How do you do that?”

  “You live.”

  “You live?”

  “Yep.”

  “So, let’s say I want to be an artist, a real one.

  I try to learn all the skills and technical stuff, and for the rest I just kick around, living, and maybe the heartbeat thing kicks in, and maybe it doesn’t?”

  “Pretty much—but I’d add that there’s a difference between just living and educating yourself.”

  “Finally we’re getting somewhere. Educating yourself—like going to schools and colleges?”

  “Some do it that way. You could also consider seeking special experiences, like going to Tahiti.”

  “Like Gaugin did!”

  “Right, or observing the horrors of war.”

  “Like Goya!”

  “Or going on a whaling voyage.”

  “Who did that?”

  “Herman Melville.”

  “He wasn’t a painter. He wrote Moby-Dick.”

  “Same difference. But taking a trip by water and seeing some strange and exotic place might be useful to someone considering becoming a painter—you ought to try that.”

  “If I ever get the chance.”

  “Chances come along a lot more often than you might suppose.”

  Chapter 72

  Did You Get One?

  “Did you get one of these?” I asked Geets.

  “I was just going to ask you the same thing,” Geets said. “Did you sign me up for the Lake Scouts?”

  “I did no such thing. Did you sign me up for the Lake Scouts?”

  “No, I did not. But this thing came for a parental signature. It gives permission for me to attend the Lake Scouts summer camp and cruise. It came to my grandmother. And she signed it.”

  “My father signed the one that came to him. I know nothing about a summer camp and cruise.”

  “Nor do I.”

  “How did the Lake Scouts even know our names or where we lived?”

  “No idea.”

  “This is weird.”

  “It is. It’s weird.”

  “You told me there were Lake Scouts working for that sculptor guy. Could they have signed you up?”

  “They hardly talked to me. We never even exchanged names. Mostly they sang old radio commercials. Besides, why would they know your name, let alone your address?”

  “Do you think it could be something sinister? We could be abducted, and our families wouldn’t look for us because having signed these things they would assume we were off with the Lake Scouts.”

  “Who would want to abduct us, and why?”

  “I can’t think of a single reason.”

  “Me neither. I’m throwing mine away.”

  “So am I.”

  And we forgot all about it.

  Chapter 73

  Just a Beatnik

  I ran into Miranda Sheldrake walking arm in arm with Billy Zwieback. They were gazing at one another with happy, goofy expressions.

  “Billy is my boyfriend,” Miranda said. “He is getting a one-man show at the Bogenswerfer. And you are just a beatnik.”

  “Dig,” I said. “Man.”

  Chapter 74

  Look!

  Geets showed me a spoon. It was bent.

  “I finally did it!” he said.

  “You bent this spoon?”

  “I bent it!”

  “With the power of your mind.”

  “Yes!”

  “You didn’t help it with your fingers a little?”

  “Not a bit!”

  “Well, that is pretty impressive.”

  Geets smiled broadly. “Bushman lives,” he said.

  Chapter 75

  Let’s Go

  I must have been asleep for an hour or two. I woke up sensing there was someone in my room.

  “Geets?”


  “No, it’s Molly,” Molly said.

  “Molly?”

  “What? Do I mumble? I said it was me.”

  “What are you doing in a young man’s boudoir in the middle of the night, and how did you get in here?”

  “It’s all right, we’re not alone. The Wolluf is here too.”

  I switched on the light. There they both were. I smelled bananas on their breath.

  “I brought you a banana.”

  “Thanks.”

  “Eat it and get dressed. We have to go someplace.”

  “Where to this time?”

  “A guy named Glugo has built a scale model of a Roman trireme—that’s a kind of ship.”

  “I know what a trireme is. Ancient ship. They had three rows of oars on each side, and so what?”

  “It’s authentic in every detail.”

  “Good for Glugo. Maybe he will win a prize from the model builders club.”

  “It’s fully functional.”

  “Whoop-de-doo.” I was yawning.

  “It’s a three-quarters scale model.”

  “Huh?”

  “It’s eighty feet long. They’re launching it in Belmont Harbor in about an hour.”

  “I bet this thing has a gorilla figurehead.”

  “I believe it does.”

  “Okay, you’ve got my interest. Let’s go.”

  “Get dressed and do whatever, and make it fast. We’ll sneak out of the apartment and meet you downstairs.”

  “So, you won’t be climbing out the window.”

  “Oh, and leave a note for your parents saying you’re going to be at Lake Scouts camp for a few days. You might want to grab a change of clothes, and maybe a sweater.”

 
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