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Bushman lives, p.8
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       Bushman Lives!, p.8

           Daniel Pinkwater
 
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“Bignose’s. He’s always there around this time.”

  “Bignose’s Cafeteria?”

  “Yes. They’re open all night.”

  “They won’t let you take the Wolluf inside, you know.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because Board of Health rules, or the law or something. You can’t take dogs into restaurants.”

  “He’s not a dog.”

  “Oh, right. I forgot. He’s the Wolluf.”

  “Less talking, more walking.”

  “Can I ask you why you think I need this mentor or whoever it is?”

  “No.”

  Chapter 38

  Bignose’s

  Golyat Thornapple was scruffy and his clothes were rumpled. He needed a shave, and his white hair looked as though he had cut it himself with dull scissors. His shoes were cracked and scuffed, and he had no socks. He was sitting at a table near the window, eating a broiled porgy. He saw us.

  “Good golly, Miss Molly!” Golyat Thornapple said. “And a young friend, and here’s my good old boy.” He scratched the Wolluf behind the ears. Molly was right about him being allowed into the cafeteria. Nobody said a word.

  “Mr. Thornapple, this is Harold Knishke,” Molly said.

  Golyat Thornapple smiled warmly and stuck out his hand. He seemed to be a nice old guy. “Harold Knishke, like the song,” he said.

  I shook his hand. “Bushman lives,” I said.

  “He certainly does,” Golyat Thornapple said.

  “Harold wants to be an artist,” Molly said. Thornapple’s expression changed. For a second I thought there was a fish bone stuck in his throat. “I was hoping you could give him some advice, maybe look at his work. Tell him what to do.”

  “This is a vile trick to play on a man while he’s eating,” Golyat Thornapple said.

  “I’m going to get you a Napoleon, and a nice cup of coffee,” Molly said. “I’ll get one for you too, Harold. You sit here and talk with Mr. Thornapple. Why don’t you show him your sketches?” Molly hurried off to the counter to get us Napoleons, whatever they were.

  I stood beside the table, under which the Wolluf had gone to sleep. “This was not my idea,” I said. “She just dragged me here.”

  Thornapple was eyeing my sketchbook. “You may as well sit down,” he said. “Molly’s a Dwerg, you know.”

  “So she has told me.”

  “Best not to refuse when she asks you to do a thing.”

  “Is that so?”

  “Oh, yes.” Thornapple pushed his plate of porgy bones aside. “Let’s have a look.” He leafed through my sketchbook, making occasional noises like “Hmm” and “Mmm” and “Aha.” Then he handed it back to me.

  Molly returned with a tray with three Napoleons, which turned out to be these yummy pastries, and three cups of coffee, also a raw hamburger Bignose had given her for the Wolluf. We sat and munched and sipped for a while.

  “Did you get around to the advice?” Molly asked.

  “Here it is,” Golyat Thornapple said. “Don’t be an artist.”

  “No?”

  “If possible, don’t.”

  “Why not?”

  “Many reasons, but for one, if you become an artist there’s a good chance you will wind up as a crazy old bum eating porgies in a cafeteria in the middle of the night.”

  “That actually sounds sort of okay to me.”

  “Too bad. What makes you think you want to do art in the first place?”

  “To tell the truth, I’m not absolutely sure I do want to do art. It was just something I said, and then I stumbled across Arnold Zwieback’s life drawing class. The idea occurred to me, kind of out of the blue, after I’d been listening to this guy in an army hat speaking at Bughouse Square.”

  “Sergeant Gunter. I know him well.”

  “He was explaining how capitalism is bad—and I could see he had a point, but at the same time, I got the feeling that socialism or communism, or whatever he’s selling, is probably just as bad, and the problem is human beings can ruin anything, even if it’s a good idea to begin with.”

  “Well, at least you’ve got a brain, Harold. So how did you get from being skeptical about political enthusiasts to thinking you should be an artist?”

  “Maybe I should be an artist.”

  “Maybe.”

  “I would say definitely, not maybe,” Molly said.

  “Answer the question,” Golyat Thornapple said.

  “Well, it’s not that I have a lot of experience outside of being a kid and going to high school, but . . . um . . . but if human beings are hopeless idiots, which appears likely . . . maybe art does the least harm.”

  “Interesting idea,” Golyat Thornapple said.

  “Harold is smart,” Molly said.

  “Also, I want to be cool,” I said.

  “Like me,” Golyat Thornapple said.

  “Right.”

  “You definitely have the hopeless idiot thing right. Let me ask you three questions.”

  “Okay.”

  “Not counting the time you marched through with your fifth grade class, how many times have you been inside the Art Institute?”

  “Um . . . approximately . . . once.”

  “Once.”

  “Well, I’m planning to go back.”

  “Good. See, you can’t do art if you have never looked at any art.”

  “You can’t?”

  “Well, you can, but then you have to invent the entire history of art all by yourself, which would take a while. No need to go nuts and try to eat up the whole collection—but I suggest you drop in every day or so and look at a picture, by which I mean look at it . . . with your eyes.”

  “I can do that. What are the other two questions?”

  “Can you swim, and do you get seasick?”

  “Yes, and I don’t think so. What do those have to do with learning to be an artist?”

  “Nothing. I was just curious.”

  Chapter 39

  See You Around

  “What did you think of Harold’s sketches?” Molly asked Golyat Thornapple.

  “They’re sketches. He’s learning to draw. Cavemen could draw.”

  “And Harold can come to you for advice, and you’ll look at his stuff, and help him?”

  “Do I have a choice?”

  “Of course you have a choice. Nobody’s forcing you. If you don’t want to help Harold, you don’t have to.”

  “But then I would be refusing a favor to a Dwerg,” Golyat Thornapple said.

  “True.”

  “And that could be an unlucky thing to do.”

  “Well, superstitious people might believe that.”

  “Harold may come to me for advice.”

  “Of course, granting a favor to a Dwerg is a lucky thing to do, and that’s a fact.”

  “I don’t feel I have been coerced or threatened at all, and thanks for the Napoleon and coffee.”

  “My pleasure, Mr. Thornapple.”

  Chapter 40

  What’s a Dwerg?

  We were walking away from Bignose’s. It must have been around four in the morning.

  “Mr. Thornapple seems sort of cynical and depressed,” I said.

  “He’s just moody. He’ll be happy soon, when something nice happens to him.”

  “Something nice? Like what?”

  “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Art Institute bought one of his paintings . . . or something like that.”

  “Explain this Dwerg thing to me,” I said.

  “DeDwerg. It’s a family name. We’re well known.”

  “What are you, like the Mafia?”

  “Nah. The Mafia are criminals.”

  Chapter 41

  Painting with Troika

  The first picture I picked out to look at with my eyes at the Art Institute was by this guy Wassily Kandinsky. It said on the card he was French, born in Russia in 1869, and died in 1944. The picture is called Painting with Troika, and he did it on January 18, 1911.

  The
reason I picked this to look at was that I liked it. I liked it right away, the first second I saw it. They had a few others by him, and I liked them, too, but this is the one I picked to look at. I looked at it for a pretty long time, maybe twenty minutes, and all the time I was feeling that it was in some way friendly and familiar. Here are a few things I noticed about the painting—the colors were bright and clear, it was sort of simple in a way, like a kid’s kindergarten painting. This made me feel happy. Also like a kid’s painting, he didn’t try to show things arranged with the earth or floor at the bottom like a straight line, and the objects in the painting piled up on top as though they were solid and had weight. I forgot to say, it is an abstract painting, and the thing that is supposed to be a troika, which I looked up, and it is a kind of wagon or carriage pulled by three horses, could be a troika, or maybe not—it’s kind of up to you. Behind the troika there is this blue thing with what might be roofs on top, then to the right is a flowering tree, or a bunch of flowers, then this thing that is pretty certainly a hill, and in front of that what might be a couple of people, one of which is holding some kind of musical instrument—maybe. It’s all maybe. Oh yes, and there were mountains, or maybe ocean waves, at the bottom. Kandinsky didn’t try to draw anything so it absolutely looked like some real thing. Also things did not appear to be solid, or stationary. It was as though everything was in motion, maybe spinning slowly.

  And then I realized why I liked it, and why it seemed familiar. My father has these bound copies of Krazy Kat, which is a newspaper comic strip from the 1920s, done by this guy named Harriman. Krazy Kat and Ignatz the Mouse are the main characters, and mostly they hit each other in the head with bricks. And yet it is funny, and I have always liked looking at it, because the drawings, while very simple, are also very interesting. And they look almost like if Kandinsky wanted to draw a comic strip, it might look something like Krazy Kat. They were alive at the same time, so maybe Herriman had seen paintings by Kandinsky. Or, for all I knew, Kandinsky had seen Krazy Kat. Or maybe each of them had seen something else that gave them the idea to draw like that. Or maybe some optician had given them both the same kind of wrong glasses—I can’t say. But it was interesting to think about. And the Kandinsky picture made me think of music. Krazy Kat would be like someone whistling a tune, and the painting would be like someone playing maybe an accordian or a harmonica. It made me feel good—full of energy. I could have done a little dance in front of the picture.

  When I came out of the Art Institute, I had a similar experience to the time I had looked at the de Kooning. Not as extreme or surprising, but things had a fresh look. I was going to have to look up my mentor, Golyat Thornapple, and ask him if this was supposed to happen every time.

  Chapter 42

  I Buy Some Colors

  I went to an actual art supplies store in the Loop. It was pretty fantastic. They had about a million art supplies. The guy in the store suggested I try these colors called gouache. They come in tubes like oil paint, but they’re water-based. He said they weren’t as demanding technically as oils or watercolors, and you can get some neat effects if you mix them with diet cola or cold coffee instead of water. I got the beginner’s set, and some brushes. Everything fit in my flute case.

  Chapter 43

  Street. People.

  Geets Hildebrand had made a nice little shelter using his tarpaulin and clothesline, in a stand of trees, concealed by a little sand dune. He had made a nice little bed using pine boughs and the blanket he had stolen from the United States Navy. He had gathered stones and made a nice little fireplace, on which he heated cans of corn, okra, string beans, and cream of mushroom soup for his meals.

  He spent his time picking up wood to burn in the fireplace, improving his campsite, observing the birds, and exploring the park. There did not appear to be any other campers, and in fact he did not see another person. He discovered a street that ran along the boundary of the park, on the other side of which was a little neighborhood of well-kept houses. So he had a good idea of where the kids he found standing in his campsite one morning when he crawled out of his shelter had come from.

  There were three of them, two boys and a girl, all quite substanial and robust-looking.

  “What are you doing?” one of the boys asked him pleasantly.

  “Camping,” Geets said.

  “How long have you been here?”

  “Couple of days.”

  “How long do you figure on staying?”

  “I don’t know. Until my food runs out, I guess.”

  “Is that what you’ve been eating?” the girl asked, pointing to the little pile of empty cans.

  “Sure.”

  “Would you like to come back with us and have pancakes?”

  Even before they offered him pancakes, Geets had felt there was something unusually kind and sweet about these kids. They looked at him with a calm and steady gaze, and their eyes were full of love. They seemed completely relaxed and comfortable. In the few minutes he’d been talking to them, Geets realized that most people have a little edge of aggression, or readiness to defend themselves or flee, always bubbling somewhere beneath the surface. These kids didn’t have it. It could have been because being tremendously strong, as they obviously were, they had nothing to fear—but it seemed to Geets that they had within them a molten core of goodness that radiated like warmth, which he had never encountered before . . . except in himself. That, too, was a realization that came to him in minutes—that he had that same inner glowing something, and his was communicating with theirs.

  “Did you come out before breakfast to find me?” Geets asked them, not knowing why he did.

  “Well, Mom wondered if you’d like pancakes.”

  They knew he was there. Probably knew the minute he arrived. Geets was not surprised.

  “I would perfectly love pancakes,” Geets said.

  “Well, let’s go then!”

  And they trooped off through the woods, Geets and the three big kids, whose names he did not even know, all of them already the best of friends.

  Chapter 44

  At Home with the Hugebees

  Charles, Nancy, and Russell were the kids’ names. They were the children of Sterling and Monica Hugebee, who were also large and strong-looking. Mr. and Mrs. Hugebee, like their children, projected that same quality of sweetness, and Geets fell instantly in love with them, too.

  The house had lots of windows, and many easy chairs, sofas, large, soft cushions, and thick rugs. There was a deck behind the house, with padded porch furniture, recliners, two hammocks, and a large table set with plates, carafes of coffee, and bottles of maple syrup.

  “Sit down, Geets. Sit down, everybody,” Mrs. Huge bee said. “Pancakes start coming in five minutes!”

  Blueberry pancakes, pancakes with raisins and bananas, chocolate chip pancakes. They were the most delicious pancakes he had ever tasted, as Geets knew they would be. The family talked pleasantly while they ate stacks and stacks. They asked Geets questions—he told them of his recent enlistment and separation from the navy. They told him about their little neighborhood right beside the state park, and about their neighbors, a couple of whom dropped by—the Lobelias. The Lobelias were cat groomers. They had a cat-grooming salon attached to their house. The Hugebees were spoon benders.

  “Spoons come from the forge perfectly straight,” Mr. Hugebee explained. “But a fine spoon has to have a subtle curve to it, and this can be done only by a skilled craftsman. We are the ones who do this.”

  Other neighbors were the Bananamans, accountants who kept the books for the other family businesses in the neighborhood, and the Fernblatts, who made marzipan chipmunks and other animals. The children of the families were all homeschooled, and since the street the houses were on was a dead end, except for deliveries of supplies and pickups of manufactured items and groomed cats, few vehicles, and hardly any people, ever came to the neighborhood.

  “We like living in a quiet place,” Nancy Hugebee sa
id.

  The pancake eating, which had been going on steadily, came to an end, the conversation faltered and halted, and the Hugebees, the Lobelias, and Geets sank onto the chaise longues, and into the hammocks, and slept in the morning sunshine.

  Chapter 45

  Geets’s Dreams

  Geets Hildebrand sometimes vaguely remembered a dream, or a category of dream, different from his usual dreams. This dream was unusually vivid and seemed real in every detail. When he woke he would be convinced it was real—it seemed every bit as real as his waking life—and yet he would always forget it after a few minutes. In this dream, or dreams, he was always in another place, always the same place, and there were characters and events that carried over from dream to dream. Time continued from dream to dream, and the events of the past remained the same. It was no different from days in his real life, waking up in Chicago, and being who he was and having seen and done what he had seen and done. If these dreams did not fade completely after five minutes, and leave his consciousness, he might have entertained the thought that possibly the dream world was the real world, and his day-to-day life in Chicago was the dream life.

  The setting of the dreams was a quiet, usually sunny, place. There was a feeling of well-being and safety. He was surrounded by gentle people. He was content and happy.

  Napping on the deck of the Hugebees’ house, full of pancakes, and breathing regularly, Geets dreamed his dream, and when he awoke, the place he was in was no different from the place he had dreamed.

  Everyone else woke up at the same time, stretched, nodded to one another, and as a group, the Hugebees, the Lobelias, Geets, and some people from the other families in the neighborhood crossed the road and entered the park.

  There, they rambled through the woods and over the sand dunes, along the lakeshore. They observed the bird life, identified various plants, threw pebbles into Lake Michigan, waded barefoot, commented on the beauty of the clouds and sky, and several times sat down, all at once, and had a mini-nap. Loretta Fernblatt, a girl Geets’s age and twice his size, walked beside him, and sometimes held his hand. He was perfectly happy.

 
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