I realized that after agonizing about my novel's roach art and how to present it properly, I never came back here to post the first draft result.
So, here it is. (And before I forget...my friend, Jack, sent me someone's blog or web page that contains a photo or two of beetle "art" -- someone in Europe, I think, attempted a small dress-up party for beetles. I liked the imaginative thinking; however, the end result, artistically speaking, was more "done on a whim" than the kind of polished art my fictional character, Graham, produces.)
Isobel smiled to herself, slipped into her office and shut the door. It was a large white square room with two windows facing an alley, jam-packed with open boxes on shelves and radiator covers containing items to be repaired, appraised or tagged. Rare costume jewelry with real coral and ivory mingled freely with estate pieces; a broken Pre-Columbian figure crouched on a tray, his arm in a Ziploc bag at his feet.
Lydia thought the place resembled a black-market warehouse rife with serious loot, a World War II army PX loaded with Hershey bars and nylon stockings.
Isobel saw it differently. It was a depot of dream remnants, romantic and sad; a repository of fleeting time capsules, lost fortunes, or found treasures needing love and attention, like London’s Paddington Station, temporary home to a small brown bear from “darkest Peru,” who had a note pinned to the wooden toggle on his coat: ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’
In short, Isobel, who spent hours reviewing her acquisitions, regarded this enclave as a museum quality lost-and-found department, and she believed, as her mother had, that objects, like people, needed homes, love, and an appreciation of their history. They represented the continuity of civilization, glorious or ignominious as the case might be.
But this high-minded flight of fancy sailed right through the wrought-iron bars on the windows when the box of roach art caught her attention.
Anxiety flickered. Just how well did she know Graham? What if this box was like the gory one in the movie Se7en? Or, what if it contained a thousand mammoth roaches, stinking to high heaven, broken and squashed from excessive banging by FedEx…? Oh, for Pete’s sake!
She reached for an X-acto knife and neatly broke the seal. Her fingers scrabbled through Styrofoam peanuts and hit thick layers of bubble wrap protecting what looked like mahogany display cases which were about sixteen inches wide with brass-hinged glass tops. Odd, but there was one sealed bell jar, as well. She worried the cases might prove to be more valuable than their contents.
Carefully, she removed them one by one and placed them on the floor. Then she sat down, braced herself, and tore away the wrappings.
“Good God!” was all she managed to get out before laughter erupted.
Graham was brilliant.
He had constructed dioramas to showcase his various scenes using the giant Australian burrowing roach – macropanesthia rhinoceros – as the torso for each of his well-known characters. The roaches stood three inches high, wingless, smoothly lacquered and striped thinly in gold so that they resembled tigers eye cabochons or humbug candies. Using an infinite variety of materials in tiny flecks and bits of string, paper, wool and other fabrics, he had painstakingly fashioned each mounted head and costume detail right down to the trademark red lacquered heels of the Christian Louboutin shoes on Bernadette Peters’ feet in a scene called “Roach Clips.”
Peters was seated on a bench in Central Park alongside fight promoter Don King, Andy Warhol, singer Tiny Tim, and Donald Trump. A blue troll doll sat on a nearby path. Everyone’s hair streamed on an angle, caught in an imaginary wind.
So much to absorb and admire, she took her time.
Later, Lydia knocked. “Izz?”
“Don’t bug me, I’m in roach heaven.”
“Arr-arr-arr. I brought lunch. Sandwiches. May I come in?”
“At your own risk.”
“Well, what are you looking at?”
“ Right now? ‘Hal Roach Presents Our Gang.’ ”
“This I gotta see.”
Lydia entered gingerly, stepped over the wrappings scattered willy-nilly, and came to squat next to a few of the cases. She was tall and skinny, and her legs folded like a grasshopper’s into sharp right angles. “Oh-my-god!” She chirped. “Sooo cute! Did you see Porky’s hat, and the striped sweater on – is it Farina?—Holy crap, the roaches are big. Ha! He really nailed Alfalfa – your friend is amazing…what’s in the bell jar?”
“A three dimensional view of ‘The Roachy Stones.’ He also sent ‘The Bug Sleep’ with Buggy and Bugall, and ‘Dracula starring Bella Bugosi’ –I’m putting that one in the permanent exhibit. If these do well, there’s a lot more to order, and they’re originals which is really cool.”
Lydia was studying the purple moiré brushwork of the Dracula backdrop. “You know, this guy is one seriously weird, super-talented dude. Tell him I’m in love and want to have his zombie child.”
“You tell him. Graham Gould – it’s in the Rolodex. Call him in a few hours and let him know everything arrived safe and sound. Tell him I’ll be in touch over the weekend.”
Copyright 2012 Carol Krenz All rights reserved