Main Character Sketch The Artist: symbolic as Jesus Suzanne Wash: Buddhist Roane Shrift: Suzanne’s ex-husband Darby Shrift: Suzanne and Roane's daughter Jackie Etl: childhood friend of Darby Martha Covington: childhood friend of Jackie and Darby Kristin Beverley: spectator of the artist’s following Madeleine: a teacher who seeks the Artist and has a conversation with him. Lloyd: an angel Marguerite Handen: Floyd Irving's girlfriend Floyd Irving: symbolic as the devil Hugh: Dean/director of the Institute Things to do: Make sure that cool examples of “Pieces in History” are used. Mainly national politics. "I still like looking at paintings. Like Francis Bacon and Cezanne." -Suzanne Vega TOC 1. Introduction to Roane Shrift and the Artist 2. Introduction to Suzanne and Darby 3. The Undefinable 4. Infotainment 5. Death 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Chapter One: Introduction to Roane Shrift and the Artist “This is the Institute,” Hugh said proudly. It was a government run housing complex available to artists, but of every kind. They would be provided all the materials they needed. Canvases and brushes and paint for the painters, clay and chisels for the sculptors, and the latest models of synthesizers for the musicians. In addition, the latest computer equipment was provided for anyone who was technological enough. The Institute was also funded by private donors and large companies who wished to make their contribution to the arts. Art would be purchased at exorbitant prices, way out of reach for something the common man could afford. These purchases were few and far between. Most pieces of art hailing from the Institute were considered too experimental or avante garde for their own good. The building that housed these artists was bleak and tall and seemed almost like a psychiatric ward. Hugh continued. “Finally there is a place that understands and takes care of artists. Some of the artists here are extremely eccentric and unabashedly daring in their work. Those geniuses tend to be on the first floor to avoid any falling accidents. And we have an elaborate security system so that no one can break in. All guests have to sign a registry, so that we are aware of who is here at all times.” “But there are no restrictions?” the assumedly prospective artist asked. “Not as far as your art goes. But while retaining full authorship, all proceeds go to fund the Institute.” “I see,” said the artist rather blankly. “The prospect of that disturbs you,” Hugh said nervously. “No, it’s not that. I’m not quite sure that the idea of being here is even remotely appealing. You see, I’m a teacher as well as an artist and that is what I want to do. I want to inspire young artists to have passion for their art. I don’t wish to be so secure and unreachable.” Hugh laughed. "You remind me of my younger self," he said to the man that was only three years younger than him. “Is this the first floor where the aforementioned eccentrics are kept?” the artist asked staring at a figure behind Hugh. “Yes. Why…” Hugh turned slightly and stopped dead in his tracks. There was a haggard man with a large piece of glass in his hands and a scowl on his face. He let out a shriek. “Roane,” Hugh said quietly. “Shut up!” Roane moaned. “Shut up! I’ll slice you with this,” he said, gripping the uneven edges of the glass, so that his hand started to bleed. “You are not Roane,” said the artist. “You are not.” The insane man gave him a curious glance. The artist’s voice was full of emotion. “You are barely a man, consumed by your own self, convinced you are a genius. But you are stark out of your mind, because you do not see anyone who is higher than yourself. You are worthless, yet you have a higher purpose than this. If you make the decision and so desire, you will become one of my teachers at my school.” The insane man calmed down and dropped the glass on the floor. Little fragments of glass stuck out from his skin and the blood had not stopped running. Hugh was outraged. “You can’t do this! You cannot take away our clients like this! He’s our best-selling artist and we care for him well here.” The man had not regained complete sanity, and began screaming at Hugh. “I’m a prisoner here. I had to leave my wife and daughter to find success as an artist here. Now I’m in the middle of a divorce and I rarely get to see my little girl. They feed me well, but the food isn’t the best I’ve ever had. I wake up terrified every single night and can’t get back to sleep. They have a psychiatrist here that tells me there’s nothing he can do. Sleeping pills only interfere with my creativity and so the director here,” he said pointing to Hugh, “won’t let me take them, because they infringe on his profits.” Roane was enraged. “I’d like to go with you sir. I can assure you that if you take me away from here, I’ll do anything you wish. I’ll teach at your school. I’ll help you make money.” The artist raised his hand. “I don’t think you know what I’m asking. I’m asking you to give up your career as an artist in exchange for your sanity. And so much more. Satisfaction. You will teach art and you can still paint, but you can be commissioned by no one but me. But I can promise you joy.” [explain difference between commercialism and art] Hugh was taken aback by the whole situation. “Roane isn’t able to just leave at anytime you know. We helped him get his start and he owes us. I don’t think he would be able to function in the real world, much less teach others.” [what about a contract?] Roane looked at the artist, then at Hugh. “I’m going and you can’t stop me.” “I’ll start giving you a ten percent commission on everything you paint!” “Not a chance! I’m leaving,” said Roane as he started walking to his room to gather his things. “You cannot take anything from your room,” Hugh said sternly. “Everything in it is property of the Institute.” “I’m not going to take anything from it,” Roane insisted. He ran wildly, dashing around the corners of the hall into his room. Hugh followed behind, but his speed was lacking. He entered the room just in time to see Roane grab a medium-sized jar of thick black paint, smothering it all over his latest work. “No!” Hugh gasped. “Now I can go with that artist,” said Roane. But the artist had left, and no one knew where he had gone. The artist smoothed the rough canvas with his hands. He was going to begin painting a scene from the old grove in Harrington. He thought of Roane and what his future would have been if his latest work had succeeded. It been a portrait of Darby Shrift, his little girl whose mother was Suzanne Wash. His thoughts went racing back to the younger days of Suzanne, the tough little girl who would get into fights with the boys who would challenge the importance of her heritage. She was a bright student though, and would stay out of trouble as long as her family name was unthreatened. Darby had her mother's charming girlish face, but did not have any traits of her character. She was more like her father, unusually shy and withdrawn. When provoked she would almost always smile or send a blessing, but its effect was disturbing; still, she was strangely morose and dark. He knew he wanted some kind of his work to capture the likeness of Darby Shrift, an intriguing little girl. He couldn't paint her however, because it might bring her the wrong kind of attention. The painting that Roane had created had actually been quite good. He wondered if he should attempt to sketch her in the future. But for now he would work on the scene from the old grove. Chapter Two: Introduction to Suzanne and Darby "Stay away from the artist fellow," Suzanne Wash strictly warned her daughter. "He's a dangerous man." "All men are dangerous," Darby replied sullenly. Suzanne sighed. "If all men are dangerous, why do you cherish your father? You're a loving daughter to him." "I cherish him as you should have always done. But he is dangerous to you, and so he is still dangerous in a way. And so all men are dangerous." An eight year old shouldn't think thoughts like that, Suzanne thought. Alright, let me change the subject from men. Suzanne had been divorced from Roane Shrift for two years. She was fighting for total custody of her child, because she was the mother and Roane was bordering on insanity (at least from her perspective) . She wanted her daughter far away from her ex-husband; although Darby knew of his condition, she didn't disdain him at all. She had love for her father and would not stop loving him, even if the whole world did. He was never unkind to her; likewise she never would be distant to him. The day before, Roane had telephoned for his daughter, and Darby accidentally revealed that her mother was dating a guy named Richard England. Suzanne had warned punishment if Darby ever spoke of her mother's personal matters to her father. She didn't believe in corporal punishment, but would make her daughter write an essay each time she did something wrong. While Darby loved to write, Suzanne thought this more of a discipline than punishment and wished to establish her daughter as much as possible in the way she was leaning to go. You would think Darby would get into as much trouble as she could, but she did not. "If you so kindly would share with me that composition I asked you to write, I would appreciate it." Darby solemnly said, "Well I didn't write it, Mother." "Sweetie, you must not leave this table until you come up with something." "Oh, oh Mother," Darby explained. "I've come up with a title, but I can't figure out how the story goes." "Oh. Well state the title and that will be sufficient." "The Run-over Pig." "The - what!?" Suzanne exclaimed, casting a scolding look at her daughter. How awful. That is so morbid. I know she's never seen a run-over pig. How did she come up with that? "Is my punishment over?" "Yes, I suppose." "Good now, I can have my friends over. Jackie's coming over in a minute." "Jackie's a boy." "He's coming over with Martha Covington." "I don't see how Mrs. Covington allows her child to roam around with a boy." "Well why not? They will probably get married in the future." "Married. I bet they won't. Marriage is a long way off and they're just childhood friends. I had a childhood friendship with a kid named Rusty Everett, and I'm telling you I thought I'd marry him. His folks moved to Indiana when he was in the third grade and I've never seen him since." "But this situation will be different. You'll see." "Ah." Suzanne smiled. Soon enough the three children were romping around Suzanne's household. "Calm down you guys! Hey, sit at the table and eat some of this mud pie I made," she said. Jackie's first response to her offer was a polite "thank you." He was a gentle boy, blonde, and a little tall for his age. His father died when he was young, so he lived with his mother who worked two jobs, and his three older brothers. He didn't stay around home much, because his older brothers picked on him all the time. And if his mother was home, she was always too tired to bother with him. He sat down at the table and started to unconsciously stare at Suzanne. "Hmm, what are you looking at Jackie?" she asked. "Oh, I'm thinking that I admire you." "Admire me!" she laughed. "Why would you admire an old hag like me?" "Well for being a kind mother who would let us over. You have dessert prepared for us. You have a nice face and you're no so serious like my mother. You're not worried. Most grown-ups are worried. And they don't like kids." "I adore kids." "Why don't you have more kids of your own?" Martha asked. Jackie gave her a nudge. "She's not exactly married anymore," he whispered gravely. "Oh. I'm sorry. Oops." Suzanne was relieved that she did not have to give Martha a word of admonishment and quickly thought back to Jackie's background. He was brought up in a very religious home that bore strict rules attached to his upbringing. He saw things in black and white and followed the letter of the law. He was not one for troublemaking, but was more of a dreamer. Suzanne wondered if Jackie admired her, because she was free. As long as he doesn't try to push religion on Darby, he's welcome in my home. "What do you think of the Artist?" Martha asked when Suzanne had gone out of the room. "I don't like his paintings, but I like his books," Jackie said. "Hmm," Darby said. "I've never thought about the Artist much before, and besides my mom said he's a dangerous man." "He is," Jackie said. "He's dangerous because he brings about change and the world is complacent." Martha said, "Funny, but I like his painting, but not his books. They're too hard to read. I just look at the pictures and make up the story for myself." Jackie said, "I don't like his paintings, because I have a hard time visualizing a story. Now if his paintings were based on his books...like if he drew pictures of his characters or the scenes in his books, I'd like that. But his paintings are based on real things, like the one of Mayor Henry Gordon. I had always liked Mr. Gordon until I saw the Artist's portrait of him. The piece revealed a sneer on his face. I've never liked the Mayor or the Artist's paintings since then." "I like his portraits, because they reveal the dark side of staunchy people who appear so good on the outside. But I love his landscapes best. They capture the glory of the places I love best. The old schoolhouse with attention being drawn to the little maple in the left corner by the door." "I've always hated that maple," Darby said unexpectedly. "Why Darby, I didn't think there was an ounce of hate in you," Jackie said. "Well, I had a pet snail in the first grade and mean ol' Roy Hodges hit it against that tree until it was all crushed up in a slimy, shelly mess." "Speaking of snails," Martha said, "I never want to be rich, cause then I'll have to eat escargot." "Ewww!" the others said. "I want to be famous though," Martha continued. "I want to be a singer/songwriter like James Taylor. Only I don't want fame in my lifetime- like Mozart." "But Mozart composed his first compositions at like age three," Darby said. "Well yeah, because he was a genius," Jackie answered. "So are you saying I'm not a genius?" Martha asked, intimidated. "Because you have to be a genius or a politician to be remembered." "Or religious or artistic," Jackie said. "I have an idea then," said Martha saucily. "I'll be a politician, religious, and artistic, so fame can't escape me." "That sounds good," Darby nodded. Then she thought of what her mother had said earlier. "Hey Jackie, are you interested in girls yet?" "No, no, no!" he said rather emphatically. "Not interested in like a ... yucky way." "Amy and Rick make out on a regular basis," Darby said, referring to a couple, two grades ahead of them. "That is just disgusting. And they're only in the fifth grade." "Oh yuck," Jackie said. "I don't want to date until I'm sixteen," Darby said. "And I won't kiss any guy until I'm safely engaged. But then, I'm not sure I may even want to get married." "Well," Martha said, "When I start dating, I'd peck my boyfriend every now and then." "Okay you guys," Darby said, "promise me that when you get older, Martha and Jackie, that you'll marry each other." Jackie hesitated. "Well, I can't promise that. I don't think we'll ever be more than friends." Martha said, "Well I'll say that I promise Jackie will be my first choice. If he finds another girl or doesn't like me, then I won't. But otherwise I will." Jackie revealed a grotesque look, when Suzanne presently returned to the room, rubbing the boy's hair with her hands. "Oh you beautiful boy. Never grow up. Or if you do, always remain as kind and innocent as you are." "Oh I'm not innocent," Jackie said. "I've done lots of things wrong. Sometimes I talk back to my superiors and I do things that are wrong without consciously knowing it sometimes. It’s so easy to mess up you know." Suzanne laughed. "You're so sweet." The night passed swiftly and soon the mothers of Jackie and Martha respectively come to pick them up. The kids said their goodbyes and told each other how they couldn't wait to see them at school the next day. Settings like these continued for years and the children remained great friends. Jackie was bent on becoming an artist, Martha a singer/songwriter, and Darby a writer. They all were fourteen and knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. Suzanne had the radio on in the kitchen, as she did most every night before Darby went to bed. "Do you know what you want to do with your life?" the radio announcer said to this young girl. "Well, see, I don't know. There's so much I could do. Like Uncle Rick lived with Grandma and Grandpa 'til he was twenty-something and didn't get a job until this girl came along one day. But before that, he was a bum and watched TV all day and got high. I know I don't want to be like that. But you make it seem so bad that when I'm sixteen, I want to get a simple job at like Wal-Mart. I don't think I want to do something big. I think I just want to have a simple life. I like reading, but I suppose there is no job that has you reading all day." "Except you could be a proof-reader for the newspaper. Are you good at English?" "Well I don't have every single, stupid grammar rule memorized, no," the girl said. “Some people are so stupid,” Darby said. "Well, kiss me before you go to sleep tonight." "OK. Hey Mom. Do you believe I should pray tonight?" "Well, to what god?" "Why, God Himself." "Have you been getting ideas from Jackie? No, I don't think you should, dear. Besides there is no god, and if there is, you don't need to bother the Christian God." "Well is it OK if I do?" "I'd prefer you not to." "Alright." But I have a funny feeling that something terrible will happen tomorrow if I don't, Darby thought. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or maybe Darby should have prayed to God Himself, because something a little disturbing did happen the next day. At school, the teacher announced that this day was going to count for double attendance. The woman, Miss Marguerite Handen, was particularly unbecoming for someone so young. It wasn't that she was ugly, because she had several boyfriends, one right after the other. She just always had a mean and bitter look across her face. She was stately and serious and insisted that school should no longer be fun, but tough work, for students who just entering high school. "So Miss Handen," Darby started talking without permission from the teacher. "Stacie Ellis is not here because she had to go to an aunt's funeral. Does that mean that it will count as two days off for her?" "Precisely," Miss Handen nodded. "But don't talk out of turn again." "But you said that under those conditions, the highest grade a student can attain for attendance is a B, and that will throw off Stacie's GPA. It's stupid that the school attendance affects someone's GPA, but it's far more stupid that today counts as double attendance. You know this will hurt Stacie and she's a perfect student otherwise. She's trying to get a full scholarship for college." "She shouldn't have missed today then. Tsk, tsk, tsk," Miss Handen said tauntingly. "Oh you mean, mean witch that cannot live a day on this earth without committing evil, dastardly crimes." Darby proceeded to spew vulgar, venomous words from her mouth that she even didn't know where they were coming from. "Out! Out! Out!" the flustered Marguerite said to the child. Jackie and most of the other students were in a state of shock, while Martha giggled, though she tried not to. "Oh, this is a trip," she whispered to Stacie's best friend, Carolyn. Suzanne was called. After obtaining her daughter from the principal's office and sitting her down in the car, she looked at her daughter seriously. "You cussed out the teacher?" Darby silently nodded, while a little tear rolled down her cheek. Suzanne threw back her head and bawled with laughter. "Honey, this is obscenely funny, however I'm going to have to give you a severe consequence." "Okay," Darby said bravely. "Well," hesitated Suzanne, "just in your head now, title an essay that you will have to write one hundred pages for." "When will it be due?" "Tonight before you go to bed." "But Mother I can't-" "No, no, think of the title. Got it?" "Wait...yeah. OK." "Write it down on some notebook paper." Darby did. "Now write one sentence." "One sentence? Oh OK." "Make it as concise as possible." "Concise. Good. I have one word." "One word, honey?" "Jonathan." "What?!" "Jonathan. It could be Jonathan or it could be a million pages." "What was the title?" "The Artist's Name. I wonder what it is." "It's like asking God's name. It's simply 'God', however there's lots of other Roman and Greek gods and such." "No, no. He's been labeled 'the Artist' but he's anonymous, yet he's someone. I've always wondered his name. "Why Jonathan?" Suzanne asked. "Because Jonathan is the name of someone noble and brave and strong. And he is noble and brave and strong. And the Artist is Jackie's favorite writer, because he instills truth and beauty into his work, and because he's good." "Enough talk of the Artist. He's dangerous." "Jackie says he's dangerous because the world is complacent and he brings change." "No," Suzanne said. "No, the world needs a Saviour. The world needs a leader. There's so much going on in the world that it is chaotic. What change does the Artist bring? If it were good, the world wouldn't resent it." "I guess I don't know. I thought you said to stop talking of the Artist." "OK." So the inevitable thing happened. Darby soon gathered with Jackie and Martha to discuss the possible name of the Artist. "I don't think Mom was satisfied with my naming the Artist Jonathan. It's too positive, maybe." "I think it's Frederick, cause it's, you know- artistic," Martha said. "You told your mom the Artist was my favorite writer?" asked Jackie. "Oh gosh. No, he's just a good writer. No, he's more. He's a good mentor, someone I would live my life like. A really good person. Godly. But he's done nothing personally for me. I'd call him Dylan. It sounds so distant." "Dylan, I kind of like that," Martha giggled. "You know, come to think of it, Stephen James is a more dignified name for an artist than Jonathan," Darby said. "But I'm sure his mother didn't know he'd be an artist, so she didn't give him a name with that much flair. That's probably why he doesn't reveal His name," Jackie said. "It'd be romantic if his name was something like Allen," Martha said. Darby and Jackie rolled their eyes. Allen Crosby was the name of the guy who took Martha to the fall dance and they had gone on three dates afterward. Jackie had politely taken Darby, but explained he had no interest in her. Suzanne remarked to Darby that she thought she and Jackie were queer or something of the like, because they both had no interest in the opposite sex. Darby had never been crazy about guys and had even gone through a phase of not speaking to any boys when she was eleven. Luckily it didn't last long, because she wouldn't even speak to Jackie and Suzanne was getting worried. She had said in a frustrated tone, “Jackie said ‘hi, what are you doing tonight?’ and you just walked past him. This has got to stop.” Darby was upset that her mother had referred to Jackie as being possibly queer though. "They call him a faggot at school sometimes," Darby said. "Some guys were sneering at the size of Jodie's breasts one day and Jackie, the religious guy he is, pointed out that women shouldn't be talked about that way. And everyone teases him, but he's only fourteen." "Only fourteen," Suzanne replied. "Honey, my parents wouldn't let me date 'til I was fifteen and I was miserable every day of my fourteen year-old existence. You just have feelings for the opposite sex at that age." Silence for a few seconds. "Was it because me and your dad broke up that you're afraid of relationships?" "No," said Darby. "Let's just stop talking about this." Chapter Three: The Undefinable Darby was required to read a biography about a scientist for school, so she continued reading that book on Isaac Newton that she had picked out. She loved the beginning, because it had a description of his childhood and his parents’ past. When he grew up though, the details of his life became increasingly dry and harder to understand. So he was the man who had discovered Calculus that all the smart-aleck kids wanted to put to death for his creation. He also discovered gravity. Darby thought about discovering gravity. She didn’t enjoy science that much, but she thought it would be neat to discover something that already existed, like gravity. What was something that was there, but had no name? Something so ordinary that people didn’t think of it at all. She thought of this until she was frustrated and decided to go to bed early. The next day at the lunch break, Jackie asked to speak to her alone in the library. “Why sure,” she agreed. “I hate to admit it, but I’m gay,” Jackie confessed. “No, you’re not,” Darby said incredulously. “Come on, you’re just not grown up yet.” Darby was hurt and surprised at her own emotions. She had always thought that gay people were wrong and had something wrong with them. She didn’t want to say something was wrong with Jackie. “Try to get over this,” Darby said. “But you’ll be my friend no matter what. I thought you were a Christian?” “I know.” “But Jackie, I thought your church preached against this.” “I know, but they also preached against girls. I had just never thought about them in that way. And there’s this guy I like now.” “Jackie, I love you. But please don’t talk about this anymore. This is too much for me to handle.” “Just don’t tell your mom about this.” “Ok.” Darby went into the girls’ restroom and started to cry. “What is wrong with him? I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but he has just got to stop this. Being gay is wrong.”