Posts Tagged ‘artistic passion’

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 8, 2013
Chipmunk on Windowsill

Chipmunk on Windowsill

Ralph Bunch Paints 6×10 Foot Chipmunk Portrait

(Episode 46)

  Ralph Bunch has never killed anyone.  And he probably never will.  And it’s doubtful anyone would ever want to kill Ralph.  So what’s his play?  Why shine our spot on him?

Well, life is fleeting (especially around Kimmel County of late) and art is forever.  So while life in Kimmel County wound on, Ralph Bunch kept painting his paintings, writing his poems and drinking his alcohol – all in a small hillside studio where he lived, just outside of town, looking down on the twinkling lights of Kimmel.  Ralph was fairly satisfied.

Ralph wouldn’t say things were going especially well.  But things rarely go especially well for painters and poets, and Ralph was “totally prepared for that” – bragging to his wife, who was pregnant with child, as much – just before she left him.

But that was water under the bridge.  The years passed.  And his paintings sold enough now to just about keep him fed.  (He was on the fighting side of 120 pounds.)

At his monthly art showing/poetry readings held in the bar in the back of the Campaign Café, his paintings often sold from three to four hundred a pop.  Then, he usually took in around sixty dollars in tips.  He wasn’t entirely without an entertainer’s wiles, and often pitched one of the exhibited paintings, by reading a poem in a voice somewhat reminiscent of John Gielgud.

The paintings and poems often were of someone – or something dear to someone – living there in the valley.   Which meant their wives and friends and relations would attend the fete.  And then the person’s mother or father or closest would purchase the painting.  On other occasions Ralph unveiled a commissioned piece.

The criticism of those who did not like the painting, often fell on the ‘painted while drunk’ side, with the comments those who did like the painting falling otherwise, and all of them drinking and getting a little more vocal as the evening progressed.  And this was how cultural life was conducted in Kimmel.

This cultural get-together was considered one of Kimmel’s more serious and proper occasions, often covered in the County Journal.  And it ranked just slightly below the Church Social as a place where a person could bring a ‘serious’ romantic interest.  Currently, Sheriff Leland was figuring just how he might invite Agent Hailey to attend with him, without it appearing too much to be what it was or would be, which was a date.

Anyway, recently Ralph was working on a large painting of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey.  He was squinting at the thing, while stepping back, trying his best to recover his original inspiration, and under a little time pressure to do so as the ‘opening’ was only 2 days away, when he caught movement in the blurry background where there, set on the mossy rock of the windowsill, was a chipmunk looking back at Ralph with an intensity Ralph had never felt in the face of any animal before.  Ralph blinked.  Then he blinked again, and kept blinking.

Ralph stepped further backwards, squinting at his work.  Then he found himself going through his cupboards looking for crackers and nuts and knocking things aside and chewing tops off.  Even later, he couldn’t recall quite what had come over him.

To be honest, the rest of the afternoon was a blur, with Ralph finding himself that evening surrounded by empty cracker cartons, paint tubes, broken brushes, snack bags and emptied cans of nuts, while on the easel in place of his nearly finished portrait of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey was a still wet 6 x 10 foot portrait of  the chipmunk – more or less.  It was probably the most intense thing Ralph had ever painted and probably supported the most paint Ralph had ever committed to one painting.  Paint covered Ralphs hands and elbows.  In the mirror, his face, looked as though someone had smeared war paint on him and then rubbed, and rubbed…  Ralph Bunch gazed around, still disoriented, as if recovering from a very vivid dream, under the bare bathroom light bulb and wiped a dribble of sweat from his nose.

The actual chipmunk, meanwhile, had disappeared.

Photo by Carl Nelson


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