Posts Tagged ‘Ralph’

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 17, 2013
Ralph couldn't get the head right.

Ralph couldn’t get the head right.

Opening Night Jitters

(Episode 50)

            Ralph Bunch still didn’t feel quite himself Thursday morning as he hung his show in the back room of the Campaign Café.  He’d tried calling the Everlee’s to see if they could postpone the unveiling of the prize Guernsey till next month, but Cynthia Everlee had pleaded with him to try and finish.  It was to be for George Everlee’s 50th birthday and people were driving from some distance to attend.  So under deadline, Ralph was still painting as it hung on the wall.  He’d been up all night and the past day, and drinking coffee mixed with a little Three Feathers Whiskey to keep him from getting too jangled.  And he had kept at it but couldn’t get the heifer’s head at all right – in fact, not even close to right, and in the flurry was smearing and dribbling paint.

It was a matter of likeness – the lowest of all aesthetic indicators to an artist Ralph felt, but one of the highest to a patron.  It kept looking like a squirrel!  Or maybe it just ‘felt’ like a squirrel.  Ralph didn’t know.  Whatever it was, Ralph just couldn’t hit it on the sweet spot where everything felt done and…  well, Guernsey-like!  ‘For Pete’s sake!’ Ralph swore at himself, ‘You ought to know a Guernsey.’

Ralph walked backwards with his eyes squinted.   Then he walked forwards with his eyes squinted, and then extra wide open, and then squinted again and made an adjustment – all the while nibbling nuts.  Which was the problem really, ‘he really didn’t feel like himself’.  He rarely nibbled nuts.

Painting this way felt like trying to drive a narrow,  twisting alley, while seated sideways in the driver’s seat.  ‘Damn!’ if he just couldn’t  feel with his brush, where that heifer was anymore.  He was losing – or had lost – his ability to feel Guernsey.

With this realization came an electric bolt of fear running from his bottommost shakra right up his backbone causing him to splatter even more paint.   Because losing the ability to think Guernsey in dairy country could be devastating.  He was going to starve and then to die – cold and alone, maybe even sober.  Every unsuccessful artist realizes this.   “If if must happen, then it will happen.”  That’s what the Realists all say.   But Ralph Bunch had tried his best, until now, to ignore all the signs.

He sucked down some more coffee, shut his eyes tight, then opened them.  He must have painted 500 Guernseys  in this life; he gripped the brush  tightly.  He could do one more!

Painting by Ralph Bunch

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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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