How could ONE
know that trust and love in such a contract of honor implies suspicion and hate?
trust means that you can give and take all measures
one can do just that.
Yet who can be more savage to pride than one's dearest friend?
If friendship is a fragile bridge that can be swept away in the flood of human
must surely be
a crystal tight rope,
as dangerous to walk on …………………………………as it is to fall off.
and Leila had started a pattern in their mutual course, taking each other for
granted. It was the classic problem.
very nature of such confident conspiracy they lost the gentle sensitivity of
lovers and the eyes of dreamers.
longer saw the potential that in being together they were a complete circle, a
whole against the fractions of mediocrity.
their path together, small careless words had grown into cruel tangles of
spirits silently separated.
long months, then years, they did not recognize each other because they had not
bothered to look.
lost the trust of their oneness, accepting the condition of their division as
prisoners know the bars of the cell block.
contained each other with toleration.
difficult it is to laugh at one's own predicament, but some would say, marriage
is about having an agreeable tormentor. Having a phantom in your soul is a
tormentor no one can agree with…
back of his mind…she was still there…Martina…damn…damn…Martina…
agreed with Leila. “Yeah, I guess it's kind of crazy to come all the way
and find this frig’n hole in the mountain. Here we are in the beautiful
Mediterranean living in an old truck surrounded by stinking goats. Ah, but
on the good side of things there doesn't seem to be any overcrowding - lots of
privacy unless you don't like goats.” He no longer felt like arguing.
Maybe Leila was right, but his failure silently steamed.
The decision was made to leave
accumulation of junk and return to Ajaccio.
Leila said they could take
offer who WAS RFAPIDILY REPLAING MARTINA… stay with her until they found a house. Perhaps Tara
could start school. It would help to have a base and then they could begin
to look for work.
Leila repeated, “You have to think of someone other than yourself
You have to think of your daughter for once.”
The easiest thing to do at this point was to agree.
wanted peace. He was giving up the idea of living in the Land Ship but
felt it was also his last chance of living a Gypsy dream and leaving all of his
nightmares behind. He thought to himself, God damn it -- always the
fucking crossroads. He clamped his hands on the steering wheel and pointed
the truck back up to goat track. As the Land Ship climbed out of the hole
…THE sound of crashing glass was an accompanying miserable melody.
Christ. My dishes!” screamed Leila.
Something else would replace the pain she suffered this moment. She didn't
have to wait long. Within 4 hours Leila fell to Les Gripe.
they went directly to
where Leila came down with the bug.
was the donor. She was bound to bed with fever as desperately ill as
had been. For three days she drifted in and out of cold sweats in a
darkened room on the second floor at the corner of Ajaccio's
busiest intersection. The noise of the traffic vibrated through the closed
shutters and banged mercilessly at her mind.
would look in and ask, “Have you died yet Sweetheart?”
While Leila was in bed,
were drawn together with only the space of circumstance between them. Lust was
being there made it too awkward to take the sensations any further than
conscious recognition. They used the time to penetrate each other
intellectually… in the best manner of Freudian sublimation. They talked about
art and what an artist has to be; the struggle to make a living selling
something that has no practical use except for the imagination.
said, “There is money to make in Ajaccio
doing large murals!”
raised his eyebrows. He had been looking at a wall across the street from
where they were sitting in the Cafe Ajaccio.
waiters looked at
Wasn't he the Queer they had seen stalking the men’s toilets? And what now?
Here he was talking to the woman, who of course everybody knew was a notorious
man eater. Very interesting...
looked at their wayward glances but his thoughts were filled with the wall he
could see across the street.
a long wooden wall, a construction barrier made of eight foot upright planks
running the full length of the town plaza. It surrounded an excavation
site which in the future would be in underground parking lot.
pointed towards the plaza and said, “There is a wall.”
said smiling. “I think we can do it. C'est magnific, but of course we need
idea was a good device to keep them together until the early hours of the next
morning, long after the rest of the small Corsican world had gone to sleep.
Two People's words could be passed quietly through curious lips.
Leila was in squeaked with the noise of her restlessly tossing in her solitary
suffering. Fevered thoughts kept asking, Where was that man?
The bed was wet from sweat. There was nothing to do but wait and groan.
Minutes were hours.
came in just before dawn light. He tried to make her comfortable but there
was little he could do. He had lived through it and so would she but telling her
that brought no comfort. She groaned and put her head under the pillow to
block out further medical analysis.
ONLY 3 WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
would take Tara
on walks through the town.
they could play being tourists by looking in shop windows.
stared at incredibly expensive trinkets and rags displayed like eye hooks for
refused to think about the purchase of any of these objects, but the little girl
couldn't understand. She wanted them. Her little life had been deprived of
any such gaudy luxuries.
look at the coat, it's so beautiful.”
could see the desire in her eyes.
him to know there was no way possible to have any of the things she was looking
at even if he did consider it all as capitalist consumer junk plot.
deterred his own thoughts and her demands by inventing games of make believe,
tricking her from window to window until in the process they came across a toy
begged to go inside just to look at them.
gave in to her pleading. Once inside Tara
instantly fell in love with a horrible plastic doll and insisted on having it.
grabbed the toy from her hands. “I said no and no means no.”
tears in her eyes, he took her by the hand and pulled her down the street to a
sweet shop. He put two francs in her hand and told her she could buy
something special. Tara's
eyes opened wide and her beautiful child smile swept away the sadness. The
doll was forgotten.
was sitting at the Cafe Ajaccio when
returned. Sitting next or her was a mustachioed man with a pipe hanging
from his face.
introduced him. “Santiago
this is Felix Rodin, the Arts Officer for Corsica.
He is part of the Ministry of Culture of France.”
saw a sly wink from
The man gave
a broad strong hand and with a pipe still clinched in his yellowed teeth,
began telling Felix the story of the two talented artists she had recently met.
“You can help them get something together. Your department has money.
needs this kind of stimulus. There is no one here that does their kind of
work. There are places all over the city that need art.”
rocked back in the metal chair and locked his fingers together around a raised
knee as he launched his defense. “Bon alors,” he said beginning a bureaucratic
monologue in French.
“It is difficult to put ideas forward.
Problems, problems… the nationalists… the socialist… of course the communists.
The city government is worse... naturally there are always the fanatics of the
F.L.N.C. and they are trouble you can believe me. Let me tell you, they
can be dangerous too. I do not think it is a safe notion to put foreign
artists under such risk. Yes always problems…
you know Corsica
is a very special place...”
did not have the slightest idea of what they were talking about other than to
assume it was to do with him and art. The sound of the man even in a language he
did not understand had the droning a tone of electrical tubing in the house of
pleaded, “But Felix you know very well that the F. L. N. C. only direct
activities towards the French or capitalist pigs who want to drain the island of
its blood. Certainly, sometimes they execute drug dealers or child molesters,
but they have no interest in artists --especially artists like these people who
want to give something to Corsica.”
slapped his flat hand on the table making the coffee cups dance on their
saucers. “Yes, yes, but there is very little I can personally do! You must
realize it is my duty to support Corsican artists first. It would be a
tremendous scandal and there is even more to it than that of course. Yes, let me
tell you! Just last week I had a bomb go off in my stairwell and where do
you think but in front of my own door! Naturally they are trying to scare
me. It even happens at work. Two of my own co-workers are nationalists and
for sure you know they are F. L. N. C., and I tell you, they block everything I
try to do. Seventeen years I have been on this island and I am still
French to them. I cannot move with any certainty in my job…c’est tous merde!”
understood the last exclamation and began to get interested in an argument which
promised soon to be a fight.
tapped both of her hands on to the table drumming in unison with bullet words.
Her voice became agitated. “But Felix you had 300,000 Francs last year,
and you did nothing with it. “Yes it is all MERDE for certain!”
hands were tied,” pleaded Felix.
them up your ass,” shouted
grabbing the edge of the table. “you did nothing with the money. You
gave it back to the government! ”
thinking any moment the table would be thrown over like a cowboy bar fight.
He began to smile thinking; this is the way to deal with bureaucrats.
suddenly leaned over the table, his forehead tipped aggressively. “There you
are! You think I did nothing. I tell you I couldn't move. The
Corsicans are the ones to be blamed. I was waiting for a favorable
proposal and what do I get? Nothing! I get nothing. No one
presented me any idea that was worth presenting to the Ministry. Not one!
Not one Corsican artist came up with one idea...”
knuckles were turning white beating her hands on the table and
grabbed the cups as they bounced towards the edge. She continued, “But
there were several proposals that we sent you from the Association. And
you big fat arts officer didn't even look at them! We had many ideas!”
voice was drowned by the heavier base tone of Felix as he protested, “No, no,
no! I could not put forth any of those. None were from a Corsican
artists...everyone in your Association is from the mainland. You know very well
the situation and I am in. My hands are tied. I am blocked left and
had never been in the middle of a Mediterranean confrontation. The hair on the
back of his neck tingled. He continued smiling even though it was becoming
slightly embarrassing. He looked around the cafe and saw that no one was
paying the slightest attention to the spectacle.
wrinkled his face, “Maybe the Communists mayor of Sartene can help. They
like to support, yes, what you call public art...”
screamed and then banged the coffee cups into the air again. “You mean if
very talented artists arrive in Ajaccio
by the hand of fate we should send them to another town? That is incredible.”
began to smile, “Okay, really what can I do? You tell me just what.
Believe me; I know they are worth having, and I personally support the idea of
having, what do you call it… these kinds of catalysts from the professional
fields. Yes, for example just last year I brought the Italian sculptor
yes, to the top of the mountain so he could crack one big rock that no one will
ever see and no one has even heard about. You make art experiments so completely
public and so completely safe!”
arched his back while taking the pipe out of his mouth, “But you know he is a
very important minimal sculptor and he is internationally known. He has
sculptures in New
and the pigeons CRAP on it. Fantastic Felix, you have such extraordinary vision
Felix looked foolishly towards
“Really, I am blocked. What can I do? I would like to help some way if
only you could tell me...”
grabbed the sleeve of Felix's Chinese worker’s jacket and said smiling, “We can
help them in another way you know. “
tilted his head. “How is that?” He put his pipe back in its orifice
and walked his fingers around his crossed right knee again.
noticed he was going into a fetal position.
flashed the slightest smile to
but he still did not have a clue what was happening.
and his wife need a place to work and a place to live -- probably only for a
couple of months. They can work in my studio -- as for a house, you have a
house you don't use.”
let his hands fall to his side like heavy plucked chickens. “But naturally, it
is no problem. They can have my house, it is theirs today.”
smiled the sweetest of smiles. “Fantastic.”
was in a mood. He didn't like the idea of the free house. Leila
pulled herself out of the sick bed. He told her of the episode in the cafe.
said, “I don't know. I don't want to get into that kind of compromise.”
was in a bad mood.
words irritated her more. She countered, “At least it would be worth time
to look at. It sounds nice in the country. Ajaccio
is so noisy.” She actually didn't care where the house was or what it was
like. She did not want to live in a rolling tin can. The Land Ship
could sink to hell.
protested, “It would be different if we could pay rent. Then we could at
least imagine it was ours from month-to-month.”
what you want,” said Leila. She went back to bed more depressed than sick with
process of several house changes,
and Leila had made arrangements with people sharing expenses or working for rent
such as care taking or other progressions of communal living. The deals
had never worked out. The last house they shared with a friend had
concluded in a fistfight. Leila said it was
fault because of his bullheaded attitude and noisy machinery. In another
large mansion they rented a room from an eccentric English scientist. After only
a week, a note was pushed under their door. It read: Vacate immediately. You
are not compatible. Leila was very angry because it was a lovely house.
She held a grudge towards
not the scientist.
grudge was carried from one eviction to another.
had no need to go through the process again. Their life was too crazy and
something was bound to happen. It always did. This kind of free
house was a premeditated disaster. On the other hand Leila was hell to
live with and especially in the eight by sixteen foot box on the back of the
didn't know what to do.
Leila yelled from
temporary bedroom. “Come here I want to talk.”
came in immediately, guilty, feeling caught by the tone of her voice. Had
she heard the whispering of the night before?
not going to live in the truck! You can if you want, but I want a house.
I want a normal house with a kitchen and bedrooms. I do not want to live in the
shoe box. Do you understand?”
almost felt relieved. He sat for a moment saying nothing wondering if the
house was all there was to it.
“Well?” Demanded Leila.
he thought. “Okay, we might as well look at it...I guess it won't hurt.”
Leila said sinking back into the sweaty pillow.
made arrangements to visit the house a few days later. They piled into the
Land Ship and drove over the foothills of Ajaccio
and into the next valley.
directed the way to The Gulf of Lava. They soon had to leave the main
road, going down a trenched rut, nearly as bad as the goat trail they had found
earlier in the mountains.
was morose. The view he saw was a deserted and burned land from fires that had
raged the year before. Leila was rapidly losing confidence.
think it's up this road,”
said pointing at the two tire tracks wandering off into the maquis.
aimed the Land Ship up the hill, following the vague impressions in the earth.
“Oh CRAP,” he cursed as they went over crest and down a deep embankment
surrounded by blackened chestnut trees. As they bumped over a ridge he uttered
the hippie ultimate, “Wow! Far out.”
under the shade of an ancient chestnut tree was a beautiful stone house with
large glass windows. It was a dream house.
said. He was impressed.
“Lovely,” Leila said smiling.
more fantastic inside,” purred
“We have had some incredible celebrations here.”
great! Let's party!"
no! What next?” said Leila.
and Leila accepted the idea of the house, ingested it and saw the ultimate fate.
couldn't believe it was possible. There had to be a catch. That
evening he went with
to have supper at Felix's town apartment. Leila was feeling rough again
and she preferred to stay in bed. She would keep Tara
was happy to be out for the night, a chance to be alone for awhile with
There was only the meeting to get through.
was hyper as she drove her beat-up Renault on a crash course through Ajaccio,
zipping up into the hills overlooking the city. “Don't worry about the
house,” she said to
“Felix is really a nice guy, and you know there is no problem anyway, because he
never uses his country house -- you'll probably never see him.”
come he doesn't use the house?”
think it is some...what you call some kind of psychological thing. He
worked on the house for 15 years, for him and his family to move into and what
you think happened?”
asked as paranoia surfaced
completely mad. The day he put the last work on the house his wife ran off with
a Corsican fishermen. Complete French madness.”
laughed again as she gunned the car up and through the tree-lined curves. “Don't
worry! I think you'll never see Felix there because he hates the place.”
face and wishing they could go somewhere else. He kept looking at lonely
side roads as
laughed and teased him with a smile. The fifteen minute journey was side-tracked
for an hour.
welcomed them at the door of his apartment and in a half an hour and
was already on his fourth glass of hard Corsican peasant wine.
Charlotte and Felix did all the talking while
set like a dried insect caught in the hot tubes of an ancient radio. Felix
had a teenage son and daughter and occasionally one of them would try out their
school English on
then blush with the attempt.
smiled and chatted back to them feeling slightly more comfortable.
voice was in a bureaucratic tone while
flicked glances at
her eyes telling him, don't worry. After several hours of talk, plates of
pasta and chicken and several bottles of wine,
wasn't worried. He was feeling like a laughing Buddha.
Suddenly the sound of Felix came to stop.
thought he could hear buzzing in the room. Felix put his hands on his
knees and with his after dinner pipe clinched in his teeth, he jutted his chin
and said, “Quesque tu ponce?”
Ah, what did you say?”
looked helplessly towards
said he wants you to take the house and what do you think?”
translated shaking her head positively.
said, drunk enough to have forgotten why they were there. “Oh yeah, but as well,
tell him that me and Leila need some time to think it over... we always like to
have lots of our friends come and stay with us... and what's more... that big
old truck of mine will tear the hell out of his little road... and anyway I got
all this noisy machinery and stuff which usually drives people fucking crazy.”
spoke rapidly for a moment. She then smiled at
and fired her 20th cigarette.
made expansive gestures with his fat hands and kept repeating the first French
came to understand in its full irony, “Pas de probleme.” Finally he stopped,
stood up and held out of his hand smiling.
as she went and got their jackets.
minute they were hugging on their way back to the Renault.
was laughing while
was kissing her fondly on the neck and face. They stumbled across the
street to the car where
around into his arms and kissed her wetly on the mouth.
away, but smiled coquettishly. “Santiago
you are going to be in big trouble.”
got into the car and started back to
head was fuzzy from all of the wine. The kiss to
made him want to continue in another direction, but soberness began to come over
him. He wondered what the evening had been about other than the small
was it,” he said, “I mean what's going on... does he really want us to move into
wondered if the idea of Corsica
made any sense. Now that they had a house, he wasn't really sure he wanted
your house to do what you want to do until March,” said
distrusted charity more than ever.
said as the car shot into space.
was how they could spend the rest of the evening together.
week the family was set up in the country home and Leila was actually smiling.
Day by day their life was taking focus, due to the manipulations of
She had been busy.
arranged day they were altogether sitting in the office of Madame Franccioni,
the Chairwoman of the City Council and the Ajaccio's
cultural coordinator. She was a charming Corsican version of Zza Zza
Gabor, complete with clinking jewelry and the waft of expensive perfume. Hidden
lines of distinguished wrinkles were under layers of pink powder. Her
cheeks only hinted old-age-droop. Madame Franccioni in her youth had been a
natural beauty but now she was fortified in cosmetic maintenance. The rumor was
she was at least seventy years old. She was famous for her affairs with
noticed her bedroom eyes above hands dotted with liver spots. For an
old broad she wasn't bad, he thought. Hmmmm…Maybe
martina looks like her now…
set on her father's knee being innocently beauty.
disappeared inside his own head thinking how sex would be with an older woman.
had told him to smile as often as possible for Madame Franccioni. Male
adulation was part of her bribery. He flashed a smile.
Franccioni although appearing to be listening to
gently turned and batted her long attached eyelashes for
cats and fumbled with the photo journal of their art work which was lying on her
desk. An embarrassment rapidly covered his face half due to his ignorance
of French -- not knowing what to say while the other half was the awkward
revelation of the ridiculous comedy in front of him.
was not accustomed to a glamorous elderly official and the subtlety of French
30 minutes the quartet of beggars had found the bone at the great ladies door.
As they walked to the Cafe Ajaccio to celebrate
said, “I think it is for certain you have work now! The Madame was very charmed
with your smile.”
least he kept his tongue quiet for a while,” Leila said.
oui, the strong silent stranger,” laughed
“But you know all the good luck comes from Tara's
lovely red hair and freckles. C'est vrai, the Madame was very charmed.”
Franccioni had political punch in her diamond-ringed fingers. The next afternoon
permission was obtained from the mayor's office to paint the boards and
surrounding the Central
Place de Gaulle. That was the good news. The bad news was the city
would give only enough money to buy the paint. No wages and no fee.
"Merde! Maybe something else will come."
like they'll let us paint all the lines on the highways for free too, but they
will supply the paint."
la. You are so... how do you say...skeptical?"
it means a sucker is born everyday."
and Leila looked at each other and both of them thinking, what else was there to
next day the three artists began planning the mural. The work came together in
the oddest three-way balance -- two up-tight liberated feminists and one
old-fashioned macho chauvinist trying to hang on to his balls. It
was an artistic combination one could not ignore. The women were
attractive and intelligent and the man was a crazy dreamer. All three had
the magic ingredient - a mysterious thing some people call talent.
The word talent means nothing at all. Having talent does not create or
define an artist. It is the same to say if one has a sword; one must be a
warrior -- to imply there is no importance of the razor edge of decision, the
balance of a thrust, or the movement in dance that guides the sword to its mark.
But the talent that held the strange trio together was there. Perhaps it
was coincidence that had brought them together, and only by accident they
collaborated. One thing is certain -- not one of them could accept a dull
reality. They would rather leap off a precipice and die than to stand at
its edge and worry if they might fall. Talent is the magic thing that is the
difference between genius and mediocrity.
the next few weeks the three of them organized designed and began the actual
work on to the wall. It was an uncomplicated plan, one that
and Leila had done in variations many times before. To
it was an adventure, but it would turn into hard work. Words had to be
backed up with physical labor and that was excruciating for her.
wall was a wooden partition made of Corsican pine. It surrounded a pit
that had been excavated in the heart of the Ajaccio.
Originally the city square was called the Place Diamond, but with the victory in
the political career of the famous general it had been renamed Place de Gaulle.
In true Corsican obstinacy most Ajaccions continued to call it by the former
name. Now the square was sunk 20 meters into the ground and filled with
the activities of ant-like men and concrete mixing machines. The
authorities said it was to be an underground parking space. It was the French
thing to do -- retaining the beauty of an open town square.
believed it was paranoia in the nuclear age and the city masters were
constructing themselves a convenient bomb shelter.
wooden fence kept innocent onlookers from tumbling into the pit although its
presence was served best in the early hours of the morning.
literary artists found this large wall the most ideal space to spray their
poetry and party aspirations. LIBERTY
-- F.L.N.C. -- EQUALITY -- merde
The slogans were usually painted on top of posters advertising rock concerts or
washing machine sales. The City cleansing department facilitated this
exercise in generous corporation by continually pulling off shreds of paper and
repainting the surface a natural wood tone and thereby providing a new blank
surface. This allowed the next onslaught of words and symbols to be radiantly
obvious until a few days later when once again the blank surface would be buried
by an avalanche of new posters and obscenities.
carpenters who had made this civil defense unconsciously benefited public
curiosity by their economy of wood. Large gaps big enough to allow huge
rats and small cats to pass through also gave a fair space for the questioning
eye. The wall was a monster picket fence -- not a wall any artist would
consider a perfect paint surface.
looked at the 100 meters of splintered wood and wondered what in the hell he had
got himself into. He hardly felt like Rembrandt with this ragged canvas
that was mutilated by public vulgarity and sliced by fingers of space. But
it was a wall and that meant to there was work to do, and he had no better
answer than the cliché of the mountain climber -- because it is there.
"Stop being so pompous," Leila said.
The three artists talked at length about how the project should be handled.
had ideas of getting other artists involved, each having an individual space and
painting in their own fashion. There was no argument against it from
even though the suggestion revolted him. California-hippie-buses came to
mind. But why worry? What other artists would be crazy enough to
volunteer over the split planks?
all I want to do is transform the whole thing -- that ugly hag of a wall will
become a beautiful lady," he said.
buried himself in the sunny lastdays of November and December in the dusty
coffin shaped kitchen of
studio. He was grinding wood with his screaming-devil-machine again. The
two women visited schools and organized parties of little children to help paint
The design on the long thin wall would stretch across the entire Plaza. It
would portray Corsican people from the past to the future. Background
landscapes would be painted directly onto the wooden planks while the images of
people were painted on separate shaped panels and superimposed across the
scenery. The ragged canvass would be sewed together.
was one large problem to the solution. It meant finding huge amount of
milled lumber, cutting and painting all of the separate shapes on the budget of
"Everything is possible,"
said. She had the conviction of a child dreaming. "We have weeks.
It will be finished by the 23rdDecember.
Pas de problem."
days were like torture for all three -- awful days of machine dust filling the
cursing what he put himself into -- Leila cursing having to work with another
woman -- Charlotte cursing having to work at all.
felt like he was back in combat -- the electric monster held in his hand was a
machine gun, and his trigger-finger chewed away the wood. Dust seeped
everywhere, under doors, down halls, any into the adjacent apartments of people
who could care less about art -- pieces of wood were piled in every corner of
the studio – painted sections were scattered over work tables -- stacks of
completed boards would soon be attached to the fence.
final days came and they overshot the December deadline they had imposed on
themselves -- just a few days until Christmas and the release of schoolchildren
– children that had to be organized at the fence – the fence that would become a
mural – a masterpiece that
knew was his calling card.
Suddenly one-hundred children were at the site -- all of them wanted to paint at
the same time. In front of the children’s eyes,
ran with a can of black spray paint hurriedly adding outlines to a
larger-than-life coloring book.
rolled up her sleeves and pulled the small hands out of the paint pots.
abandoned the chaos, crossed the street to Café Ajaccio, smoked cigarettes and
talked about the meaning of art.
creative holocaust continued for several hours until finally the school teachers
marched the children away like army-ants. The wall was now a mural.
three artists came together on the last day, Christmas Eve. They were silent,
intent, brooding and ignoring each other while smashing paintbrushes and hammers
against a wooden wall as if to inflict pain on images overlapped in naiveté and
were moments in these last few hours when it would seem that each found in the
work something unique and beautiful, but suddenly it would turn and became
monstrous -- grotesque images created by nasty little children. The mural
became a Frankenstein. The three each separately wished to runaway and
forget it had ever happened. Then out of the streets of Ajaccio
strangers and friends arrived and told them it was a magnificent work of art.
They said it was a wonderful mural and in the spirit of Christmas. The
three artists had mutual skepticism of such praise. It was the twilight of
Christmas Eve when the three put their final touches to the wall. It was
stood in front of the colorful mural and laughed at a Polaroid photo an admirer
had given them. It showed them in the midst of one of their worst
arguments. Problems, blood and angry words spilled across their mixed up
lives and more than once the making of the mural was the creation of fury.
It was all too evident in the photograph, but now they could laugh. It was
done and better, it was adopted in the last days of its birth by the people of
The people's identity was fixed to it. 250 children had splattered paint
on this public work of art. The newspapers, the television, even the radio
had proclaimed positive sentiments. Who would dare say their children's
art was ugly? The three artists had a very different thoughts about what
they had just created, but
calling card was presented to Corsica.
Christmas is the time of year when life bubbles over the plot of one's own
particular circumstances but it is more subtle on a Catholic island in the
The small towns of the island are far away from the crushed velvet darkness of
British snob stores like Harrods, or the glass and plastic Mall-America of manic
consumerism. 20th century shopping speedways had not yet arrived in Corsica.
the merchants of mass-materialism are as ubiquitous as the flowers in the
maquis. Yet in some way the birth of Jesus and the joy of giving are still a
human story in Corsica.
On this island people walk around and smile at Christmas time. They are
sharing an ancient ritual. The Catholic Church has something to do with this
fact but not in a religious sense. Simply, people gather as though it is a
party for friends. The church is a family salon.
Christmas is gentle in Corsica.
Maybe it is because the food is good, the wine is drinkable and a warm sun
allows people to walk slowly in the street. There is no reason to hurry
from the cold winds that pull people's faces tight in the far northern lands. On
a December day one may linger at sidewalk cafes and sip bitter black coffee
while feeling that the eye of God beam on their cheek. It is comfortable.
In the daylight hours the people find many friends on the street. They
talk of pleasant diversions. It is too difficult to think of the great
purchase marathon. No, it is better to spend your time to talk, to be
and Leila gathered in the scattered paintbrushes, the half-empty paint tins and
took a long last look at the mural stretching 300 hundred feet into the darkness
of the evening.
had gone off to take a shower and they were to meet her again in a few minutes
at Cafe Ajaccio.
Christmas Eve, four days past the schedule
said they would make. But now the mural was completed and before them
stood long painted picture with dozens of sculpted figures dancing in the light
of the street lamps.
doesn't look so bad,"
said. He knew he was not entirely responsible for the mural, yet inwardly
he knew it was his doing and he was proud of it. There were a few loose
ends and some parts unbalanced. "But
and her frig’n blue sky in the middle of the orange landscape." He knew it was
the best they could do in a few weeks with no money. His eyes swept down
the band of color looking for rough or lost rhythms, ticks of broken
brushstrokes or other amateurish mistakes. When he saw them he would
wince. The work was not perfect but they were at the end of time -- they
all had agreed to stop on Christmas Eve no matter how it looked.
don't know why
put that blue there," Leila said.
very French -- kind of Van Gogh in cornfields." Once again he found
himself switching positions and defending
even though he agreed with Leila.
times over the last six weeks he had been caught between the little wars of
and Leila. Unconsciously he would slip to the side of
usually feeling what she said made sense. Leila greeted such wavering
allegiance as treason. By consequence
would be given cold Scottish shoulders at bed time and silence in the morning.
Then a day later the balance would swing in their three-way confederacy.
Leila would discover
backing her up in an argument with
about some detail of color or composition.
didn't stand a chance under their combined assaults. He had no choice but to
raise a flag of truce and agree to their demand of tribute. He would
become sullen which would make the two women tug at his ears and remark how
handsome he was while dragging him across the street for a drink at the cafe
were like children full of bravado and excited hearts that bled too easily.
They wounded each other by the small darts they shot. It was a love-hate
game and tolerated each other with alternate spasms of jealousy and liberty.
The little girl was at the center of their rolling lives. Tara
was the innocent observer who kept the trio in their respectful roles.
and Leila, stayed the parents while
was like an angelic Auntie. But if Tara
had not been there, the intrigue of coupling and lust would have been
predictable. The only question was who would couple with whom. Leila was warmed
heat as much as
clock did its work. It took them through a French Christmas Eve dinner party.
They slurped down delicious slippery oysters while breathing in the succulent
aroma of Corsican wild boar. Empty bottles of hearty Corsican red wine and
delicate French champagne stood on the table. They had young hearts and
laughed at the stories of Corsican bandit tales.
came in and out of the room directing her current lover how to coordinate the
meal while improvising seduction on a man standing in line, waiting to be
chosen. A new game plan was being designed in front of everybody's eyes.
had no embarrassment in switching lovers.
better to end a love-affair while it is alive than breathing the foul air of
said. She looked across the table at her next conquest standing in the
doorway. In front of one lover she was running to the arms of his replacement.
It was very French. But like all simple stories there are always the
is free, especially freedom.
was on the downhill slope to forty and the lover she was ditching was nearly
twenty years her junior. She understood his fickle youth and knew it was
better to end the romance than suffering his ultimate boredom. Besides, it
was far more dramatic to make the first move, to not lose dignity. She
knew that an older woman holds a young man's roving eye best in the dim
candlelight and satin sheets of .
The light of dawn was coming and the spell would soon be over.
would not be caught in that moment. The act of the beheading her lover was
as quick as the guillotine.
had made the transition and her love bed was being made for the stand-in.
He was a quiet man – his friends called him the Silence. He did
nothing to bend the patterns of the trio.
was unaware of his presence unless she needed a light for her cigarette.
trio accompanied with the Silence were invited to a New Year party in the villa
of a wealthy art patron. It was on the Bay
an Italian style mansion on a rich hump of land half circled with palm lined
shore shores. Below the south veranda was the large walled estate of an
American rock star that died at the height of his career. Jim Morrison was
dead but they were all alive, drunk, and dancing.
was dangerous and distracted. The young lover she had rejected was sitting
in the library having a very cozy chat with a very young and very beautiful
creature. Her young erect nipples were pointed up on her fine silk blouse.
fired missile-eyed hostility into the corner where they sat.
found the whiskey and was losing himself in its warm wash. The host of the
party was content to pour the burning liquid and joined
on the journey down stream.
had found Jean Simon and they were doing dance acrobatics to a bumping disco
beats while other French couples around the room danced stiff slow motion to
avoid sweating in their expensive clothes.
and other small children had been sent off with a professional nanny to the
games-room and they were happily watching the antiques of a heavy metal band
making obscene movements on a television special. The children laughed.
The painted black and white masks of KISS looked like clowns to them.
The night swirled and suddenly it was New Year. Everybody kissed.
Leila went to the children's room and found
wrapped in the power of sleep. She bent over her little angel and kissed
her gently on the forehead.
was in the kitchen holding
drunkenly in his arms. "What you need is a crazy man -- give me a little chaos
with your lips."
Charlotte poured liquid laugh over Santiago but her eye's caught the last
glimpse of her rejected love slipping out the back door with the young erect
nipples. The Silence looked on with total devotion to the woman who hardly knew
he was there. Across the bay fireworks exploded reflections on to black