Friday, March 29, 2013

#20 - Coffee with an Angel


#20 - Coffee with an Angel

            Bartholomew swung through the door of the coffee shop and saw The Nanny waving at him.  She was beautiful. Her blonde hair was up in a bun exposing her long porcelain neck and strong jaw line.  She wore a buttoned blue blouse, a pair of tight jeans and cowboy boots.  Her eyes were a bright fiery blue – as if they held the light of heaven.  The only remnant of her previous Goth attire was the over-large cross necklace of which Bartholomew could see the top before it disappeared into her blouse. 

            At the sight of Bartholomew, a smile spread across The Nanny’s face.  She stood up and welcomed Bartholomew with a hug – a BIG, looong hug.  He barely noticed the cross imbedding into his chest.

            “I am so happy you could make it,” said The Nanny as she sat back down.

            Bartholomew sat down across the small round table from her.  “Yeah, happy to be here.  I'm glad you could finally fit me into your schedule.”

            “I'm so sorry about that,” she said with a sympathetic look in her eyes.  “Things have been much busier than I could handle.”

            “Dog-sitting?” asked Bartholomew with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

            “Yes!  Oh it has been amazingly more work than I ever imagined,” said The Nanny with such enthusiasm in her voice and eyes that Bartholomew's sarcasm faded.  “But I think I have finally figured it out.  I know what should happen now.”

            Bartholomew didn't understand what she meant but moved on to the subject he wanted to discuss with her.  “What happened to Geraldine?  Why didn't you tell me she was missing?”

            “Yes, she is missing. Oh… does that bother you?”

            “Does it bother me?  Does it bother me?!  Yes, it bothers me!  Geraldine was a nice girl.  All right, she was crazy, sex-starved and would take advantage of every situation, but there was a nice side to her, too.”

            The Nanny smiled-- seemed pleased about something. 

            “Geraldine is missing!  Why are you so happy?!” Bartholomew almost yelled. 

            The Nanny said nothing but stared at Bartholomew with such sparkling eyes and such beautiful skin and such full-bodied hair and such positive energy and...  Her presence was disarming, as if her whole soul was there to do nothing but love and support someone.  Bartholomew couldn't help but think how different she was when he had met her at Gerald's house.  Her black Goth clothes and dark eyeliner were gone.  More importantly, he sensed that her attitude was completely different.  Before she seemed to be waiting.  The Nanny previously was disciplining and corralling Gerald's sons and daughter, as if keeping them in line until something else happens.  But now, The Nanny was purposeful.  She seemed focused, honed-in and ready to do whatever it was she was meant to do after a long delay.  This made her very happy, full of life and much larger than Bartholomew's anger or cynicism. 

            “Bartholomew, would you be relieved if Geraldine walked through that door right now?”

            “Well, wha... of course.  I don't want anything bad to happen to her.”

            “Bartholomew, would you feel something in your heart, something beyond politeness and kindness, if Geraldine were to walk in that door and sit right down at our table?” asked The Nanny staring unflinchingly into Bartholomew's eyes.

            Bartholomew did not answer.  What was The Nanny getting at, he wondered.  Wanting an answer, The Nanny reached across the table and put her hand on Bartholomew's.  There it was again, the feeling Bartholomew had when he first met her, when she had first put her hand on his arm – he wanted to share everything with her.

            “Yes, yes, I would feel something in my heart,” said Bartholomew.  “Geraldine is too crazy for me, but there is still something nice about her… underneath. I liked it when she would say nice things about me and how she liked to be with me.  And...,” Bartholomew hesitated,  “when I broke up with her, when we were on a picnic, she was really hurt.  It was then I realized how much she really liked me and that there was a part of her that was..., was... truly good.”

            The Nanny moved closer to Bartholomew.  “You are amazing, Bartholomew.  There is so much I want to share with you.  Your kindness and your heart are in tune with something inside me.  It makes me want to give something back to you – something special, something deep and personal.”


            Bartholomew's eyes grew big.  What did she mean?  This casual date was going better than he imagined, maybe a little better than he was ready for.  Bartholomew moved closer to The Nanny.  “What would that be?”

            “I can't share it with you right now,” said The Nanny.  “It's not time yet.  Maybe a few more dates, a little more history, a few more interactions and then it will be time.  I can't wait.  I’m very excited!”

            Bartholomew couldn't believe what he was hearing.  He felt he must say something instead of sitting there like a dolt with his mouth open.  “Uh...I'm...you...yeah.  Yeah, that would be great.  I'm very excited, too.”

            A yelp was heard from outside the coffee shop.  “I have to go,” said The Nanny.  “I'm sorry to cut this date short.  Can we get together next week?  I'll call you.”

            “Yeah, next week would be fine,” said Bartholomew.  “We'll talk.”

            The Nanny walked to the door.  Bartholomew stared at her beautiful jean-wrapped ass as it moved across the room.  She turned as she opened the door.  “Bartholomew, if this works out right, you're gonna get yourself a girl who is everything you could want.”  She smiled and walked out of the door as another yelp was heard from outside.

            After The Nanny disappeared from view, Bartholomew almost fell out of his chair with pent up energy.  He sat up straight and, not knowing what to do, stayed in the coffee shop for another half hour thinking of all the ways he wanted to get to know The Nanny better.  Not all of them would be considered polite, by some people, but they were all certainly filled with kindness.  


*     *     *     *     *     *     *


Coffee with an Angel, is the 20th story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story, written by Mark Granlund and illustrated by Mary Sandberg, tells of a casual coffee date between Bartholomew and The Nanny.  Are they both talking about the same thing?  Or are they misunderstanding each other?  Bartholomew wants some answers, but will The Nanny give them? You can see the full-color flipbook version of this story here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Coffee with an Angel - Illustrations

Coffee with an Angel is illustrated by Mary Sandberg.  I didn't know Mary going into this collaboration, but have come to know a very fascinating artist with an interesting background.

Mary has found various outlets for her drawing abilities over the years; from figure drawing, to animation drawing, to designing block prints for book illustrations, to producing limited edition block print calendars.  Mary is part of Out on a Limb Animation with her husband Dave Sandberg, whose animations can be seen on Youtube - (search "zentrash").  In 2007 they completed the adult-oriented animated feature film My Art School Summer, which has been shown in Brazil, Amsterdam, and Berlin.
My Art School Summer also played in Minneapolis in 2011 at the Twin Cities Underground Film Festival.  I didn't know what to expect as I hadn't seen an x-rated animated movie since Fritz the Cat, 1972, which, quite frankly was a dumb movie that tried too hard to be controversial.  Over the next hour and a half I was thoroughly entertained by the story of a young woman exploring her free spirit during a summer at art school.  The characters were so real in their approach to her and in their affects that the movie seemed more of a personal journal than an animated feature.  Yet it was quite funny and the characters were indeed characterized and archetypes of people we all know.  Mary was also a wonderful guest at a Bartholomew Dinner.  I can't share what topics of discussion arose at that dinner, but we were all laughing pretty hard.

Thank you Mary for sharing your wonderful talent.  Your illustration is my daughter's favorite of all the Bartholomew drawings so far.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Coffee with an Angel - Story

What is the relationship between The Nanny and Bartholomew?  It is something Bartholomew has been wondering for awhile.  All relationships have those awkward early moments when neither person is sure what the relationship will be.  Sometimes the couple is talking at cross-purposes without knowing it - both caught up in what they want to hear, not what is being said.  Do both want the same thing?  And what if someone is just more flirtatious or affectionate than the other?  When they are affectionate, does it mean anything?  Totally confusing.  All this bother and wondering can wear a poor heart out.

It doesn't seem to change over the years. My experience of dating in my forties proves to me that the awkwardness is just par for the course.  If there are no red flags right away, such a first date starting to cry when you walk through the coffee shop door or a date who starts talking bitterly about her ex within the first five minutes of conversation, there is always the question of when the other shoe is going to drop. I once had a whole conversation with someone who thought I was talking about a friend when I was talking about my dog. The mistake came to light as I described how she leaped into a garden, over a row of beans, and grabbed a groundhog in her mouth. Needless to say we weren't on the same page - in many ways.  Incompatibility is the last thing you want, so it is the first thing you are looking for.

Here is an excerpt from the upcoming Coffee with an Angel, to be published on Friday, March 29, 2013 at The Book of Bartholomew.
At the sight of Bartholomew, a smile spread across The Nanny’s face. She stood up and welcomed Bartholomew with a hug – a BIG, looong hug. He barely noticed her cross necklace imbedding into his chest.

“I am so happy you could make it,” said The Nanny as she sat back down.

Bartholomew sat down across the small round table from her. “Yeah, happy to be here. I'm glad you could finally fit me into your schedule.”

“I'm so sorry about that,” she said with a sympathetic look in her eyes. “Things have been much busier than I could handle.”

“Dog-sitting?” asked Bartholomew with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

“Yes! Oh it has been amazingly more work than I ever imagined,” said The Nanny with such enthusiasm in her voice and eyes that Bartholomew's sarcasm faded. “But I think I have finally figured it out. I know what should happen now.”

Bartholomew didn't understand what she meant but moved on to the subject he wanted to discuss with her. “What happened to Geraldine? Why didn't you tell me she was missing?”

“Yes, she is missing. Oh… does that bother you?”

“Does it bother me? Does it bother me?! Yes, it bothers me! Geraldine was a nice girl. All right, she was crazy, sex-starved and would take advantage of every situation, but there was a nice side to her, too.”

The Nanny smiled-- seemed pleased about something.

“Geraldine is missing! Why are you so happy?!” Bartholomew almost yelled.

The Nanny said nothing but stared at Bartholomew with such sparkling eyes and such beautiful skin and such full-bodied hair and such positive energy and... Her presence was disarming, as if her whole soul was there to do nothing but love and support someone. Bartholomew couldn't help but think how different she was when he had met her at Gerald's house. Her black Goth clothes and dark eyeliner were gone. More importantly, he sensed that her attitude was completely different. Before she seemed to be waiting. The Nanny previously was disciplining and corralling Gerald's sons and daughter, as if keeping them in line until something else happens. But now, The Nanny was purposeful. She seemed focused, honed-in and ready to do whatever it was she was meant to do after a long delay. This made her very happy, full of life and much larger than Bartholomew's anger or cynicism.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

#19 Earth Day




“Thanks for biking with me to this Earth Day thing,” Claire said to Ned.

“Yeah, well…this is going to be fun,” said Ned as he shivered in the cold wind.

“You really don’t have to, you know,” said Claire as she downshifted so Ned could keep up.

“No, I think (puff)…Earth Day (gasp)…is great,” said Ned.  “Tell me again…why are we celebrating…Earth Day in March?”

“Because Mayor Dick is a total idiot.  He didn’t realize Earth Day is in April and by the time he figured it out he was already booked for that day.  So he declared Earth Day in our city to be on March 22nd because it fit his schedule.”

They pedaled along to the sounds of Ned huffing and puffing.  As City Hall appeared, booths and food vendors filled the streets and the great lawn in front was almost empty.  On a stage was a band playing some country rock song about how incompetent the government is.

“Let’s head over that way,” said Claire as she nodded toward some booths.  “I want to see if Charlotte is volunteering.”

  Claire and Ned locked their bikes to a rack and headed over to find Charlotte.  They passed the Trees of Hope and Food Fit booths. Claire was looking ahead for the next booth when Ned noticed the attractive women at the Food Fit booth.  He took a leaflet they were handing out about healthy food, along with recipes.  Ned thanked them and said he may come back later because he liked healthy food.  “Awesome!” the young women replied.

             They passed the Robo-Green Revolution, Not In My Back 40, Garden Yourself, and the Solar Collector Collection booths before Claire finally saw Charlotte.  She was working at the local progressive AM radio station booth, WGRN.

            “Hey, Charlotte!” said Claire.
           
            “Hi Claire.  Hi Ned,” said Charlotte.

            “How's it going?” asked Claire while Ned just stared at Charlotte with a silly grin on his face.

            “It's been slow – no crowd at all. It's not surprising since the whole event was moved up a month.  It's freezing out here!” she said as she blew into her hands and rubbed them together.
           
            Upon hearing Charlotte's words, Claire's eyes widened with anger and she began a diatribe.  “Can you believe that?  Mayor Dick is such a...such an...idiot.  Forgetting Earth Day is in April and moving the city's celebration to March.  Oh, it steams me!  I just can't imagine what would possess him to be so arrogant –  so backward about these things.”

            “I think he didn't want people to show up for the real Earth Day, so he moved it.” said Charlotte.  “His record on the environment has been pretty bad.  This is worse than not acknowledging Earth Day at all.  Look, there's hardly anybody here.”

            Wanting to impress Charlotte, Ned said, “Yeah, maybe he really didn't want them to show up.  And...and...”  He was looking for something to say that would sound intelligent.  “Maybe he wanted to toot his horn about his new small business initiative that is supposed to help reduce carbon emissions.”

            “That initiative doesn't do anything to reduce emissions,” said Claire.  “He just says it does.  It will actually increase emissions because it allows larger businesses to create more under a cap and trade agreement.”

            “Yeah, and he could toot his horn next month if he wanted anyway,” added Charlotte.  “When its warm out.”

            Ned shrugged his shoulders and changed the topic, “Are you and Topping going to garden with Bartholomew?”

            “Yeah, I'm so excited.  This is going to be fun.  I've never gardened before, have you?”

            “No, not really,” said Ned. “My parents had a small garden but I never helped them with it.”  Neither of them asked Claire that question, because they knew her parents really liked gardening-- and they even raised chickens.  As Ned began to wonder why it was that he never helped his parents garden, he noticed several crows flying toward a tree behind the stage.  Then he noticed that the tree, which looked like it had leaves, was actually full of birds.

            The band stopped playing and a woman's voice rang out, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome!  Welcome all of you to the Great Earth Day Celebration!”  A few cheers rose from the pitifully small crowd as people turned to face the Deputy Mayor.

            “It is a great honor to have you all here.  It's a little chilly, but seeing all of you warms my heart,” said the woman.  Applause rose from the crowd, mostly to keep their hands warm; a couple people whistled.  “Let me delay no longer.  I have the great honor of introducing to you the person most responsible for this Earth Day celebration.  A person without whose leadership and guidance this city wouldn't be the spectacular place it is.  Ladies and gentlemen, your mayor and your friend, Mayor Dick!”


            There was no applause or cheers from the smattering of cold people standing around.  The word “moron” was heard inside some muffles coming from somewhere back by the display booths.

            “Thank you, thank you,” boomed the voice of Mayor Dick.  The mic was too loud.  “What a great honor to be with you all here on this beautiful day – Earth Day.”

            “But it’s not Earth Day!” yelled a young woman's voice.

            Mayor Dick didn't notice the comment or the few robins and mourning doves that began to circle overhead.  He continued, “I am as proud as anyone of the great strides our fair city has made under my mayorship toward a greener and more vibrant city.  I, and the city council and city staff...” a “boo” was heard from the crowd... “have worked tirelessly to bring this city into the greening of the 21st Century.  It is with great pleasure that I read the following list of our accomplishments.  First, an additional four acres of green space in our residential neighborhoods...”

            “Due to foreclosures,” the young woman's voice interrupted.

            Ignoring the heckle, Mayor Dick continued, “...for our children to play in.  A new local food vendor for our public schools...”

            “Donkey Burgers are going to make them all fat!”

            “...that will provide healthy, nutritious food for our children.”

            “Donkey Burgers cause heart disease!” said Claire as she moved toward the podium.  The sun now dimmed as numerous birds flew overhead.  Robins, mourning doves, crows, chickadees, warblers, cardinals and even a few chickens created a massive dark cloud that became noisier with each proclamation by Mayor Dick.

            “The city fleet has reduced its gas consumption by fifteen percent.”

            “Due to job loss!”

            Mayor Dick refused to acknowledge Claire, but directed his comments to other people in the crowd.  “We have created a small business plan that will reduce small business carbon emissions by thirty percent.”

            “But it will allow large businesses to increase their carbon emissions by forty percent,” said Claire as she stepped up next to the stage.
             
            Mayor Dick scowled her way and continued with agitation in his voice, “Citizens of this fair metropolis, fear not of the future, for I and the council will continue always to protect our land, water and air while also protecting our high-quality way of life.”  He paused for a moment as he witnessed a single white dove feather fall down from the sky and land on Claire's dark green beret.  The sound of chirps and calls grew louder

            “You're a liar!” yelled Claire only a few feet from Mayor Dick.

            “Now that is not fair!” yelled an offended Mayor Dick directly at Claire. “nothing I have said is a lie.”  A cacophony of squawks, chirps, calls, crowings and gobblings almost drowned out the interchange between Claire and Mayor Dick.

            “Well, it hasn't been the truth either,” Claire yelled back.

            “You, my dear, are the liar here.  And I will not let you deceive the fine people of this city with your misguided understanding of what is important and what I have accomplished.  It is I who has been elected to be the protector of this fair city from the misinformation and cynical enviro-propoganda you are espousing,” replied Mayor Dick.

            Claire did not give quarter.  “Donkey Burger is not going to provide healthy and nutritional meals to our schools. The only reason they make burgers out of donkey meat is because donkey meat isn't considered a food item by the FDA.  They do it so they don't have to follow regulations – so they can cut corners and MAKE MORE MONEY!”

            “I will not stand here and listen to you slander my good friend Gerald.  He has run his Donkey Burger business above board and with great success for many years.”  With this, the birds descended-- as a single organism-- to within five feet of Mayor Dick's head.  Hundreds of birds were flying en masse in figure eights and diving to and fro just above his head, but still he paid no attention.  He only could see Claire, her red face and angry eyes.

            “Gerald? Gerald?  Above board? Do you have any idea what he buys his daughter for Christmas presents?” said Claire in disgust.

            “Whatever he buys her has nothing to do with what kind of man Gerald is.  “You obviously are not here because you care about Earth Day...or the earth.  Someone please remove this girl from these festivities,” said Mayor Dick as he signaled to a security guard. 

            With that, Claire ran, and the birds flew off to distant rooftops, trees and places unseen.  Claire wanted to blend in with the crowd and disappear too, but there was no crowd.  She headed toward the booth where Charlotte and Ned were standing.

            “Help, they’re coming to remove me!” said Claire.

            “Quick, you can hide under here,” said Charlotte.

            “If they want us to leave, why don't we just leave?” asked Ned.

            Claire's voice came from under the table inside the WGRN booth, “Ned, go get our bikes and then we can get away.  Bring mine here.  I need to hide!”

            Ned's face folded up in a look of “Do I have to?”  But he turned and went to fetch Claire's bike.  He was back in a few minutes.

            “Ned.  Put it by the back of the booth,” said Claire's voice.  Ned did as he was told.  “I'll meet you back at Madeline Park by the water fountain.  Then let's go get some lunch.”  Claire shot out from under the table, got on her bike and was gone.


            As she saw Claire disappear over a hill in the distance, Charlotte said, “That Claire.  She is amazing how she isn't afraid to stand up to them.  She is so inspiring.”

            Ned wasn't feeling inspired.  He thought about going back to the Food Fit booth and talking to the attractive women.  But he wasn't feeling right about that.  He thought about talking with Charlotte a while and getting to know her better.  But he wasn't feeling like doing that today either. He mounted his bike and slowly pedaled away from the Earth Day celebration.  Ned suddenly realized what he was feeling – he was feeling alone.

__________________________________________________________________
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Matt Wells
To see the full color flipbook version, click here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Earth Day - Illustrations

The illustrations for Earth Day, the 19th story in The Book of Bartholomew were created by Matt Wells.  Matt is a Minneapolis-based artist who has created many album covers for local bands and is a member of the art group Rogue Citizen.  He also has been a previous artist for The Book of Bartholomew.  He has illustrated story #2: Gerald Teaches a Life Lesson and #8 Ned the Giant.

Since, up to this point, Matt has been the only one to create an image of Ned, he is the resident Ned-expert.  Here, Ned appears with a hat on and his dreds hanging down.   In the story, Ned and Claire ride their bikes to the Earth Day Celebration in their town.  Just as Matt has illustrated here, Ned and Claire both take risks by dating each other and by riding their bikes without helmets.  This is an image that I think all too graphically  exposes the relationship for what it is: dangerous and irresponsible. For this reason  alone, I do not recommend this story for impressionable young readers. In fact, if you are under the age of eighteen, it is recommended that you change the page by clicking on this link.


Matt is collecting a series of background textures.  The ones used in these pieces are from wallpaper.  Matt is a veritable genius with his loose ink style.  There is so much movement, even the ink strokes feel in motion. Then when you add the layering of color and background pattern the piece melds into an image of energy.  This style meshes well with the story itself, a layering of action and counter-action between Mayor Dick and Claire... and birds.

I have greatly enjoyed working with Matt on these three stories he has illustrated.  I find his work insightful, professional and just enjoyable to look at.  Ned the Giant still cracks me up when I look at it.  And check out his group, Rogue Citizen.  This foursome do live paintings at concerts and other events around town.  Their exhibit last year was about the U. S. prison system.  At the end of the exhibit, any piece not purchased was executed - literally, they were destroyed - usually with an axe.

You can check out more about Matt at his website: http://www.lizardmanart.com.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Earth Day - Story

How do you know if you and your love are truly meant for each other?  In the story Earth Day, Ned begins to wonder about Claire and these odd feelings he has when he is with her.  The young couple have a cold bike ride to the festival, which has been moved up by a month.  As Claire starts to share her opinions about Mayor Dick and all things political, Mayor Dick, himself, begins to speak to the meager crowd.   Do Ned and Claire have the same political beliefs?  Is Claire too forward in her conversation with Mayor Dick?  Something is making Ned uncomfortable, but he is not sure what until Claire is chased away from the festival by security.  Here is an excerpt:
 
Upon hearing Charlotte's words, Claire's eyes widened with anger and she began a diatribe. “Can you believe that? Mayor Dick is such a...such an...idiot. Forgetting Earth Day is in April and moving the city's celebration to March. Oh, it steams me! I just can't imagine what would possess him to be so arrogant – so backward about these things.”

“I think he didn't want people to show up for the real Earth Day, so he moved it.” said Charlotte. “His record on the environment has been pretty bad. This is worse than not acknowledging Earth Day at all. Look, there's hardly anybody here.”

Wanting to impress Charlotte, Ned said, “Yeah, maybe he really didn't want them to show up. And...and...” He was looking for something to say that would sound intelligent. “Maybe he wanted to toot his horn about his new small business initiative that is supposed to help reduce carbon emissions.”

“That initiative doesn't do anything to reduce emissions,” said Claire. “He just says it does. It will actually increase emissions because it allows larger businesses to create more under a cap and trade agreement.”

“Yeah, and he could toot his horn next month if he wanted anyway,” added Charlotte. “When its warm out.”

Ned shrugged his shoulders and changed the topic, “Are you and Topping going to garden with Bartholomew?”

“Yeah, I'm so excited. This is going to be fun. I've never gardened before, have you?”

“No, not really,” said Ned. “My parents had a small garden but I never helped them with it.” Neither of them asked Claire that question, because they knew her parents really liked gardening-- and they even raised chickens. As Ned began to wonder why it was that he never helped his parents garden, he noticed several crows flying toward a tree behind the stage. Then he noticed that the tree, which looked like it had leaves, was actually full of birds.

The band stopped playing and a woman's voice rang out, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome! Welcome all of you to the Great Earth Day Celebration!” A few cheers rose from the pitifully small crowd as people turned to face the Deputy Mayor.

“It is a great honor to have you all here. It's a little chilly, but seeing all of you warms my heart,” said the woman. Applause rose from the crowd, mostly to keep their hands warm; a couple people whistled. “Let me delay no longer. I have the great honor of introducing to you the person most responsible for this Earth Day celebration. A person without whose leadership and guidance this city wouldn't be the spectacular place it is. Ladies and gentlemen, your mayor and your friend, Mayor Dick!”
There was no applause or cheers from the smattering of cold people standing around. The word “moron” was heard inside some muffles coming from somewhere back by the display booths.

“Thank you, thank you,” boomed the voice of Mayor Dick. The mic was too loud. “What a great honor to be with you all here on this beautiful day – Earth Day.”

“But it’s not Earth Day!” yelled a young woman's voice.

This Friday, March 22, 2013 Earth Day will be published.

Friday, March 15, 2013

#18 At the Library




“I knew you’d be here,” said Topping to Bartholomew who was tucked in behind stacks of gardening books.

“Aren’t I always here?  I assume you’re looking up jobs,” said Bartholomew happy to see his friend.

“Actually, I’m looking at books about painting cars.”

“So, you’re working for Uncle Cy again?” asked Bartholomew as he closed a book on garden design.

Topping looked down, picked up a book and ran his fingers over the spine.  “No, he hasn’t had me back, yet.  Well, just one day a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s almost March and I don’t know when he’ll call.”

Bartholomew smiled at Topping.  “I’m sure his work will pick up soon.  It’s getting warmer out and people will want to show off their cars.”

Topping squinted at Bartholomew and shrugged, “Yeah, maybe.” 

Bartholomew wondered what he could do to help Topping.  He hated seeing him so down.  Then he said it without even thinking, “Do you want to paint my car?”

Topping looked at him. He wasn’t sure if it was a joke or just a bad attempt to make him feel better.  Bartholomew couldn’t believe he had said it.  But then he thought to himself, “Why not?”

“Topping, I want you to paint my car,” said Bartholomew.

“No…no, I couldn’t.  It’s expensive to do and it’s a nice car just like it is.”

“No it’s not.  My car is white with a big pink stripe down each side.  That is not nice, or pretty or anything but ugly,” said Bartholomew realizing that he never really had liked the color of that car.

“But Bartholomew, painting a car isn’t easy and the paint is expensive…and there’s no place to paint it…and, and … it’s expensive,” said Topping.

“Geez, you make it sound like painting a car is expensive,” joked Bartholomew.  “Paint it at Uncle Cy’s place after-hours and I will pay you.”

“No, you can’t pay me, I’m your friend!” protested Topping. Other people in the library started to stare disapprovingly at the two of them.

Firmly but more quietly, Bartholomew looked straight at Topping and said, “Design a new paint job for my car and I will pay for the paint and five hundred dollars for you.  Don’t worry, Uncle Jeffrey submitted my taxes in early February and I just got my return.  I can cover this.”

Topping didn’t know what to say.  He stood quietly for a while but then leaned forward and whispered to Bartholomew, “It’s going to have flames.  I hope you don’t mind a 1974 Peugeot with flames.”

Bartholomew looked up and answered, “As long as you get rid of the pink, I don’t care what you do.”  Thinking for a moment, he then added, “But flames would be cool.  Way cool.”

Topping pulled up a chair and sat across the table from Bartholomew.  They turned their attention to the stack of gardening books.

“What are you going to plant?” asked Topping.

“I’m not sure, yet.  Tomatoes, peppers, and kale for sure.  Some lettuce.  Other than that, I don’t know.  The problem is I’m not sure where I am going to plant.  And I want enough room for you and Charlotte and other people to plant, too.”

“Aren’t you planting in your yard?” asked Topping.

“No, it’s too shady.  I have a big old oak tree that was planted there by my great-great-grandfather, and it covers the entire back yard. And the front yard is small and shady, too - it’s a really big tree,” said Bartholomew holding his arms out to indicate a sense of largeness.  “I was thinking of maybe planting at the end of my street.  It ends at a railroad track and there is a big space.  Certainly big enough for a garden.”

“I’ll help you build it,” said Topping.

“What?” asked Bartholomew.

“I’ll help you build your garden.  Your helping me do something I want to do, so I’ll help you do something you want to do,” said Topping.

Bartholomew stared at him for only a moment and then said, “All right.  Good.  I’ll let you know when I start.  But it’s going to be big.”

“Big enough for chickens?” asked Topping with a grin.

Bartholomew laughed.  “Yeah, Claire and her chickens.  That’s dubious.”

“I can’t believe she wants you to have chickens in your garden,” said Topping shaking his head.

“I can’t believe her and Ned are still living together.  And it’s your fault,” accused Bartholomew.

“My fault?!  How the fuck you figure it’s my fault?”

“You’re the one that had the New Years Eve party.  She never went home after that, did she?  Stayed at Ned’s that night and every night since.”

Topping just shrugged his shoulders and flipped some more pages.  “Not my fault they shacked up.  You came to the party and you didn’t shack up with anyone.  And if Ned has his doubts and lets a woman run all over him, that’s his problem – not mine.”


“Yeah, well I guess you don’t hear about it as much as I do,” said Bartholomew.  “He's not hanging out at your place to get away from Claire.”  They turned their attention back to the books.

After awhile, Bartholomew wanted to talk to Topping about something – to get his advice – but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  His eyes skimmed the surface of the book pages while thinking about what to say.  He decided to just start talking.  “I still haven’t gone out with The Nanny.”

“Well, I’m not surprised,” said Topping.

Taken aback, Bartholomew demanded, “What do you mean by that?”

“Geez, don’t get your underwear in a bunch, I just meant with Geraldine missing The Nanny is probably too busy or too freaked out to want to get together.”

“Missing?!  What do you mean Geraldine is missing?” asked Bartholomew as he pushed aside a stack of books to better see Topping.  He heard a “shush” come from somewhere to his right.

“Didn’t you read about it in the paper?  Geraldine has been missing for a couple of weeks now.  She just disappeared one day,” said Topping.

“Wha…how, what happened?”

“Like I said, she just disappeared.  No sign, no trace.”

Bartholomew sat quiet for a moment.  Scenarios raced through his mind: was she abducted by one of her “lovers,” had one of her brothers killed her, had The Nanny done something to her?   The last time Bartholomew had seen The Nanny she had mentioned doing something illegal.

“Are you okay?” asked Topping.

Bartholomew didn’t answer.  He felt a ball of sadness inside him.  How could Geraldine be gone?  He had dated her - and now she was gone?  This just doesn’t happen.  This shouldn’t have happened.  How?  He had always thought Geraldine was kind to him – spoke well of him.  She was wild, but Bartholomew always knew there was a nice person inside her.

“I dated her,” said Bartholomew, half catatonic.

“I thought you said you didn’t get together with The Nanny,” said Topping.

“No, I mean Geraldine… quite awhile ago, and she was too wild for me.  But I got a sense that she liked me and there is a nice side to her that most people don’t see.”

Topping almost snickered when Bartholomew said that he had dated Geraldine.  But then he saw how moved Bartholomew was by this news.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t know,” said Topping.  “They didn’t say she was dead or anything like that,” he added.  “She might have just run away. You should ask The Nanny.  Give her a call.”

Anger appeared in Bartholomew’s voice, “She’s been telling me for the last few weeks she can’t get together because she’s too busy dog-sitting.  That it was taking up more of her time than she thought it would.  All this time and she never has mentioned anything about Geraldine missing.”

“Dog-sitting?!” asked Topping.

“Yeah, she picked up a side job sitting somebody’s dog.  I think it’s a pug.”

“And she hasn’t mentioned anything about Geraldine?  That’s fucked up,” said Topping.

Bartholomew cringed inside at the sound of Topping swearing.  It didn’t seem like appropriate language given the terrible circumstance.

“Yes, I will have to call The Nanny and ask her about this,” said Bartholomew.

“Yeah, let me know what you find out,” said Topping.  He hesitated.  “Bartholomew,…”

Bartholomew looked at Topping.

“…well, if you need anything, you can let me know that, too.”

In the seventy days that they’d known each other, Bartholomew and Topping had become friends.  They had been running into each other at the library every other week.  Bartholomew was very happy about this.  He had never had a friend his age to support him when he was down.  He had never had anyone who wanted to work on projects with him and help him do what he wanted to do.  His friends had always been someone to play with, someone to have fun with – like children.  His previous friends had no idea how to comfort him or simply sit with him when his parents had died.  They never patiently listened to him when he was unsure about things, they didn’t know how to empathize and they never offered themselves up as emotional support.  As he thought about it, he had never really had a friend who could help him like an adult can.  Then he laughed quietly to himself, “Hmmm, am I becoming an adult?”

___________________________________________________________

Written and illustrated by Mark Granlund
To see the full color flipbook version, click here.