Friday, June 28, 2013

#28 Growing a Community

            It was a beautiful spring morning.  The birds had been singing for a couple of hours and Bartholomew was singing, too.  “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and engines there...”  Whatever song or words came into Bartholomew's head he sang.  He was in a good mood because today was the day he and all of his friends were going to plant their garden. 

            “Oh Oliver,” said Bartholomew to his cat, “this is so exciting!  I can't wait to plant some kale.”

            Oliver jumped onto the sofa and laid down, “I hope you weren't expecting me to help?”

            “I wish you could join us!  It would be so much fun to have you there with everyone else.  But I know, you don't like the outdoors.”

            “No,” said Oliver, “the outdoors is for animals.”

            Bartholomew reached into the closet and pulled out a hat and a pair of work gloves.  He went quickly to the kitchen and packed some snacks and a couple bottles of water.  “Hmmmmm...mmm... Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam and the skies are not cloudy all day.  Home, home is so strange.  Where the deer and the cantelope plaaaaay!  Where seldom is heard a disparaging word and a guy can eat kale… aaaall...daaaaay!”
            Oliver buried his ears under his paws.  Bartholomew ran by the sofa, patted and rubbed Oliver on the head much too vigorously, and skipped to the door.  “Good-bye Oliver.”

            “Please, leave before you say 'yippee-skippee' again.”

            Bartholomew slammed the door behind him.

            Claire and Ned were already at the garden lot when Bartholomew arrived.  They had ridden bikes and they each had spades, small hand trowels and matching brand new gardening gloves.  Bartholomew thought they looked cute together. 

            “Hi, Claire. Ned,” said Bartholomew.

            They both said “hello” back and then Claire pointed to the street where Charlotte was just driving up.  Charlotte, whose window was rolled down, waved at them.  Like a reflex, they all waved back. 

            “Ready to plant?” Bartholomew asked Claire and Ned while Charlotte parked her car. 

            “Yeah!” yelled Claire.  Ned nodded while pulling at his dreds.

            “Wow, you guys have been busy,” said Charlotte, as she carried two metal rakes and nodded at a bunch of plants already in the ground.

            “That's Mr.McBardon's plot,” said Bartholomew.  “He put that in last weekend sometime.  I don't think it took him long, it just appeared one day.”

            “He wasn't kidding about that hedge,” said Claire, eyeing the taller plants around the perimeter of the plot.
            “I don't think it will keep out rats, but you sure can tell where his plot is,” said Charlotte, referring to a comment Mr. McBardon had made earlier.

Charlotte by Justin Terlecki

             “Well, lets mark out the garden and where everything is going,” said Bartholomew, pulling a tape measure out of his pocket.

            “Hey, where's Topping?” asked Claire.

            “He's working on Bartholomew's car,” said Charlotte.  When she was starting the sentence she felt a little regret that Topping was busy and didn't come to the garden with her.  But as she finished the sentence she remembered that Topping was doing something cool for Bartholomew.  “He said he would be here before noon.”

            The group of friends started to lay out the perimeter of the garden with string and stakes.  Bartholomew energetically took the lead in measuring and identifying corners, etc.  The rest, seeing how excited he was, gladly did what he asked.  As Ned was driving one stake into the ground, he hit a hard spot.  It was probably a rock, but the prospect of pounding into an underground gas line ran through Ned's head.  An image of himself being hurled in six different directions appeared before him.

            “Hey, Bartholomew, did you check on the property and all that stuff?  There aren't gas lines or anything underground, are there?”

            “Mr. McBardon was in such a hurry that he said he checked things out and everything is fine.  There isn't anything underground except, judging by that pile Mr. McBardon made, there might be rocks.”

            Ned moved the stake slightly to one side and pounded it in to the ground wondering if he could trust old Mr. McBardon.  He assured himself that they are not planting very deep.  Anything utilities underground would be much deeper – probably.

            As they were just about finished with the layout of the garden, Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine pulled up with a rented rototiller and a trailer full of soil.  Uncle Jeffrey honked the horn.  Everyone turned and waved.

            “You’re just in time,” called Bartholomew as Uncle Jeffrey was busy untying the rototiller. 

            “This looks great!” encouraged Aunt Josephine to Charlotte  “And look, you already have plants coming up!”

            “Those are Mr. McBardon's,” explained Claire.  “He planted those last week.”

            “Oh,” said Aunt Jospehine as she wrinkled her nose at the tall plants encircling his plot.

            Bartholomew and Uncle Jeffrey pulled the rototiller out of the back of the truck and wheeled it over to the garden.

            “Did you check on the property and utilities?” asked Uncle Jeffrey.

            “Yeah, well, actually, Mr. McBardon checked because he wanted to plant last weekend and he said it was all good.”

            Uncle Jeffrey looked over at Mr. McBardon's house and wondered if he could trust him. 

            In no time, the tiller was running and churning up the ground.  The dirt was compacted and everyone took turns using the tiller, except Aunt Josephine.   They left pathways between areas of the garden that Bartholomew was going to mow once a week.  As the rototiller finished an area, people would come behind with metal rakes and shovels to break the dirt up even more and to remove rocks.  They then would add new soil and the tiller would come back and mix it in.  Even before lunch time they finished, but everybody was so tired that they took a break.  Uncle Jeffrey and Bartholomew hoisted the tiller back into the truck to return it to the rental store. 

            As everyone headed back to Bartholomew's house, a car turned onto the street and honked at them.  Bartholomew stopped in the middle of the road, his eyes wide with disbelief.  He knew his car would look different when Topping was done painting it, but nothing could have prepared him for this.  Topping drove up in a 1974 Peugeot with flaming vegetables streaming off the front of the car and tumbling their way down the sides.  Red and orange flames licked out from behind green peppers, carrots and tomatoes.  There on the hood was the most amazing thing of all: a flaming leaf of kale spread from side to side. Everyone was laughing and cheering and admonishing Topping for doing an amazing job.  Topping had risen to the occasion.  

flaming vegetable car by Mark Granlund

            Everyone gathered around the car as Topping parked it along the curb.  Bartholomew still stood in the middle of the road, his mouth agape.  Topping cautiously approached him.

            “Well, Bartholomew, what do you think?”

            Bartholomew didn't know what to say.  It was the most amazing car he had ever seen.  He had thought flames would be cool, but Topping was right, Bartholomew was not thrilled by the original idea.  But this, this made everything perfect!  Now his car had cool flames AND all the vegetables that he loved.

            Bartholomew stepped forward and gave Topping a bear hug.  “Thank you,” he said into Topping’s ear.  “It is ah-amazing.”

            Bartholomew and Topping escorted each other to the car with their arms around each other’s shoulders.  Bartholomew studied the detail of the flames and how they seemed to be licking at the surfaces of the vegetables.  He noticed the surface detail in the carrots and the many, many, many folds in the kale leaf on the hood.  He was lost in some of those folds when he felt something on his leg.  He looked down to see a small pug dog humping his left leg.  He moved his leg and knocked the dog to the ground.  It was up immediately humping his leg again.  Bartholomew shook it off a second time and the little dog mounted Topping's leg.  Topping laughed and moved his leg to knock the dog off.

            “It's Hump-Pug,” said Ned.

            “What? Hump-Pug?” asked Bartholomew.

            “Yeah,” said Ned.  “This dog has been around town the last month or so.  It just keeps trying to hump things all the time.  People just started calling it Hump-Pug.”

Hump-Pug by Mark Granlund
            Topping laughed as Hump-Pug mounted him again.  He pushed her away again.  Hump-Pug ran to a nearby lamppost and did her thing.  Everyone started laughing.

            “C'mon, let's go inside and eat.  I brought pizza,” said Topping.  “I got vegetable pizza for you Bartholomew.”  Bartholomew imagined the vegetables on the pizza in the hot oven catching fire and then being thrown onto and becoming the skin of his 1974 Peugeot.  Beautiful.  As they walked into the house, he noticed Hump-Pug humping the mailbox.

            Bartholomew, his friends and his family had pizza and beer and talked about recipes they would like to make from the vegetables harvested from their garden.  Charlotte and Bartholomew agreed to share recipes and to cook together once a week.  Topping liked that idea.  Claire wanted to try a recipe called Carrots Marguerite.  She had seen it made on a cooking show.  Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey regaled them with stories of food they had eaten at weddings and other parties.  By the end of lunch, Bartholomew was sharing how his parents used to cook.  How his mom would forage food from the neighborhood parks and public spaces-- apple trees, current bushes, elderberry nectar and... Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine gave Bartholomew a stern look.  He stopped talking about his parents and suggested they head back out to the garden to plant the seeds and seedlings he and Uncle Jeffrey had picked up earlier that week. 

            Everyone filed out of the house to the garage where the plants were stored..  Bartholomew had expected to see Hump-Pug but she was nowhere in sight.  The group headed down to the garden with plants in tow.  Uncle Jeffrey drove off with the tiller to return it to the rental store.  Arriving at the garden, Topping said, “Wow, you guys have gotten far.  You even have plants coming up already!”

            “Those are Mr. McBardon's,” said everyone.  Everyone laughed.

            Bartholomew directed the planting effort.   He gave a quick training in how to plant the seeds and the seedlings. They each selected plants and consulted with Bartholomew where they were to plant them.   Charlotte and Aunt Josephine paired up to plant the tomatoes.  Bartholomew and Topping went to plant potatoes.  Claire and Ned stayed put and planted some lettuce seeds.

            There was light chatter amongst the planting couples, but after a short time everyone heard Ned say, “What's wrong with planting them here?”

            Claire responded, “The package says two to two and half feet.”

            “This is two to two and a half feet! Geez.”

            “Well, it needs to be right.  It should be back farther.”

            “Fine, plant it where you want it,” said Ned as he rose and moved to where Bartholomew and Topping were planting.  The three of them planted without talking.  Claire finished where she was and then joined Charlotte and Aunt Josephine.  They all spent the rest of the day moving from place to place within the garden planting their seeds and seedlings. 

            Uncle Jeffrey arrived and went to Mr. McBardon's house to set up a hose for watering.  Mr. McBardon was providing the hose, sprinkler and, of course, the water for the garden. It was a very generous gift.  Uncle Jeffrey pulled the hose over to the garden like he was hauling a long thin python.  Soon the dirt darkened as the water droplets fell on the tilled soil.  The beds were completed when Bartholomew filled the last one with kale seeds.

            “There,” said Bartholomew as he lightly tamped the ground and stood up.

            As the shadows began to grow long, everyone stood curbside and looked at the fruits of their labor.  The whole place smelled of wet earth.  Before them spread a fresh patch of soil filled with hope.  Bartholomew could see it already, green plants willing themselves out of the brown earth, growing larger with each passing week until they were ready to be gathered, brought to the kitchen, prepared and devoured.  He couldn't wait.

            “All right, everyone,” said Aunt Josephine, “back to Bartholomew's house for some dinner.  I'm cooking.”
            A cheer went up.  Seven weary bodies headed up the street, past a freshly painted car and into the house.  Some collapsed in the living room.  Others went to the kitchen to cook.  They all felt good about what they had done.  They talked about the afternoon and about the differences between seeds and seedlings.  As the sun was about to set, Bartholomew went to the door for one last look.  There, on the curb, was his car – a flaming vegetable mobile.  It made him smile.  He turned to see Topping who was laughing as he told a story to Claire and Uncle Jeffrey.  Bartholomew felt his chest grow as he took in a deep slow breath of appreciation.  He gazed down to the garden, there, at the end of the block.  In the dark shadows of approaching night he could make out the patches of tilled soil, the pathways and a low hedge of plants at the back.  He turned his attention to the people in the house – his friends and his family.  Again, he felt his chest grow as he took in a deep slow breath of satisfaction.  Satisfaction at having planted the garden. Satisfaction at having found some real friends.  And a deep satisfaction that he was, slowly, making his life into what he wanted it to be.

            Bartholomew heard a noise outside.  Across the street he could barely discern a small little four-legged something thrusting itself against the base of a light pole.  There was a yelp and then it was gone.  


 Growing a Community is the 28th story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story is written by Mark Granlund and cover illustration by JM Culver

Bartholomew’s garden brings his friends and family together for a wonderful day of accomplishment and satisfaction - except for Ned and Claire - and the dog humping everything - and...

You can see the full-color flipbook version of this story, with back stories and additional illustrations, here

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Growing A Community - Illustrations by JM Culver - Published Tomorrow!

Growing a Community, the 28th story in The Book of Bartholomew, is published tomorrow!

This story about Bartholomew, his friends and his family planting the garden is illustrated by JM Culver.  JM is a Twin City artist who currently is attending graduate school in Syracuse, New York.  The working title of this story, when JM first received it, was Building a Community.  I like that she created these wonderful hands at work for this story.  Anyone who has spent time gardening or building community knows it takes work -- lots of work.  For the interior pages I borrowed plant parts from this illustration.

Check out JM's work from the links on her bio-page.  She does amazing paintings of figures that are imbued with feelings and associations.  Here is a link to an interview she recently did for MN Originals.  It is very insightful into her work.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sowing Plans - The Illustrations

Wow!  Where did this one come from?  This story was published a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't share the making of the images. 

I started illustrating this story quite awhile ago.  I had created Mr. McBardon because he really intrigued me as a character and I wanted to see what he looked like.  I remember staying up late at night finishing him up.  I wasn't completely happy with the final, but close enough to stop for awhile and come back to it with fresh eyes.  Well, I never came back to it and didn't complete it until the night before publishing.

Here is the original Mr. McBardon. What was I thinking with THAT BACKGROUND??!!!  I really like the plaid and Mr. McBardon, but that background, Oy!

I wanted to make a cover like a seed packet.  That was the original idea.  I created a sketch of a tomato from my garden and then decided to color it on the computer, instead of using watercolor.

I'm quite happy with the drawing.  It is of a Celebrity tomato, for those veggie geeks out there.  I drew the highlights and darks on the skin to help guide the coloring.  As much as I work on the computer, I am still learning much about coloring.  I feel like this tomato has some depth and volume to it.  There are also some places where the drawn lines and shadow areas feel like computer generated "hiccups."  At first it felt impure to me, but now I am coming to like the variety to the skin.  It makes it seem a bit more alive instead of static.
I created the blue background because I saw this technique on a seed packet.  I quickly realized this was my solution to Mr. McBardon's background.

I painstakingly removed the brown, because I hadn't saved a copy with the separate layers, and then added the blue circle in the background. Much better!

For this project I am not interested in creating a distinct style to my work but to work with what comes to me in the moment. This has resulted in many different styles and techniques used to create the illustrations I do. I like this since
there are many artists involved in this project with differing styles. So my diverse approach seems to fit well.

There now, isn't Mr. McBardon better? His plaid stands out more and his feet are brighter.  Ah, that feels so much better.

Sowing Plans was published on May 31 and can be read here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

#27 Topping Paints a Peugeot

            Topping liked the smell of his Uncle Cy's car painting shop.  It was an old building where one's nose is smothered with an old musty smell of crumbling mortar and the modern chemical smell of sprayed paint.  He knew of no other place that seemed so clean and at the same time so grungy. 

            Topping had already washed Bartholomew's 1974 Peugeot and removed any wax or grease from its surface.  He was about to scuff the pink and white paint so the old paint could receive the new.  Once he started this step, there was no turning back, he would have to paint Bartholomew's car no matter what.   Topping's hand shook a little, as he placed the scuffing pad on the surface.  He took a deep breath.  He waited.  Did he really know what he was doing?  This job was far beyond anything he had done up to this point.  What if he failed?  He could always paint it white with a pink stripe again, he knew he could do that much, at least.  Topping's hand started to move, ruining the smooth slick finish.  The die was cast.  

            It took a while to properly scuff every corner and nook on the car.  When he was done he took another deep breath.  He felt like he hadn't breathed during the whole process.  He wiped the car down again and then tacked it clean.  Topping was becoming intimately familiar with the surface of the Peugeot.  He noticed a few small dents he had never noticed before.  The key holes had small shallow scratches around them and on the chrome.  The corner of one door was ever so slightly bent, leaving a crack in the old paint surface.   As he scuffed, it became obvious where the sealcoat had worn away, leaving a slight dulling that was erased as his pad circled over it again and again.  His fingertips could feel the bleached out paint, the surfaces made ragged from excessive heat.  His body was melding over the rocker panels and the sidewalls.  The Peugeot was slowly but surely being absorbed into Topping’s very being.  Soon they would begin to communicate-- the car whispering to the young man what he had missed, where he had not scuffed enough, where to place the seems of the masks, and eventually, most importantly of all, how it wanted to be painted.  Topping knew the final product was not up to Bartholomew.  It was not even up to Topping.  The car was in charge.  It was only up to Topping to listen or ignore – and he didn't know how to ignore.

            After a little more work on the dents and dings, Topping taped all of the chrome and trim.  He then covered the windshield, windows, grill and lights with paper and taped the edges down.  He was ready to apply the base color of the car.  He loaded his spray gun with the green paint and began the mechanical and rhythmic back and forth spraying motion.   

            He came home well after midnight, had some leftovers from the refrigerator and headed to bed.  Charlotte did not wake.  Topping's sleep was fitful as images of the design waged war in his head.  He was up for good before the alarm went off.  He got out of bed, had a quick breakfast and headed back to the shop. 

            Topping arrived just as Uncle Cy was turning on the lights.  Uncle Cy spent some time looking over Topping’s paint job.  He nodded his head in approval.  This gave Topping a little extra spring in his step for the rest of the morning.  He went to a table at the back of the shop, grabbed some masking paper, pulled off part of the backing and headed to the hood of the Peugeot.  He carefully secured the first sheet onto the car.  There could be no wrinkles.  His hands could feel the sheet adhere to the surface below it, inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter.  Not a wrinkle.  If he sensed a possible wrinkle starting, he would pull the paper back slightly, caress it to the surface and seduce it into place.  The paper had no chance to object, it wouldn't dare.  This dance went on for a long time.  Upon loving the last sheet into place, Topping stepped back and realized he was sweating, exhausted and hungry.  He could now leave the Peugeot in this state until the next step: drawing the design right onto the car.

            He went home for lunch and to take a nap.  He woke up about the time Charlotte got home from work.  

Charlotte by Justin Terlecki

            “Where were you last night?” Charlotte asked, obviously a little mad.

            “I was at the shop, working on the Peug..., on Bartholomew's car.”

            “It would have been nice to get a call or something.”

            “I'm sorry, I was just into it and didn't notice the time passing,” apologized Topping.

            “I don't like it when the only clue I had that you were even here last night was your cereal bowl in the sink,” said Charlotte as she hung up her coat.

            “I'm sorry, I just had the car on my mind and I wanted to get right back at it this morning,” Topping said as he moved to the kitchen to get something to eat.

            “Are you making supper?”

            Topping, not having even thought about what he was doing, stammered,, “Uh...uh...”

             “Oh never mind,” Charlotte groaned.

            Topping pulled out some leftovers, enough for him and Charlotte, and threw them in the microwave.  He grabbed a couple of glasses, some leftover salad and placed it all on the table.  The microwave beeped.  “I have some food ready, if you want,” yelled Bartholomew Topping back to Charlotte who had retreated to the bedroom.  No response.

            Topping sat down at the card table and started to eat.  He was almost done when Charlotte arrived.  She sat down roughly in her folding chair and then picked at the now-cold food.  They ate in silence.  Topping finished his food, took his plate and bowl to the dishwasher and then served himself some ice cream.  “Want some?” he asked.  No response.  Topping sighed.

            After they were done eating, Charlotte asked, “Are you going back tonight?”

            “I was thinking of it,” he said.  No response.

            “Look, I'm really worried about this job.  It's the biggest one I've ever done and I'm changing the design on the fly...”

            “You're changing the design?!  You spent two months working on that design!  And now you're changing it?  Does Bartholomew even know?  Never mind Bartholomew, you spent how many nights working on that design instead of hanging out with me, and now you're changing it?  Boy, that makes me feel good!”

            “No,...I...Agghhh!” said Topping.  “I'm just trying to do a good job!  It could lead to more work. I want Bartholomew to be happy....”

            “Fine, make Bartholomew happy.  In the meantime you're making me unhappy.”  Charlotte stood up and went to the bedroom.

            Topping put on his shoes and got ready to go to the shop.  But then he thought maybe he should stay home and do something with Charlotte.  He certainly didn't feel like doing that now.  Topping sat perplexed.  In the end, he knew he wanted to be working on the car, so he left and went to the shop.  He was hoping Uncle Cy would still be there so he could talk with him about Charlotte, but he was already gone.

            Topping went to the Peugeot and ran his hand over the masked surface.  It felt good to him.  The next step was to draw the design on it.  Now he wasn't feeling like doing that either.  Topping sat down perplexed.  But he figured he was already at the shop, so he might as well get some work done.  He found a pencil on the table and held it between his fingers.  It felt right.  He walked to his partner, the Peugeot, and began to discuss with his eyes how to start drawing the design.   When the time was right, and no sooner, he placed the graphite on the paper and drew a large arc.  It was wrong.  He started again.  This was better, but still wrong.  He drew a third time, this one felt right.  He continued.  He worked for several hours getting every line in just the right place.  If he felt inside himself that a line was not right, he would do it again and again until there was peace inside him. 

            Topping stepped back to assess his work.  Faint lines played over the surface of the Peugeot.  His design felt happy.  That made Topping happy.  He went to the table and picked up his cell phone and called Charlotte.  “Hi Honey.  Yeah, I'm coming home now.  No.  I just wanted to let you know.  Okay, I'll see you soon.”  Before turning out the lights and going home, Topping took one more look at his work.  It felt good.

            The next morning, Topping walked into the stall where he was painting the Peugeot to find a big note stuck on the car.  “What the hell are you doing?  Uncle Cy.”  Topping laughed.  He was sure Uncle Cy must think he is crazy.  It certainly was not your typical flame job he was painting.  It is definitely the first one of its kind in this shop.

            Topping grabbed an Xacto knife and headed to the car.  He sobered himself up by breathing deeply.  When he exhaled he bent over the hood to begin the next step.  After having drawn the design on the masking paper, Topping now had to cut away the areas of the mask that he didn't need.  This meant cutting through the paper and not into the painted surface below.  It takes concentration.  If Topping were to cut the painted surface it would show, even after he painted it.  The tip of the blade pierced the paper.  Toppings fingers could feel the blade tap the surface below.  He stopped and then slowly but firmly pulled the blade through the surface of the paper toward himself.  He had to cut all the way to the next line without stopping.  Sure and consistent, Topping carved away the first shape of paper.  He tugged at its edges and pulled the paper, like taffy, up and away from the car.  The first piece of masking was removed.  Now Topping had to do this many times over, always making sure that he was only cutting through the layer of paper.  Several hours later he was done with the first stage of removing the mask.  Next he had to paint where he had cut away, but Topping felt exhausted from concentrating so hard.  He thought that he had not cut into the car's surface at all.  Time would tell.  Topping grabbed a ginger ale out of a small refrigerator, took a swig and then put his feet up to rest.  He couldn't remember the last time he had concentrated that hard for that long.  He decided to have lunch.

            It’s hard to imagine that using a roller to paint a car is a good idea, but that is what Topping had to do next.  He very carefully used a small paint roller to leave an ultra thin layer of bright red paint in the areas where he had removed the masking material.  If the paint felt too thick he would wipe it off and start again. He would keep correcting it until it felt right.  After finishing that layer of paint, he went back to cutting away some of the mask.  Once enough mask was gone he added another layer of paint.  Topping stopped and called Charlotte to tell her he would soon be home.  Charlotte was a bit cold toward him.  He didn't care.  Topping was so exhausted he just wanted to go home and sleep.  Which he did, even though Charlotte wanted to stay up together and watch a movie.

            The next morning Uncle Cy walked into the stall while Topping was removing more mask. 
            “Is this really the design you wanted? I thought I saw something quite different before,” asked Uncle Cy.

            “Yeah, well, I'm kinda winging the design a little.  I just felt like he needed a little more than just flames...and the car wants more,” Topping said a little sheepishly.

            Uncle Cy shook his head and smiled.  He was not questioning Topping’s sanity, he recognized an addiction he was all too familiar with.  Uncle Cy reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a blade.  “Where do you want me to start?”

            Topping smiled and directed Uncle Cy as to what needed to be cut away and what needed to stay.  Uncle Cy pulled a pencil from behind his ear and marked an “x” on all the pieces that needed to be removed and began to carefully cut away the mask.  Both of them worked the morning together and then Uncle Cy took Topping to a sandwich shop and bought him lunch.  At about four o'clock, Topping finished up for the day.  He felt right.  Somehow, he felt a couple years older.

            Topping went home and started cooking dinner for Charlotte – pancakes with sausage and eggs.  It was about all he knew how to cook.  He set the table.  He even set napkins at the table.  He wanted to impress Charlotte.  When Charlotte arrived home she was surprised and touched by Topping’s thoughfulness.  After dinner, they made love and fell to sleep in each other's arms.  Topping knew, no matter how old he got, life didn't get any better than this. 

            The next day, Friday, Topping was painting on his own as Uncle Cy had other jobs to do.  The day was as slow as a slug.  It seemed to take Topping forever to do each step.  By lunch it was as if it should have been dinner time.  After lunch, Topping worked steadily but still felt like he wasn't making any headway.  He lost track of time and when he reached a break point it was almost nine o'clock at night.  “Oh shit,” he said as he finally thought of Charlotte.  She didn't answer the phone.  Topping wrapped up as quickly as he could but he was going to take the weekend off and needed to do some extra cleaning.  He didn't get home until ten.  Charlotte was not home.

               Around midnight Charlotte woke Topping as she climbed into bed.  “Hi,” he said.  Charlotte said nothing and went to sleep.  The rest of the weekend was about the same, a little chilly, not much fun and not what either of them wanted.

            The next week, Topping painted the car every day.  He called Charlotte each afternoon and tried to be home early – mostly he was.  The last couple of days he had to do some small detail work with an airbrush then sealcoat it.  Come Saturday morning, the morning they were going to plant the garden, Topping had to wax and buff the car.  It wasn't much to do, but he was going to be late to the garden.  He had told Bartholomew that he would help him build the garden and he felt that he should be there from the start.  But he had also promised Bartholomew his car.  So Topping decided to finish the car and be late for the gardening.

            Around ten in the morning, Topping finished.  He stepped back to take it in.  It was beautiful.     Every detail felt right.  Standing there, Topping sensed how intimate he had become with this car.  He was aware of every inch of its surface, every dimple, every dent.  He knew the trim as well as he knew the back of his hand.  The partnership between them was keen on his senses.  His fingertips could still feel her.  Her smell was familiar.  Her sight now pulsed with an energy that radiated from her into Topping and then through his hands back onto her skin.  She was transformed into a more true state of herself, a car that would be truly pleasing to Bartholomew. (unclear here)  

            Topping quickly cleaned her interior and opened the garage door.  He lovingly inserted the key into her and turned her on.  She purred.  She felt right.  He pulled out of the garage and drove to the garden.  His window rolled down, the sun shining through the trees and the radio on, Topping knew life didn't get any better than this.


Topping Paints a Peugeot is the 27th story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story is written by Mark Granlund and illustrated by Todd Balthazor.
Topping finally gets to paint Bartholomew’s 1974 Peugeot at Uncle Cy’s shop.  Charlotte worries Topping has fallen in love with the car and he’s changed the design without telling Bartholomew.  Will anyone be happy?

You can see the full-color flipbook version of this story, with back stories and additional illustrations, here