A Road as Wide as the World
The sun appears for the first time in weeks. Dillon surveys the wreckage in his studio: the piled newspapers and paint brushes, litter of coffee cups, grease-stained takeout bags. How can he allow Bonnie Bailey Banks to come here?
Jerry-rigged to the back of the old guest house that serves as Dillon's studio is a flat-roofed screened porch. On it, a lone metal chair faces what was once a grassy, flower-bordered yard, and the hardwood forest beyond. Other than this chair, there is no furniture, unless the rusted paint can with rags and cigarette butts could be considered a folk-art ashtray.
The crickets and palmetto bugs that have resided on the porch all summer this foul summer of rain and mildew and rotting foliage suddenly scatter across the concrete slab floor. Dillon has opened the door and is slinging his studio detritus onto the porch, along with great bundles of textiles is that a moldy blanket? A gray bath towel streaked with burnt umber? Chartreuse boxer shorts with smiling Day-Glo skulls? Out objects fly until Dillon finally reaches the stratum of small items and begins sweeping them out. Spent paint tubes, squeezed and twisted into obscene shapes, pizza crusts, unopened mail, a broken clock.
A breeze has picked up and the sun, now a fuzzy yellow disk directly overhead, illuminates the studio. Dillon stops working, runs his hands through his shoulder-length hair, and glances up at the skylight. Puffy, alabaster clouds drift across the square of glass, several in the shape of giant faces, two that Dillon recognizes. One is jolly St. Nick, his fat, round face framed in silvery locks that curl down around his cotton-batting collar. The next in the passing cirrus gallery is unmistakable; it's Dillon's Uncle Fred, grinning down at him, one drunken eye shut like he's winking!
Dillon cocks his head back and howls, mouth open wide, gold crowns on his back teeth flashing. His uncle is the one family member who believes in his work, feels sure he can make it in what he refers to as "the big-time." His sweeping complete, Dillon aims the broom like a javelin, launches it onto the porch, then slams the metal door.
A wall of the studio is lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. He strides toward them; beneath his cargo shorts the Bengal tiger tattooed on his right hip moves boldly along with him. Dillon starts at the end of the row and opens the first cabinet, pauses, then steps to the next and yanks it open. And the next and the next. His tiger doesn't seem to know whether to crouch or spring.
The cabinets house all of Dillon's paintings every stroke from
his brush over the last nine years. No one has laid eyes on this work
but his friend Hal, and Uncle Fred, of course, and now Hal wants to
bring Bonnie Bailey Banks to see them.