The Day The Artist Clipped His Toenails

ronaldcamp

“Similis In Prole Resurgo—I Am Born Again In My Offspring” 2016. Acrylic on paper. 15 x 23″

Off for a day trip to the fresh mountain air of the Adirondacks. Here is a short story about lake dwellers of the 1940’s. It’s very critical of gray-haired little boy war games.

The Day the Artist Clipped His Toenails

Frank lived with his family in an old logger’s camp at the base of Mt. Hope, two miles in from the highway. The road to his cabin could not be traveled by car. He had to walk to get food and mail. It was 1943, a year when all of America came this close to eating their human kill. Frank wanted nothing from the outside but food and mail. He was patriotic enough for the U.S. Postal Service, and fond of Sam, their mail man.
Frank’s wife and child were content and peaceful. He often thanked his lucky stars for that stroke of good fortune. They kept their dreaming personal, that is, the daughter walked the dog around the lake while the wife calmly waited for the landing of the loons. The days were magic. “To be human,” he often thought, “was too beautiful for words.”
Frank painted a thousand watercolors of the mountain. That was his art. Portraits of the mountain in the seasons. Mostly of the rain and snow, when his model was barely visible through the fog. Nobody bought them. Sam, the mailman, would reassure him. “Really, these look a whole lot better than a smiling Jap.” Most of the time, on his walk back through the forest with his bundle of mail and milk, Frank would come to his senses and push the sorrow out of the way.
Meanwhile, the whole world was at war. Sam told him about the murder of his sons and nephews in the Pacific. It made Frank sick to his stomach and once, he threw up at Sam’s feet, over box elder and wood rot. “Isn’t everyone sick Sam?” Frank foolishly wondered. Sam sighed. He tolerated Frank’s questions because there were only two men left on his route. The other guy was an old WWI vet, who sometimes shot rock salt at Sam, imagining him to be Kaiser Wilhelm, the mailman.
Sam shrugged his shoulders, “It’s war Frank. It’s ugly, but it’s war.”
The summer of ‘43 passed just like the summer of ‘42. White flowers and the fresh green leaves of lazy July. The geese sounds in the gray overhead mingled with the hopeful smell of dinner in late September. This was the artist’s simple routine. NOW, stand Frank’s calm melancholy up against the wide-eyed fear of your only son ten thousand miles from home the second he spies a flash of light from the brush, and the next second when he sees his mommy kissing him good night. He’s dead. Do you understand? Oh boy, here I go again. You gave him life and now it has been taken away. Who took it? The President? Yes. The mayor? Yes. You? Yes God, you. You horrible parent. You rotten human being. You devil’s devil. You no longer possess the instinct to protect. What kind of mammal are you? Why aren’t you tearing the flesh from your son’s murderers? How can you justify this? Is your child a rabbit? Did you make love to his father who was a rabbit? Can you squeeze out a hundred more of these before you die? Mother sends her child off on a train whistling straight to his grave. What a cute face. Showered and shaved. What an ugly thing a bullet does to his precious face. But war is ugly, and that’s a fact. And thank God almighty your son was murdered, Mrs. Smith. His sacrifice really slowed Tojo and Hitler’s advance. Yes ma’am! That’s what the letter says, so it must be true. “Morning mom. Wow pancakes, thanks!” No. He’s dead. His happy face had bullets shot into it. The letter gives thanks for your son’s life. They dragged his dead body over the bloody wasteland, tossed him into a used coffin, and dropped him at your door. And tomorrow if Mr. Pres. says we’re going to the Middle East, then let’s go. Hurry up! Yes, by God let’s go! It’s got to be more exciting than listening to those silly bird calls and waiting. Just waiting. Always the endless waiting. Acquiesce. Give in to the power of your elected leaders.
Frank? Where’s Frank? Why bother with Frank? Oh I am so sick and tired of stories. I wish Frank was a glowing hot steel ball shoved up your colon.
So instead, I clipped my toenails.

 

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