January 15th, 1635, Grantville
A sharp slap to the face woke Samuel Franklin, who immediately scrambled for the weapons that were not to hand. He came to himself quickly and quieted down without getting very far. His new wife, of three days, wisely got on top of him to hold him down before slapping him.
"Safwyl, darlin'," Melle said, "Sorry to slap you, but you wouldn't wake up."
"Oh God." The words sounded like they were dragged kicking and clawing from the depths of the man's soul, half prayer, half oath. "I thought I was through with that one. Will I never be free of it?"
She rolled off the top of him and snuggled into his side. "Good Lord, you're covered in a cold sweat! That must have been some dream."
"I told you I had nightmares before we got married."
This was a simple fact. The greater truth was he hadn't said much of anything about his past. He'd been a mercenary. And she knew there were things best forgotten. After all, she'd been a camp follower. But then she was a friend. Now she was a wife. Being married changes things. "Tell me about it and it will go away."
"They won't go away. It's been years now and they keep coming. Always the same dreams, this one was the dream of the day Master Rodrigo died. I don't know which is worse, the memory of what really happened or the dreams which have plagued me ever since."
"Tell me about it," she insisted and then waited, snuggled up. In the end he complied.
"When Master Rodrigo left England one step ahead of getting his balls cut off by his patron—"
"Couldn't he keep his pants on?" she asked.
"No, he couldn't," Samuel answered. "And worse still, to him 'no' just meant, 'try harder.' He once told me it was a good thing he wasn't in Nazareth, or there would have been no Virgin."
"Surely he was joking?" she asked.
"Probably," he replied. "Although he was absolutely serious when he told me I could never be a great painter if I was not a great lover."
Melle giggled. "Well, if that's all it takes, then you are the greatest artist in the world. But, you had best be satisfied with just my opinion or I'll put every drawing you've ever made in the wrong drawer!"
Samuel gasped. "You wouldn't dare!" It was too dark to see her face, but he still knew she was smirking.
"Would you rather lose your balls?"
"Um . . . how about I settle for your opinion and we never have to face that choice?"
Now that the mood was lighter, she asked, "So what happened after you fled England?"
"Rodrigo had an old invitation he hoped would be his next patron. We headed that way . . ."
Somewhere in Europe, 1628
The innkeeper sat near the fire, surrounded by candles. Samuel looked past the easel then glanced at his palette and frowned. He didn't have the right color. He knew how to make exactly what he wanted, but couldn't afford the ingredients. Master Rodrigo was broke, so his apprentice was painting an innkeeper for room, board and enough money to move on.
A party of loud, belligerent men entered and stopped to look over Samuel's shoulder and comment on the work in progress. Samuel Franklin didn't understand a word they were saying. The boy spoke English well, Welsh like a native, and sufficient Spanish to understand everything Master Rodrigo muttered under his breath. Languages were easy. After only a couple weeks in Europe, he now had a few words of Dutch and a few more of whatever it was the locals in the inn spoke. Not content with a glance and a comment like everyone else, the three mercenaries gathered behind Samuel, talking first softly and then ever more loudly, gesturing emphatically at the innkeeper and the painting in turns. It was making Samuel nervous.
One of the mercenaries tapped him on the shoulder when his brush was on the way back to the palette. When Samuel shook his head and tried to keep painting, the soldier got louder and tapped harder. Finally he grabbed Samuel's shoulder and squeezed.
Samuel feared for his life.
In response to the ever louder and increasingly angry questions, Master Rodrigo hurried into the common room, adjusting his rumpled clothing. A less-than-dressed lass stood watching from the doorway.
"Why are you bothering my apprentice?" Rodrigo demanded.
"And just who are you?" the mercenary retorted.
"I am Rodrigo, the finest painter to ever leave Iberia, and therefore the greatest painter you will ever meet!"
The commander raised an eloquently sarcastic eyebrow. "Since when has Iberia been famous for its painters?" His tone sparked a chilling chuckle from his companions.
Master Rodrigo dismissed this minor quibble with an airy wave. "This is only because most Iberian painters are content to stay in Iberia, where they are appreciated. But I decided to make the sacrifice and bring truly great art to the rest of the world."
The tallest mercenary adjusted the hang of his sword. "I've never heard of you." This time the tone was clearly insulting.
Rodrigo remained supremely unflustered. The tone of voice of an uncouth, uncultured, barbarian was of no account. "True. When I left Spain I made the mistake of letting myself be buried in the cultural graveyard called England. But now I have escaped back into the light of day and soon the whole world will know the greatness of Rodrigo.
"And," Rodrigo continued, "you have not answered my question. Why are you bothering my apprentice?"
"I'm trying to ask him a question. But he won't answer me. Is he deaf?"
"To any tongue but his own? Yes. English peons are blockheads. For that matter, all English are blockheads. Still, for an Englishman, the boy shows promise and I could not leave him to wither in darkness."
"Yes, he is promising," the lead mercenary acknowledged. "His likeness is good, his perspective and depth are excellent . . . but is there some reason why his colors are off?"
Rodrigo snorted. "Don't look at the painting. Look at the palette."
The mercenary did and grunted. "I see. I'll look at it again when he's finished."
"That will be sometime tomorrow, the lad is past being finished for the day."
"No, it will be later tonight. You won't be here tomorrow, and I presume your apprentice will be leaving with you."
"I am going nowhere until the painting is done and that will be sometime tomorrow," Rodrigo insisted.
"Rodrigo, we are leaving in the morning. Our captain needs a portrait painted. You are going with us. So the old man is sitting right where he is until the painting is done, if he has to sit there all night."
"No," the artist shook his head. "I have somewhere to go. A commission is waiting. When I leave here—"
"Rodrigo, I thought you wanted to be famous," the mercenary interrupted with a predatory smile. "Well, let me explain something to you about fame. If you want to be famous you will leave here, in the morning, with us. If your apprentice can't afford pigments, he certainly can't afford a gravestone. Nothing is as soon forgotten as something left in an unmarked grave in a potter's field."
Rodrigo touched his apprentice on the shoulder. "Samuel, take a break, I'll paint for a while."
The captain wanted a portrait for his wife. When it was on its way, the captain decided he wanted another one for his mother. But first there was a battle to be fought. The conscripted painters set up their easels on a hillside at the command post, just far enough not to be in the way. Rodrigo told Samuel to paint the general and his staff. To fill his own canvas, the master turned to the heat of the battlefield in the valley below.
As if to mock any slur on his talent the Iberian master sketched quickly and gracefully, and just as quickly fed his palette. The canvas became ever more crowded as he worked to capture the fleeting chaos. It was a frantic undertaking. Rodrigo, captivated and absorbed by the changing scene below, did not see what Samuel saw. He did not notice the changing atmosphere surrounding the general. He was unaware of the often repeated, furtive glances by the general's staff towards where the horses were picketed. He ignored the battle cries of the cavalry cresting the hill from behind the command group. He did not pay any attention to Samuel's panicked screaming or helter-skelter mad dash to the cover of the woods. By the time he broke his concentration and glanced over his shoulder, it was far too late.
Samuel blinked. The next few seconds became forever etched in his mind; nightmare haunted his nights and invaded his days, sometimes at the most inopportune moments. The saber came down at an angle, hacking the objecting painter' neck. A quick thunder of hooves and naught remained but a broken easel and near headless artist. The final work of "the finest painter ever to leave Iberia" lay on a hillside, a dripping, crimson waterfall.
January 15th, 1635
A shivering Samuel said to his bride, "I told you I was troubled by bad memories and worse dreams. Well, in this dream the cavalryman doesn't ride over the crest of the hill. He rides across the canvas, growing in size as he comes. Then he leaps out of the painting to hack Rodrigo down and trample him into the sod."
"Safwyl, darlin', it's just a dream."
"It's one of three. And I thought I was through with this one," Samuel said. "When they come, they don't change. They are exactly the same every time."
Samuel's pause lingered. When it was clear he was through talking, his wife realized she needed to change the topic of conversation. "What did you do after Rodrigo was killed?"
"With Rodrigo gone, the captain gave me an arbalest and handed me over to a sergeant with the words, 'Look after the lad. I want him to do a painting for my mother.'
"I'd left everything on the hillside. I wasn't about to go back to salvage anything. So I had to make paints and brushes and an easel, and stretch a canvas all from scratch. The captain died in the next battle before I could even begin to get started. The sergeant found us another captain and then another after that and then, I thank God every day, we were beaten by Grantville and they put me on a harvesting crew. There were wonders and impossibilities everywhere. Everytime I turned around, my crew was insisting on knowing the English words for something else." Samuel laughed. "As if simply knowing the right sounds would grant comprehension."
Melle smiled and rolled her eyes at the familiar topic. The benefits of having a smart man made up for the occasional repeat lecture.
Oblivious in the dark to his bride's exasperation, he continued. "Remember the second time they had a TV broadcast? They showed Fantasia. The audience reaction was . . ."
His wife nuzzled his ear and her hand went south. Samuel's thoughts followed her hand and shortly there was no room in his head to contemplate dreams, the past, or philosophical conundrums. When they finished she snuggled down tight and dozed off to sleep. Samuel's mind returned to where he had left off with the night four years ago when he first saw a Disney animation.
Along with the ones already in various classrooms as part of the in-house broadcasting system, there were half a dozen more TVs scattered around the high school cafeteria for anyone who did not have access to one elsewhere. All the plastic chairs were in use and still more people were standing behind the chairs. Sam Franklin was seated with most of the members of his harvesting crew. Since he spoke English well, the powers that be had made Sam a gang boss. To avoid the conflict of older people resenting an eighteen-year-old kid telling them what to do, they gave Sam a crew his own age or younger. When it came to harvesting, he didn't know what to do or how to do it. He was raised a landlord's son, not a farmer. His family's holdings were just on the wrong side of the Welsh border, (which is why his father called him Samuel and his mother, Safwyl.) But he had plenty of farm kids on the crew. So, what he didn't know didn't matter, as long as he was willing to pitch in and help them get it done. It worked. They were a good crew.
On screen, Becky finished the news and said, "Next I am told we have a special treat tonight. The name of tonight's movie is Fantasia. It is a Walt Disney animation. I have not seen it yet, so we will see it together."
Sam watched the screen. Suddenly he leaned forward in his seat. His body froze. His mouth opened slightly. His eyes grew larger as he realized what he was seeing was clearly a painting and the painting had come alive; the painting was moving. His first thoughts harkened to the nightmare where the horseman rode across the painting on Rodrigo's easel and then out of the frame to hack the Spaniard down and trample him under the horse's hooves. But he knew how Rodrigo died. Rodrigo was killed in a perfectly ordinary way by a perfectly ordinary cavalryman. That was a horror. The other was only a nightmare. There was no way this could possibly leave the TV screen.
He watched enthralled through "Toccata and Fugue" then through "The Nutcracker," all the while wondering how it was done.
Somehow the machines could make a painting come alive and move. Why was that so much harder to believe than the moving picture of the first broadcast? But it was. Those were ordinary men staging an ordinary play out of doors and having it saved by a special machine called a camera, to be played out later. Yet somehow, while the movie actors seemed miraculous, this was different. This was a contradiction of what it meant to be a painting. It was what every painter wanted and could never do, capture life as it is.
Samuel Franklin had not touched a paintbrush since the day his master became a bloody mess trampled into the sod. Any thought of painting was drowned out in the fears and demands of the harrowing life he found himself living. After some time and much thought and contemplation, Samuel understood where the dreams were coming from. Rodrigo had been killed by his painting. The man had been so absorbed in his work he failed to notice what was going on around him until it was too late. Realizing this helped. But it did not completely lay the nightmares to rest.
For four years he had not painted. His days were full of things best forgotten. His nights were full of horrors; of a cavalryman stamping Rodrigo into the sod, of death on a pale horse followed by hell, loose upon the earth and, worst of all, the dream of being in the line of battle and looking down to see his right hand being blown away. Oddly there was no pain and no blood, in the dream. He knew he would not bleed to death, yet he knew he would never paint again. And while Samuel had no time to paint, the fear of never painting again was nearly paralyzing.
His time as a mercenary was a different world than the one he grew up in, or the one he lived in Grantville. It had been a world of extremes: of violence, and stress, of hunger, and gluttony, of drunkenness, exhaustion, boredom, and fear, of cruelty, of trying to fit in, of trying to stay alive and whole, of monstrous things seen and monstrous things done.
But, now, seeing a painting of a mouse carrying buckets of water move as if it was alive, Samuel's hand twitched as if to stroke a brush on a canvas. He wanted to paint the moving picture. He had to paint moving pictures. He would sell his soul if he had to, to paint pictures that moved.
In the TV studio the phone used for the call-in part of the evening's programming started ringing off the hook. The callers were all asking some variation of the same question. "How is it done?" A boy on the crew said, "Janet, when the movie is over, I think we'd better explain about animation and how it works."
Janet, the television teacher, handed him a pass key. "Go to the art room. I need a dozen pieces of card stock. If you can't find it quickly get a half dozen. Oh, never mind." She took the key back, then she opened a file cabinet and took out several files dumping the contents onto a table. "Anyone got a felt tip? Never mind. Here's one."
She slapped down a quarter and quickly traced it on the edge of the top folder. Shifting the manila folder over slightly exposed the next one down for another quick tracing, but this time the quarter was positioned lower. By the time Janet reached the bottom of the page she had the entire stack fanned out like a deck of cards. The spacing wasn't quite regular, part way down she realized she was going to run out of room and had to scrunch the outlines tighter towards the bottom. Janet chewed her lip and glared at her slightly wobbly circles then shrugged and swept them up into a neat stack. She showed it to the boy, flipping through the folders. "Hold it here and flip through the pages like this. It's a little awkward, try it." She shoved it in his hands. He flipped through it. "Good. Now get in front of the camera and tell me what you are going to tell them."
"And, three, two, one—" She pointed at him, but the light was off showing that the camera was not live.
"Good evening. Some people have asked how the previous show was done."
He held up the improvised flip book and the camera closed in on the picture of the ball. "As you can see this is a simple picture of a ball." Turning to the next page he showed the next ball a little lower and then he showed the page after that. "Now if you flip the pages quickly," he said, making his words fact as he spoke them, "you can watch the ball falling down." Next he grabbed it from the back, let it flip forward and the ball seemed to stutter as it rose. "So you see," he paused, "it is a simple mechanical effect."
"Okay. You're on as soon as the show is over."
Enthralled, Samuel sat on the edge of his chair, a man obsessed. When he first saw photographs, he had been very interested in the technique for painting pictures with such very fine details. But this was different! He had to learn to paint moving pictures. He had seen something called watercolor kits with paintbrushes and paints in one of the stores in town. It would be so much faster than making paints and brushes. Tomorrow he would take some of his savings and buy a set. Satisfied with his new plan, he carefully put it aside so he wouldn't miss a moment of the remaining movie.
Three days later, Samuel ground his brush into the ruined work on the table, loudly growling an obscene and blasphemous oath in Welsh. He picked his beer up, turned the bottom of the mug to the ceiling and slammed the mug down. His behavior drew annoyed attention from all over the tavern. Most especially from a French lass from Brittany whose native language closely resembled his own. The first time she took his order, Samuel had asked, "Where in Wales are you from?" After the affronted correction of her native land they had often talked, enjoying the rare chance to speak their mother tongues.
She called out in her native patois, "Safwyl, this may be Grantville, mister, but for decency's sake, watch your mouth. And for politeness sake, speak English or at least German. I know you have both." She didn't miss the irony—or even the hypocrisy—of her using Gaelic to tell him to be polite and speak German and it caused him to chuckle.
"Sorry, Melle," Samuel replied in English. "These f—" He started to use an obscenity and stopped himself. "paints won't stay where they're put." An ancient man drinking nearby stirred at the censored swear word, got up and walked over to Samuel's table to inspect his work.
"Of course they won't stay put. They're watercolors. You're trying to use them like latex or oils. That won't work. Like the name says, they're made of water. They run and they bleed and you have to work with that. Besides, serious watercolor work needs to be on watercolor painting paper, not a newsprint sketch pad. And what you've got there aren't real watercolors anyway. They're just cheap toys for kids. If you're going to use a sketch pad, get yourself a pencil. If you want colors, then get a box of crayons or colored pencils, if there's any left."
The ancient extended his hand. "My name's Lyman Seeley."
"That's not what the lass called you."
"Oh, that? She called me 'Safwyl.' So did my mother. My father pronounced it Samuel, same thing. You're an artist?"
"Wanted to be once. Wanted to be Rembrandt or Michelangelo making a living painting a church ceiling flat on my back. But one evening about the time I was ready to graduate, I mentioned I'd like to think about going to art school. Well, my father got very solemn and ma got that worried sick look on her face. It was back in the Depression, and they objected. A lot.
"They were right. I got a job and saved up my money. Later I got married. She was older than me, but we were happy. We bought a house in town and I set up an easel in the room with the best northern light. We figured it would one day be the nursery since it was right next to the master bedroom and had a connecting door. We were expecting our first child when she died back in '39, just about six months after we got married."
The old man shook the past out of his head. "Say, would you like to see some of my stuff?"
As soon as he asked the question, Lyman found himself wondering why. He had shown his works to someone exactly three times over the last sixty years. Maybe, on the evidence of one glance at a failed watercolor, he saw Samuel was a serious artist. Maybe it was because Samuel's red hair and high cheekbones reminded him of someone he knew and trusted; but he couldn't, for the life of him, put a finger on whom. Maybe it was as simple as he just liked the boy.
"Sure," Samuel said.
Lyman led him to an old, post-and-beam framed house with a detached garage, which had once been a carriage house. They entered through the kitchen where everything was sixty or seventy years old, except for a fairly new refrigerator. The living room had a sixty-year-old couch and coffee table, a worn-out recliner pushed off to one side, and a newer recliner in front of the TV. What Samuel noticed first were the paintings. Every wall big enough to hold one had a painting and most walls had several. Samuel stopped to look at the first one inside the door.
"Good, ain't it?" Lyman said. "Once a year, I'd take a vacation and go to New York to go through the galleries. I could never afford the expensive ones. But I always managed to find something which caught my eye.
"Come on upstairs."
Samuel glanced in one room that was innocent of furniture. There wasn't a linear foot of wall space at eye level which did not hold at least part of a painting. There were more unframed works on the floor leaned against the wall in ranks. Some ranks were six and eight deep. One queue ran the whole length of the room against the far wall. Lyman led Samuel past an open hall closet. It was empty except for a few art supplies and then into a smaller room which was also mostly empty. There were two easels, both holding unfinished paintings. One painting, of a car, was obviously in progress. The easel tray holding the other was thick with dust. In the dust-covered painting you were looking through an open doorway at a bed where a woman reposed alluringly, calmly, tranquilly, (Samuel could not quite find the right word) reading a book. She wasn't just lying there. She was, somehow, too alive to be just lying there. She reposed! Her body, her pose, her essence, was screaming, "come here to me, join me, make love with me."
Lyman pointed to the one sitting on the dusty easel. "My wife. I was painting her when she died."
"Beautiful," Samuel whispered.
"Yes, she was."
"Oh, that too," Samuel replied in little more than a whisper. "But I meant the painting is quite good."
"Naw, just an amateur's attempt at capturing his lover."
"No, I mean it," Samuel said. "It's good."
"Well, maybe I was inspired." Lyman paused. "She was beautiful." He paused again. "We were in love." And yet again he paused. "I miss her."
Lyman glanced at the boy, then at the painting of his wife and figured out why he was showing the lad his most private thoughts. The young man looked enough like his wife that he could have been their son.
He turned to the work in progress. A snapshot of an auto was clipped above the painting. Lyman pointed. "That, my young friend is a 1937 Oldsmobile with a semi-automatic transmission. Marilyn saw one and fell in love with it before we started courting. She was disappointed I was driving an old rattle trap of a Ford. She wanted an Olds even if they did cost as much as a house new. But she married me anyway. When I got the money, after the war, I bought and started restoring one. It's out in the shed. I've made several tries over the years to paint one. I never have been happy with any of them. The chrome on the bumper might just be the hardest thing in the world to paint.
"Let me show you the last try," Lyman said taking Samuel to the empty room where he started tilting back paintings in the middle of the long line against the wall. "Here it is." He said, pulling it out and setting it on top of the queue. The painting was of a black car waiting quietly in tall grass near a stream while a young man and a red-headed lass picnicked in the background. To Samuel, knowing nothing about cars in general and even less about old cars in particular, it looked very much like the photo he had just seen. But as a painting he could comment knowledgably.
"Even with all that black and silver—did you call it chrome?—you were still able to use the light and shadows for the illusion of depths. And the grass around the wheels, I can almost feel it with my toes."
"Young man," Lyman said, "that was kind of you to say so. I've got a painting over here which makes me feel the same way. Let me show you.
"Here it is. See? Look at the moss on the flagstone. It makes you want to take off your shoes, don't it? I sure do. I bought it 1960. I looked for more of the artist's work the next year, but couldn't find any. The gallery's owner said he'd died. I asked in another gallery they told me he O.D.ed."
"Overdosed. He took too many drugs. Rather like drinking oneself to death, but you can do in minutes instead of years. They said they thought it was suicide. His girlfriend left him, he couldn't pay his rent, he was being evicted and his paintings weren't selling. Which was a shame, they sure were all gone a year later. He was good, but not good enough. He should have gotten a day job."
"You're good too."
"Maybe, but not good enough. I'm just an amateur. I do it to pass the time. I had enough sense to get a day job. Let me see if I can find the first '37 Olds I painted."
Samuel watched. Lyman didn't need to find it. He knew exactly where it was. It was more about the driver with the wind blowing through his hair, than it was about the car. The boy in the picture had the same high cheekbones and red hair of the woman in the unfinished canvas.
They stared at the painting for a while. Samuel looked at the technique, thinking the old man really was a good painter, the old man looked at the son he never had.
"Hey," Lyman said, "I think I've got a box of colored pencils I can spare. The things are fifty years old, but it's not like colored pencils dry out."
"But, sir, I can't afford to pay for them."
"Don't worry about it. You're a trained artist. I can tell from what you were trying to do with the watercolors. When I finish the current canvas, you can help me stretch another. I've never had to do that.
"There isn't an art supply store in town. So I'll have to stretch the next one myself. And, when I run out of oils, you can teach me how to make them. But take my advice. If you are going to work with a sketch pad, then do what it says and sketch. Otherwise, go back to canvas and oils."
"What I want to do is animation like what was on the TV the other night."
The old man snorted dismissively, "Son, that ain't art. That's just commercial doodling. Why would a real artist want to waste his time doing something like that?"
"Sir, it does what painters have been wanting to do for centuries. It makes paintings come alive."
"I won't say it ain't true," Lyman admitted. "But, it's still not real art."
A week or so later, Lyman stopped by the table where Melle had just sat down. Samuel was working on a five-by-eight file card with the colored pencils. There was an open pack to his left and a short stack to his right. Melle was going through the short stack which, at a glance, seemed to be all the same.
"Why, Safwyl, they're all me, and ain't I dressed grand?"
Lyman took a look. His first thought was that the boy had drawn his dead wife, except it wasn't her. She had never owned that much jewelry. On top of that, the ruffled blouse was more like the top half of a down-time dress than anything worn in the twentieth century. Yes, the long, luscious hair, and clear skin, could be Melle's. Lyman chuckled and figured the only reason Samuel hadn't "enhanced" her teeth and breasts as well was because the picture wasn't smiling and Melle needed no help filling out her uniform.
"Why are they all the same?" Melle asked.
He put the pencil down and took the drawings out of her hands. After squaring them up he flipped through them causing her head in the painting to start to turn.
"The research I did at the library said it's called a flip book. It shows movement."
"You mean like the little wizard mouse."
"Oh," she said.
"Melle," the bartender called out. "Quit bothering the customers and get back to work." Waiting tables was Melle's second job. Making ends meet in Grantville was not easy. But then, making ends meet anywhere was not easy. Yet leaving Grantville was scary, more so for some than others, especially when you didn't have anywhere to go or any way of making a living when you got there.
Lyman looked at the cards. "Are you going to make a peep show machine?"
"When I was a boy, some of them were still around. There was a slot to look through, a peep hole, and inside were a stack of pictures, each one just a little different from the next. You put a nickel in and turned a crank and watched the show, like a silent movie. It was usually a woman. She was usually getting undressed."
Samuel blushed as only a redhead can. He glanced at Melle across the room.
Lyman changed the subject.
"Melle thinks it's her. Is it?" Lyman asked.
"Well, sort of. I guess. She was here working when I started the first one, but I was more interested in getting the movement right than I was in capturing a particular person."
Lyman took note of how deeply the boy blushed and jumped to a conclusion which was fully justified by his West Virginian way of thinking. "If it's even just sort of her, you could have done a better job of it."
The flipbook of the woman turning her head took half of the stack of file cards and it was near the end of October before Samuel had them done and sewn together into a book. But he was not at all happy with the results. There was something absolutely wrong about the way she moved. One young up-timer who saw it made the comment, "Cool, but why did you make such a good-looking zombie?"
Samuel showed it to the art teacher at the high school and asked, "What did I do wrong?
She flipped it, looked at a few cards, and flipped it a few more times before saying, "Huh . . . short answer? I'm not really sure what you did wrong."
She shrugged. "I know animation up-time is always cartoony-looking. Maybe you just discovered the reason why."
Samuel groaned and slumped down on the desk. The teacher laughed and said "Don't worry. There is sure to be a how-to book around here somewhere."
She went to a shelf where she kept her private reference books. "Yeah, here it is." She handed him a copy of The Illusion of Life. "You're welcome to look at it here on Wednesday evenings. I open the room up at seven for a self-help support group. It's strictly by invitation and it's limited to serious artists only." She opened the flip book and looked at one of the drawings. "That's you."
When she shut the group down around nine or ten, more often than not some of them would end up in a bar for a beer or two. It wasn't until the third meeting that she was comfortable enough with Samuel to let him take the book home.
A bar in Grantville, late 1631
The old man walked up to the red-headed couple and waited for them to notice him. After a while he cleared his throat.
"I don't mean to intrude on your courtship, but if I buy a round can I join you if I promise to leave when it's done?" Lyman asked.
"Um . . . sure," Samuel replied.
"What did he say? I do not know all those words." For some people languages come easily. Melle was not one of them. She was still learning English. Samuel told her and she started laughing.
"Why are you laughing?" Lyman asked.
"Because, you are funny," Melle answered. "He is not old enough. And he can not support a family. When he does marry, it will be someone with dowry and connections, not a penniless camp whore."
With Melle's self-deprecation, Lyman's joke turned to ashes in his mouth.
"Sam, I want to hire you. I've decided to start selling off my art collection."
"Why would you do that!?" a startled Samuel blurted. "You've been collecting those paintings your whole life. Why get rid of them now?"
"Because son, whoever dies with the most toys is still dead. This way I can make sure they go to people who appreciate them." Lyman paused to take a swallow of beer. "And the money won't hurt, I plan to spend my end days living in the lap of luxury."
Melle wrinkled her forehead, "Are you dying? You don't look like sick."
Lyman laughed. "I'm eighty-three years old. I could drop dead tomorrow. It's not like I expect to, but it is gonna happen sooner or later.
"Anyway, I've rented a store front downtown for a gallery. It ain't professional to have strangers traipsing in and out of the house all day and I like my privacy.
"But I need someone else selling them since all I speak is English. I've heard you talkin' French, Italian, Spanish, German, and some others I don't recognize. Hell, you're translating for Melle right now! You know enough about art to answer any questions and you can charm a babe from its mother's teat."
At this praise, Samuel blushed and fudged his translation slightly. Melle didn't call him on it. Her English was good enough to get the important bits.
"I'll pay you a commission. And you can set up an easel and paint while waiting for customers to come in and you can hang what you paint.
"We can move the old couch and coffee table down to the gallery. It might be sixty years old but it ain't hardly ever been sat on.
"Now I can't pay you much in the way of an advance on commissions, but you can crash there on the couch until we start selling something.
"Up-time paintings ought to be worth something as a novelty, don't you think, even if they ain't any of them by anyone famous.
"Do you want the job managing the gallery or not? Like I said, you can do some painting and hang your works."
Samuel stopped to think and hesitantly said, "Are you sure you want a mere apprentice running your store? After all, there are more artists coming every day."
Melle reached over and smacked him upside the head. "Idiot, take the job before he hires another."
Just after the 1632 calendar was hung, the gallery opened, next to a dress shop in the old downtown business district. Lyman only rented the front showroom with its giant glass window and a break room with a bathroom and lunch table. He didn't need the stock room, so the shop next door rented it for production space.
The dress shop's business was almost exclusively tourists. For genteel women coming to Grantville, a new dress always seemed to be on their must-have list. This meant the gallery got a fair amount of traffic, providing gentlemen something to do during a wife's fitting. Not to mention the flow of women stopping in after their dressmaker visit.
Up-timers who wandered in looked at the prices for up-time original art and staggered out muttering. Down-timers took it in stride. Sales were slow and when someone did buy something, they wanted letters of authenticity with witnesses, a notary, and seals. But they didn't bat an eye at the price. The paintings were all to Lyman's taste, of course, and Lyman liked traditional works, which seemed to suit the down-timers just fine.
Samuel spent a goodly amount of time working on a new flip book. When it was done he proudly showed it to Lyman.
Lyman flipped through it and nodded. It featured a ball with little round ears on the top and even smaller nubbin feet on the bottom and still smaller eyes and nose in between. The creature bounced out of the fold and hopped off of the page. "Cute," he grunted. "But the other one was better art. This is just line drawing with no color."
"There was something wrong with the way the first one moved. The book the art teacher loaned me said to start working with basic shapes to get movement down."
"Oh, that makes sense. But you still need to work on painting before you do any more doodling."
When he showed it to Melle, she chuckled. "What did you do with the one of me?"
Samuel blushed, "After I was told the way you moved made you look like a monster, I burned it."
Melle's mouth opened to take a deep breath. Samuel knew he was about to face a gale force tirade. "But he said you were a beautiful monster."
Melle's hissy fit turned into laughter. "But, Safwyl, I was dressed so grand! Couldn't you have saved me at least one of the cards?"
At that point Samuel knew what he was going to paint first. He set about making paints in the break room and then set up an easel in the showroom. The first time he stood before the canvas, pencil in hand to sketch the well-remembered pose, he stood there frozen while the off white of the canvas grew whiter and turned into a roaring glare to rival the sun. The glare, the roar, the pounding icepick in his head, caused him to drop the pencil, stagger to the door to turn the "open" sign and retreat to the windowless break room, where he turned out the light and sat in the dark.
Samuel had no idea how long he sat there before he heard Lyman's voice calling from the gallery.
"Hello? Anyone home?" Lyman frowned at the sight of Franklin's jacket hanging on the coat hook and the art supplies scattered around the easel. When he opened the break room door and saw Samuel huddled in the corner he stilled. Gently, softly, he closed the door and leaned against the far wall. "Sam? Are you okay?"
"No," Samuel growled. "My head is killing me."
"You set up your easel. What happened?"
"The canvas turned as white as the sun, it roared and then savaged me."
"I see." Lyman cocked his head and thought a moment. "I don't know if it counts as post-traumatic stress or some other problem, but you sit right here until Melle comes to fix supper. I'll hold the fort until she's due. Then tomorrow when I come, you can try and edge into painting sideways."
The next afternoon Franklin sat on the couch and, without any trouble at all, sketched Melle in her favorite fantasy dress.
Lyman looked over the boy's shoulder and objected, "That's some of your doodlings."
"Melle's upset that I burned it. I thought I'd give this to her when it's done."
"Well, you don't want the lass mad at you," Lyman agreed. "I guess it's okay, but when you finish this, we are gonna try a real canvas."
"Now," Lyman as he set a canvas on the easel, "don't even think about putting paint to canvas unless I'm here."
It took a while to nibble at the job while Lyman chatted and distracted and called frequent halts. But by and by, Samuel, mostly, got over it and was able to paint.
When the painting was well on its way to being done, the nightmare of losing his hand in battle came to him as he slept on the couch. But this time when the shell, still in slow motion, approached his hand, he simply moved aside and watched it pass him by without a scratch.
Finally, the canvas was finished and a delighted Melle asked, "Do I get anything when you sell it?"
Samuel blinked and tried to hide his disappointment. "I thought you'd want to keep it."
"Safwyl, it's too grand for the likes of me to keep. Just knowing that I am somewhere in the world dressed like that is enough."
For his next canvas, as per his training, he sketched what he saw. The words "Twentieth Century Art" appeared predominately in mirror writing on the canvas. An uptime neon beer sign across the wide street was the second most prominent item. When the painting was near completion a "silver buttons" rang the electric bell by opening the door.
Samuel classed his visitors by the buttons on their coats. Plastic buttons, up-timers, came, shook their heads, and left. Leather buttons looked around and left, usually without a word. Silver buttons lingered longer. They occasionally wanted to ask questions about a particular painting, but they almost never bought anything. Gold buttons talked more and they were the ones who ended up buying. The first thing the fellow did was to stop to look over Samuel's shoulder. He looked at the canvas then he looked out the window. He nodded and wandered off to make the rounds of the walls. In the end he was back at the easel. By then Lyman had wandered in for his daily chat and was looking at the work in progress, making comments.
Mr. Silver Buttons waited for a break in Lyman's critique which mostly consisted of, "You can do better than that," said in at least four different ways.
"My wife, who is next door being fitted," Silver Buttons said, "wants an impressive work of art to hang in our eingang to prove we've been to Grantville. As if a new dress at three times what the seamstress back home charges isn't enough." He sighed. "I don't see anything here which tells that tale any better than this does. It's not from up-time, but it proves we've been here." It had the added benefit of being something Mr. Silver Buttons might be able to afford.
"When will it be done and how much will you want for it?"
Samuel said, "Tomorrow or the next day," and named a substantial price for an apprentice level work.
Silver Buttons nodded. "How much more to paint my wife looking in through the window?"
Lyman named a price, also substantial.
"Sold," Silver Buttons said. "What time do you want her here to pose?"
Early the next day, Lyman brought in an easel and started painting the street scene. He left a vaguely man-shaped empty spot where he wrote the words, your portrait here. He had Samuel take something else down so he could hang it on the wall and then he immediately started another one. "It will sell, Sammy. Just you wait a few days." He was right. After that it was a rare day Lyman wasn't in the gallery, or out in the street, painting more street scenes.
Selling his current works sparked a renewed discussion on selling his earlier works.
As a satisfied customer left the gallery with his portrait, Samuel said to the old man, "Lyman, I want some of your old works hanging on the walls here. Don't tell me they aren't good enough. And don't tell me they won't sell. People are more than willing to buy your current works. I can get as much for your twentieth-century canvases as I can for the ones you bought in New York."
The old man hunched his shoulders and stubbornly glared at the wall. "Don't need to, son. Right now we've still got plenty of paintings to sell." Samuel dropped it and resolved to argue the point again later. It didn't matter. Lyman never did bring in any of his older works. He was quite content selling portraits, and worked on them pretty much daily.
One rainy autumn day in 1632, Lyman and Samuel were painting away when a gold buttons customer with his gold-buttoned little boy came in. He'd been in earlier, alone, when Lyman alone was painting. Samuel's canvas was covered and he hadn't seen it. That day he had spent a great deal of time looking at the collection. Today he looked at the works on the easels.
"You're both painting the same thing."
Samuel pointed to an empty spot on the couch in front of the window. "See this space here? That's where you get painted in."
"James?" he asked his son, "You said you thought Grantville was fun. If I have them put you into the picture will you sit still for them?"
The boy smiled and nodded.
"Then hop up on the divan."
"But, this one is commissioned." Samuel said.
"So? You've got electric lights. Stay up nights, use his as your source and paint another one."
"I want that one and that one." He pointed at two spots on the wall. Then he pointed at the easel, "And that one."
Samuel sighed. He'd be missing his evening at the bar and his Wednesday night meetings until he was caught up. But they needed the sales.
The next day the boy grew ever more fidgety. Samuel handed him a flip book. The animation was done and it was the first he'd ever taken to a bookbinder. But because he'd only decided to color it after it was bound the coloring was still in progress.
In the book a round-faced, pointy-eared, squat, little fellow with a curved sword almost as big as he was, rode a saber-toothed dog out of the fold of the book and reeled back after bouncing off of the edge of the page as if he ran into a wall. The flip book amused the boy and kept him if not still, then at least stiller. When the sitting was done Papa Gold Buttons asked, "How much for the toy?"
Lyman understood the question, and at the same time Samuel said "It's not for sale," Lyman named a steep price. Gold Buttons opened his purse on the spot and counted out coins to cover it and he did not wait for his change.
When they were gone, Lyman said, "See, Sam, it might make you a good day job. It certainly did for Disney. But he called it a toy. It's not art."
Samuel sighed. "Lyman, it wasn't finished. You don't sell unfinished works."
"But the man wanted to buy it and it's not like it was art," Lyman said.
"I didn't want to sell it."
Samuel did not tell Lyman that ever since he drew it, the nightmare of the cavalryman riding out of the painting to cut Rodrigo's head nearly off and stomp him into the ground had stopped. That only left the nightmare out of Revelations, of death riding a pale horse followed by hell, being set free upon the earth. Samuel looked at the pile of coins and sighed. It was a very handsome price, and he could always make another book if the dream returned.
The big excitement for the gallery in 1633 came in the early summer with the visit of the deposed Italian princess Isabella. Her full title, according to the newspaper, was Isabella, Princess of Piombino, Marchioness of Populonia, Lady of Scarlino, Populonia, Vignale, Abbadia del Fango, Suvereto, Buriano and the Islands of Elba, Montecristo, Pianosa, Cerboli and Palmaionla. But she wasn't Spanish, and since the invasion in 1628 her kingdom was a Spanish possession. So she lived in exile and did some traveling. She came to Grantville to see the great mysteries. While she was there she commissioned several dresses and one painting.
Lyman parked his Oldsmobile in front of the gallery. He posed people sitting behind the wheel, arm over the door, looking out the window or getting out of the back seat. Every day the weather permitted, he would stand in the street with the gallery as the back drop to the car. It was a very popular pose. Isabella saw him painting, looked over his shoulder at a work in progress and extended her stay long enough to sit for a portrait.
"Lyman," Samuel said. "You've painted royalty. When they write the art history books for this timeline, you just secured a whole article, not just a mention."
"You really think so, Sam?" Lyman asked.
"Absolutely," Samuel said, with more confidence than he felt.
Three things happened after Lyman finished the portrait for the princess. First, they rarely were far enough ahead to hang a picture in the gallery with a blank spot ready for a portrait. Second, the costs of getting to sit for one of Lyman's paintings kept going up. And, thirdly, Lyman stopped referring to himself as an amateur.
January 15, 1635
With the happy memory of Lyman at last putting his demon to rest, and a promise to himself to replace the flip book Lyman sold, Samuel was able to turn his mind off and join his wife's pattern of peaceful shallow breathing. Sunrise, and another new day in the animation studio would come soon enough.