Late Autumn, 1632
Grantville, Downtown, Twentieth Century Art
The door chimed. Samuel Franklin looked up from the couch where he was working on a flip-book, as he did every day before his boss, Lyman Seeley, came in. It was a young girl, a local down-timer. She was wearing a shabby up-time coat. The expensive plastic buttons were replaced with cheap leather ones. Tourists who bought up-time clothes didn't buy shabby ones.
"Can I help you?" he asked in German.
She replied in English, "You sell the thumb-movies. I was—"
Samuel interrupted, "I sell what?"
Flustered, she dropped back into German "Sie verkaufen daumenkino."
Samuel held up the stack of drawings he was working on and with a practiced motion let the pages flip past. The girl smiled in relieved confirmation "Ja."
"Ah." Samuel nodded back and smiled. "In English the word is 'flip-book,' but I think I like 'thumb-movie' better—so descriptive. But why do you think I sell flip-books?
"The one of the little imp on dog-back trying to ride off the page but he hits the edge like an invisible wall? It was sold here, no?"
Samuel nodded in recognition. Emboldened by confirmation, she continued.
"That junker who bought your flip-book was insulting mein Bruder Hans, saying his book had to be better than Hans' because his was bought at a real art gallery and it was expensive and not something made by an unskilled child.
"My flip-book, it is just as good. In Grantville it does not matter that I am a girl. All things boys can do, so can girls! So I was wondering if you maybe take some of my daumenkino on con-sign-ment."
It was clear she was twisting her tongue around a new word.
"I want to make more, but I am out of free paper. The papermaker wants extra to make up the stiff paper that flips the best."
"Well, we did sell the one book." Samuel acknowledged. "Let me see what you've got."
She handed him two flip-books. The first one was a mother long-eared fluff-ball surrounded by a very active litter bouncing all over the page.
"Turn it over. There's another story on the back side."
The reverse animation was two long-eared fluff-balls coming from the fold and off the page to meet in the middle and kiss after making faces at each other. The second book showed a frog on a lily pad suddenly catching a fly. Its reverse was a fairy kissing the frog to turn him into a prince.
"This one is choppy toward the end. Did you rush it?" Samuel asked after looking at the frog to prince scene.
She giggled. "I ran out of space. I wanted to have the frog prince spit out a fly."
Samuel shook his head. "You can't rush it or it looks choppy. Draw what you have space for, don't shorten it to fit."
The electric chime sounded as Lyman walked in. He took note of the teenage girl and cocked his head, which Samuel understood as the question "what's going on?"
"She heard you sell flip-books. The boy from the other day claimed his book was superior because he bought it at an art gallery. She wants to sell these on consignment to buy more paper."
Lyman picked up one of the offered books and flipped through it. Then he noticed the second story on the back side and flipped through it too.
"You're right. We can't take them on consignment," Lyman said, flipping through the second book. "But I can use a few toys to amuse any kids that come in with a parent. How about I just buy the two books outright?"
At the word toys, the lass looked insulted. When Lyman named a price which would buy a whole ream of paper, she was all smiles. She could cut a ream into quarters and get at least four or five double-sided books out it.
"Show me the next one you do and I might buy it too. Just make sure it's got depth like the frog and not flat like those fluffy rabbity things." Lyman said.
After she left, Lyman carefully arranged the flip-books on the coffee table.
"Lyman, I've seen you turn down stuff all the time, like that nice framed photograph by Hansel Adams, because 'It ain't art.' Why did you buy her flip-book?"
"The photograph was by Ansel Adams not Hansel. I never said the books were art. And I didn't pay that much for them. But these are original drawings and none of that stupid 'modern art' crap neither. Did you notice her use of depth in the frog pond? What she needs is an apprenticeship to a good artist. She's wasting her time doodling like that. Still, I'd hate to see her stop drawing because she can't afford paper."
The next afternoon the snotty, little, arrogant new owner of Samuel's flip-book was back, this time with both of his flamboyantly-dressed noble parents.
"My wife is taken with the picture your journeyman did of our son. She has decided we need a family portrait," Herr Gold Buttons magnanimously informed Lyman. "Your journeyman will accompany us when we leave for home, to do a painting of us in our parlor."
Lyman thought he caught what the man said, but waited for Samuel's translation to be sure. "No! I'm sorry my good man, but I can't spare the lad away from the shop for that long."
"Don't be ridiculous. It is our wish."
"No. The lad has several pending commissions right here. He is already hard-pressed to catch up after we jumped you to the head of the line to put your son in the current work in progress instead of you waiting your turn."
While Lyman and the nobleman argued, the lad was busy showing his mother the flip-books he found on the coffee table.
Finally, Lyman set his palette down and put both hands on his hips. "I said no and I meant no! What part of no don't you understand?"
"Wilhelm, let it go. We'll send for a Dutchman instead. But your son has found two more of those books he is so taken with. Buy them for him."
"The same price as the last one I presume?" Gold Buttons asked, opening his purse.
"No, there's a second story on the back side of each. So they're twice as much."
"Twice as much?" The nobleman raised his voice to object more forcefully. "But it's the same amount of paper."
"True, but did you notice that the last one was in the process of being colored and was incomplete? You got it at a discount because it wasn't finished."
"Wilhelm, don't quibble like some farmer's wife in the market. Just pay the man. Your son wants them!"
When they were out the door, Lyman started laughing, and had to sit down to catch his breath. "Those people burn me up. Just who do they think they are?"
"The lords and masters of all they survey," a serious Samuel answered.
"Well, this is Grantville. If you wanna pull that shit here, you'd better have a proper surveyor's license. They didn't ask, they just told, and assumed you'd jump to it. Sticking it to them like that over the price of those kid's books was just plain fun. I never dreamed I'd turn a profit on that poor girl's doodlings. If I ever see her again, I'll have to give her some more money. After what I just got, it's only fair."
Four days later a "silver buttons" party of three made the circuit of the walls, sagely nodding at some paintings and hotly discussing others. One fellow kept insisting that some of the paintings were merely apprentice-level works and not worth the price being asked. Another repeatedly answered, "Yes, but they were painted two or three hundred years from now. See that card?" He pointed to a discrete title card by the disputed work. "It's from 1963, three hundred and thirty years from now. How much is that worth all by itself?"
After the fourth time his friend made the same point, the third man said, "Nothing! Either it's worth it on the strength of the work itself or it's not worth it at all."
"Point taken," the second man replied. The first man's shit-eating grin said more than a thousand words worth of "I told you so."
Lyman softly asked Samuel, "What are they saying?"
"One of them is complaining that the works are overpriced. He thinks they are apprentice works."
"Bullshit," Lyman replied. "New York galleries do not hang anything less than journeyman works and some of them are young masters, even if I bought them at starving artist prices."
When the trio had circumnavigated the room, man number three looked over Lyman's shoulder and said, "Ah, yes, the famous 'Your Portrait Goes Here' painting. It's a shame I won't be in town long enough to sit." This was a lie. It wasn't a shortage of time; it was a shortage of funds. "But, I would like to see what you have in the way of flip-books. I am right, aren't I? You do sell them here?"
"Sammy? Do we have anything? How's the current one coming?"
"I don't have anything bound. The one I'm working on now won't be done for at least another week," Samuel replied.
"Sorry," Lyman sounded sincere. He was. He sincerely missed the chance to make a sale. "We're out of stock right at this moment."
"That's too bad. I really would like a bit of art to take home."
"Check back before you leave town. We never know when one of our freelance artists might bring in something to leave on consignment. Otherwise, last I knew, Solomon's Twentieth Century Curios just down the street had a nice, famous, framed Ansel Adam's photograph of Yosemite National Park."
Up-time, Solomon's sign would have read, "Antiques and Collectables" and he would have been known as a junk dealer. He was once asked what defined a curio. He replied, "A curio is just a piece of junk someone is willing to pay too much for."
When the three art critics were gone, Lyman said, "Sammy, show me what you're currently doodling."
A very surprised young man set his brush and palette down and brought Lyman the half-finished flip-book.
"You don't need all of these to finish up do you?"
A puzzled Samuel replied, "Of course I do. How else am I going to make sure the motion looks right?"
"Oh," Lyman handed him the cards back. "I need to check some prices at the print shops. That's the second time I've had someone ask after flip-books they think we've got."
"Yesterday, when you stepped out. I hate to disappoint paying customers. If I get a run of ten or twenty copies printed up, can you color and sign them?"
"Lyman? Are you sure? You always said that copies aren't art."
"Who said it was art? This is business. If we've got buyers wanting to buy, then we need stock to sell them. And besides, we're just talking a limited number of hand-colored signed prints for the tourists."
He looked through the finished pages. "Is this the only one you've got?"
"No. I've saved a bunch of my older animations too, but they are not as good."
"Well, let's have a look anyway."
Samuel went to the break room and brought out a box.
Lyman settled into the couch and studied the thumb-movies. "Huh. You have gotten better. None of them are worth making copies of. Well, except this one with the dragon. I'll order a print run of this one. The rest I'll just bind and sell as originals."
Samuel smirked. "Oh really? You don't mind my little doodlings sharing space with your master paintings?"
Lyman rolled his eyes. "Coffee table space only. It's not like we're gonna hang them on the walls. Anyway, if you see that little girl—what's her name?"
"Elke? She just walked by the window."
Lyman shoved himself to his feet and opened the door. "Hey, Elke!"
The young girl looked around but did not answer.
"Yes, you." Lyman pointed.
"Sorry, sir. My name's Anna."
"I apologize. At my age all beautiful young women look alike. Do you know Elke? She's about your size and hair color?"
"Elke Schmidt? Yes, sir. Did you want to buy more flipbooks, sir?"
"How did you know about that?"
"She brags, sir."
"Oh. And stop sirring me. The name's Lyman."
"Okay. How many do you want? Half the kids in school are making them, so I can get you a lot of flipbooks."
"Well, I'm only gonna buy the really good ones," Lyman said. "And I'm not paying a lot for them."
"What you paid Elke for hers is fine. Shall I bring the flipbooks around tomorrow morning?"
"I don't want anyone playing hooky. Send the artist by after school."
The next day Anna walked through the door followed by a tail of boys with flip-books in hand.
"Mister Lyman, we talked about it at school today and most of us agreed. These four have the best books."
Lyman smiled. "Anna, you could have just sent them. You didn't have to come."
"I did if I want to make sure I get my commission," she said.
"I didn't say anything about a commission."
"That's true, but the boys have agreed to pay me fifty percent."
"Young lady! That is highway robbery."
"It's just this one time. After today everyone will know where to go."
One of the boys said, "Anna, I should just go home and come back tomorrow."
She smiled a wicked smile. "What if he buys all he wants today?"
"Scheiße," he replied.
She laughed, "You should know. Your head's full of it! Show the man what you've got."
"Sammy," Lyman called out. Samuel was lost in his palette and canvas. "Put your brush down for a minute and come take a look."
Samuel looked at the first book and nodded. It was a line drawing of a stationary tank rotating its turret and destroying a fantasy castle.
"That," the boy pointed, "is an M1A1 Abrams tank. My dad has a little paperback book," he held up his thumb and forefinger about an eighth of an inch apart, "telling all about it. The drawing is perfect in every detail."
He pointed again, "That is my sister's Barbie Doll castle."
Samuel knew about Barbie dolls and the Barbie Consortium. He completely missed the sibling rivalry and malice involved in the symbolic destruction of the boy's sister's favorite toy. Samuel set it on the coffee table.
The next boy brought an entire stack of books. All were of stick figures: sword fighting, kung fu kicking and even dunking a basketball. Samuel knew Lyman wouldn't like them. But then he noticed a second story on the back side of one of the books. It showed two figures dancing a tango. Even with stick figures the details of the dance movements were incredible. Samuel returned the rest back to the young artist and placed the best book, tango side up, on the coffee table.
"See Fred! Told you that was your best!" the tallest boy exclaimed.
Samuel frowned. "If the book is yours why is it signed 'Hans'?"
"My name is Hans," Fred explained. "They just call me Fred."
The boy with the tank rolled his eyes, "Everyone's name is Hans."
"Well, that explains why you don't call him Hans, but why 'Fred'?"
The tallest boy grabbed Fred in a friendly choke-hold and said, "We call him Fred Astaire because of the dancing. If you thought the book was good you should see him on the dance floor. After the TV showed a Fred Astaire movie, ballroom dancing became very popular with the high school girls. Hans thought it would impress the lass he was head over heels in love with. So he learned how. Unfortunately when he asked her to a dance, she turned him down."
Samuel laughed and resumed inspecting flipbooks.
The third boy's book was a pile of scribbles being struck by lighting and burning. The lightning was good, the fire better but the writhing scribbles overpowered the animation.
Samuel shook his head and handed it back. "Next time draw something solid and unmoving for the fire to burn. I know fire is more interesting to draw but the eye needs a steady reference point to compare the fire's motion to."
The last boy's first offering was not impressive. It should have been. A dragon flaming a knight to a crispy critter is very dramatic. Unfortunately the dragon looked more like a lumpy stuffed toy than anything dangerous. Bland perspective, poor drawing skills and choppy animation rounded out the list of flaws. Samuel flipped through the entire stack of submissions by the boy just in case but the dragon one really was his best work.
"Your dragon doesn't look like a dragon," Samuel said.
"Oh, yeah? And just what should a dragon look like?"
"Lyman? Do you still have the books you are going to take to the book binder?"
"Would you show this young man what a dragon should look like?"
"Sure." Lyman got the stack of flip-books out of the end table next to the couch. He sorted out the one requested. The boys crowded together and flipped through the loose stack of cards. The opening scene was a full-color distant pile of treasure. It grew in size as the observer approached it. Suddenly, a dragon landed on the pile and shot a spout of flame straight at the viewer. The last frames were just of burned crispiness.
Samuel basked in their praise and took advantage of their distraction to sneak a look at the bottom flip-book in Fred's little pile. He had noticed that one was deliberately held back and wondered why the boy hadn't tried to sell it.
Fred's last flip-book was a girl, standing still, with her clothes disappearing, down to a bra and panties.
"Let me guess," Samuel said. "You added the underwear this afternoon in school?"
The lad blushed and nodded.
"It shows. They're flat and jitter quite a bit. You've ruined it. Good choice not trying to draw her undressing. Lifelike human motion is very difficult. Next time try and animate the fabric flying off instead of just dissolving. Your curvatures and depths are good except for what you did in a rush this afternoon. And, you also need to get the body proportions right. Have you even seen a girl wearing up-time underwear?" The boy flushed again. "Don't bother answering. Do your research. Either talk a girl into posing for you or try to borrow a Playboy magazine from the restricted section of the library. Or perhaps a Victoria's Secret catalog."
He handed the strip book back to the author.
"Lyman, you can pay full price for this one and this one." He touched the tank and the dancers. "You can take that one, but at half price." He indicated the fire book. "But I wouldn't." He looked at the kid. "Remember what I told you about stationary reference points and redo it. I'd also recommend you practice lightning in a separate piece. Try reversing the colors for just when the lightning hits. Have a white night and black lighting."
Samuel pointed to Fred and shook his head. "Fred, nude art is a long and honored tradition. I could have bought it as it was, or if you'd taken the time to do the panties and bra right. But the way it is now. . . ?" Samuel shrugged.
"When will you be ready to buy more?" Fred asked.
"Whenever you have more to sell," Lyman told the boys as he paid them. "Mind you, I won't buy unless they're at least as good as the ones I bought today."
Then he turned to the girl. "After today, keep your commission at no more than ten percent. An agent deserves a cut, but fifty percent is obscene," he said handing her exactly ten percent of the total selling price. "And if I find out you extorted anything more out of these boys, don't bother coming back. Otherwise, stop in every day after school, to see if we need anything."
"Now get out of here."
Lyman took Samuel's early flip-books to a bookbinder who sewed them with plain oak board covers. They were ready for pick-up the next day. The dragon flip-book went to a wood block carver. A month later they went to a printer.
On Friday they were down to three of the seven bound books and Lyman told Anna, "We'll look at books on Monday."
Monday after school, a line was out the door with kids waiting for Samuel to look at their offerings. By then six of the seven bound books were off the shelf and on their way out of town.
Lyman shook his head and went on painting. When all the kids were gone he told Samuel, "Next week why don't you go out to the school and talk to the kids in the cafeteria. We don't need a line out the door and we especially don't need to advertise where we're getting the flip-books. Not if we want to pass them off as art."
Samuel nodded. "I'll have Anna pass the word."
So, on a Monday afternoon, Samuel found himself enveloped by hopeful flip-book artists eagerly listening to his critiques on their animations. Everything seemed fine until his Wednesday evening study group for professional artists. His first hint of trouble was when he saw Mrs.Turski, the high school art teacher glaring at him.
"Samuel Franklin! I got chewed out by my boss because of you!"
"What?" Samuel asked "Why?"
"For not following school policy, that's why! Since it was an art-related club, she assumed I knew about it. But I didn't. Any club at the school has to have a faculty sponsor, a student president, vice president and recording secretary and the paperwork has to be on file. I don't mind being the sponsor of record, but I don’t have time to get overly involved. You'll have to be the adult running it. You've already had your first meeting so you should have elected student officers. Give me the names."
Samuel scrambled to come up with some names for her. He had been looking at flip-books and not paying any attention to names and faces.
"Well, There's Anna and Elke."
"Anna Holt and Elke Schimdt?"
"Do they look a lot alike?"
"I need a third name," she said.
Samuel racked his brain for a third name, "Ah . . . Fred! But his real name is Hans."
The art teacher laughed. "Your club must be planning on making some real money if they voted Anna Holt president. That girl is a shark. Elke Schmidt is a good artist or will be if she sticks with it. Okay, I'll get the paper work filed. The club is going to need a charter stating its goals and organization. But I'll get with the club officers about that."
Just before the bell ending the first period of the day, Stephanie Turski asked her class, "Will any of you be seeing Elke Schmidt, Anna Holt or Fred next period?"
Several hands went up. "Would you please tell them that if the three of them can't be here right after last class—and I do mean right after—I'm not going to hang around waiting on them. They should let me know."
At lunch, Wilhelm asked his step-brother, "Fred, what kind of trouble are you in with the art teacher?"
"I don't know. I don't even have her class."
Wilhelm snorted. "Have you been showing that naked girl around?"
"Yes, you have. I bet the girl you drew found out and complained to the art teacher. Why in the world did you ever put her face on that picture? Putting her hair on the stick figure in the dance book didn't get you anywhere, did it? Grow up, Fred. She's not going to give you the time of day."
"Hey," Fred objected. "It was just a ponytail. It could have been anyone's ponytail."
Wilhelm snorted. "Everyone knows whose ponytail it was. And, I've seen the naked girl. That's her face, period."
"She's got a bikini on now. And I almost sold it. I did sell the flip-book with the dancers."
"Yeah, I heard. Did you give your mother the half she's got coming?"
Fred lied. "Of course I did."
Wilhelm glared at his younger brother. "No. You didn't. I wondered why you weren't bragging about it."
"Well, I needed more paper and—"
"And you didn't give a damn about helping to pay the rent! You come up with what you owe Mother or I'll tell her and then see if Father doesn't find you a job."
"No way. Grantville has laws about making kids drop out of school. I'm safe until I turn eighteen."
"Brother of mine, you've got that wrong. He can't tell you to get a job or get out until you're eighteen. But you've finished the eighth grade. So if you quit school they won't say a word, especially if it's out of town. If he gets you an apprenticeship and you run away and come back here, do you think they won't honor the runaway laws?"
"I'm too old to be a new apprentice."
"You're old enough to help pay the rent."
"All right. My buyer said to redo the naked girl book. I'm working on it. I'll catch up what I owe Momma when I sell it."
"You'd better get it sold quickly then," Wilhelm said.
Stephanie Turski smiled at the three young students nervously entering her classroom. "Thank you for coming," she said. "As your faculty advisor I thought I should talk to you about the charter for the club." She pointed at Fred. "Before you wrote it."
"The what for what?" Fred asked.
"It sets out the goals for the organization and the rules governing the club, things like how often you will hold elections and when, what membership qualifications are."
Fred looked completely lost.
Elke asked, "What organization?"
"Exactly," the teacher said. "Until you've written up a charter, you don't really have an organization, do you? Really, you should have formed an organizing committee and it should have been written up before you had the first meeting and held elections last Monday."
"You mean, you think we formed an animation club last Monday?" Anna asked. "That was just so Mr. Franklin could see the flipbooks people have been making."
Anna added, "He buys some of them to sell in his shop. But only the good ones. The rest he tells us how to make better."
The art teacher started to say something and stopped. She blinked and figured out that her boss jumped to a wrong conclusion. Then she had asked Samuel for the names of students, thinking she was getting the names of who was elected and what she got were just what she asked for, the names of students. Now she already had her name on the paperwork and it would look bad if the club failed. Oops . . .
"Okay, here's the deal. Monday was officially the first meeting of your new animation club. I need to know what you are going to call it, who the officers are, and what your goals are. Anna is currently listed as the president, Elke as the vice-president, and you, Hans, were supposedly elected secretary. It's too late to change that. So what is going to be the official name of your organization?"
While Anna and Fred looked blank, Elke spoke up, "The Daumenkino Association."
"The thumb-movie association? That's okay, I guess. So, Fred, what are the association's goals? You are officially the recording secretary of the Daumenkino Association. It's been four days. You should have the charter compiled by now. What are the club's goals?" Stephanie realized that she was repeating herself but, under the circumstances, she thought it was forgiveable.
"Fine, then get with the president and the vice president and write up a charter." She handed him a short stack of papers.
"Here's the charters for two other clubs for you to look at and get some idea of how it works. Really, you can pretty much lift it complete if you want, except for the goals. You three need to work that out, present the proposed charter to the club at the next meeting and get it approved. But I need to review it first. So you've got this weekend to get it done and get it back to me Monday morning."
Fred said, "I can do that."
Stephanie heard him mutter, "I wonder if Melody will think it's cool."
The teacher smiled a sad smile. The boy was truly smitten. Everything he did came back to, "what will Melody think?" But Melody was a good girl and listened to her father who was a hard-ass coal miner who would have hung out at Club 250 if he wasn't even a harder-ass member of the Church of Christ, who didn't drink and didn't dance—and if you were part of his family, you didn't date anyone who did either of those things.
Elke looked at the teacher. "We're a school-sponsored club? Wow!"
"What do we get out of it?" Anna asked.
By "we" she meant the officers of the club. What she really meant was not "we" but "me."
What Stephanie heard was "we," meaning the club. "That depends on what your goals are."
"To make money," Anna answered truthfully. She could care less about art, but didn't feel that way about money.
"To sell flip-books," Fred said at the same time.
Stephanie was taken aback a bit by their frank commercialism. "Is that it? I can't take that to the office."
"How about," Elke suggested, "to make money selling flip-books while learning to improve our animation skills, and prepare ourselves for employment in a . . . what is the English word for Entstehend?"
Stephanie sighed. "I don't know that word yet."
"Well, it's something so new it's just coming into being."
"Emerging? Maybe?" Stephanie shrugged helplessly.
Elke continued, "While preparing us for employment in an 'emerging' industry."
"I can take that to the vice-principal, barely," Stephanie said. "But you really do need something more altruistic."
"Do you know the German for altruistic?"
Stephanie sighed again. "Let's try this? What are you going to do with the money you make?"
"Spend it," Anna said.
"No, I mean the money the club makes."
"Who said the club was going to make money?" Anna asked. "Mr. Lyman is paying for flip-books. That money goes to the artists."
"Less your ten percent," Elke stated softly.
"She's getting ten percent from the artists?" Stephanie asked, with a note of disapproval in her voice.
"No. Mr. Lyman is paying her the ten percent," Fred added almost gleefully, "And he chewed her out too, because she was going to take half!"
Anna crossed her arms and glared at the boy.
"Half!" Stephanie yelped. "That's outrageous!"
Anna cocked her head. "What does outrageous mean?"
"It means very un-cool."
"Now," Stephanie paused and looked blankly at the forms in front of her, "where were we?"
"Money," Fred piped up.
"Right, money. What dues are you going to charge? And you need to choose a charity to support."
"Instead of dues, can we pay the club a percentage of sales?" Fred asked. "Then only club members who are earning money have to pay anything." He looked at Anna, "If anybody is getting a cut it should be the club."
"Hey, that's not fair!" Anna objected. "I deserve something for making sales."
"Mr. Lyman pays you," Fred said.
"Nobody else will."
"Who else do you think is going to buy flip books?"
"I want to take the books we can't sell anywhere else to the flea market. And, I'm going to every curio shop in town."
Once again she crossed her arms and glared at Fred. "I deserve a commission!"
Elke chipped in, "We don't want every kid in the club doing their own sales. If you bother people too much they won't buy any at all. I am willing to pay Anna to do the marketing."
"I don't want to pay her and pay the club," Fred said. "How about splitting the commission fifty/fifty?"
"No way!" Anna sputtered, "Mr. Lyman said ten percent is fair."
Elke agreed, "I think a ten percent commission is reasonable."
"Well," Fred said, "if we have to pay dues, and pay a ten percent commission, let's set the club's share at fifteen percent and pay her out of that. But if I've got to give the club fifteen percent of what I make, she does too."
"Then I only get eight and a half percent!" Anna objected loudly.
"Hey, if I've got to give up fifteen percent of what I make, so do you!" Fred counter objected just as loudly. "And since Mr. Lyman is paying you, then for those sales the club keeps the whole fifteen percent."
"That seems fair to me," Stephanie said. "If sales is your creative contribution you should be making the same sacrifice as everyone else. Now you need to choose a charity."
The school insisted. They claimed it was a community service, but it pre-settled what to do with any leftover funds when the club folded.
"Can we give it to ourselves?" Anna asked. "As Elke has pointed out, good paper for finished work is expensive. And even the cheap paper for practicing costs a lot of money. So can we use the club money to buy paper for kids who can't afford it?"
Stephanie, smiling broadly, nodded. "Plus we can push the papermaker for an educational discount on a bulk purchase instead of everybody buying their own. You can sell at cost to those who can afford it."
Fred looked happy at the idea of getting free paper, or at least discounted paper. So did Elke. Anna was boiling mad at losing part of her commission, but there wasn't anything she could do about it. If she was going to be part of the club, then, it really was reasonable that she pay the same dues as everybody else, after all.
"When we get ready to start putting the pictures on film, can the club help with buying the film?" Elke asked. There wasn't any new film being made yet but Elke had been told "it's just a matter of time, but plan on it being expensive, especially at first."
"I suppose so," Stephanie said. "But why go to film when you can print thirty frames a second on paper and run the reel through an opaque projector?"
"What do you mean?"
"How do you do that?"
She went to the shelf that held her personal books and smiled. "This will do."
When she got a favorite picture under the lens, she said, "Okay, Fred, hit the lights." Then as she flipped the switch on the projector she said, "And roll 'em!"
"Wow," Fred said, looking at the picture on the wall.
"That is so cool," Elke whispered.
"And with this we can make movies?" Anna asked.
"Yes." Stephanie said. "It will be more complicated than this . . ." She tapped the projector. ". . . but you can make movies."
Anna smiled for the first time since she lost part of her commission. It was the smile of a shark smelling blood in the water. Anna had just found what she had been looking for almost from the first day her family got out of the refugee center. She now knew how she was going to make the fortune she was sure she would have someday.
Elke noticed. "What are you smiling about?"
"If we make movies, we can charge to show them, can't we? That could bring in a lot of money."
"You're only getting eight and a half percent after paying dues," Fred reminded her.
"Yes, I am. But eight and a half percent of one million a year is eighty-five thousand dollars." Anna's eyes locked onto Fred and Elke with the look of a shepherd at shearing time and her smile changed. In a voice that purred like a cat with canary feathers in its teeth, she said, "All I've got to do now is see to it that you guys stay busy and make me my money."