It is disgusting. My eyes touch over the smurf-blue sky and rainbow, observing Wilkerson’s nauseatingly joyful face and the nimbus of white feathers crowning over his shoulders. He’s holding the hand of a child as they both skip down a path lit with gold. Someone added doves. Which of those clowns added the doves? I peer around at the artists, with their barbed wire wristlets, blackened eyes and juvenile grins.
I sigh. Street artists.
Loki sidles up behind my shoulder and “tisks”. His grin is just as revealing as the others’, though he tries to hide his hysterics with a bantering comment, saying, “The doves of peace, fluttering around his head and taking a crap on his shoulder. Very poignant. Very touching. Your artistic aptitude never ceases to amaze, my dear.”
I shake my head. I just hope the ceremony director doesn’t take too close of a look.
“Dismantle it for transport, boys,” Loki calls.
We impose ourselves upon the parking lot, taking up every side space and aisle with a convoy of dented trucks, burnt-out gremlins and police auction Lincolns, each ratty seat stacked with numbered panels. The assistant director clicks her pen in disapproval when Loki, still with dapples of paint fringing his hair, and I approach the emergency exit she has held open with shiny-shoed foot.
“You are the commissioned artist,” she says. Rereading her clipboard, her eyes fix on me. “Miss Laika Grozny?”
“Correkt,” I say, enfolding the word in accent like she expects. Loki helped me with my outfit, in an attempt to make me look more like myself. In a blazer with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows, a shirt somewhat off-white and somewhat off-sized and a comb tooth stuck in the straggles above my temple, I could pass for a me who had rolled out of bed and into a drain sewer.
“Identification?” she says.
I hold up my passport picture, which she inspects with a squinted face. She consents to let us in, after a slight hesitation.
Loki directs the assemblage of the work from the podium as each wave of canvas comes in. The mural will be set up on the stage behind the podium, providing a suitable background to the mourners’ and politico elegies. The image begins to build itself, like a tide inexorably lifting to the ceiling. Once it is in place, a curtain will be hung before it to be lifted at the opening ceremony.
As they secure the pieces under the assistant director’s leery eye, I wander behind the scaffolding to the emergency exit. It is still propped open with a chair, which I use to reach and yank out the alarm connecting wire. Wedging back the door’s interlocking teeth, I fiddle with the mechanism a moment before managing to jam the lock. I swing the door back and forth in its frame from the outside, testing it. Satisfied, I prop the chair back and remove myself back to the auditorium.
“Your eyes, your eyes ‘cuz they’re wrong. Look! See! Mess, mess, mess mess – Kawgr! Kak! Hic!
“Messy dirty scummy. Ha! Your wings are pretty. I had wings, once. You never liked ballet. Ha! What’s a dogfly for? Big, watery eyes and it hangs around crap!”
This sets me giggling again and the sound cracks against the high, stone walls. Maybe pieces of it lodge in the crevices because it seems that, as my own voice rises, other voices laugh in chorus around me.
I imagine the chilling of my hands as them joining with the metal cans, that the fragments of color come from my mind and my blood.
“Puppy puppy puppy puppy but where’s my tail? Kidlets pull the puppy’s tail and yell in her ears. Hic!”
I cry a little but when I go to wipe my nose it leaves a smear of red. I gag on the smell, sniffle and lick the back of my hand. This just makes me hack some more and the tips of my ears feel hot. I’ve embarrassed myself in front of it.
It isn’t pretty. I worked through the night and into morning angling the lines, placing the viewer in the bottom of a shoebox stage. The gray cardboard set is scrabbed with acrylic: a child’s sketch of the capital building like a pale, quartered orange set on spikes before a crayon wash of sky. Lurching painfully, crookedly, as if dancing without a spine is a figure crudely assembled of chicken bones and bathwater hair. On its paper face is pasted a newspaper cutout of Wilkerson’s platonic grin.
I have hung the puppet from scarlet fiber, which pulls the eye up its length to submerge the viewer in His eyes. He smirks, the edge of his lips peeling across the slick white of his canines. Spilling like a storm over his shoulders are ratted feathers.
“I love you, daddy-kins!” I sing. I drop a curtsy and set myself to spinning on the stage in front of the image. My bare feet leave dull oblongs all along the polished surface as I flee.