Art Critic With Authority


delia_icon.gif caspian_icon.gif

Scene Title Art Critic with Authority
Synopsis Caspian makes art. Delia thinks it's vandalism. Innocent teens get blamed, and the question of the location of a stick is considered.
Date March 6, 2018

New York Safe Zone

A park in the safe zone, and the street alongside it.

If Groundhog Day was still a thing broadcast around the nation, the weather-sensing rodent would have almost certainly seen its shadow. The temperature here in New York is cool, with high temperatures barely reaching higher than the mid forties. Still, with the little bit of sunlight and warmth, green things have started to sprout around the city, with a few residents actively planting non-food things in an attempt to make their world more beautiful.

Caspian is one of those people or, at least, he wants to be.

Before the war, he might be the guy going to the nursery and buying loads of plants, only to forget to water them for three weeks and throw them out, or he might be the well-meaning amateur, unable to grow things. Or he might just want to learn. Today, however, Caspian is an explorer. , He’s crouching next to a long-abandoned planter bed, rooting around in the soil with a screwdriver. A small pot sits next to him, several onion-sized bulbs sitting just on top.

"God fucking dammit!!"

The high pitched holler comes from a very angry redhead storming down the street behind some terrified teenagers. "Get back here now or I swear to god I will be rapping on each door in Elmhurst to find your parents and I will make them pay for the labor it's going to cost to get rid of this!!" She's pointing at a graffiti mural on the side of a building.

"But we didn't do it!!" One of the young teens protests, stopping and turning around to answer the woman. The sheepish dip to his shoulders and submissive hang of his head is akin to a beaten animal.

"Then you'd better give me a fucking name," Delia shouts as she points to a nearby truck. It's beaten up but there's supplies in the back of it that could be used to scrub paint off of walls. "We're trying to make this place nice and livable, not some fucking street thug tagged subway station."

Caspian looks up at the shouting. Not that shouting is an out-of-place thing in the safe zone, of course, but this particular shouting involves something that he took part in. The mural - and let’s be honest, it’s a mural, not an eyesore - of a smiling woman on the side of a building. In the open spot between two garage doors, an expanse of brick has been painted over with an undercoat of gray, and on top is a geometric pattern of a smiling woman’s face. Like something you might see on a children’s cartoon, bright orange hair spills out from the wall like a wave, her shoulders bare, her face painted in lines of green, almost like a mask. It gives you a very Mexican or Aztec feel, too, like the painter drew from that particular culture for inspiration. The paint is still wet and next to the wall, in a box, is the evidence - nearly a dozen cans of spray paint in various colors, completely empty.

Getting to his feet, Caspian shoulders his backpack and wipes his muddy hands on the dead grass, his pot held loosely under one arm as he pads closer, looking from the wall to the woman, then to the terrified teenagers. “Hold on now, hold on. Excuse me.” He remains a respectful distance away, lifting a muddy hand to wave before going back down to hold his clay pot. “That doesn’t look like anything that would end up in a subway. That took time. Probably several hours, at least.” He looks to the boys. “You guys out at three a.m. to paint a wall?”

“It’s graffiti,” Delia snaps back at the interrupting man. “And it doesn’t belong in a nice neighborhood, this isn’t Staten Island.”

The boy who didn’t run doesn’t answer Caspian, instead he moves to the truck and slowly pulls out buckets, scrub brushes, and some solvent. “Miss Ryans, do you have any water?”

Delia grits her teeth and follows him to the truck, and pumps the lever on the side of a tank, allowing some water to flow into the teen’s bucket. “I want that wall clean and if it can’t come clean, you and your friends will be painting the building a respectable color. You think the owner wants that shit up there?”

Caspian is at least graced with a look that isn’t a tired glare from the woman. It’s stern though and the planter that he’s working on and the bulbs earn the quirk of an eyebrow. But she remains silent about it. “Who the hell are you anyway?”

“Caspian Dussault, miss. A pleasure.” he makes a move toward the box of spray cans, bending to pluck one out of the box, a smear of orange transferring from the can to his hand as he picks it up to study it, and then the wall. “He might have more luck without the water and the scrub brushes and go right to paint. You’d need high-pressure water to get this stuff off the concrete. Look. UV and chemical resistant.” He extends the can to Delia so she can see if she wants before putting it back into the box with a clink, wiping his hands on a handkerchief he keeps in his pocket, tucking it away.

“I don’t think he did it, though.” Caspian leans against a disused fire hydrant, watching the boy as he studies the wall with his bucket of water and chemicals. “Where are his gloves? Where’s his tag? This isn’t even signed…..a lot of work for three or four teenagers to not sign it. I bet he doesn’t even have paint on his hands.” The pot rests on his knee, Caspian simply watching for a moment, plucking a bulb from the pot and studying it for a second before dropping it back in with a muffled thud against the others.

“I didn’t catch your name, Ma’am?” Polite, isn’t he?

“You didn’t stop talking long enough for me to give it,” Delia snaps back but she’s still eyeballing the teen. “Delia Ryans, Citizen’s Watch.”

Mental notes are taken on what Caspian says and her blue eyes flick suspiciously to him. “You know quite a bit about spray paint, huh. Were you some sort of gangster thug when you were young?” Delia’s experience with spray paint and tagging is about the same as her experience with tattoos… the same opinion from her mother, strictly for thugs. Still, she points a finger at the wall and the teen trudges toward it with his bucket and brush. “Don’t stop until Mister Goodbrand says he’s satisfied, he’s really not happy with it on his wall. Make sure you tell him the names you remember before he calls someone a lot nicer than me.”

Caspian watches as the youth trudge toward the wall and sighs, shaking his head a little. “Call it my misspent youth as a graffiti artist, Miss Ryans. I find knowing things about things is always a good thing. You never know when something’ll come in useful.” he remains perched against the fire hydrant, his head tilting to the side as he studies Delia. “Citizen’s Watch? Is that a part of the Safe Zone Commission? I ask because I’ve only been in the city for a month or two and just met a few of the members at the swap meet a few days ago.”

She was there, at the swap meet. Only for a few minutes to discover nothing she wanted to trade for the food she had in her bags. “Yeah, it’s a part of it,” Delia replies, her voice still carrying that hard edge to it. “It’s like the second level. There’s the top four people, then eleven people in the watch.”

Looking over at the teen, the redhead seems a bit satisfied when the wet paint begins to smear all over the wall. “Keep scrubbing!” she yells toward the teen. The poor guy is too young and sheepish to do anything but labor, not even willful enough to protest his innocence. “When it’s all gone we’ll make sure to send your parents the bill for the new paint job.” Which will likely hurt an already struggling family.

“Graffiti isn’t art, Dussault,” she chooses to use his last name instead of first, she’s not breeding familiarity. “If it was art, it would be enjoyed. That” she points to the smudged mural, “is vandalism and the owner of the building does not enjoy it.”

Ah, so the hierarchy for the Safe Zone Commission starts to become a little clearer now. “I think I met two of the four on top yesterday - Jonathan and Delilah, I want to say….” he trails off. “She had red hair, like yours. Yes, Delilah.” He nods as it gets a little more focused before he looks over at the wall again, the hard work turning into smears on the painted wall.

And to his credit, he doesn’t show the disappointment he’s feeling.

“Jonathan is Watch, just like I am,” Delia corrects, not that it matters that much, they all coordinate what goes on. This redhead just happens to be the one that receives angry calls from residents in Elmhurst. “Delilah is on the Council but it’s not a commission, it’s a cooperative.” Then she’s done with the structure lesson.

“Scrub a little harder, I can still see what it might have been,” Delia calls out to the teen as she strides closer. Folding her arms, she glares at the young man doing the manual labor and presses her lips together in an angry frown. “Don’t even start grumbling, you think I enjoy getting calls at seven in the fucking morning because someone’s place has been tagged?”

“I think we could have a very spirited debate on whether or not graffiti is art, Miss Ryans.” Still polite, even as he watches his hard work get scrubbed off the wall. “It’s certainly vandalism without permission being asked or given. There was even an artist, before the war, who would paint walls and, when people discovered his work, cut the bricks and plaster out of the wall to sell the art in high-end art galleries.” He rummages in his backpack for a bottle of water, taking a sip before tucking it back in. “While this isn’t to that level, at least aesthetically, you have to admit, it brought color to the place. With that said…” He points to a spot higher on the building - higher than a teenager should have been able to climb without a ladder. Another mural of a bird painted on a blue background. A sparrow with a red head. “Think he did that one, too?”

“Does it matter?” Delia says, not even bothering to look at the new abomination against property ownership. “Thugs, Dussault, only thugs vandalise property without respect or regard for other people. I’ve been living in this area all of my life and one thing these taggers have in common is that they’re drug dealing thugs who don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.”

Then, she flips her keys in her hand and makes her way to the truck. “Mister Goodbrand will be calling me with an update on your progress,” she calls out to the teen who is being punished for the mural he wasn’t responsible for. “If he wants to press charges, he’ll let me know that too.”

Then, the truck sputters to a loud start and moves off.

Caspian sits and watches the truck move off, shaking his head, getting to his feet and moving over to where the kid works. “Come on, kid. Let me help.” He reaches into his pocket, pulling out a pair of black nitrile gloves, splattered with paint from the job he did on the wall. He waits, watching the truck to make sure it doesn’t pull back around before tugging them on and grabbing one of the brushes, starting to scrub the concrete. “There’s no sense in you getting blamed and punished for something I know you didn’t do.”

He turns to watch the truck continue down the street.. “Does Miss Ryans always carry that stick up her butt, or does she just bring it out for special occasions?” He turns to look at the kid, not really expecting a reply, before getting to work cleaning the wall with him.

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