CEZANNE, dying in the rain
by Gustav Hasford

Every fury on earth has been absorbed in time, as art, or as religion, or as authority in one form or another.  The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor.
                    --James Agee, LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN

 

    He meets a rich lady in Central Park.
    The rich lady is pushing a baby carriage.  The carriage is cobalt-blue, with a lemon-yellow pillow inside.  On the pillow is an unfinished piece of marble sculpture.
    She sits in the shade and beats on her piece of rock like a lifer beating his head on the walls of his cell.  Her mallet and gouges and chisels are plated with chrome.
    Come home with me, she says to the hobo.
    He looks her over, decides that she's the kind of woman who thinks she has taste because she has money, the kind of woman who browses Tiffany's with a shopping cart.
    She takes him home, gives him a sandwich.
    Every Friday, she gives a Donner Cocktail Party.  The hobo is locked in a bamboo cage in the center of her ballroom.  For the amusement of her guests, he creates beautiful pieces of sculpture from ice cream.  He uses Licorice Voo-Doo ice cream (black) and Italian Lemonade ice cream (cadmium yellow).
    On TV, a man says that Picasso died.
    He visits the Metropolitan Museum with a flame thrower he found in a box of Cracker Jacks.
    The museum is quiet, like a church.  There are a lot of guards in uniforms who say, "Don't touch!"
    The flame thrower burns through the iron bars protecting the world's rarest stamp--the British Guiana one-cent magenta. After reading the postmark, Demerara, Apt. 4, 1856, he eats the stamp.
    In the Rare Manuscripts room he views a hand-written manuscript of "Hamlet."  He eats one heavy parchment page, burns the rest.
    He gets five 1913 Liberty Head nickels and uses them to buy some candy bars.
    From a display of antique musical instruments he selects a violin which was made by hand during the Golden Period of Antonio Stradivari, an Italian.  While spectators have nervous breakdowns, he smashes the violin upon the guard who is saying "Don't touch," then uses a splinter from the violin to pick his teeth.
    In a special display hall, he finds an oil painting by Diego Velasquez.  The painting is a study of the artist's mulatto color-grinder and studio hand, Juan De Pareja.
    A hundred school children are staring at the painting with awe and reverence while a guard ("Don't touch!") tells them that the painting cost five million, five hundred and forty-four thousand dollars.  Amen.
    Not reverent, the hobo shoots it with fire.  The painting burns like a leaf in a furnace.  He has fun being irreverent, feels the way Rubens felt when he screwed King Ferdinand's daughter.
    He drops the nozzle, sheds the heavy fuel tanks.
    The school children watch the crazy man.  He sticks out his tongue, puts his thumbs in his ears, makes a face.
    He smashes an exquisite specimen of medieval stained glass and eats the fragments in a rainbow sandwich.  Or like popcorn.  Prussian blue.  Thalo Yellow-green.  Alizarin crimson.  Lots of purples.  He eats them until his organs are dying inside, and his only regret is that he was not able to burn the Mona Lisa by the maestro, Leonardo da Vinci, and then he feels like a tube of titanium white, squeezed dry.

 

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