Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
Mr. Wexlar showed Brendon how to fold used cardboard and poster board into a makeshift portfolio. Was a project for the week for the entire eighth grade glass toward the end of the school year, but while Mr. Wexlar didn’t seem to care much what other kids did with theirs, he paid special attention, much of it critical, to Brendon’s work.
“You’ll want to smooth those edges. Here. Here’s a file. Get to shaping that. And make it even. Marks off if the angles are wrong. No, I don’t care if you haven’t had trig yet. You at least have your protractor, well, use it and your ruler and figure it out.”
And later, during decorating:
“You want to stand out, but not be gaudy. You want to say, ‘I’m worthy of attention’, not ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ See all that glitter Emma and Jasmine are using? Yeah, don’t do that.”
“I wasn’t going to use glitter.”
“Of course you weren’t. Not my point.”
“What was your point?”
“To push yourself just shy of the glitter stage. There’s a sweet spot, between too-much and not-enough. And more often than not you like to swim about in not-enough because it’s comfortable.”
“I do not,” muttered Brendon. Because yes, yes he did.
Mr. Wexlar just snorted and moved on. But his eyes kept roving back toward Brendon’s project. Brendon thought those eyes to be judging and harsh.
Yet, Mr. Wexlar was the first one in line to see Brendon’s first painting in The Bayscape. His eighth grade year, a project in darkness, beauty in shades of black: the tarmac almost gray, the cars in shadow, the bending wheat lost their golden luster to a gentle brown shimmer.
He’d called it New Moon Chassis and Donna Pierceman had loved it. Aunt Laurel had cried, pounding on Mom’s shoulder, their emotions like wild beasts, but all of it good, so good.
The next day in class Mr. Wexlar had urged the rest of the students to go check out Brendon’s painting in the new display at the The Bayscape. Everyone had turned to stare at him. Brendon had sunk down into his seat, but privately, his heart soared.
Brendon got told later by twenty-three different classmates that they “liked his pic, man,” but the only one that really mattered was when Casey sighed dreamily and said, “what a fucking perfect subject. Speaks to my heart. Right here.” And he’d used a closed fist to tap against his chest.
He might have softened to Mr. Wexlar after that. Just in time for his promotion to high school.