Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
Mr. Wexlar had a tendency to wave the eighth graders out, out and toward the rising sun of high school, like it was his business to shuffle them along, toward the next art teacher. The motion became more pronounced the closer Brendon got to promotion, like Mr. Wexlar had a habit of swatting flies from his face, except those flies might well have been early teens just about to start their most troubling years.
He’d come in with a ruddy face blotchy with bug bites, assumedly from a night out on the lake, and demand perfection up until that last bittersweet week where he became maudlin, repeating himself.
“You’ll come back now. Show me upgrades you’ve done to that portfolio. It’s a good one. Serve you well until you make another.”
“I will.” And Brendon meant it at the time, though later his mind feasted on fears that kept him from lugging new paintings back to middle school to show Mr. Wexlar.
“If you need help with college applications. Or need a recommendation. Or anything at all.” Another wave across his face at an imaginary fly. “You’ve got vision, Brendon. You’ll go far.”
Mr. Wexlar died Brendon’s senior year of high school. Old age and pneumonia, lungs too filled with fluid to keep on keeping on. Brendon painted on concrete a view of Mr. Wexlar’s art class, students with thoughts keeping them down, and Mr. Wexlar’s view only seeing the possibilities of each of them. Placed it at his gravestone a few days after the funeral and received a kind note from Mr. Wexlar’s daughter months later.
“Make sure you come back now. Make sure you come back.”
Brendon did, now and then, with printed photos of whatever he’d completed lately. He thought Mr. Wexlar probably liked the Ladybug Dance-Off and The Escape of the June-Bugs best.