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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
The summer before high school sped past at a sprint, his mom and Aunt Laurel still gushing about the painting Brendon had at The Bayscape to anyone who would listen. He started ducking his head whenever he heard his name fall off their lips and picked up the habit of throwing something up to cover his face whenever the camera turned his way: a hand, a hood, his sketchbook.
“He’s my quiet one,” his mom would tell people. “The only one of the bunch. Buy him a stack of sketchbooks at Christmas and you won’t see him till Easter and only then to ask for another stack.”
Fair’s fair, he reasoned, though he’d still duck his head and scribble cross-hatches faster.
Donna Pierceman rang him up mid-summer. July 17th. Hot and humid, skin smelling like his mom’s lotion because the unscented had run out. He’d been curled on the cushioned bench on the porch, drinking sugar with ice tea in it and playing on Robbie’s tablet when his mom came out with the phone.
“Ms. Pierceman’s called for you.”
“Who’s that?” asked Robbie as Brendon sat up and reached for the phone.
He made a hushing noise and cleared his throat, scarcely noticing his mom still lingering in the doorway, holding open the screen in the way she’d have yelled at him for.
“Ms. Pierceman, this is Brendon.”
“Brendon, so good to talk to you. I’m calling to let you know that I’m rolling over the display during the next few weeks. You can come by the gallery whenever to pick up your painting.”
He let out a breath. “Okay. I’ll make sure to get it.”
“We had a lot of kids from your middle school check it out—got a few more of them talking about submitting a piece.”
Brendon mumbled, “Cool.”
“It’s good to see the younger generation falling in love with art. The expression comes differently depending on the age of the artist and it’s lovely to get to showcase different demographics. Different views evoke different emotion, but you know that.” She laughed, a throaty sound that enveloped him in the same way Aunt Laurel’s did.
“It’s about perspective.”
“Exactly. A young man who gets it. Actually, I’m putting together another showcase with the theme of new beginnings. Was thinking about you and another artist who comes in a lot—she’s about to start college and you’re about to start high school. I thought the theme would be perfect. I’d love to see something from you.”
“That’s right. Whatever that means to you.”
What it meant to Brendon was butterflies—big, fat, fluttering butterflies taking up residence in his stomach and beating at his insides. Darting about, searching for an escape route, antenna tapping, legs crawling, wings vibrating.
After he got off the phone—and settled his Mom’s unwelcome curiosity—he lay back on the bench and listened to the chirping of Robbie’s other tablet as he swiped through a Design-a-Superhero game.
“What’s up?” asked Robbie without looking over.
“I might have another painting in The Bayscape.”
“Neat, neat. Of what?”
In fact, the snort sounded suspiciously like the one Casey gave a few days later when Brendon gave the same answer.
“Butterflies… You’re not drawing for Mr. Wexlar anymore. Don’t have to go with bugs.”