Ex - the story of Dorsal and the stubborn spark of perfection
Residing in us all is the stubborn spark of perfection. It may be incongruous to the geography of our DNA, but it is this and this alone which fills our lungs with breath each day.
As he lay in bed each morning, Dorsal Grellman would study the tattered photograph taken through the window of the small local pub his parents once frequented. It was an image of a world from the time before their relationship ruptured causing them to haemorrhage their son. He would linger, transfixed by the image of his mother and father fussing over his infant self. He wanted to be part of that beloved triumvirate, to understand how this nascent Dorsal had felt, to know he belonged, was entangled. He had been too young to learn the vocabulary of love and now he was illiterate. "Reach out" he implored this static two dimensional Dorsal and then, beset by the malady of betrayal he would put away the photograph until the next day. It was his only departure from the path of violence and it was a ritual performed for fear that his last connection with the past might shatter and with it the last vestige of his humanity.
Abandonment had left him conflicted - it was this photograph that reminded him about the infinite capacity of parents to make their children suffer and stoked the malodorous flames of his antipathy for them.
“He's done it again Head Teacher" said Mrs Phibes, the woman cursed with bestowing art upon the heathen of Camden, the most northerly outpost of what had once been the Holy Roman Empire, whose mantle had now been bestowed upon the Inner London Education Authority.
Caldwell Bynes, who retained the helm of The D’oily Cart Academy for boys despite remaining resolutely anti-child and anti- education, regarded the telephone as if it were contaminated with leprosy. He was a man who experienced hatred in the same way that others felt hunger. He had, for a while, worn surgical gloves to shield him from human contact, having once been so appalled by a parent whose hands had consumed his own like a ravenous alligator that he had vomited on them. When the cloying feel of the latex began to disgust him he resolved to become a recluse, meeting other members of his species for the sole purpose of administering punishment and disseminating wretchedness. In this, he had achieved olympian proficiency.
“What have you done with it Mrs Phibes?”
“I’ve put it out with the rubbish just as you told me to do with the others Head Teacher.”
Bynes looked at his hands, an archaeological spiders web of furrows and ridges had begun to radiate up his arms like the traces of a physiological radar signal. This was evidence of ageing at its most villainous, pickpocketing the years and leaving him bereft of time.
“And the boy knows nothing Mrs Phibes?”
“I have told him that his paintings are an abomination Head Teacher just as you instructed me and yet...”
Defiance? Bynes ran the Academy with a Stalinist ethos. There was no room for dissidents or exile, they were already in Siberia. Teachers were members of his secret police force, Stasi officers who were expected to inform on each other and submit to his absolute authority or pay the ultimate price. It was roughly in line with National Schooling Guidelines with a few tweaks.
“Are you questioning me Mrs Phibes?” His words twisted back and forth in the icy gale they had manifested.
“No, Head Teacher” replied Mrs Phibes, clearly shaken by the suggestion
“Because if this is a challenge to my authority...you will recall what happened to Mr Herald. I doubt that the stains will ever come out of the walls of the geography lecture theatre.”
“Its just that he is such an exceptional young artist that it would be such a shame to...”
“He is an enforcer, a hired gun, a hoodlum, a goon, he is certainly not your pupil and under no circumstances whatsoever is he permitted to be talented in anything other than administering indiscriminate malfeasance at my bidding and whim. If he does it again, burn it in the classroom in his face and send him to me. I will deal with him.”
Collin Collins, emeritus professor of the University of Oxford, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art had found a hairstyle which suited him, by chance, at 6.45pm on the 18th March 1976 and had never been able to recapture it. His head, at best, sported what appeared to be the ruins of Mayan temple constructed out of Asian Palm Civet faeces. At worst, it was as though two crows had waged a battle to the death and their remains had been covered in bitumen and ignited.
Dressed in a full length green velveteen cape and leatherette codpiece, Colin Collins was very much a man of his time and that time was the late 16th Century.
Finding himself, if not in the arse end of London, then certainly in its nether regions, Collins covered his nose alternately with a lace kerchief and a posy of roses. Positing that the stench might overpower him, he gripped a vial of smelling salts as he entered the tawdry precincts of what was officially the school with the worst overall academic record in Southern England - D’oily Cart Academy. (The school with the second worst academic record had recently been burnt down by its own headmaster but whilst only the smouldering ruins remained, it still scored a higher satisfaction rating amongst children and parents than “The Cart”).
Acting on a tip off from an anonymous source, Collins made his way to the giant metal bins at the rear of the science building where he found, underneath a steaming pile of duck beaks and what appeared to be a human hand, a battered artists portfolio. He undid the gnarled ribbon with trembling fingers. He imagined how Howard Carter might have felt as he entered the tomb of Tutankhamen and brushing away the last remnants of duck he opened the portfolio.
The paintings dazzled him like a ray of sunlight slicing its way through the musty inner sanctum of a church crypt. Redolent of a young Caravaggio this was a master’s hand. He searched for a signature or a date, how could the work of this genius have been consigned to this ignominy. He turned over the first painting for a clue and found a rectangular sticker. The manuscript inscription read, “your work is far too pretentious - you were asked to depict 'what you did on holiday' and according to the title of this painting, 'The slaughter of the three wise men by the beast during a visit to a cocktail bar in Margate", this would appear to be a matter for Special Branch, The Vatican and the Licensing department of Thane District Council. F fail Bynes C, Head teacher."
There were similar stickers on the other works. A spectacular oil painting titled 'the beheading of Anne Boleyn by a traffic warden just outside the newly refurbished offices of Newport Pagnell Rural District Council' bore all the hallmarks of Valasquez. The sticker on its reverse read "This would have been a flagrant breach of the secretary of states guidelines for the conduct of parking attendants and traffic related operatives - section 6.13.4 - unprovoked acts of violence perpetrated against members or putative members of the House of Tudor. F fail. Bynes C Head Teacher."
There had been no greater crimes against the international art and cultural community since The Hymnes of Astraea had a disappointing first publication in 1599 or Van Morrison was removed from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Collin Collins would have no truck with it. He would track down this Bynes C, expose him as the charlatan and mountebank he clearly was and discover the identity of this artistic genius whose talents had been so outlandishly suppressed. He departed the bin store with a lavish swish of his cape. He liked a good swish.
"There is someone to see you headmaster " growled Mrs Tench, Bynes' redoubtable P.A. through the mouthpiece of her semi functional telephone, her voice almost lost amidst a minefield of static. "He appears to have been waiting since the early part of the 17th century."
Collins swept into Bynes' office slammed the portfolio down on his palatial desk and stood with one foot on the visitor's chair, his hands on his hips and his codpiece thrust forwards for maximum dramatic effect.
"And?" Asked Bynes quizzically.
"Are you the ignoramus who has decried this pre- eminent work so scandalously?" Asked Collins with Shakespearean aplomb.
"Go fuck yourself" said Bynes.
"I am Collin Collins, emeritus professor of the University of Oxford, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art - I sponsored Hockney in his first exhibition in the United Kingdom, I am a pre eminent expert in the work of Ruskin and was a confidant of Warhol, I have been the senior Judge for the Royal Academy summer exhibition for the last 25 years. How dare you speak to me in that way you shrivelled, pasty faced, weasel of a man?"
"I am so sorry" said Bynes, there appears to have been a terrible misunderstanding."
"I am glad to hear it" replied Collins, brushing imaginary stagecoach dust from his knee."
"Go fuck yourself Professor Collins, you unutterably emeritus shite hazard,"said Bynes. "Is that a bit better?"
"Your puerile abuse is of no consequence to me. I want to know what qualifies you to judge this man's work?" Bristled Collins, brandishing his lace kerchief at Bynes as aggressively as one can brandish a lace kerchief.
"Dorsal Grellman to the Head Teacher's office right away" Bynes demanded, through the prehistoric school wide intercom.
Bynes and Collins sat in silence for a moment before thunderous footfall approached along the western corridor, shaking the variety of totemic ephemera that littered Bynes' desk, from their dusty resting places. Collins was in fear that a large predatory animal had muscled out of its zoo cage and was set to devour them and he was not dissuaded from this when Dorsal burst into the study with Ferris still under his arm in a headlock. Collins raised his hands instinctively to his face to prevent scarring. It was the standard knee-jerk reaction experienced by anyone meeting Dorsal for the first time.
"This is your young auteur Professor Collins, is he what you anticipated?"
"His appearance is immaterial" replied Collins unconvincingly, "genius is blind. He will bring the world of art to it's knees, he will be the figurehead of a new renaissance."
Bynes sat back in his chair with a comfortable squeak and interlaced his fingers.
"That's not what he's for Professor Collins."
"For...." replied Collins.
"When I bought him from his parents it was not for his artistic potential" said Bynes. He is, will always be, a thug, my thug. This artistic streak needs to be stamped out, not encouraged by some ageing sycophantic relic from the court of Henry the Eighth. He will not be permitted to paint anything again, his art teacher will see to that. Now if it's no inconvenience I would like him to beat the living shite out of you and then burn his artwork so that this never happens again. Dorsal, if you wouldn't mind."
But Dorsal did mind. He was not aware that his parents had profited from his enslavement to Bynes, that they had travelled so very far from love. This man thought his art was good, great, that he had value, purpose, that he was more than the dust that Bynes ground his face into.
"Thinking about leaving me Dorsal - where are you going to go? Professor Collins can Dorsal come and live with you in never neverland, he's almost house trained now."
"Well, I, it's, I don't have...." flustered Collins.
"No, no-one has the space for a child who smells like a bison on heat, requires a nine foot long bed and is liable to decapitate you if you don't get his eggy soldiers right in the morning. Funny that. You hear that Grellman, no-one will have you, you are lucky that I put up with you and your ugly ways but you fulfil a function and whilst you continue to do so you will have a place here."
"He is not an animal and you should not speak to him as if he is, he is a child" said Collins.
"He is neither" replied Bynes "he is a symptom of a disease for which there has never been a name. He will never inherit the earth, he will never raise the eagle standard above his head in triumph, he is the machinery of vengeance and he is mine. Now deal with Professor Collins and return to what you were made for. There is no room for aspiration in this world, only duty, everything else - is artifice."
Dorsal turned from Bynes and shook with a pain which knew no remorse. He dealt with Collin Collins, his eyes ragged with tears and knew, in that moment, that he was the night.