Word Count 500
Another Day in Parodies
By B.A. Sarvey
Leo limped around to the back of his car. He removed what he needed and shuffled to his spot. Years ago, no matter what town he was in, he set up next to the carousel. Gradually, he’d moved away from the crowds, away from the intense sun and hub-bub. Wishing he’d sprung for the cushioned seat last summer, he eased his weight onto the stool, after positioning his easel beneath the old sycamore. “Just another day in par-o-dies,” he thought, tacking up his rogue’s gallery of caricatures.
Seemed like his entire life had become a parody of what a young Leo, fresh from art school, had envisioned. At first, he figured success would come when he was more established—made a name for himself in ever-widening circles. But the widest circle he ever achieved was the carnival circuit. “Talent ain’t nothing if you don’t have PR,” he used to say. Wasn’t sure anymore if he ever had talent.
Winters, the red checkered-clad booth in Mario’s was home. Low lights emphasized the points he needed to exaggerate—big nose, prominent teeth, jug ears (and the other kind of big jugs.) Funny how, if you walked up to a stranger and told him his nose was huge, he’d probably pop you in the nose. But set a Sharpie to paper, draw an enormous schnoz and everybody would laugh, say how you got him perfect. The guy would beam, like you’d done him a favor, calling attention to his imperfection.
Settling himself, Leo reached for a thick black Sharpie, changed his mind, took up a piece of fine charcoal, instead. As he lightly sketched the trunk and branches above his head, Arthur Rackham came to mind. “Now there was an artist,” Leo mused. The sycamore reminded Leo of Rackham’s trees—all twisted and gnarled and alive. Not alive like regular trees are alive—alive like people. Rackham would make witchy fingers reach out at the ends of branches, faces emerge from hollows and swirls of bark. He could make you feel wind whipping and the fear of a child sheltered beneath the tree. And often in the midst of a delicate pen and ink drawing, a pointed pixie face would leer—it would be Rackham. His own little joke, like Hitchcock and his cameo appearance in each of his films. Leo had aspired to Rackham-like greatness. But his following at Mario’s was the closest he ever got to fame. No one would own a calendar illustrated with Leo’s caricatures a hundred years from now.
A warm breeze danced through the sycamore leaves, casting hand-print shadows across his page. Leo no longer heard the skateboard wheels slurring along, the shrill laughter of teenage girls in too-short shorts. Cotton candy sweetness and oily fried dough residue, carried on the wind, no longer caught in his throat. He was miles and years away. The crow sketched in the tree sported Leo’s wizened features. “Leo da Vinci,” he scrawled at the bottom. Someone behind him clapped.