“It’s o.k. Mom.” Kelly grabbed her backpack from the back seat. “It’s just a small gallery. I don’t need a chaperone.” She closed the car door. “See you in a couple hours.”
Mrs. Johnson heaved a sigh. “Make sure you call when you’re ready.” She put her car in gear and drove away.
“Mr. Hobson?” Kelly walked under the sculptures looming over the vestibule, a wave of sterile air greeting her senses. “I’m here to…”
“To learn about art.” A withered old man hobbled into the room. “How can you learn what you don’t appreciate?” A scowl deepened the creases on his face.
The young girl moved into the exhibit. “I thought you would…”
“Explain technique?” Mr. Hobson grumbled. “That’s easy.”
“Inspiration?” The elderly man pointed a knobby finger at the youth. “You’re not ready.” He wandered into the back room.
Kelly meandered through the dim room. Thin shards of white light cut through the muted atmosphere, highlighting every figurine sitting on their pedestal.
“What is this?” she muttered, examining the grey, faceless pieces with great scrutiny. “No detail, no identity, all of them.”
She paced toward the back room. “Mr. Hobson. I’m confused.” She pulled a beaded curtain aside. A menacing grimace etched onto a twisted, grotesque face frightened her.
“I warned you.” The proprietor leered from a small worktable in the middle of the room. “You don’t belong here.”
Kelly stared in horror at the collection of ghastly, disfigured works displayed throughout the room. “This isn’t what I wanted, what I expected.”
“Is anything what you expect?” He laid down his hammer and chisel on the workbench. “It’s all meaningless.” His eyes narrowed. “It’s like the façade we all put up because we fear nobody will accept us as we are. Soon, we become nameless and faceless like the statues out front.”
“No, it’s not true,” the young girl protested. “You can create beauty. Express the joy in your life.”
“This is life,” the embittered old man snapped. “You’re just too young to realize it.”
“But it doesn’t have to be that way.” Desperation welled in Kelly’s eyes.
“Look there.” Mr. Hobson gestured to a display. “The fear of a boy who had his lunch money stolen. The dismay of the girl who stained her favorite dress. Can’t you feel it?” A vague grin crept across his face. “The torment of living is all around you, you just don’t want to see it.”
“These sad times pass.” The young girl whimpered. “People grow.”
He caressed a sculpture. “Look at him, what do you see?”
“He looks sad,” she replied.
“Now look beyond the sorrow.” He lifted the statue into the light. “See the heartache; feel his anger and distrust from being dumped by his girlfriend. This pain will affect him for years to come.”
“He’ll learn.” she swiped a tear with her sleeve. “He can find another.”
“And her.” He turned his most recent toward the youngster. “Do you see the grief, the pain, the betrayal?” He traced the form with his finger. “A mother distraught when her daughter didn’t want to spend time with her.”
“Mommy,” Kelly gasped; her lips quivered. “It isn’t how you’re portraying it. You don’t have to be consumed by your pain.” She raised a hand to her mouth. “I won’t ever listen to you.”
“But yet you stay here.” Mr. Hobson moved closer. “Part of you believes.”
“I do think there are truly sad people.” She backed toward the door. “But they aren’t the people you’ve shown here.” Kelly’s eyes riveted on the old man. “They are the ones who have lost hope, given up on life. The ones like you.”
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