BOOKS AND CONVERSATION
The Wondrous Apothecary is now published, just in time for the holiday, gift giving season.
This story follows from the novel The Trilogy of Remembrance.
Have you met the artists, Alexander Wainwright and Rinaldo yet?
They are in The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing AND The Wondrous Apothecary.
What are Alex’s paintings like?
Most depict land and seascapes. A numinous light emanates from each of them. First, the light is bold, brash and energetic and then, it glows subtly and seductively giving all viewers the sense they have been granted a fleeting glimpse of the beyond delivered in one awe- charged moment. And whatever lies beyond that has a life-force and vitality all its own. Most just say they are magical.
And Rinaldo’s creations?
Rinaldo is a conceptual artist, who insists art should be about ideas and not simply about things, especially not pretty things, which play upon our bourgeois conceits. His art can be really anything from a construction or installation to a performance piece making some sort of point in a public space. Such displays have often wound him up in trouble. The law seems to have difficulty distinguishing between creating conceptual art and public nuisance.
And here is a scene from The Wondrous Apothecary illustrating Rinaldo’s ability to confound the courts and toss him into what he calls “a madhouse.”
We find him before Mr. Justice Frye who reads the charges of arson and theft.
THE STORY BEGINS: Rinaldo stands before Mr. Justice Frye of the Old Bailey to answer to charges of theft and arson.
It was easy to visualize the events. Looking up at the judge, Rinaldo seemed very small standing alone in the prisoner’s box with no apparent comprehension of the proceedings. His mouth gaped open. The few sounds he made were mostly unintelligible but might have sounded profound to a more sympathetic ear. Judge Joseph Frye, of the Old Bailey, bore down on him amid the phalanx of gowned and bewigged barristers at the bar.
The judge intoned, “You are charged with arson and theft Rinaldo. I see you are without counsel. Do you wish to enter a plea?”
Rinaldo nodded. Smiling, he cast about the courtroom as if to introduce himself to everyone present.
The judge was, of course, intent on ensuring the accused was cognizant of the nature of the charges and so, he addressed him as if he were a simple man if not a simpleton.
“Rinaldo? How do you plead to the charge of setting fire to the Aldwych Gallery in Chelsea on the twenty-fifth of October 2016? Do you understand their meaning?”
Rinaldo began in lilting tones. “If it is your will, fine sir, then it must be so.” He gave a bow and then drew himself up to address the court. “Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool and a comedy for the rich and a tragedy for the poor.”
Ripples of chatter with the occasional chuckle filled the courtroom. Frye sighed deeply. “Is that Shakespeare?” he asked his clerk.
He adjusted his white wig upward and rubbed his forehead. Everything about Rinaldo annoyed him. But the fact that he had not retained a solicitor was the most aggravating. He tossed the file to the court clerk. “Read out all the charges to Mr. Rinaldo.”
The clerk rose. “The said accused did feloniously set fire to the said gallery and attempted to steal a hay wagon from the premises.”
“For heaven’s sake!” groaned the magistrate. “Why was a hay wagon in an art gallery?”
Rinaldo hopped nimbly from the prisoner’s box and approached the bar. The bar is really a gate which excludes all but the most senior barristers from the area closest to the judge’s bench. The moment he was on the wrong side of the divide, two immense guards surrounded him.
“Good sir!” Rinaldo began. “I speak for myself alone. I ran back into the flames for one purpose and one purpose only. I was not trying to steal a hay wagon. I was trying to save it!”
Rinaldo turned on the clerk and wagged a finger under his nose. “I realize, good sir, that I am in a place where…”
“The very soul of creativity is under siege.”
“What? Just where do you think you are?” asked the judge.
“In a court, sir.” Rinaldo scanned the high vaulted ceilings decorated with white painted cornices. “Where, on reason alone, the truth is decided to be… either here …” Rinaldo pointed to his left. “Or there,” he said, pointing to his right. “But reason is a very slender timber which can snap in a single instant. Cast upon the waters of deep emotion, we cling to it at our peril.”
The clerk rolled his eyes. The judge sighed deeply.
Rinaldo spoke in solemn tones. “I was trying to rescue The Hay Wagon from the flames. It is not an actual wagon, sir. It is an excellent painting by the renowned painter, Alexander Wainwright.” He swirled about and gave a bow. “So— guilty in part am I and not guilty in yet another part am I. A riddle, sir, indeed?” Rinaldo gave a little skip. “To join three parts together to make a single whole is for sure a momentous task. To divide again and yet twice again requires so much more and yet—no more.” Suddenly he stood completely still. “That is how I plead.”
The magistrate motioned the clerk closer and whispered in his ear. He began to write on the file. Moments later he read out to the court, “It is ordered by this court that the accused be remanded to Amanas Mental Hospital for thirty days for an assessment of his fitness to stand trial.”
Rinaldo appeared only momentarily crestfallen. Again, he stepped beyond the bar and was surrounded by the security guards. “Please your Honour I wish to speak.” First, he bowed deeply. “Sir, our institutions…our courts, our parliament, hospitals and libraries all collude to destroy our individual creativity and our humanity—the human mind, our freedoms and all of our arts.”
“For heaven’s sake…Next case!” intoned the judge.