One by one, they filtered out. Donathon left next. Then, Hosanna.
Graciela stayed behind.
“Was there something you needed?” I asked.
“I just wanted to…” she said, stopping herself.
Graciela had risen from her desk, as if to leave, and now walked to the windows and looked outside. “You know, our last teacher, Mister Farmer? He used to have us turn our desks to the window and draw one thing – just one thing – outside the window. Then, he’d grade it. He always told me to draw more because I would focus on something too narrow. I wasn’t drawing enough.” She stopped talking and just stood there, looking outside.
“Yes?” I asked.
Turning back to me, she asked, “How do you draw just one thing and then get told you’re not drawing enough?”
“I don’t know,” I told her.
“Because I think that’s why Alex is so pissed off. You want him to draw one thing and he wants to draw everything. Mister Farmer probably told him he was drawing too much.”
“Graciela, part of my job is to help you understand the expectations that will be put upon you in the real world.”
“Why?” she asked. She sat down across from me. Now, I guess we were getting down to it.
My answer didn’t require a lot of thought. “Because it would be wrong of me to give any of you false assurances about what you’ll be when you grow up.”
“Your job is to stifle our dreams?” she asked.
“That is not what I said.”
“Because I don’t need you to stifle my dreams, Mister Hollis. Alex doesn’t need you to stifle his dreams.”
Wow. I must have struck a nerve. “Listen,” I said.
“No. I want you to listen,” she countered, and her calm approach, her downright adult-ness about it pretty much shut me up. “You don’t think Alex gets enough people telling him he’s not gonna be an artist? Nobody ever says it to me because everybody assumes I’m gonna do something else with my life. You know? Make money. But this is all Alex has. He’s all about his art. And this is where he goes to draw everything and ignore the people who tell him to draw only one thing.” She rose from her seat and picked up her book bag. Where the other students were dressed in summer casual shorts and t-shirts, Graciela Kim dressed smart in slacks and a ruffled top and her hair was kept neat. But after that little outburst, a few stray hairs fell in front of her face and for the first time I saw more than just competence in there. I saw just a hint of passion as well. And I wondered if Alex Alfaro had ever seen that, too. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be,” I told her. “I’m new at this. I don’t know if you know that.”
Title: Work of Art: An Intention of Flowers
Author: Ken La Salle
Genre: YA / Contemporary Fiction
Thick tempera paint.
A parking lot filled with history, fear, and regret.
A young man named Joseph Arillo sits in the parking lot and paints the pavement with flowers.
And Andy Hollis steps in it.
As the new art teacher at Santa Ana High School, he’s too curious about Joseph’s Flowers and unravels both of their lives in his pursuit for answers.
He learns that it’s all part of a rite of passage, an absurd test started by Joseph Arillo’s father, the suspiciously world-renowned artist named only Tom. Which also connects to the drama teacher at Santa Ana High, Katie Bustos. Whose daughter, Desiree, may or may not be dating Joseph. Who is putting himself in danger from a local gang, the lot’s mysterious history, and the police.
Andy puts himself in danger of losing his job, his home, and his freedom. If he can’t solve the riddle of Joseph’s Flowers, both of their lives will go up in smoke – despite any help from Winny, the old, Slovakian bureaucrat at school, or his students, or Tom himself.
But is Tom trying to help? And is Joseph really up to his father’s test?
And is Andy really fit to be a teacher? He doesn’t understand kids, can’t get to school on time, and… doesn’t appear to care about art or families or anything. But Joseph’s Flowers will challenge everything Andy believes: about himself, about the world, and most importantly of all about art.
Before Andy and Joseph are finished, they will witness the power art has to provide inspiration, to waken our hearts, and to shatter everything you ever believed about humanity.
An Intention of Flowers is the first book in a 5-book series, modestly titled Work of Art, about growing into the person you always wanted to be, making the most of what you have to give and not just what you have, and the power in each of us when we chose to be ourselves.
Author and occasional philosopher and monologist, Ken La Salle’s passion is intense humor, meaningful drama, and finding answers to the questions that define our lives. Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue collar roots, which have given his writing a progressive and environmentalist view. You can find a growing number of his books and performances available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.