Speakeasy #151 – Making of a Masterpiece

well‘Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes, not anymore….’

Pretentious bullshit or not, all those early reviews of Frankie’s work screamed the same message: here was a man who didn’t just live his art, he was his art. Disappointingly for the weekend feature editors, Frankie Bosanko wasn’t your standard fucked up malcontent born into a troubled childhood: his mother hadn’t been a sexually abused, teenage crack addict – Frankie started out as a plain ordinary kid, in a plain ordinary life. Perhaps that was the reason things eventually went the way they did.

The fire at the mill cost the Bosanko family nearly everything. His dad hit the unemployment line, and then the bottle, as his son headed for three years in juvenile correction. Nobody could understand why he’d done it, he never did explain that night to anyone. It was while in ‘juvey’ that it began – just scribbles, but within those seemingly random, abstract shapes and lines something sparked. The golden flames which ripped through the burning mill inspired his first major work. Some said he was glorifying crime, nobody died in his fire, but none the less plenty thought it was in bad taste.

‘It’s art, it’s real, it’s my life,’ is all Frankie would say.

At twenty Frankie moved to the city and rented a tiny bedsit on the east side. He unashamedly played on his maverick genius, ex-con persona and quickly became the must have, risqué invite for the trendiest parties on the scene. The story of the night he and the wife of a well heeled client fucked like randy college grads on pristine white sheets while being showered in paint still does the rounds. That particular client was ecstatic, he watched and then paid $200,000 for the results – those sheets are now worth ten times that, as are most Bosanko originals.  It was good money for Frankie and he never denied he enjoyed it, the life, the women, even the infamy – especially the infamy.

Through all the good times Frankie had remained phobic about the prospect of becoming predictable, even worse becoming irrelevant. His public appearances were by now fleeting, rare and often a disaster. Each time the worry lines on his sallow face grooved just a bit deeper, the impish smile slightly more strained, his once shoulder length jet black hair, racing backwards in a losing battle to a rampaging white army. Some said he was ill, others that he was dying.  He then disappeared for nearly a year, prompting many in the community to proclaim his demise.

Then suddenly he was back.  Understated fliers invited those interested in his work to attend the Yarndale Gallery on the corner of 23rd St – it was packed as people watchers, social climbers, journalists and just the plain curious milled throughout the vast open plan studio. Frankie looked worse than ever, yet under the pasty skin and dark shadowed eyes there remained a spark. He was up to something, they all knew it.

‘Well, I’d just like to thank everybody for coming,’ he began.

The crowd cheered and  applauded.

‘…it’s been a while. I expect most of you had forgotten about me.’

‘No, never!’ they replied as one.

At the back of the dimly lit gallery, Frankie stood motionless in front of a empty, white textured canvas. A younger Frankie had been famed for his live performances and outlandish installations, and so the room was soon at fever pitch as the crowd waited on their forgotten hero to amaze once more. A second, closer canvas was squeakily wheeled into place as the frail figure of Frankie disappeared again from public view. The room then went pitch dark – laughter and giggles morphed into screams. Before pupils could react to the gloom there came a bang – not a loud explosion, more of a contained squelch followed by the unsettling sound of liquid meeting solid.

As light slowly re-illuminated the room, the two canvases were now arranged side by side. A cordon of pleated, red felt rope provided a barrier as burley, shiny headed security guards stood primed to prevent any potential breaches. From the rope a cardboard sign hung loosely on white parcel string – it stated boldly:

Do not touch!

Both canvases were sprayed in lurid reds, blacks and browns. In amongst the dribbles and blotches, lumps of matter shuddered, as if alive. Around the foot of the pictures pools of what looked like blood had begun to congeal.

Most of Frankie Bosanko was nowhere to be seen.


These words form my entry into the speakeasy writing challenge. I hope you like them!

23 thoughts on “Speakeasy #151 – Making of a Masterpiece

  1. Martha B

    I love how although there is so much going on in this story, from relatable characters to an actual beginning, arc, and ending, the thing that strikes me the most is all the color. You truly lived up to the visual prompt, making everything vivid and screaming. The fact that Frankie is an artist – that’s a little twist of brilliance that helps your ongoing notion of vivid seem to fit together so perfectly. I really enjoyed this!

  2. mbarkersimpson

    Wow, talk about dying for your art. I enjoyed the piece. It is original, vivid and cuts right to the heart of an artist. Thanks for sharing. I especially liked the line ‘racing backwards in a losing battle to a rampaging white army’ – genius!

  3. janisezayas1

    The ultimate sacrifice it seems. Sacrifice on whose part though? Somehow I feel bad for Frankie, like he was walked to that ending somehow but the public that adored him. Good read!

    1. paulmclem Post author

      The way I was thinking was that Frankie craved relevance, even after death. His final works will hopefully ensure that’s the case 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. jannatwrites

    I feel sorry for Frankie. I saw his last performance as a last-ditch effort to be the center of attention, The last line made me laugh and cringe… I probably should be more concerned that I found it humorous 🙂

  5. The Invisible Geek

    This was definitely one of the best pieces I’ve read today. So insightful, I loved it, specially the way you captured the colors…Smart! Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  6. tinsenpup

    You’ve achieved so much within the word limit without ever seeming to rush or cram things in. Somehow, by the time it arrives you’ve managed to set up an ending that almost seems inevitable. This is a great piece; a real achievement. Well done.

  7. Suzanne

    Like a truly fabulous work of art, this story is brimming with layers. And there’s this feeling of desperation that underlies everything. It left me unsettled, but I really enjoyed it. Fantastic take on the prompts, Paul! 🙂

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks, Suzanne. Have enjoyed my forays into the speakeasy so far. It is definitely a searching challenge of someone’s writing to keep up the consistency for 750 words. Can be so easy to lose voice, use loose phrases or just plain drift. Whereas in 33,100,333 etc faults can, to an extent, be masked, not in 750. As writers we have our work cut out to keep people reading to the end. However, I’m up for that challenge 🙂

  8. Silverleaf

    From the first word, this was truly a unique experience. Wonderfully written, perfectly constructed without a single misstep. There is something strong and striking about the voice.

  9. BCIJo (aka Joanne Edith)

    This reminded me of a dark episode of Twilight Zone, though I suspect such vivid reality would have never made it past the censors. A really interesting and skillful character development. Nicely done, though I’m still cringing. I think that’s a good thing.

  10. fatgirlinboxinggloves

    Yours is my favorite submission this week. The imagery here is fantastic. I adore performance and installation art, and Frankie pushed those mediums to a whole new limit.
    Fabulous piece. Karen


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