The man struck the chisel with a hammer and stared as a large chunk of the granite sheered off. Raising the hammer over his head, he brought it down on top of the massive granite block with an angry scream. A third of the block fell to the floor. A splinter shot out and cut his hand.
He threw the hammer to the floor and stomped off. He came to a stop and stamped his foot on the floor in frustration wishing he had something else to throw. Life was not working out for him. It hadn't always been that way. Three years ago, he was a nationally recognized artist for his bronze statues. His pieces were commanding incredible prices. There were interviews in art magazines and exhibits in the best galleries where he was the star. With the fame came huge parties with attractive women and lots of champagne. Life was good.
Then, without warning, his world crumbled at his feet. His girlfriend, his high school sweetheart, had walked out on him. Even worse, she had walked away with his best friend who he had known since childhood. Their parting shot that he was a self- involved asshole had ripped his heart out. Since that day, he hadn't been able create anything.
After a year of one creative failure after another, he had given up working with bronze and turned his attention to stone in the belief that he could work out his pain on solid rock and turn it into art. For two years, he had chiseled away at one block of stone after another. Despite working day and night, he had created nothing more impressive than piles of pebbles.
Frustrated about his art, his life, and his heart, he shook his fist at the ceiling and shouted, "Flawed. The stone is flawed. My work is flawed. I'm flawed!"
"Excuse me. Are you Dante?"
Dante spun around and looked at the young man who had spoken. Two years of working stone day and night had developed Dante's upper body to an incredible degree. He flexed to look intimidating and glared at the young man. In a gruff voice, he shouted, "Get lost kid!"
Unperturbed by the emotional outburst, the young man walked over to the block of marble and touched it. He walked around it examining the surface. After a minute, he stopped and stared at one spot on the stone. Without warning, his fist shot out and hit the block. A huge piece of marble fell to the floor. Turning to Dante, he said, "You are right about one thing. The stone is flawed. You might be right that your work is flawed, but I doubt it. You're wrong about you being flawed."
Dante stared at the chuck of stone that had fallen to the ground. The shock of what he had seen had driven away his frustration leaving him speechless. He swallowed and asked, "Who are you?"
"I'm William Redman Carter."
The name didn't mean anything to Dante. He shrugged and asked, "What do you want?"
"I want to commission you to create some bronze statues," William answered as he wandered over to an example of the man's bronze work.
Dante was afraid that he wouldn't be able to deliver on the commission. Despite needing the money, he chose to refuse the offer. In an attempt to discourage the kid as quickly as possible, he said, "Look kid, that kind of commission costs a lot of money."
"Money is no object," William answered running a hand over the smooth bronze statue. It wasn't the best work the man had done. He'd seen an excellent example of the man's work on display at the Native American College. This piece suggested that something was missing from the creative act.
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"You haven't heard what I want," William countered. He turned to examine Dante and wondered why he was putting up such a fight.
"I don't do bronze work any more. I've moved onto stone." Even as he said it, he knew had been considering throwing together a couple of junk bronze statues. His agent could sell them and the money would tide him over for another year. It didn't matter if the pieces were of ducks or turtles, someone would buy it because of the residual reputation that he had.
"You'll accept this commission because it is too good to pass up."
Shrugging his shoulders, Dante didn't want to admit that he was intrigued by the kid's persistence. He asked, "What do you want?"
William handed him several photographs and said, "I want a bust of the man in these pictures."
"That's John Carter," Dante said recognizing the man immediately. Only one other artist had been commissioned to capture the man's image in an artistic medium. She was famous.
William smiled at the beginning glow of interest and said, "Yes. He's my father. I also want a full body statue of him for placement outside the Druid College."
Dante couldn't decide if William was serious about wanting a bust and a statue. The idea of having one of his pieces placed in front of the Druid College was very tempting, but not tempting enough. He asked, "Anything else?"
William handed another packet of photographs to Dante. He answered, "I want a bust of my grandfather, William Redman. One of the castings will be placed in the Native American College."
"Sure, no problem," Dante replied in a mocking manner. He wondered how the kid could assure placement of those pieces in such prominent locations. He'd heard that the Native American College already had one of his pieces, but he wasn't sure if it was on display or just held as an investment.
"I also want a bust and a statue of another man," William said.
"So let me get this straight. You want a bust and a statue of your father; a bust of your grandfather; and a bust and statue of some other guy. Multiple casting of each, I assume."
"Do you have any idea how much that will cost you?"
William held out a check and answered, "I have a fairly good idea."
Dante looked down at the check and swallowed. It had more zeros in it than he could count. There was no way he could accept a commission this large considering that he didn't think he could deliver on it. He said, "I think that is a bit more than required."
"No. I want two castings of the statue of my father and eight hundred castings of the other statue. I want two castings of each of the busts."
The amount on the check was still almost a million more than he would have charged. He said, "That check is still too large."
"The extra is to pay for the difficulty in getting the other man to pose for you," William said with a smile.
"Who is it?"
The name didn't mean anything to Dante. He looked back down at the check unable to believe the amount written on it. He asked, "Why is it going to be difficult?"
William laughed as he considered the months that Dante was about to experience. He said, "You are going to have to travel with him. He's the last of the Hoboes."
"Do you mean I'm going to have to jump on trains?" Dante asked. He had visions of running after a train with a clay statue and trying to jump onto it.
"No. He has a Roach Coach that he drives around. The problem is that he doesn't stay in one place for very long. You'll have to travel with him and work during those few moments when he's still."
Dante stared at the check. He looked at the pictures of John Carter marveling at the raw power of the spirit that was captured within them. The amazing strength of character in the face of the grandfather beckoned him to accept the job. His doubts in his ability held him back.
William turned to leave. Before he reached the door, he stopped and turned back to face Dante. He said, "I'll be by to pick you up Friday and take you to Happy Harry. His statues are to be the first pieces I want delivered."
"I didn't say I'd take the job."
"Oh. Did I mention that the statues of Happy Harry are going to be placed at locations supported by the Fusion Foundation?"
"No," Dante answered with a frown. He asked, "How can you assure placement of these works?"
"John Carter founded the Druid College and they would like a bronze statue of him. William Redman founded the Native American College and they would like a bronze bust of him. My other father, Ed Biggers, is Chairman of the Board for the Fusion Foundation," William answered.
"Oh," Dante said wondering if he could deliver the commission.
"I'll see you Friday."
Dante looked down at his luggage and wondered how he was going to tote so much stuff around. He had fifty pounds of clay, stands, tools, sketch pads, and his clothes. He looked up when three Huggers pulled into the drive in front of his studio. Once they had parked the car, a couple he'd never seen before got out and looked around. The woman walked over and asked, "Are you Dante?"
"Yes," Dante answered glancing over at the second car. William and a young woman got out and headed in his direction. Another couple had gotten out of the third Hugger. Looking at William, he asked, "What's going on?"
"Bodyguard paranoia. My mother insisted that they come along on this trip. She's afraid that I'm going to pick up hitchhikers or something," William answered. He received a sharp look from Rock for his answer. Smiling at Rock, William said, "Let's get his stuff in the car."
"Uh... ," Dante started to say.
"Allow me to introduce you to Lucy, my wife," William said. "Lucy, this is Dante. He's going to do a bust and a statue of Happy Harry."
Lucy smiled at Dante and said, "You are in for quite a time. I kind of envy you."
While they were talking, Rock went over and picked up the hunk of clay. Dante was about to warn him that it was heavy, but the man handled the load as if it were no heavier than a pillow. That impressed Dante much more than he was willing to admit. He watched as the four bodyguards loaded his gear into the back of the middle Hugger. While they worked, William pointed to each one and said, "That's Rock, Colt, Nicole, and Natalie."
"Is that it?" Rock asked when he returned to where Dante was standing.
"Let's go," Nicole said. "You ride with us."
"No, he rides with me," William corrected. He said, "We have business to discuss."
"You're the boss," Rock said with a frown.
William got into the front of the Hugger after directing Dante into the passenger side back seat. Lucy climbed into the car behind William and turned to Dante. She asked, "Are you looking forward to traveling with Happy Harry?"
"I don't really know what that means," Dante replied.
William pulled out of the drive behind the Hugger being driven by Rock. He checked his mirror and saw that Colt had moved into position behind him. William started humming a traveling song. He was looking forward to seeing Happy Harry again, but wondered how the old man would react when he dropped Dante off in his lap.
"It means that you are about to get a grand tour of the country with one of the most personable tour guides in the world. He'll have you laughing, singing, and crying all within a ten minute period. You're going the hear stories the likes of which you'd never believe," Lucy said.
William chimed in, "You'll also be getting a new name."
Lucy chatted with Dante while William followed behind Rock. They'd been traveling for an hour when William suddenly steered over to the side of the highway shouting, "That's Lady Lucy!"
Lucy turned around and looked. A huge smile crossed her face upon seeing the bag lady walking beside the highway pushing her shopping cart. She nudged Dante and said, "Get up front. Lady Lucy will sit back here with me."
Dante stared at the bag lady in confusion. Rather than argue, he climbed out after William had stopped and got into the front seat. William had jumped out of the car and shouted, "Lady Lucy!"
The bag lady, leaving the cart behind, hurried up to the car. Rock had stopped a mile up the road and was tearing down the shoulder in reverse at twenty miles an hour. Colt had managed to stop behind William and had just missed hitting the bag lady. Seeing William open the door for Lucy, Colt hit the send button on his radio and said, "William. I thought we agreed that you wouldn't pick up hitchhikers."
Hitting the send button on his radio, William answered, "She's not a hitchhiker. She's Harry's girlfriend."
Turning to Lady Lucy, William said, "Colt will take care of your shopping cart. Get in and ride with us."
Lady Lucy didn't answer. She just turned to watch her cart. Colt got out and loaded the shopping cart into the back of his Hugger. Nicole had to get out and help him wrestle it into place. Once the cart was stowed, Lady Lucy climbed into the Hugger. Seeing the young lady, she said, "Lucy Diamonds! It's good to see you and Half Feather. I was getting a little tired of walking."
"Lady Lucy. You won't believe where we're going."
"We're going to visit Happy Harry," Lucy exclaimed.
"That man of mine. You've got to love him. He treats me like a queen."
Dante turned in his seat and examined the bag lady. Her leathery skin was rough and cracked from being in the sun all of the time. Her hair, streaked with gray, looked a lot like a bird's nest. She did have the most remarkable blue eyes, but the scars on her face pulled one's attention away from them. He couldn't imagine anyone wanting to treat her like a queen. He wondered what kind of man this Happy Harry character was. Rather than comment, he watched William get back in the car.
"William is the same way. All I have to do is think I want something and he's off doing it for me."
Lady Lucy nudged the younger woman with a dirty elbow and said, "You know what they say."
"Not sure," Lucy answered.
"Once a man has bedded a Lucy, he'll never be satisfied with a Susan, Jane, or Mary," she said and then burst into laughter. She slapped her thigh and rocked in the seat.
Lucy laughed along with her. After she stopped laughing, she winked at the older woman. She leaned forward and tapped William on the shoulder. In a sweet voice, she asked, "William, is that true?"
William shot a look of desperation in the general direction of Dante and answered, "I'll never know. Once I bedded a Lucy, I never wanted to bed anyone else."
Lady Lucy laughed and said, "You've been around Harry too long. That man can pitch woo like no one else can."
Dante listened to the exchange puzzled by what he was hearing. He knew that William was rich. The young woman with him looked like the girl next door. He couldn't imagine what they had in common with a bag lady. He asked, "How do you know each other?"
Maneuvering the Hugger behind Rock's Hugger, William said, "Oh, I'm sorry. We didn't perform the introductions. Dante, the amazing woman behind you is Lady Lucy. She's the one true love of Happy Harry. Lady Lucy, this gentleman is Dante. He's going to be making a statue of Happy Harry."
She leaned forward and tapped Dante on the shoulder. She asked, "Will it be anatomically correct?"
"Huh?" Dante asked. No one had ever asked him that about a statue before.
"I'd hate to lug around a statue of Harry if it wasn't."
Lucy laughed at the comment. William smiled and said, "The Gods and Goddesses love a randy woman."
"I'm not sure what kind of statue I'll be doing yet," Dante replied. He wondered if Happy Harry was going to be a filthy homeless man.
Lady Lucy asked, "So where's Harry?"
"He's in Cleveland," William answered.
"What a coincidence. That just happens to be where I was headed," Lady Lucy said.
They finally reached Cleveland. Rock led the way to the Homeless Hotel where Harry was supposed to be staying. William followed behind. They were approaching an area filled with old deserted buildings when Lady Lucy tapped William on the arm. She said, "Let me out down here."
William tapped the send button and said, "Rock, pull over. Lady Lucy wants to be let out here."
William pulled over to the side of the road. Lucy said, "Thanks for the ride, Half Feather. You're a good kid. Let Harry know that I'll be staying at the old warehouse. He'll know which one."
"Will do, Lady Lucy," William said.
"Lucy Diamonds, you take care of Half Feather. A couple hours in bed would do you both a world of good," she said while climbing out of the car. Seeing that Colt had managed to get her shopping cart out of the back of his Hugger, she headed over to it. She wouldn't let him go until she had checked every item in the cart.
The arrival of three Huggers at the Homeless Hotel created quite a stir among the homeless. The excitement only increased when William, Lucy, and Dante exited the car. Men and women from all over the site shouted, "Hello Half Feather."
Smiling, William answered, "Hello everyone!"
Dante heard one man ask another, "Is that Lucy Diamonds?"
Another man said, "It's got to be Lucy Diamonds."
"She's such a pretty little thing. Harry said she was pretty, but I didn't imagine she'd be that pretty."
One of the men finally called out, "Hello Lucy Diamonds."
Smiling, Lucy waved and answered, "Hello, guys! I'm Lucy Diamonds."
One of the men pushed Dante out of the way and asked, "Could I get you some coffee, Lucy Diamonds?"
"That would be sweet of you. Could you please put in a packet of the powdered cream," Lucy replied. She was used to how coffee was served in the Homeless Hotels and knew how to ask for it.
One of the men nudged the one who had offered coffee and said, "You should have offered her tea. Ladies like tea."
Dante couldn't believe the men lining up to help the young woman. He turned in time to see a green robed Druid come out of the food shack. He was carrying a Shepherd's Staff in one hand. An amused grin came over the man's face when he spotted the young couple. He was shocked when the Druid said, "Hello Lucy Diamonds. I see you brought Half Feather with you. I keep hoping to get you alone and you always drag him along. You break an old man's heart."
Lucy laughed and said, "Good news, broken hearted old man. We dropped off Lady Lucy back at the warehouses."
A general murmur broke out amongst the men as they all went, "Oh!"
Harry laughed and said, "That is good news indeed."
Dante had watched the exchange. Although the Druid looked upon Lucy like a friend, he looked at William as if the young man was his son. The Druid stepped over to William and put a hand on his shoulder. He asked, "So what brings Half Feather out here to see me?"
William winked at Dante and said, "Oh, we didn't come here to see you. We came here to see Lady Lucy."
Happy Harry laughed and looked around. His eyes lit upon Dante. Curious, he asked, "And who is this gentlemen you brought with you?"
"Ah, that is Dante. I want him to travel around with you for a couple of months," William answered. Turning to Dante, he said, "Dante, this old reprobate is Happy Harry."
Dante realized that the man he was to sculpt was the Druid. Surprised he said, "You're a Druid."
"Ugly green dress. Big gold medallion. I better be a Druid or else I'm the ugliest transvestite in the world," Harry answered with a grin. He turned to look at one of the homeless men and added, "And don't say that the jury is still out on that one."
"He didn't tell me you were a Druid. He said you were a Hobo," Dante said. He hadn't known what to expect to find, but he hadn't expected it to be a Druid.
"That's right. I'm Happy Harry, the last of the Hoboes." He turned and gestured to one of the men. Turning back to Dante, he said, "Boy Scout will help you settle in. He'll find you some work in camp so you can eat tonight and in the morning. We'll be leaving here after breakfast for Buffalo."
Harry turned to Boy Scout and said, "Let him put his gear in the wagon. I'll be back after a little visit with Lady Lucy."
Harry walked over to where the four bodyguards were watching the activity. Seeing the tension in their bodies, he paused and leaned forward as if he was sharing some great secret. In a theatrical voice, he said, "Ah, I see the cavalry is here. I hate to tell you this, but you're supposed to be protecting the settlers from the Indians and not the Indians from the settlers."
Unable to help it, Rock burst out laughing and said, "No wonder this job has been so hard. We've been doing it wrong all this time."
Dante found the Druid's comment very funny and started laughing almost uncontrollably. The statement had captured his entire experience beginning from the moment when William had picked him up that morning. It was several minutes before he recovered. By that time, the Druid was gone.
The man who Harry had identified as Boy Scout asked, "Where's your gear?"
"In the back of the Hugger."
Rock and Colt quickly unloaded the gear and carried it into the storage area of the Roach Coach. Boy Scout had watched the two men hustle all of the stuff with a puzzled look. Turning to Dante, he said, "You sure travel heavy. What are you?"
"I'm an artist," Dante answered.
Boy Scout nodded his head and studied Dante for a moment. In a matter of fact voice, he said, "That's a good way to starve. Come with me, Hungry Man."
Dante followed Boy Scout around the camp. When he returned to the open area, he found that William, Lucy, and the four bodyguards were gone. Standing there, he realized that he was alone and surrounded by the refuse of society. He began to get worried