This is the fourth time I, Job Smeets, 've turned to you and you’re still awaiting the sequel to the pimpery of ‘Studio Job Bismarck’. Ms Van Der Voort is curious as well, but: Madame, hold your horses! Time and again there’s another story sneaking between the cars and writing has to be enjoyable. Writing helps, as with drawing, to get it out of your system. Even though this isn’t a journal, that’s how it feels: a day of setting it all down on paper.
I’m not yet sure how this piece will end, but it starts with events involving a special man who doesn’t like cars but whose attitude to life is idiosyncratic. A warrior of steel and a heart of wax.
I met him at the academy in the summer of ’89 and we became friends. Both originating from the peat of North Limburg, we moved like two odd-ones-out through the midst of the other beasts. Me like a monkey; his profile like that of a cockerel with a nose like a beak and a plume on his head. Though the plume was soon lost, replaced by an eternal ‘cap’, it would still be decades before his beak met with infernal improvidence.
After a semi-professional collaboration in the late 1990s, my unbridled ambition meant that our paths separated. Each to his own way. There has now been a silence of a good 15 years between us. Yet he crosses my mind every day like an analogue photo from the album of friends with whom you’ve lost contact. Friends of the heart are eternal.
Sometimes I caught rumours about new projects via the southern lobby.
His pièce de resistance in particular came close to the truth. He specialized in the rechristening of discarded church candles. These were meticulously melted down, dyed and cast into new waxen objects. This successful endeavour to mould the religious remnants into the world’s largest candle prompted cutting criticism from the Reformatorisch Dagblad, a protestant daily. Blasphemy!
With a new attempt to attain even closer to the heavenly gods, fate came to exact its toll without mercy. The day started sunny as in the Book of Noah. He, too, was carefully prepared for the great voyage. In the former stable and adjoining studio stood red copper cauldrons with molten candle-stumps simmering away gently. There was a warm mist with a scent of sanctity, like Weert’s Church of St Martin and its Marian shrine where Dutch author Gerard Reve lit candles and prayed. The monumental centrepiece of the wonderful scene was the impressive casting mould – an enormous oak casing embraced by a thousand wooden clamps. The silhouette of this project gave away the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ within – a mould as cavernous as a deep well with a large gaping mouth waiting for hot wax at the top . . .
Yes, everything appeared to be properly prepared, but as in the Book of Job everything went wrong and all hell broke loose. It’s God’s will and God’s law, said Grandma, so a voodoo priest who plays with fire deserves punishment. And thus it came to pass that the last boiling cauldron spewed all its hot bile over Eric’s face and limbs.
As I’m writing this I’m sitting in my tacky Superman bathrobe and I’ve still had no contact with him. I wonder how he’s doing . . .
It’s a life-defining ordeal that defiled him and made him a martyr. There’s no justice, because my old friend was burnt alive. It doesn’t bear thinking about Eric, but I’m thinking of you!
24 December 2016
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