The Wondrous Sketches of Benny Blanco

July 22, 2008
By Tyler Carter, Crestwood, KY

He sat against a wall. A brick wall, as a matter of fact. His eyes gazed out upon the hundreds of shuffling feet, which were attached to normal people following their normal routines in their normal lives. At least they had lives. They had friends... family... homes... problems... morals... beliefs... dreams. Yes, they all had lives, but not to him. To him, they were just there. His field of vision was his reality. Once the person steps over the boundaries of his vision, they simply ceased to exist. Only to him.

Benny was an artist... a brilliant artist of the likes no one has ever seen before. His art required no materials. He had never painted a picture, sketched a caricature, or built a sculpture. He never created a masterpiece and he never had a piece hung in a museum. No, his works of art were conceived in a more vast and grand method. They were portraits of his dreams. Using only his mind, he painted the most incredible pieces the human brain can imagine... they were filled with vibrant colors and joy, much unlike the dark, gritty world in which he lived in now.

Looking around, Benny spotted an old charcoal pencil next to a subway entrance. He scooted towards it, his baggy clothes loosely hanging from his bony frame. He picked it up, marveling at how something that had the potential to make something so beautiful and magnificent could just be thrown to the ground and forgotten. He smiled and brought the pencil in front of his face. He brushed his grimy, gray hair aside and closed one eye. Moving the pencil slowly through the air, he began to trace his field of vision. He moved the pencil faster and faster, tracing the people, cars, buildings, signs, clouds, and anything else he could see. He worked faster, smiling and laughing. Passerby simply stared, disgusted at the sight of a deranged homeless man waving a pencil through the air.

He stopped after a while and leaned back against the wall. His wall. The smile still played upon his lips, but his eyes told a different story, revealing a deep sorrow. It gnawed at him, eating away at what little was left of his cold, black heart. It was the isolation... the loneliness that left him feeling empty and unloved. It was unbearable, especially with all the memories of the life he used to live fresh in his mind. Why can't he be happy? He was happy before she came along, so why not now? Why can't that place that had been floating around in his thoughts come to life and replace this dull shell of society? He picked through the Styrofoam cup next to him: $2.37. Just enough to buy a small meal. After some thought, he decided that he'll just skip eating for tonight.

He bought some paper. A pad of paper, as a matter of fact. The charcoal pencil quickly made friends with the pad, and his hand began to move. He couldn't control it, even if he had wanted to, which he didn't. He liked this... this... POWER. He liked it a lot.

What started as a few simple lines transformed into something magical. The lines flowed together, forming the thick trunk of a tree. His toothless grin grew wider as he drew enormous roots, seeping over each other before descending into the ground. The trunk grew taller, merging smoothly into a web of twisted branches covered in large, perfectly-shaped leaves.

Then he was there.

Benny was standing on on of the thickest roots, gazing up at the wonder he created. The trunk shot skyward, taller than the tallest building and wide enough to drive around. The branches weaved gracefully before breaking out in all directions. He laughed as his masterpiece drew itself before his eyes. The leaves formed next, their large surfaces filtering the sun and sending golden specks all along the ground. Flower buds popped up instantly on the branches and began to bloom within a matter of seconds, unfolding into beautiful Ruby-lipped Cattleya. The deep shades of pink and violet in the flowers were beautiful and left Benny breathless. Eagles soared around the top, diving and spinning wildly. The sunlight that wasn't being filtered by the tree splashed along it's side, casting long rays of dark gold along the grass. It was the most magnificent thing he had ever seen, and he created it.

As he looked around, however, he began to notice something unsettling. While the tree was gorgeous, it's surroundings were not. Actually, now that he though about, the tree had no surroundings. The grass that encircled the tree simply ended, and the rest was just a white void that he believed to go on forever. He was standing on an island, situated literally in the middle of nowhere.

He wanted to know where the sunlight came from, but then it made sense to him. In his sketch, he had drawn a tree with sunlight. He hadn't drawn a sun yet. He smiled and knew what he had to do next. Without hesitation, Benny stepped into the white.

Then he was back.

He had not felt a thing. No rush of wind, no sound. Nothing. He just opened his eyes and he was leaning against the wall again. He looked up and gasped. The sun had gone down and was replaced by a full moon. Day had given in to night, and stars hung loosely in the sky. It was morning when he began the sketch, and even though he had only spent five minutes or less at the tree, it seemed that many hours went by in the real world.

He looked around and saw the pad of paper lying face-down a few inches away. He picked it up and turned it over, studying his sketch. When he had “left”, he had only the basic form of the tree. While he was at the tree, his body back in the real world must've kept on drawing, because the picture had changed drastically. Every little detail had been drawn perfectly... the bark on the tree, the knots in the branches, the flowers, everything. He also noticed a small silhouette near the bottom of the tree. So small that if you weren't looking close enough, you would miss it. Benny smiled. The silhouette belonged to him.

He had a mission. An important mission, as a matter of fact. He was going to fill that white void. He was going to create the most beautiful work of art that could possibly be created. He needed to get to work.

Over the course of a few hours, Benny did nothing but sketch. First came the sky and sun (which he felt was the most important), then some misty mountains in the distance. He decided to put the tree on a luscious, grassy hilltop. He drew rolling fields of green as far as the eye could see. He drew clouds, birds, deer, forests, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and anything else that he could possibly imagine. After each sketch was completed, he “left” to that alternate dimension to see his creations come to life.

In just four hours, the pad had been used up. He set it down beside him, and took a deep breath. Several people walking by happened to notice the sketches beside him and asked Benny if he was the one who drew them. Benny nodded, but told them that if they thought the black and white sketches were good, then they should see the real thing. Then they just smiled and dropped some coins into the cup. Benny used it to buy more paper. He was going to need it.

One man in particular adored the sketches, and, with permission from Benny, began to flip through the first pad, gasping and muttering to himself. He could see the sparkle of tears in the man's eyes. The man closed the pad and told Benny that they were the most beautiful sketches her had ever seen. He then offered Benny a place to stay.

Benny thanked him, but refused the offer. He told the man that he was just here visiting, and that he already had a home. A marvelous home.

As the time passed and the sketchbooks filled up, Benny started to become more attached to his universe, spending more time there and less time on the sidewalk in east New York. His mind began to disconnect from the real world, accepting the false reality of his world instead. Slowly but surely, Benny's sanity began to deteriorate.

He was no longer Benny Blanco. No, not anymore. He was God now. He created his own world, filled with his own forms of life. Anything he could imagine went onto the paper, and then into the colorful and dazzling kingdom beyond the paper. Those sketches became the outlines of his heart and soul... he poured every ounce of emotion and feeling into every line. The reality he had longed for inside was finally coming to life.

The last thing Benny ever drew was a rocky cliff, from which a waterfall spilled into a sparkling pool below surrounded by a thick forest. Benny was there... sitting on the edge of the cliff. He let the water from the river pour over his feet and then off the edge. He looked around, and tears began to trickle down his cheeks. This was it. It couldn't have been any better. He was surrounded by the most beautiful land he had ever seen. Nothing this beautiful could've ever been found back in the real world.

Then again, what is the real world? Benny now thought of New York as a hazy dream, and every minute, the details became more clouded and fuzzy before disappearing all together. There was no white left to jump through. Even if there was, Benny didn't know if he could bring himself to go through. This was his home now.

He sat there and cried.

His body was lying against a wall. A brick wall, as a matter of fact. Most had thought he was sleeping, but once the flies came, it became clear that that was not the case. No sign of struggle, no disease, no suspects. According to the police, he had simply slipped away. They didn't even know who “he” was. No one seemed to know him, no dental records or birth certificates were found. No ID or driver's license or anything. According to the mortician, it was if “he was only here visiting, his home in a different place altogether”. No one ever knew his name. There was no funeral, and no services. His name didn't appear in the obituaries because, as far as the police were concerned, he had no name. There was no mention of him on the news. His body was packed up and disposed of, and that was that.

The sketches were found weeks later in the pocket of the homeless man's overcoat. There were several pads, and on them were some of the most amazing drawings they had ever seen. They were promptly displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art under the title “Wondrous Sketches”...

...the wondrous sketches of Benny Blanco.

The author's comments:
This piece was more personal to me and I can almost relate to Benny. He felt trapped and alone in this concrete jungle we call home... he was almost claustrophobic by all the people and cars and buildings, much like I am. He wanted to escape to a serene place... but not just any serene place. His world that he created was his window into Heaven. Except this Heaven was just for him.

Also, just to clear things up, I found out recently that there is a character named Benny Blanco in some movie called "Carlito's Way". I just wanted to let you know that the two are not related and I actually came up with the name before I knew anything about that movie, so I guess it was just a coincedence. I was going to change my Benny's name, but I had already gotten used to Benny Blanco so much, I just couldn't bring myself to change it.

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This article has 8 comments.

AJstyles said...
on Sep. 8 2008 at 12:13 pm
Very talented young writer. I look forward to reading your other works.

Beatrice C. said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 11:28 pm
This is a very inspiring story;held my interest totally. Keep up the good work. b.c.

Aunt Sandie said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 10:39 pm
I really enjoyed this short story. I could actually envision myself being in the places Benny described! Awesome read!

Aunt Sandie said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 3:25 pm
I really enjoyed this short story. I actually envisioned myself being where Benny took me! Awesome read!

p said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 4:08 am
Wow, not sure of the author's age but quite a mature and thoughtful story with eloquent passages--keep sharing your talent!

VAauntmarsha said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 12:51 am
I thought this was well thought out. The content seemed honest. I hope you keep writing ~ you have talent! I would enjoy reading more from you. Good job!

hawkinwe said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 12:18 am
Awesome story. Very well written.

Donna said...
on Aug. 20 2008 at 11:11 pm
Very well written.


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