“It’s a ritual. You understand? The intent is to force all of the childhood memories out of the boy and leave the man remaining. But that’s not exactly what happens. Sometimes, it causes brain damage and the boys lose their memory, their identity, even their ability to speak. The fact that they survive at all means they have cheated death and now they are ready to be men.”
“Okay,” I said, drinking my beer. “What’s your point? What’s that have to do with – ”
“That’s only one example, Mister Hollis. Just one! In the Amazon rainforest – back when, you know, it still existed – the Satere-Mawes had an equally brutal ritual. They would capture bullet ants. Do you know what bullet ants are?” Of course, I didn’t. So, he took another big pull from his beer and told me. “They’re called bullet ants because being stung by one is so severe that it hurts like being shot by a bullet. They live in trees and warn passers-by of their hive by falling down on you. They’re a full inch long. And after they fall on you, they shriek – yes, they shriek – and then they sting you, which is like being shot by a bullet. And that’s just from one, single ant.”
Tom stepped back into his furniture storage room and returned with a stool. He sat on it and said, “Now comes the best part.”
“There’s a better part?” I asked.
“The Satere-Mawe tribe gather these ants by the hundreds and make gloves out of huge leaves, putting these ants inside the gloves. Then, they have their young men place their hands inside these gloves. The ants are woven into the gloves in such a way that when you put your hand inside of them, the ants begin stinging. Every sting is like being shot and they leave their hands in there for two minutes – five minutes – ten minutes! Ten minutes of agonizing pain. Soon, their bodies are convulsing from the toxins. Their arms grow stiff, useless, twisted appendages wrecked with agony. This agony lasts for days, days filled with uncontrollable spasms, useless limbs. For a Satere-Mawe boy to become a man, he doesn’t go through this ordeal once. The boy must endure this twenty times.”
“That’s… that’s horrible,” I said.
Tom finished his beer and said, “And then, there are the Vanuatu Land Divers, who throw themselves off of 98 feet tall towers, breaking bones and sometimes dying. There’s the Matis Hunting Trials that include pouring poison into the boy’s eyes, injecting frog toxin with a wooden needle, beatings, whippings – ”
“Wait,” I said. “Hold on. Why are you telling me these things? What could this possibly have to do with your son?”
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.