Jean-Luc looked at himself in the mirror. He admired his bleached blond crew cut, the way it bristled up slightly longer in the front. Smoothing his sleeveless black t-shirt, he tucked it smartly into tight black paramilitary trousers. Rubbed a little oil over his brown biceps, admiring the color, the grain – like wood. He smiled at his reflection, his short mustache catching the light. When had it started turning grey? He made a mental note – look into facial hair bleaching possibilities.
Outside the white van that served as his dressing room when he wasn’t using it to haul supplies for his gardening business, the crowd was getting bigger. He cracked the door and peered out. Man, it was hot today. He surveyed the crowd – two hundred people maybe? More if you counted the children. Three hundred then.
He nodded at Scottish Brian, who was leaning against one of the P.A. speakers, talking to a lady. Brian helped him out sometimes at these things, but he tended to get distracted. Brian snapped to and strolled over to start the CD player.
The music pulsed out of the speakers: a loop of the intro to “Who Are You?”. Jean-Luc jumped down from the back of the van and sauntered out. He strolled up to the first of the three chainsaws lying on the ground, grabbed the starter and pulled. It whirred into action. Over to the second bigger chainsaw. This one took a harder pull to get it going, but J-L got it just right, the mix of brawn and timing, making sure to dip his shoulder to get in a gratuitous bicep flex. Two chainsaws going and the intro music loop was about to run out – he rushed to the third and, all business, booted foot down, pull, on.
When the music changed he had to be ready, and he was. The first three chords of “Eye Of The Tiger” he planted himself in between the speakers, just to the right of a block of wood his own height. By the fourth chord, the first chainsaw was in his hand.
The audience was silent as he worked. Riveted – or maybe it was just the heat. By the end of Eye Of The Tiger he’d knocked out a curving shape from the rectangle of wood, kicking a few pieces of wood away with each slash of a guitar chord. Then he was onto the bigger, more powerful chainsaw. As “She’s Like The Wind” came on, he stroked the wood and began hacking out big chunks, passionate, doing it with heart – like Swayze.
The anticipation was growing in the crowd. People began murmuring. What would it be? A voluptuous woman? The head of Johnny Hallyday? The shape of a mushroom? Those were very popular in this region.
A younger man without a shirt on strolled up and started shouting that he could do better. He gestured with a cup of beer and reached for the chainsaw. J-L pivoted it away from him, barking over his shoulder to Brian to intervene. Brian took the young man by the arm and led him back to his drunken friends.
Yngwie Malmsteen screeched through the speakers now as Jean-Luc grabbed the last chainsaw, the one with the longest, straightest blade. Sweat running down his face and arms, he pierced the wood, thrusting furiously but with absolute precision. As the music reached a crescendo he took three steps back, then ran forward, chainsaw fully extended and plunged it into the center of the piece. Hands at groin height, he rotated the saw as the guitars ground down and then, chainsaw hoisted aloft, stepped to the side and faced the audience.
The applause wasn’t quite what he’d hoped for. People tilted their heads from side to side, trying to make out what the sculpture was. It might’ve been a woman – it had round parts and graceful parts, long bits and short ones. Did it really matter? Jean-Luc thought to himself. They’d all been there for the creation of the sculpture, collaborators in the moment. That’s what it was really about.
Jean-Luc grabbed a microphone and thanked the people. He offered the sculpture for sale: 100 euros.
Brian took the mic and translated Jean-Luc’s words into English. After all, there were many English people here. Probably a few Americans too. And face it, the outsiders were the ones most likely to get out their wallets.
No takers. Jean-Luc looked at his sculpture, admiring it. He felt pleased with what he’d done, but these hicks wouldn’t know art if it bit them on the ass. He sighed.
He’d switched off the chainsaws but now he grabbed one and got it going again. The crowd was beginning to wander off to find shade, get cool drinks. J-L took one last loving glance at his work – then sliced the sculpture in half.
“For only 50 euros you can take home one of two spectacular artistic creations, made right here before your very eyes!” Brian’s voice came through the speakers, his Glasgow accent still strong in spite of years spent in other places. “Do we have any art-lovers in the crowd?”
The two pieces of wood lay on the ground. Jean-Luc walked back to his white van. He toweled off and picked up the chainsaws. Tomorrow was Monday and there would be gardens, waiting or not waiting for him.