The first time I met Joseph Arillo, I didn’t expect I’d go to jail or even get beat up as a result. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.
Joseph was sitting out in the middle of a parking lot the first time I saw him. He was a small kid, not the kind you’d notice, practically invisible. In a downpour, he’d probably weigh a few pounds but it would all be water caught in that long, brown hair of his that went straight down his back. He had brown skin like everybody else in Southern California, except perhaps for me, and wore threadbare clothes like a badge. I was walking out of the liquor store, Rod’s Liquor on the corner of 14th and Main, carrying my morning Strawberry Quik and…
“What’cha got there?” I asked him.
He didn’t answer. He didn’t even look at me.
What he was working at caught my attention, though. There he was, on his hands and knees, practically lying down on the cracked and weathered asphalt… painting.
I opened the ice cold Quik and took a swig. Nothing went down better after a jog than a Quik. You might say that was why I never took off any weight but the hell with you; I didn’t ask.
I walked around to watch him work and to see what he had done. He didn’t move. He didn’t appear defensive or concerned in any way. There, on the ground between the oil stains, faded parking lot lines and various other markings – tire marks and graffiti – this young man was painting… “What is that? A flower?”
He had a silver Sharpie in one hand and a butter knife in the other. He was working the silver onto the concrete around circles of bright red paint, creating the sheen on what would undoubtedly be rose petals. Whenever he made a mistake, he’d take an old, brown brush and dab it out or go back with the Sharpie – but he hardly made any mistakes.
I knelt down and took a look at the pen in his hand. “What’s that? A one inch fine? Where’d you learn to get that kind of detail with a one inch fine?”
“I’m good,” were his first words to me.
“You’re painting flowers in a parking lot, kid. You’re not Michelangelo.” I noticed his choice of paint cans was interesting: old Advil bottles. Big ones. The kind your arthritic grandmother might have. “Still… What’s with the flower?”
Nothing. Not even a glance.
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.