They step inside. Orsola’s pallor seems to glow against the waiting room walls, haphazardly painted in nauseous green. Multiple bars of the fluorescent lights sputter. At the empty front desk, a sputtering black-and-white television plays a clip from “Bolek and Lolek”, and the younger heads are uniformly turned in its direction. The room is exclusively filled with mothers and their children-Antoni is the sole adult male, and his presence draws curious stares. As Orsola’s long standing de facto mother figure, he is used to this attention. He attempts to smile disarmingly at the onlookers, though he is gravely worried about Orsola. Antoni zeroes in on the one empty seat in the room, and another occupied by a purse. The seats are next to a prim Mother, mid-thirties, and her son, an ill, twelve-year-old Kid.
Antoni: May we sit here?
Mother removes her purse and ANTONI seats himself next to Kid. Orsola slouches beside him. The room’s silence is punctuated by childish coughs and wheezes. We follow Antoni’s eyes over a tour of faces, children from five and up, all of them pale and listless, each so united in illness that they become, as he scans them back and forth, nearly identical. His gaze settles on the open notebook of Kid, who is furiously scribbling a series of mushroom clouds. Fluish drops of sweat descend onto the page, further darkening these clouds. Antoni taps a finger on one of the mushroom clouds, appraisingly.
Antoni: I like how free your lines are. A bit bleak though, your subject. Do you have others?
Kid showily thumbs through the pages. A flipbook effect, showing us mushroom cloud after mushroom cloud, each growing increasing aggressive, angular, phallic. The last cloud throbs above a decimated cityscape.
Antoni: I see. Well, one can’t always choose their subject. When you are born an artist, sometimes your subject chooses you, yes?
Kid smiles reluctantly, as if coaxed by Antoni’s warmth.
Mother: We own a department store actually. He’s going to run it someday, aren’t you Pavel?
Pavel: No. Never.
Mother smiles weakly at Antoni and kisses Kid’s forehead.
Mother: We will see about that. So long as I live, you will have a respectable profession. Kid starts to grimace demonstratively, but coughs violently instead, as if overwhelmed by the effort to express himself. Mother hovers over him in worry.
Orsola (to Antoni in an overly loud whisper): That’s one thing dying young is good for I guess-avoiding the family business!
To be continued…