When You See My Uvula
Nicholas Kennedy beamed with pride as Mayor Teddy Wiggins cut the red ribbon signifying the re-opening of the roundabout at 126th and Gray Road. It had been closed for eight weeks while a concrete and steel nature scene was assembled inside the circle. It was commissioned by City Council and Nicholas was heavily involved in the process. It included pine trees, deer, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, and a majestic eagle with a fish in its talons. All the things that might have been seen on this very spot, before the people and the day spas and the coffee shops came.
The art was created by Splatter. Splatter is a visual artist who works in a variety of mediums. His Chex Mix furniture exhibition at the Cleveland Museum drew admirers from around the world and was destined for a premier showing in New York City. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the Shaker Heights School District annual fourth-grade field trip. After hearing the news, Splatter was inconsolable for nearly six months.
Then Nicholas Kennedy called. He offered Splatter the opportunity to create something on a large scale. Something with permanence. Something that would be admired by an art-loving city, not eaten by Mrs. Wilson’s 4th-grade class. The artist jumped at the chance to create a visual statement that would be worshiped by thousands of motorists each and every day.
The process took nearly six months to complete, with most of the pieces finished in Splatter’s undisclosed warehouse location near Chicago and then assembled in Carmel. The roundabout was closed for six weeks while the inside was resurfaced and the forest scene set in place. Blue solar lights were placed all around to give the scene a moonlit glow at night.
All was peaceful and relaxing, except for maybe the fish in the talons of the eagle. However the bird was suspended 25 feet in the air, so it’s hard to say what the mood of the fish was. Kennedy’s mood was off the charts, however. He had won the day. He even got to make the presentation after being introduced by the mayor himself. Splatter was not there for the opening but did say a few words via Facebook Live. Attendees were asked to pull out their phones and watch the eccentric artist’s remarks. Splatter finds openings tedious. So, he live-streams his acceptance of the attendees’ awe and admiration from a hot yoga salon in Evanston, Illinois.
For Nicholas, this was his first real win since the incident. Nearly a year before, Nicholas had auditioned for American Idol. He lost. Then he did something drastic. He dropped out of Indiana University Law School, taking the money he would have spent on tuition and had plastic surgery. Unbeknownst to his parents (who paid the tuition), he had his uvula reconstructed.
When Nicholas was seven, his best friend Tommy Harcourt dared him to place a small rodent in his mouth. Since four other boys from the neighborhood were watching, Nicholas felt compelled to accept the challenge. Not having any say in the dare, the mouse felt no obligation to play along and immediately tried to chew his way out of the predicament by tearing into young Nick’s uvula. He quickly realized what a mistake this dare had been and attempted to set the mouse free. The rodent took most of the uvula with him upon exiting.
For Cecelia Kennedy, this was the last in a string of embarrassments her husband and child had caused her and she demanded that they move from Boston to “somewhere civilized in the Midwest if there is such a place.” There was no point in living in Boston if you’re not a real Kennedy, she had told her husband. And by real Kennedy, she meant related to the family that routinely has airports and federal buildings named after them. Her husband had lured her in a Beantown bar by implying he was related to those Kennedys. Instead, his parents were heirs to the Kennedy Foot Powder fortune. So they were wealthy, just not revered. Cecelia needed to be revered.
The family moved to Carmel, Indiana and though Cecilia never claimed to be one of the airport Kennedys, she never bothered to correct anyone who mistook her for one either. And since there was good money in the foot powder business, nobody suspected a thing.
Young Nicholas thrived in Carmel. His mouth healed and he began to excel in school and lacrosse. But his dream was to be a singer. After hearing their son practice for weeks to try out for the school musical, the Kennedys wanted their son to be a lawyer. When the day came to audition, Nicholas didn’t get the part. When it was time to try out for the next musical, Nicholas didn’t get the part. When it came time to try out for the Young Greyhound Voices of Tomorrow, Nicholas didn’t get the part.
Each time he tried, he failed. And each time he failed, his parents lied and said it’s not you, it’s your missing uvula. They thought that telling him he had no discernible musical talent would be bad parenting for some reason. So, they blamed the uvula, thinking their son would accept this limitation and give up. He didn’t. Even in college and law school, he continued to audition and not get chosen. So, after his American Idol failure (and the subsequent five million views of his audition on YouTube by people making fun of him) he dropped out of school and got his uvula rebuilt.
It was at this point, that his parents had to sit him down and explain that his uvula wasn’t the problem. It was his lack of pitch. His inability to read music. His inability to mimic music. His inability to form sounds that any creature with ears would consider music. Nicholas didn’t take it well. Screaming at the top of his lungs, with the success of his recovery from uvula reconstruction surgery hanging in the balance, he told them in no uncertain terms what lousy parents they had been.
“Had you told me sooner, I would have kept playing lacrosse,” he yelled.
“You really should whisper,” Cecilia said. “That thing in the back of your mouth might fall out. And since your father and I have apparently paid $30,000 to put it there, we would like it to stay put.”
This enraged Nicholas even further. “Whenever you see my uvula, I want you to remember the lies you’ve been telling me my whole life.” He let that hang out there for a moment, then asked, “What else did you lie to me about?”
“I have no idea what you mean,” she answered.
“Is the airport in New York really named after dad’s cousin?”
Cecilia looked at her husband who said nothing. She responded, “There most certainly is an airport named after your father’s cousin.”
“Well of course,” she hesitated.
“Mom! Really? Tell me the truth.”
“It’s just not the one in New York, darling.”
“Where is it?”
“Rochester, New York?”
“Rochester, Indiana,” Cecilia answered.
Her husband looked at them both. “Lot’s of foot powder business in that part of the state.”
Exasperated by this revelation, Nicholas left his parents home and spent weeks considering his future. In the end, he chose to go back to law school and dedicate himself to become a patron of the arts. Since his own art (music) had made him a laughing stock, he would become respected again by bringing the best young artists of all types to Carmel.
And today, his vision had become a reality. He brought Splatter to Carmel. And Splatter had delivered a striking work of art. But as the crowd started to disperse, he noticed something missing. The original plan had called for an 18 inch high, 24-inch deep limestone ring to boarder the inner curb of the roundabout. This was to prevent a car from accidentally driving into the center and destroying any of the animal sculptures.
He pulled Mayor Teddy aside, “Your honor, I just have one question. I was so blown away by the magnificence of this scene that I completely forgot the limestone ring around the center. What happened to it?
Wiggins looked both ways to make sure the press and anyone else he didn’t want to hear was out of range, “we ran out of money.”
“You ran out of money? How could that happen? I went over those budget numbers again and again.”
“Look, Nicholas. We really appreciate your help on this, but you’re a volunteer. You don’t understand the workings of city government. There are overruns and unforeseen circumstances and requisitions and whatnot.”
“Mayor, I know how to read a budget. I’m an attorney…”
“Not yet, you still haven’t finished school and passed the bar.”
“I’m almost an attorney. I’m not stupid. What happened to the ring money.”
Teddy looked around again. “We had to use it on another roundabout.”
“I can’t say.”
Nicholas studied him for a moment and then his eyes got wide. “Last month when someone drove through the roundabout on mainstream and didn’t stop, someone claimed the car had a municipal license plate.” His voice got louder. “Is that where the money went?”
“Keep it down!” The Mayor looked around to make sure no one heard. “Things happen Nicholas. Good things and bad things.” He paused and gestured towards the sculptures all around them. “And if you want good things to keep happening to you, let this go. We’ll find some money next year to build the ring.”
“Let’s hope no city vehicles find their way into this roundabout in the meantime,” he answered.
That pissed Teddy off, but he knew the young man was right. And he knew he needed his silence for the time being. And since Cecilia Kennedy was a major campaign donor, so he would indulge Nicholas for now.