I invented time travel for one purpose and one purpose only: to murder Jackson Pollock.
When that glorified finger-painter hit the scene, he opened the door for every talentless dribbler to proclaim, “I’m an artist, man!” The effects of his work would be long-term and nefarious, indeed: technical skill, diligence, and honing one’s craft would become largely irrelevant as malformed clusterfucks of color gained prominence. It was nothing personal against Jackson, though: how was he to know that his drunken masturbatory experimentation would forever taint art as we know it? No, it was nothing personal; the fucker just needed to be stopped.
I knew I had to get to Pollock before LIFE did that infamous spread, in which some philistine journalist asked the rhetorical question, “Is he the greatest living artist in the United States?” Fucking LIFE, man. I couldn’t allow this to happen: I had to make sure he wasn’t living period. But I didn’t want to deprive the guy of his entire life. I’m not a savage, after all, and I wasn’t about to go back in time and off his pregnant mom or strangle him in his stroller or anything like that. I just needed to get to him before his silly artistic ambitions took hold.
New York City in 1930 isn’t as cool as they make it look in all those old movies. Then, just as now, it’s mostly a shithole. Or maybe it was just the dives my 18 year-old quarry liked to frequent, one of which I now found myself walking into. It was dirty, dimly lit, dumb. It reminded me of one of Jackson’s paintings, actually. I sat down at the bar and the bartender turned to me.
“What’ll it be?”
“I’m looking for Pollock.”
“A Pollock? We get a lot of Polish in here, mister.”
“No, I’m looking for Jackson. He’s a young, er, artist, I guess you could say. I heard he hangs out in here.”
“Ha! I wouldn’t call him an artist, but Jackson’s right over there.”
The bartender pointed to a table and there he was, all by himself, drinking a beer. I thanked the bartender and walked over to where he sat.
“Mind if I join you?”
He looked at me with something between amusement and relief, as if he had been waiting for somebody a long time, somebody who just never showed.
“Not at all. Please, have a seat.”
I sat down. “Are you an artist?” I asked.
He looked down at his grubby paint-stained hands a moment before looking up at me, and I could have sworn there were tears in his eyes. “I hope to be. One day, I mean. I try but I’m just not very good. Not very good at all, actually. But it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be… It’s all I ever want to be.”
As I looked into that kid’s eyes, filled with untainted dreams undeterred by silly things like lack of talent or recognition, I felt my grip growing slack around the pistol I held in my coat pocket. I stood up to leave.
“Keep at it, kid. I reckon you’ll be the greatest living artist in America someday. Just keep at it.”