Written by Schizima.
Do you remember Bob Ross? The legendary painting extraordinaire who would show you how to dab at mountains and create beautiful imagery in “The Joy of Painting.” Well, I know before I start telling you this story, you’re probably not going to believe me. And that is fully understandable. But the truth is that Bob Ross one had a program that didn’t air because it was deemed “Not Safe For Television.” Now Bob was a very kind and gentle man, but he had a dark side that not a lot of people knew about.
I actually acquired the VHS “The Grandeur of Summer” by accident in the late 90’s. I had ordered the Bob Ross collection on VHS, but this particular tape was not part of the tape set. A few weeks after receiving the tape, I got a call from someone at an undisclosed phone number asking me to return it. I agreed to, but since the tape was not sealed in plastic wrapping I deemed it appropriate to first view it, thinking that it could cause no harm to my mortal sanity. Boy, was I wrong.
Now let me start by saying that I really am a huge fan of Bob Ross and I think that his painting skills are one in a million. But what I saw advised in this tape was nowhere near in the realm of anything that you’d consider “quality television.” Nor did it teach you how to paint. At best, it was an instructional video, but at worst, well, you’ll understand soon enough.
The episode started as normal, with quality lounge music meant to relax you and invite you into the process of painting beautiful mountains, skies, trees and valleys. Bob Ross was there. He looked a little different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. He smiled warmly, welcomed me to the joy of painting, and advised me to get an ice cold glass of lemonade before I started viewing. I did so, having had a full pitcher of ice cold lemonade in the fridge. My favorite. I poured myself an ice cold glass of the quality fruit drink and sat down on the sofa, putting my feet up on my brand new ottoman. I had paused the video earlier, so now I hit play to continue viewing from where I had paused it. The tape began again.
He told us to take our time and work at our own pace. He told us that we would soon experience “The Joy of Painting.” He listed all of the supplies needed, including a 2’’ brush and liquid white. What I found strange was that hydrogen cyanide was also recommended. Well, I thought nothing of it, knowing not what that was at the time.
Bob Ross’ supply list stayed on the screen for a full five minutes before finally fading. He smiled, winked and began painting. He started by fanning some blue mountains, painting some soft peaks, and puttin’ some snow on the little mountain. He took a tiny little roll of paint and made some hills on the mountain. “Just let it float, right on down the side of the mountain there, like a corpse” wait, what did he say? “Think where the lightning would strike, and the plains would flood.” Strange thing to say. “Beautiful hills. Delicate touch.” He continued painting mountains and using his brushes to mix and blend paint. I now noticed that there was some red on the canvas. “Now, we’re gonna put some blood on the edge of this little mountain. It’s a blood mountain.” He smiled.
I was concerned now. What the hell was Bob Ross talking about. “Think of all the native americans that were probably murdered on this mountain. Never mind the other people who were stranded and died. And all those animals eating each other on preeeeetty little blood mountain.” I was so confused now. A little frightened. Maybe spooked. He dragged the knife down the side to finish the mountain. “Mountains look beautiful from a distance, but if you look up close, they’re covered in dirt and mud, and shit.” He smiled. “Everything is shit. But beautiful mountains…” I was really concerned now. “The magic of a knife.” He said, pulling strokes left and right. “It can be used to paint mountains, or stab someone.” I now noticed that his hair was a little blacker than bob’s usually was, and his salt and pepper beard was more peppery. His afro also looked a little loose. “Now let’s paint some perfect, clean fields. Fields of clean and orderly meadows.” Hmm. “Meadows that are perfect. No weeds in the meadows. Just clean, nice, neat meadows.” What the hell was he talking about? “You see, if you don’t take care of the fields, all kinds of terrible things grow. That’s why there’s blood.” He painted a little corpse on the floor. “And that- that’s you.” He spent five minutes washing the brush. “Just beat the devil outta that.” He began creating mist at the base of the foothill, slamming the brush against the water. “It’s not good enough, is it?” He said angrily. “My painting just isn’t very good.” He was agitated. “The mountains are uneven.” He was irritated now. “Uneven mountains are natural, but not in my nature.” He picked up the canvas and slammed it on the floor, so hard that my ice cold lemonade made a ripple.
I didn’t really like this anymore. This wasn’t fun anymore. I was starting to feel a little sick. I went to get up and shut the tape off before I saw a familiar face at my window.
“What in the dickens are you doing?” He said, smiling. It was Bob Ross. He was outside my window, though there was no car in my driveway. It was almost like he had just appeared. A little more disheveled, but “Bob Ross! How did you get here?!” “I saw you were turning my program off, and I just couldn’t take it. I want everyone to learn the joy of painting.” He climbed over my windowsill, being careful not to disturb the hot pie that was cooling for later. “But Bob-“ “But- But-“ He said. “If ifs and butts were candy and nuts we’d all have a happy Oktoberfest.” “Bob.” I said. “There was blood in that tape. You painted my corpse.” “Your corpse?” He said. “Or all of our corpses?” He asked. “Why do you think it was YOU specifically.” True. It could’ve been any corpse. “And that’s the way the world is.” Bob said. “Selfish. We all think that we’re in charge, that we’re the rulers, but the truth is that there’s only one ruler. And it’s me.” I shuddered. Bob winked at me in typical winking fashion. I looked a little closer to see that Bob’s beard was…glued on? And his afro…it was loose! “So they’ll hate you.” Bob said. “Because you challenge them. Because you are the one that makes the final say. But the truth is, I just want them to see what I see, and feel what I feel, and isn’t that truly The Joy of Painting?” I looked a little deeper into his sparkling, mesmerizing, jewel-like pupils. He smiled at me. “You’re- you’re not bob ross, are you?” I asked. He smiled warmly. “No. I’m not.” “Are you g-“ And then he quickly ejected the VHS, inserted it into the slipcase, climbed back out the window and took my pie with him.
He came back a few minutes later, producing the finished work. The canvas was gorgeous. The blood mountains were now beautifully adorned and made to look like ash and clay. The dead body in the fields was now concealed by many lush, beautiful springs and gorgeous hills. This landscape was one of the most beautiful pieces I had ever seen! “Take it.” Said the strange man who resembled Bob Ross. “It’s yours to keep and cherish with family and friends alike.” “How can I ever reapay yo-“ “Keep it.” Bob Ross smiled. “Your thanks, and this warm pie are thanks enough.” And then he left, never to be seen again.
I looked over at the lemonade. The cubes had all melted and the glass was perspiring. Not as much as the sweat upon my brow, though. I drank the slightly lukewarm ‘nade and hung the painting up over my couch. For years I had cherished it, but, not being a very social person, I never had someone else to enjoy the painting.
That was until the day my grandmother came over to celebrate Arbor Day with me. “That is a beautiful painting, Renold.” She said. Indeed, it was a beautiful painting. “Who is it by?” She asked. Hmm. True, I had never turned the painting over to see who, if anyone had signed it. We both carefully lifted up the framed canvas, being careful not to damage it. We peeled back the back panel of the picture frame and looked carefully at the name imprinted on the edge of the canvas.
I felt a shock creep up my spine as we both read the name aloud…