Short Story: Hard to Be an Artist

Foreword: I wrote this text and another one like it in a week for my second creative writing class. The instructions were to create two very different characters and to insert them in the same given script, which I won’t reveal so as not to spoil the fun.

~*~

Hard to Be an Artist

It was that time of the year again: the entire neighbourhood was having yard sales. Aiden loved browsing through loads of unusual items for sale, cheap. About half of the stuff in his apartment came from either yard sales or thrift stores. But this summer, he was broke. He tried to focus on the sidewalk, but attractive colours in his peripheral vision made him turn his head to look at a table. Maiwen’s comic Be-Twin. She only sold the paper edition for a limited time, and Aiden had missed it. Yet there it was. He took the first volume in his hand and thumbed through the pages.

“Four dollars each,” said a boy’s voice.

Eight bucks. Aiden had only $23.65 left until his next paycheck the following week and he had intended to use it all for groceries. But he couldn’t let this chance pass, he’d never get another one.

“Six for both?” he tried, looking up at the kid for the first time.
“What is it? Buy one, get one 50% off?” The kid looked at him intently. “Seven is fine.”
“Deal.”

Aiden took out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to the boy.

“Oh wait, I’ll give you a $2 coin so you can give me a five.”

The boy took it, and gave Aiden a five dollar bill.

“Uh… there’s ten bucks missing,” he said. “I gave you 22, so you should give me back 15.”
“No, you gave me 12.”
“Dude, don’t give me that. I know I gave you 22.”
“You didn’t.”

Aiden’s shoulders fell. He thought this awesome find was the end of his three-month bad luck streak, but it appeared only to add to it… There was really no way to win in fighting with a kid over 10 bucks.

He looked at the other items on the table: other comics, a few toys and various household items.

“Alright, what’s it for?”
“What?”
“You’re selling your comic books and toys. You treated them well, too. They’re like new. And you’re lying about me having given you a $10 bill so you must be pretty desperate for money.”
“I’m not! And these things look new because I barely played with them, that’s why I’m selling them.”
“Uh-uh. Alright. Then let me tell you something. The reason I need this $10 bill is to buy my week’s groceries. See, my computer died on me the other day and I had to buy a new one right away, because I need it for work. If you keep my 10 bucks, I’m left with only six dollars and sixty-five cents for a whole week.”
“Use your credit card.”

Aiden smiled.

“Credit cards aren’t magic, you know? It’s already loaded from buying the computer and I might not be able to pay it back before I get charged a ridiculous amount of interest. Come on. Give me back my ten bucks and it’s all forgotten, ‘kay?”

Pouting, the boy reached inside the tin box for a ten dollars bill and gave it to Aiden.

“I’m sorry. You have nice clothes, I didn’t think you were so poor.”
“Thrift stores are cool. So, what was the money for?”
“A graphic tablet.”
“A tablet? You’re an artist, uh?”
“Jacob’s very talented,” said a woman’s voice. “Look.”

The woman picked up a sketchbook on a chair and handed it to him.

“Mom, don’t show those! They’re just rough sketches,” said Jacob, yet he let Aiden take it.

There were several sketches of the same character’s head in different angles. On other pages, there were character designs, buildings in perspective, various landscape elements like trees and flowers and rocks, a bicycle, a dog.

“Impressive.”
“Right? But art supplies are so expensive.”

She shrugged, powerless. The entire neighbourhood was rather poor. Aiden nodded.

“Well, keep it up, Jacob. Practice makes perfect. It was nice doin’ business with you.”

The boy showed a weak smile and Aiden left.

***

He appeared again an hour later, carrying two bags.

“I thought you were broke,” said the boy, frowning.
“I am. This,” he said raising the fullest bag, “is my groceries for the whole week.”

He took care not to look at Jacob’s mother and be reminded of how he failed at this whole adulting thing.

“What’s in the other bag?”

Aiden smiled and held out the bag towards Jacob.

“Why don’t you take a look?”

The boy reached for the box inside and pulled it out. His jaw dropped.

“A Wacom?!”
“It’s a bit old, but it’s still working fine. That’s what I used all through my art major, so… you won’t really need anything bigger unless you go pro.”
“You’re giving it to me? Thank you thank you thank you!”

The boy went and hugged an unsuspecting Aiden, almost knocking him down. Then it was his mother’s turn. Aiden was not mentally prepared for a hug attack.

“I can’t thank you enough,” said the mother. “It means a lot.”
“Twajsling…” he cleared his throat and tried again. It was just l-lying around in my closet in case my new tablet broke, but… these things don’t break. Like, ever.”

The boy promptly rescued a manga box set and two action figures from the table.

“Mom, can I set it up now?”
“Sure.”
“Can you help me… what’s your name?”
“Aiden. If your mom doesn’t mind… sure.”

Jacob’s mother nodded, and they went inside to plug it and install the driver. Then Aiden proceeded to give the boy several useful tips to get used to working with it. By the time Aiden went back out to go home, Jacob’s mother had carried most of the unsold items back inside for the night. He helped her carry the table.

“If you’re not too busy, will you stay for supper? We’re having spaghetti. It’s nothing fancy, but… it’s healthier than instant ramen.”
“You saw that, uh?”
“I sort of tripped on your bag, spreading its contents all over the floor. Dozens of instant ramen packets staring at me,” she said as if speaking of creepy critters.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have left it in front of the door. I live alone,” he explained.
“It’s fine, I’m teasing you. I have a 13-year-old son, I’ve seen worse. So, are you staying? I’m sure Jacob would be ecstatic to get to talk about drawing with someone who gets it for once.”

Aiden smiled, remembering his own mother’s exasperation when all he could talk about was colour theory and human proportions.

“I’d love to, thanks.”

~*~

Afterword: If you haven’t already, read this story’s twin, Truth Be Told. Though the scenario is the same, it deals with different themes. You’ll also find more explanations on the assignment at the end of the post.

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