Creative Nonfiction: The Bat, the Man and Dracula

It was October 28, 2018. I had slept in and had been awake in bed for a while when my stomach demanded I get breakfast. I went downstairs to find my husband entering the living room with a salad bowl in one hand and a shovel in the other.

“What are you doing with a shovel?” I asked, my mind still not fully awake.

“There’s a bat inside.”

The last remains of morning mist flew from my brain and a huge grin appeared on my face. My father had caught a bat inside when we were little, but I didn’t get to see it. My sister caught one in her house, but again… I hadn’t seen it. It was finally my turn! Our child’s wonder was nothing compared to mine.

“Where?”

“I hit it with the shovel and now it’s on your flower pot on the fireplace shelf.”

“You… what!?”

Horrified, I hurried over to the flower pot to see for myself. I grabbed the bowl from my husband’s hands saying I’d catch it myself, then moved the flower pot. To my relief, the poor thing was still alive—she climbed on the stone wall with her claws and thumbs. I was too fascinated to make any attempt at catching her so she flew off.

I’ve translated part of an encyclopedia on Canadian mammals back in 2012… I’d found the section on bats especially interesting, and from then on I’ve felt like my totem animal was a bat. Anyway, that one was especially large, it seemed, so I decided it was a big brown bat, perfectly healthy… aside from the headache I imagined her to have. No white nose. See, in North America millions of bats have died in the past years due to an epidemic of white-nose syndrome.

I marvelled as she flew in circles in our living room, her dark wings so thin that light shone through. Then my husband tried hitting it with the shovel again; I blocked his arms with mine.

“Stop it! Put that back in the garage!”

“No.”

“You’re gonna hit the ceiling!”

We’d just repainted it; I thought it might strike a cord.

“I won’t.”

Our 5-year-old daughter approached him, taking my side.

“You’re gonna hit the kid!”

“Sweetie, don’t come near daddy.”

The ridicule of the situation struck me and I started laughing uncontrollably, all the while sabotaging his attempts at batricide. People find women climbing on chairs because of.

“Come on, it’s just a bat, it’s not a pest!”

“It’s got nothing to do inside.”

“Of course not, but it’s no reason to hit it with a freakin shovel! Look, can you chill out a bit? Continue playing your game,” I said, having noticed he’d been playing Assassin’s Creed.  “I’ll eat breakfast and then I’ll take care of her.”

One thing about me is that I need to eat first thing in the morning or my totem animal transforms into Dracula… and my spouse’s stubbornness was already starting to get on my nerves.

“Heck no, it has to go now!” he replied.

The bat was still flying in circles, intermittently trying to hang on the curtain rod, which was too big and slippery for her small feet.

The argument continued way too long. When I started fantasizing about hitting him with the darn shovel, I figured I had to use psychology to get my point across before I lost it…

“You scared or what?”

“I’m not scared, it’s just got nothing to do inside.”

I was really, really tired of his pig head. I knew he wasn’t scared of the bat, but what he didn’t know was that he ought to start being scared of Dracula.

“It’s not like she wants to be inside. Look at her, she’s panicked! Chill out, let it land, I’ll catch it when it lands. Go get Leslie’s net to catch insects.”

At last, I got him to get out of the house with the darn shovel. Meanwhile, the bat landed near the TV console, and ended up taking refuge under it. I hoped it’d stay there long enough for me to eat breakfast, but unfortunately, it came back out by the time my husband came back with the net.

I put on a leather glove, because as much as I like bats, it’s never a good idea to get bitten by a wild animal, and about 5 seconds later, the bat landed on the ground. I moved over and slowly put the net over her; she didn’t even realize she was trapped before I seized her gently with my gloved hand. My heart ached as I felt her struggle in my hand—her body was about as tall as the width of my hand…

I took her outside and watched as she spread her beautiful wings and left the house-of-horrors for good. I only regretted that I didn’t have a birdcage at home in which I could have put her to observe her for a few minutes before I let her go forever…

And then I ate breakfast and Dracula turned back into a bat.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Samhain!

And a very happy NaNoWriMo’s Eve!

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Happy Thanksgiving Day 2018!

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Another year has gone by. It’s now autumn, and I’m happy to say I can’t see the dark shadow of seasonal depression yet. I’m welcoming the cold with open arms. Summer was hot, and I’ve spent most of it gardening and taking care of our yard; now all that remains is to put things away for winter and snuggle up inside with a cup of warm decaf something.
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This past year has been tiring in three different ways: I was burnt out last winter, physically more active than usual over spring and summer, and now I’m back to being anxious about money (money is my nemesis). But in the end, I’ve made it through.

I find it important to make a list of thing’s I’m thankful for every year. It wards off seasonal depression and helps me focus on what went well and not on my current problems to solve. This year, I’m thankful for:

  • The improvement in my mental health. I’ve stopped taking my anxiety meds over Christmas. I’m still vulnerable, so I’ve been forced to stop drinking caffeine (which makes me anxious and unable to sleep), start yoga again (to deal with the pain in my neck caused by stress) and various other mildly annoying health improvements, but I’m proud of the work I’ve done to get to this point. It’s a small victory.
  • My husband. I know I’ve been stressed and not always so pleasant to be around, but he understands that my mood will never be as equal as his. We also got to spend a lot of time together this summer, both as a couple and as a family, and it was refreshing.
  • My friends. Since I work from home, the only people commonly I see in a week are my husband and my kid. If it wasn’t for my NaNoWriMo community, whom I chat with on a daily basis, and my other friends whom I see once in a while, I’d be a very lonely person.
  • The strength to push through in my writing endeavours. I didn’t use to be so driven; I used to be scattered and not to believe that I could ever escape the soul-crushing routine of day-jobs… Now at least I have hope, and it’s enough to keep me going.
  • Work. I won’t lie, this past year has been straining on that front. For the last 5 years, I’ve been alternating between burnouts and money issues due to lack of work; I’m starting to think that money will never cease to be a problem for us, but then again we’re lucky to have zero debts (no, a mortgage isn’t a debt).
  • My house. It might sound silly and materialistic, but having lived in a tiny, dark and smelly basement apartment, I know how much one’s environment can impact their mood. My house is nothing glamour, but I find it charming.
  • 20180806_094833cPeople’s generosity. My mother gave me over 30 varieties of plants from her garden just this year. My father built a rustic handrail from scratch for our basement staircase. My husband’s company refurnished their offices and gave away old desks, file cabinets, bookcases, chairs, monitor stands… I’ve fully furnished my home office with those. As a bonus, my new desk is adjustable in height and my new chair has adequate lumbar support, so I hope it’ll mean my back problems are in the past! My aunt offered us her old dining room set, which she’d used only a few years before she declared it too big for her kitchen… I jumped on the occasion, because our own was starting to fall apart, but also because it’s precisely the style I was looking for. It looks splendid in our dining room! From our neighbours, we got an entry hall bench and chest of drawers that we upcycled into a TV console (the TV used to be on a table the size of a nightstand). We were given most of the pieces of furniture in our house, so at present, it looks more like Molly Weasley’s house than Martha Stuart’s… but at least now the house is almost fully furnished, if not stylish.

All in all, 2018 has been more gentle on me than 2017. We’ve been very lucky. Of course, I wish we could have more stability, and the fact that the slow summer ate up the entirety of my “rainy days funds” is stressful, but considering the fragility of my mental health, I think we’re doing well enough.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Reviews: The Female Correspondent, A Fair Hand, The Steampunk Club

That’s right, today’s a triple review! The reason for it is that those are novelettes, which can be read in an afternoon.

Context

I’ve first heard of Eva Deverell, a.k.a. Lady Writer, on Wattpad, back when I was planning to post stories there. On her website, she shares a lot of printables, among other useful things. Her Regency story The Female Correspondent has been on my “to-read” list ever since and I’ve finally read in this summer. It’s available for free as a pdf through her website or as an e-book through Amazon. The other two stories are available through her “coterie”, which is free and open to everyone—in 21st-century terms, it’s her mailing list.

Reviews

Female Correspondent Cover

The Female Correspondent (15,000-word Regency romance)

I couldn’t put it down. A determined female lead and an intelligent male lead bonding over flowers in the Regency Period… it’s basically tailored for me! This story made me want to write my own historical short story around botany and I even went so far as to outline it… Only the best stories make you want to copy them.

It’s well-written, the pacing especially. The language is quite simple, but still unmistakably “historical”. The characters are believable and relatable, for the most part. They don’t jump from the page like the characters in The Steampunk Club, however they’re still fun to follow around as the story unfolds. My utmost favourite element was the plot itself. It felt at the same time extraordinary and natural; one exceptional occurrence toppled the first domino, which through chain reactions could only lead to one conclusion, yet it was fascinating to see it happen.

Rating: 8/10
Who would I recommend this to? Most historical romance lovers, really. At least try the first two or three chapters.

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A Fair Hand (17,000-word Regency romance)

This one shows about the same level of writing skills, although the story itself is more… dramatic, with its super high stakes and the recklessness of the female lead (not unlike a typical Korean drama). I wasn’t expecting that in a historical romance, to be honest. The target audience for this one would be younger—I know I loooooved dramatic stories as a teenager. But as it is, I’ve read it in my 30s, so I’ve prefered the maturity and refinement of The Female Correspondent.
Fair Hand Cover

I like the male lead and some of the secondary characters, but I found the female lead slightly annoying, as always seems to be the case when they play with fire—I guess she’s just way too different from me. She’s also borderline anachronistically audacious. The setting is lovely and the plot well-constructed and quite gripping even though it was too extreme for me. I recommend reading The Female Correspondent first.

Rating: 6/10
Who would I recommend this to? Teenagers looking for a romantic roller-coaster ride in 19th century England.

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The Steampunk Club (18,000-word romantic comedy/mystery)

Hiiiiiiii! Sorry, I’ll stop the fangirl squeals now. I LOVED this one! I can’t state it enough. I loved everything, from the setting to the characters to the meta to the plot to… kay, I’ll stop here. I can’t say it’s “better-written” than the others, but there’s definitely something more here, which might just be nicknamed Sir Aubrey. I totally fell in love with him and immediately proceeded to share the story with my friends. And to work on my “steampunk-themed” story. And even to look online for steampunk sewing patterns (did you know I love the steampunk aesthetics?).

Steampunk Club

Now that it’s been stated that this story is great and you should read it and then subscribe to Eva Deverell’s steampunk mailing list thingy so she’ll write more Steampunk Club stories, here’s the actual review:

The characters in this story were especially appealing to me; not just the main characters, but all the members of the Steampunk Club. They all bring their share of delightful diversity. I want to know more about virtually all of them, but especially Sir A., Eloise and the Duchess. Sir Aubrey is, for me, the most lovable of Eva Deverell’s male leads, not only because he’s surrounded in mystery, but also because he’s so sweet I get a sugar rush just thinking about him.

The steampunk element is so strong that there’s a “clash” every time you get back to modern reality—the first time we see a certain character out of costume is quite memorable. ♥ Man, I want this turned into a movie. Or a comic book. Just for that scene. Somebody, make it happen.

The mystery element is faultlessly entwined into the romance and falls in beauty; that might also have contributed to the “something more” I was referring to earlier. Oh, and I can’t end this review without mentioning the humour: I’ve laughed out loud in several places.

What are you waiting for? Subscribe to Eva Deverell’s coterie and get reading!

Rating: 9.5/10
Who would I recommend this to? Everyooooone! Okay, no. But everyone who enjoys a cute romantic-comedy once in a while, especially if they love the steampunk aesthetics. Bonus points if you’re a millennial geek.

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As a final word, if you know any free short story, novelette or novella that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed, feel free to share them with me! There are a lot of free stories out there, so it’d be great to get recommendations.
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Am I Passionate Enough?

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Have you ever talked to an artist who seemed so passionate you couldn’t help feeling they had better chances than you of “making it”?
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During my second creative writing course, one of my classmates said he had an online writing friend who affirmed that she “couldn’t not write, that she needed to say things, to avoid complicity with injustice and fight for what she believed in, no matter the personal cost”. Intense, uh? In a market filled with that kind of writers, how can someone who only writes for the fun of it find their place?

I’ve known a lot of artists who feel like they’re not “real” artists because it seems to them like their passion doesn’t equate that of others—and they’re not any less talented or successful. That being said, most of the time, I don’t share that feeling. Of course, when anxiety kicks in, I might have an inch of doubt about my level of passion, but otherwise, I’m too busy trying to control my passion so it won’t burn me to ashes.

Passion is overrated.

Unlike my classmate’s friend, I wouldn’t say that I’m “fighting” for anything, as in: I don’t have a grand political agenda. I need to write to make sense of the world, to understand how other people think and feel, and to express all those emotions that, despite my knack for words, I am unable to express in any “direct” way. I can only express those subconsciously, with metaphors and symbols, much like in a dream…

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I haven’t always felt that way. I’ve had to go through a lot to realize how strong my own passion was. I used to think that I could just give up writing, like I gave up drawing or swimming… but when it repeatedly resulted in my losing a sense of purpose in life, I finally got the point. And that was two years after my depression, during which I became suicidal and the only regret I had contemplating my own death was that I’d never finished a novel. Yeah, I have the emotional quotient of a robot.

Unrestrained passion can be destructive.

Through my own experience and that of all the passionate people I’ve met, I know that too much passion looks very much like an addiction… an obsession. It can get in the way of your personal life until your passion is all that’s left. But you can’t live on passion alone; you need to take care of your body, to have people around you for moral support, etc. Having a job is already not so fun, but it’s a nightmare when every single one of your brain cells screams that it’s a waste of time. Not to mention that you don’t feel too good about yourself when you finally manage to make time to be with your loved ones, yet you feel like you’d rather be writing.

Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood describes very well how some artists sacrifice themselves on the altar of their craft, and how it sometimes end up in a suicide.

Passion is fuel.

Use it well, and it will be a valuable tool; misuse it and it’ll explode in your face. Use your passion to fuel your work, but don’t let it consume you. When it comes down to it, what really matters is putting in the work. Mozart might be considered a genius, but he still worked a lot. Bach wasn’t a genius… he worked even harder. In the end, the non-genius achieved a comparable level of greatness as the genius. Isn’t that inspiring?u20a

Go write now, you hard-working bundle of passion and creativity.

“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

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Review: Northanger Abbey

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I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen. I have read all her novels and even part of her early works. However, I purposely delayed reading Northanger Abbey until I’d read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. I’m glad I did, but I don’t necessarily recommend it.

Review

Northanger Abbey is Austen’s funniest novel. In addition to her typical satire is a critic on the writing trends of the time, some of which are still pretty relevant today. Behold:

This brief account of the family is intended to supersede the necessity of a long and minute detail from Mrs. Thorpe herself, of her past adventures and sufferings, which might otherwise be expected to occupy the three or four following chapters; in which the worthlessness of lords and attornies might be set forth, and conversations, which had passed twenty years before, be minutely repeated.

Or how less backstory is more story; a sound advice even today. Or even how to skip the boring parts. I found this especially funny since in The Mysteries of Udolpho, right before Emily makes a new friend, the reader is introduced to the new friend’s complete background story.

As a language professional who believes in plain language, I also especially enjoyed this gem:

“I do not understand you.” [said Catherine]
“Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well.” [said Mr Tilney]
“Me?—yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.”
“Bravo!—an excellent satire on modern language.”

Mr Henry Tilney is one of Austen’s wittiest character and is now my favourite among the male leads. Catherine Morland is not my favourite female lead, but she plays her part well and is likeable enough.

I ADORED the dialogues in this book; I admire how Jane Austen can make a character say something, and the reader understand something completely different. I need to practice that skill…

While Northanger Abbey lacks the refinement of Austen’s later work (I’m thinking about Persuasion and Mansfield Park), this book has all the energy and wit of her early works.

My current ranking of Austen’s novels would be the following:

  1. Pride and Prejudice (10/10)
  2. Emma (10/10)
  3. Persuasion (10/10)
  4. Northanger Abbey (9/10)
  5. Mansfield Park (9/10)
  6. Sense and Sensibility (8/10)
  7. Lady Susan (6.5/10)

I’ll have to reread Sense and Sensibility though; I was a teenager when I read it and I didn’t yet fully appreciate Jane Austen’s skills. Also, Northanger Abbey is above Mansfield Park purely because the former is funny while the latter is pretty dark.

By the way, the 2007 Masterpiece adaptation starring Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild (♥) is good enough, but it doesn’t do justice to the novel. Read the book.

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Henry Tilney (J.J. Feild) and Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones)

Rating: 9/10

Who would I recommend this to? Austen’s fans, obviously; lovers of satires and parodies; fans of Brooding YA Hero on Twitter with a penchant for historical romance; and everyone who loves a sweet romance between a Miss Naive and a Mr Niceguy.

Short Story: Truth Be Told

Foreword: This is Hard to Be an Artist‘s twin story. I wrote those 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 scenario, which I won’t reveal so as not to spoil the fun.

~*~

Truth Be Told

 The sky had cleared when the church gates opened and Nadège didn’t feel like going back home right away. She went to her favourite bistro for lunch, then decided a long walk in the neighbourhood was in order. There were yard sales everywhere and she liked to use this opportunity to find little treats for her grandchildren.

She came upon a booth manned by a scrawny, brown boy who appeared to be drawing in a sketchbook. On the table were various toys and comic books, as well as housewares.

“Good afternoon, young man,” she said.

The boy gave her a long, hard look, then flashed a big smile and stood up. He left his sketch pad on the chair.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jacob.”

“It’s very sensible of you to sell your old toys and comic books, Jacob.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Nadège picked up a sealed bag of building brick toys and examined it carefully.

“There are two sets in there,” said Jacob, taking the instruction booklets to show the images to his prospective client.

“How much?”

“Seven dollars.”

Nadège smiled and pulled her wallet from her purse.

“My daughter loves those,” she said pulling a twenty-dollar bill and handing it to the boy.

“Your… daughter?”

Nadège laughed at his surprise. He blushed and ruffled through a tin box for change.

“Yes, my daughter. She even exhibits her creations, you know? Wait I have pictures.”

Nadège pulled her smart phone and showed him a photograph of a brick-built castle attacked by an army of fantastic creatures, including a flying dragon.

“Woah! That’s a lot of bricks.”

When he turned his attention back to the tin box, Nadège slipped her phone back into her purse.

“Are you having trouble finding change, sweetheart?”

“A bit.”

“Wait, I’ll give you a two-dollar coin so you can give me a five.”

He took it, and gave her a five-dollar bill.

“Oh, there’s ten dollars missing.”

“Hm? No, that’s the ten you just gave me.”

Nadège was quiet for a moment, wondering whether the kid might not be right.

“No no, it’s impossible. I gave you a twenty and I know that for a fact because I gave my last ten-dollar bill at Mass this morning.”

“Maybe you stopped elsewhere before coming here. Mass was hours ago.”

She clearly remembered using her credit card at the bistro to make sure she had enough cash for the yard sales without having to go all the way to the bank.

“No no no,” she said. “This is the first place I’ve stopped by after lunch. I gave you a twenty, I’m sure of it. You must have gotten distracted, I’m always talking so much. It’s fine to make mistakes you know? But you need to be able to acknowledge them.”

“I know, but I don’t think I’m the one making the mistake here.”

Nadège clenched her jaw and sighed. She knew she was right, but she was not going to pick a fight with a teenager to prove it.

“Very well. I hope you are speaking the truth, because ten dollars really isn’t worth a guilty conscience.”

She left Jacob to reflect on his actions and he did reflect on them. Her words had the impact of a curse.

“She looked upset,” said his mother, back from the bathroom. “Why?”

“She says she gave me a twenty, but I think she gave me a ten,” he said.

“Well, there’s an easy way to find out.”

She took the lined sheet on which they’d written all the day’s sales and started counting the total. Jacob bit his lip.

“You know what, she was probably right and I just got distracted,” said Jacob before she could finish. “I’ll give her back her ten dollars.”

He took the money from the tin box and hurried after the lady.

“Ma’am… in the end… I think it was my mistake.”

She smiled gently and took the bill from him.

“It’s alright dear.”

“Noooo, it’s a lie. I’m sorry. I knew from the start you were right, but I thought… I thought you wouldn’t miss ten bucks, what with the Gucci purse and all. I’m so sorry.”

His eyes watered and he lowered his head in an attempt to hide under his longish blond hair. Nadège smiled brightly and put her bony hand on his shoulder.

“Thank you for being honest. As a reward, I’ll be equally honest with you: seven dollars for this is too little—it barely covers the price of the smaller set. Discontinued sets in good condition are sought-after by collectors like my daughter and can sell for their original retail price and up. This bag right here is worth at least 27 dollars.

Jacob’s shoulders dropped, disgusted that he’d lost twenty bucks in the bargain.

“Oh, don’t be sad, dear. I admire honesty even more than I hate lies.”

She put the ten-dollar bill back in her purse and took out a twenty instead.

“Here.”

Jacob blinked and a tear fell on his cheek.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. You deserve it and you need it more than I do.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Go on now, don’t make your mother wait.”

Jacob went back with a light heart, happy to be 20 dollars closer to his dream, but even happier to have resisted the temptation of the dark side of the force.

~*~

If you haven’t already, read this story’s twin, Hard to Be an Artist. Though the scenario is the same, it deals with different themes. It’s my favourite of the two.

Afterword: The assignment was to create two characters with near-opposite background and personalities: a female in her fifties and a male in his twenties. Then, we had to insert them in the following scenario: “A person has found something they wish to buy at a yard sale. They pay with a twenty, but the vendor only gives them change for a ten.” In both scenarios, the vendor had to be a clever and obstinate 13-year-old boy whose mother has gone inside to use the bathroom.

This exercise was really interesting, do try this at home!

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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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