Short Story: Hard to Be an Artist

Foreword: I wrote this text and another one like it (but it turned out less interesting so I might not post it here) 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.”

~*~

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Creative non-fiction: Happy Endings

Foreword: As part of my creative writing course, I had to write creative non-fiction with narrative elements: characters, setting, plot, etc. It was extremely challenging, even scary. I made a list of events I thought could be of some interest and started several drafts. In the end, I chose a fairly cheesy event, but I think it was worth writing. It could be extended, made more tangible, but I’m fairly satisfied with the current version. This happened 5 years ago, around this time of the year. It’s also an ode to happy endings in literature. They’re the best.

~*~

Happy Endings

            I graduated in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. All through my bachelor’s degree, teachers kept repeating that there was a huge need for translators and we’d never lack work. It turns out language professionals aren’t always up-to-date on the matters of economics.

I spent two years doing odd jobs before I finally got one in my field… in Ottawa – 5 hours from everyone and everything I know.  I went. I’d stay a year, get some experience, then find a new job back in Québec City.

By the end of my ninth month of exile, I was restless. I had gone to several job interviews in my hometown, but none of them had paid off. I was almost 25 and nowhere near “having my life together” as I thought I should. An existential crisis ensued.

I used several tricks to feel better. I started writing a middle-grade novel for NaNoWriMo to get my mind off things. My fiancé tried to help me, to find a way to bring me back home that wouldn’t put us in a financially unsustainable situation… But without him by my side to make me laugh every day, my mood only got worse.

Then, on my birthday, my roommate, who was also my landlady, told me I had to leave within two months because she was going to sell the house to move with her new boyfriend.

I broke.

I hate moving, and I hated the idea of having to move somewhere else in Ottawa. In my mind, the next time I’d move would be to go back to Québec City.

A few days later, I sent my fiancé an email that was more or less a break-up letter. I woke up the next morning more depressed than ever, dragged my feet downstairs and… saw my white Elantra through the window. The car I’d bought with him. The car he’d kept when I moved to the national capital. What was it doing there at 6 freaking a.m.?

No doubt he saw the light turn on, because he got out of the car and came to the door. I didn’t understand. How was he there? He lived 5 hours away from me, how was he there a Thursday morning at 6 a.m.? I opened the door for him.

“What’re doing here?” I asked. I am a fairly intelligent person, but, confronted with an improbable event two minutes after waking up, my mind was trapped in a loop of confusion.

“I’m taking you home,” he said.

“We went over this.”

“We’ll be alright, kay? It’s not healthy for you to stay here anymore.”

It was the climax of my own fairy tale. Prince charming had come to get me. This prince wasn’t rich, and a sedan is less romantic than a horse, and I was still in my pyjamas, but that moment seemed perfect nonetheless.

I quit my job the following Monday, became pregnant two weeks later. We had our struggles, but we made it. Besides, my Ottawa employer called me a year later to hire me as a long-distance employee.

There might be no real “happy ever after” in life, but there can be happy endings on paper. Of course, I skipped over the part between then and now where I wanted my life to end. But “happy” and “ending” are all a matter of perspective.

~*~

I hope you’ve enjoyed this and happy holidays!

Short story: Hellhounds

Foreword: I thought I’d make a Halloween special and write a horrorish short story (“-ish” being the key morpheme here). Here is what I came up with.

~*~

Hellhounds

Some beasts are roaming around. I can hear them growl. I caught a glimpse of them once: dog head, black fur, glowing red eyes. They seem out of place. Why are they here?

They’re coming after me. I have to run. I can still keep them at a distance, but they’re getting closer. They’re getting faster. I have to keep sprinting. I can’t keep that up much longer.

Somebody save me.

I felt the pain before I realised they had caught me. Hellhounds, that’s what they are. They’re cutting through my skin with their claws and teeth. One of them has ripped my belly open and is chewing at my guts, the other has torn off my heart. I can’t yell, I am choking on my own blood. My whole body is convulsing.

I should be dead.

I touch my chest, there is no wound. The hounds are immaterial. Yet I feel them shredding my whole being into pieces.

They’re eating my soul.

They’re tearing it apart and swallowing it. The torment is unspeakable. I wish they would kill me and put an end to this torture. I beg for mercy.

Somebody kill me.

It’s over. They’ve eaten it all and left. I feel good. The pain is gone and I can think clearly. My emotions are gone too, but I am better without them. They only made me suffer. I’m ready to start a new life. I have no purpose anymore, but I have stopped caring about such whims.

I am free.

One cruel angel retrieved parts of my soul and gave them back to me. I told her to leave me alone, to mind her own business, but she wouldn’t listen. “You need it,” she said. Like hell!

I am in agony.

My soul is in pieces. It is bleeding. The angel said I had to sew the pieces back together, but I don’t know how. I cannot focus on the task. I hurt so much. It’s like the hounds are eating me from the inside.

God came to me in my sleep. She assembled two pieces of my soul. I know how to do now. I can do this.

It looked easy when God did it. For me, it’s impossible.

I went to see a prophet. He is enlightened. He knows how to sew souls together, but he cannot do it for me, so he’s teaching me how.

This is difficult. It is taking so long. I can’t do this. Just let me die.

I went to see the prophet again. He taught me patience. I sewed other parts together. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

That’s it. It’s done, finally! My soul is back together. I feel good. I can see things clearly now.

There were no hellhounds.

There was no angel.

There was no God.

Only me.

And the prophet.

My therapist.

~*~

Seriously, I’m experimenting here and I have no idea whether this is any good. I’m glad I wrote it though; it was cathartic.

Critics are welcome!