HYDRANT a very short story

Hydrant

A very short story

 

He had been drinking for most of the night and knew he should pull over until the world stopped shifting like liquid so when he saw the hydrant he figured it would be a good distraction. The kids were tired and it was late but he needed to sober up a little before the drive back to the suburbs.

The hydrant was open and there were some teenage boys diverting the spray onto passing cars, the summer night was hot and people were in the street in full force.

“Look at that, you want to go play in the water?” He asked his two children, who only looked at each other with that same goddammed worried look they always exchanged when he was letting off some steam.

            “Dad we don’t have swimming stuff,” Sam said meekly, looking out at the street and the night crowd that wandered it. They frightened him.

            “Just go in your underwear, it’s fine.”

            “I don’t want to,” Mary said, and her father patted her head.

            “Sam, you go then, get out there and have fun.”

            Sam felt the fear in his gut but knew somewhere in his child’s brain that he would either do it willingly or after being forced to, so he opened up the truck door and slid out onto the street. The city was loud and hot and humid and he took off his shirt, then his shoes and pants and threw them all into the cab of the truck beside Mary.

            “Take your socks off but wear your shoes, there’s broken glass everywhere.”

            “Okay.” Sam put his shoes back on and stood there in his white underwear and his sneakers and looked at his dad.

            Please don’t make me do this, I don’t know these people and they’re older than me and I’m scared and you’re being weird like you always are after we visit your girlfriend. PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME DO THIS.

            “Get out there, have fun!”

            Sam felt the sinking in his stomach, the kid realization that he was invisible and mute and powerless in the force of others’ wants and needs. So he looked at the hydrant and the teenage boys who might as well have been 40 year old men for all he could tell. They looked strong and dangerous and he wasn’t 9 years old yet.

            “Go out there! Go play in the water!”

            He took a deep breath and resigned himself, walked the sidewalk toward the corner and the laughing and cursing and shit talking and yelling and screaming and an old lady bumped him and he was essentially naked and he could feel the city press against him. A mist of cool water hit him as he got close to the corner and he stood there, eyes wide and the soft touch of water felt good.

            The teenager straddling the hydrant looked over and saw Sam standing there and pulled the plastic plate from the stream of water. He was strong and dark skinned, darker than Sam, and had a large afro and under it was a face that went kind once he smiled. His friends and he paused in their casual chaos and the water coming from the hydrant resumed its gushing flow.

            “Hey, the kid wants to take a bath.” Laughter.

            Sam looked back at the truck but couldn’t see his dad behind the windshield.

            “Let him get wet.” Another said, then said something else in Spanish and they all laughed.

            “Go ahead kid, jump in there, have fun.” The hydrant commander smirked.

            In Sam’s mind the situation had taken a sudden shift, and it was no longer him being forced to do this thing but him JOINING these tough guys in doing something fun and it was okay.

            “Get wet, lil’ doo! It’s hot out here!”

            That’s all Sam needed and a smile forced itself onto his face and he ran toward the hydrant and the splashing gush of water. The teenagers watched him with casual grins, lighting cigarettes.

            Sam ran into the spray and it was a punch, hitting him in the hip and lifting him off his feet. He was in the air and tumbling and the street came up and knocked him in the face and there was a moment of confusion as he rolled to a wet stop. Quickly realizing he was in the middle of the street, the panic of being run over bolted through him and he sprung to his feet and ran back to the hydrant.

            The guys were laughing.

            “Holy shit boy, you okay?”

            “I’m okay,” he said, and the guys started laughing again. And he laughed too.

            The teenager on the hydrant let his cigarette dangle from his mouth and grinned. “Here, little dude, get that street off you.” He dipped the plastic dinner plate into the stream and a soft spray hit Sam and in it he brushed the hard bits of loose asphalt off his body and admired the numerous abrasions on his elbows and knees.

            “Oh shit, here come another.” Sam heard and the spray was diverted again as a big sedan rolled by and the teen hit it squarely on the driver’s side window, which had rolled up just in time. They all laughed and Sam walked back to the truck and got in next to his sister and waited, shivering, for his dad to wake up and drive them home.

EDGEBRIGHT & LEOFWYN IS LIVE!!!!

Well, as is usually the case, I dropped something with absolutely no warning! Businessman! Showman! Entertainer! Slacker! Fool!

Yesterday a friend helped me set up the site jimterrycomics.com and we dumped the first three pages of EDGEBRIGHT & LEOFWYN: THE GIFT right then and there. There is a link at the top of this page where you can access this completely free story, and I only ask that if you enjoy it please pass it along to someone you think will also like it!

The story was completed some time ago during a time of great change in my life, and I self published them in black & white and sold them at conventions. I figured that was probably the end of things, but life has pushed me around a little and I had to look back to my friends E&L for a little strength and found they were still in trouble. I am currently working on "E&L: THE BANNER OF THE SERPENT", which finds them a bit older but still young and foolish and full of courage and emotion, facing new and deadlier trials.

I've cleaned up some of the awful lettering on THE GIFT, as well as added color, and am sharing it now a page a week (give or take) until it's completed. I'll also share the short story "PYG", which features Edgebright in a solo adventure, before dropping the big hint: a kickstarter to collect the whole saga thus far, including the fully completed BANNER OF THE SERPENT.

This is a passion project - it's what I do when I have 5 minutes of free time, and I want it to be as epic and beautiful as I can make it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed working on it, and if you do please pass the word along!

Much obliged.

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It's been a while, ooooops

Well, so much for my continual updates! A bit has been going on and most of it is good, so here's a recap:

Emerald City Comicon just finished, and as you didn't read here I was there with brand new work! So glad I shared about it. TRASH BRIDGE, written by Ryan Browne and Steve Seeley and illustrated by me, was unleashed on the world at ECCC. There was a limited run of 300 and we're halfway through those. The future of TRASH BRIDGE is uncertain, on a knife's edge as the saying goes, so get your copy while you can. Ryan has put it on his etsy page, here's a link:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/584761162/trash-bridge-issue-1?ref=listing-shop-header-0

 Cover by Tradd Moore

Cover by Tradd Moore

So that's pretty cool!

I'll also be at C2E2 here in my home town in April, so keep an eye out for that!

And I'll have news about EDGEBRIGHT & LEOFWYN soon, I promise! I'm still chugging away at it and having a wonderful time.

Thank you to everyone I met or hung out with at Emerald City - you made the trip a success.

Happy New Year

Well, 2017 is over and what a year it was. Not going to bore you with a retrospective, I'll just say I hope '18 is a step up - globally and personally. It was a rough one for me and I've let my work slide a little, not enough time spent at the drawing table and I'm going to do my best to change that this year.

I've also been working quietly on a personal project that I hope to unleash very soon, "Edgebright & Leofwyn", a fantasy story that's pretty near and dear to me. Once I have all the technical pieces in place I'll reveal a little more, right now I'm still figuring that all out and doing all the fun (drawing) work in the background.

It's freezing here in Chicago. Very cold.

Oh yes, I will be opening myself to commissions as well this year, so if you've got something you really want to see me draw, hit me up. Send me an email.

So cold. More later.

Indigenous Con, Sherman Alexie and final Inktober

Folks, I'll be in Albuquerque NEXT WEEK for the second annual Indigenous Con! I'll be at table A2 with an assortment of books, art and prints! I'll be doing commissions as well, so hit me up if you want something done pre-con or just stop by the table and say hello!

In that spirit, I have to say I've had Sherman Alexie's novel RESERVATION BLUES sitting on my bookshelf for 25 or so years... (I'm old) and never picked it up until last week. I read THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN many years ago and enjoyed it, but Reservation Blues was one of those rare reads that seems to wait for the perfect moment to leap into your hands, when you need it the most. I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the Modern Native or just enjoys a damn fine read. It's also funny as hell, I laughed out loud more than once and a smile (almost) never left my face. Thank you, Mr. Alexie.

Oh yeah, here is the last batch of #inktober illustrations! If you're interested in any of them, hit me up at jt@woundedbutdangerous.com. Much obliged.

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dragon inktober.jpg
rat inktober.jpg
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 These were all done with a #2 round Blick Studio brush and sumi ink. I recommend participating in #inktober next year if you didn't this time around!

These were all done with a #2 round Blick Studio brush and sumi ink. I recommend participating in #inktober next year if you didn't this time around!

Another Inktober bundle, and a... radio show?

So this Thursday, 12-1 Central Time I'll be talking with Native America Calling, a radio program based in Albuquerque, about being Native and also about Horror. Are the two inexorably intertwined? In me perhaps, in others maybe not so much. Either way we'll get to the truth of the matter this Thursday the 26th.

I'll also BE in Albuquerque Nov 10-12 for the Indigenous Comic Con, where I'll be discussing many of the same things with whoever comes to my table! It's the show's second year, my first at it, and I'm looking forward to it immensely. I'll have, of course, many book and much art with me. Please stop by if you're able!

Here are some more #inktober doodles!

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demon inktoberc.jpg
early grave inktoberc.jpg
eyeball inktober.jpg
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 All of these, except the Eyeball (which was done with a garbage brush pen) were executed with a #2 round brush from Blick Studio and Sumi ink.

All of these, except the Eyeball (which was done with a garbage brush pen) were executed with a #2 round brush from Blick Studio and Sumi ink.

Why do I have so many Dionne Warwicke albums? Also, #inktober catch up!

If you follow me on social media you'll know I've been cranking these puppies out to varying effectiveness, but I'm collecting them all here for your viewing displeasure.

Real quick - I'll be at the Sideshow Gallery this Friday for the "Phobias" show, for which I did a special piece... it might be the creepiest thing I've done. Hope to see you there!

And lastly - if you haven't seen Blade Runner 2049 yet, DO IT. In IMAX if possible, if not at the very least go see it in the theater. That's the only way you'll see those incredible images as they were meant to be seen (I don't care how big your tv is), and it's the only place you'll be as immersed as you should be for this film. It's a masterpiece, in my opinion.

Here's some inktobers!

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poe raven inktoberc.jpg
the monster inktoberc.jpg
 These were all done with a #2 round Blick Studio brush, and Sumi ink on bristol.

These were all done with a #2 round Blick Studio brush, and Sumi ink on bristol.

#inktober or bust

Well, I said I'd do it and let's see how well I hold up to my word. It (my word) has been flimsier than usual these days, but it's the journey not the destination, right? RIGHT?

I recall reading somewhere, and I'm going to butcher this, that someone talked to Will Eisner about the eminent doom of the comic book. His response was essentially that "doom" has always been in the forecast, and that it hasn't happened yet and he believed the form would always prevail. And throughout all that doomsaying, giving up, and abandoning of the craft the only thing that remained was the work of those who prevailed. Those who prevailed.

Well, I think I could apply that philosophy to other things happening in my life/the world right now and be able to get through another day!

Here's my first #inktober work. I'm keeping an eye on the social medias for everyone else's pieces and am thrilled to see so many participating. Keep working! Keep creating! Keep being awesome! Prevail!

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Inktober! And a quasi-solemn oath.

It's been brought to my attention that I've been terrible at maintaining my website! It ain't easy keeping track of everything, lemme tell you, and I've always been just awful at staying on top of getting the word out.

Last weekend was the workshop at the International School Of Comics in Chicago, and it was fantastic. I had a great time working with the participants and, hopefully, they all walked out feeling a little more comfortable with their brushes.

This month is "Inktober", where folks try to touch ink to paper every day and post it with that hashtag. EVERY day is an ink day for me, pretty much, but I like participating in this annual event anyway. I'll try not to cheat and just post whatever I'm working on for "work" and try to do something original each day (or equivalent to each day). I'll share all this jazz on social media but I'll be sure to post it hear as well, just to keep "in the mix" with the "website" "quotation marks".

In the meanwhile, here's an older "Coma D Clown" illo! Plenty of ink in this sucker.

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Workshop this Saturday at the INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF COMICS in Chicago

This illustration, by myself, was done entirely with a #2 round Blick Studio brush, about $7 I believe. This Saturday morning I'll be doing a workshop at the International School Of Comics Chicago, demonstrating what I've learned over the years about inking with a brush.
The workshop is from 9-12pm, followed by the incredible Hilary Barta and his 1-4pm workshop. If you're interested in getting comfortable with a brush, or if you're familiar with a brush but want to learn some new techniques, I hope you join us!
The International School is an incredible group of folks who want to strengthen our artistic community and help usher in the new wave of comics pros, so feel free to contact them and - even if you don't come to the workshop, come check out the school!
Next week's workshops will be conducted by Dan Dougherty, who's talent I am jealous of, and Bill Reinhold - who's enduring comics career, immense talent, and wealth of technical knowledge is not to be missed! Hope to see you there!

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A Good Home

Recently got back from Wisconsin Dells, where most of my family lives, for a family vacation. It was a fine time, everyone pretty much put away their differences and tried to enjoy a beautiful day of food and games and the weather was hot and the state park was beautiful. I went on a hike, which is not my usual M.O., and had a fantastic time doing it even though it almost killed me.

But what really struck me was a birthday party I went to on Saturday. One of my cousins was throwing it for her son, so we went on over. My birthday is in the dead of January and the weather usually feels like you're on the surface of the moon, so birthday celebrations were pretty limited, but even the best birthday memories were nothing like what my cousin did for her son.

There were about 25 kids there, running around and having a blast. They'd set up a wrestling ring in the backyard and my niece and her fella were filling water balloons to drop into it. All the kids were selecting pro wrestler names, based on birthdays and formal names and they were pretty hilarious (Sneaky Sneak Fancy Dancer; Charming Smokey Hot Dog), and the adults were helping them assemble wrestling gear from old tie dye shirts and such. Scissors were flying, bandanas and knuckle wrapping were wound with precision and there was nothing but laughter and joy in that house.

My cousin also let the kids select an entrance song for when they came into the backyard, which she played through a karaoke machine that she was also using to announce the wrestling teams. The kids would come out, strut their stuff, and go into the ring and explode as many water balloons as they could using pro-wrestling moves.

My stomach hurt from laughing, mostly from the kids who took it seriously, with a look of fierce determination. 100% in. I also stuffed my face with food.

Both my folks are gone now, and that has hit me in ways I haven't expected, and life throws other things at me out of the blue that sometimes make me feel like a marked man - but I'm not. There was so much love in that home, my cousin and her impressive husband, speaking our Native language to their children, the laughing children, the adults watching quietly and happily as the kids enjoyed themselves. It reminded me of when we rolled up to Standing Rock the first time and were greeted at the gate with, "Welcome home."

I've been a city boy for over 20 years now, and I feel Chicago is where I belong, but I felt something stir inside while I was in the middle of all that, some kind of hope I'd forgotten exists. And I don't know why my relative, a man I admire, said this to me as I was shaking hands before leaving - but he looked at me and smiled and said, "Come back home more often". And I just nodded and thought about that for a good long while after.

 

Back home! The journey, and a bit of philosophizin'

Well, back home and ready to get back to work. Took a road trip to Dallas, TX and while down there I got to meet both Windows (Thomas G Waites) and Childs (Keith David) at the Texas Frightfest, which was pretty cool. The only frightening thing that happened, though, was on the drive down. I live in Chicago, and of course we have our share of difficulties, and I am usually completely ignorant of anything until I have to deal with it personally - which is why travel is nice. On the road down it rained constantly, and it didn't let up until I reached Little Rock, Arkansas. In St. Louis I got lost due to construction and confusing road signage (confusing to me, but I'm notoriously absent minded) and ended up on the wrong road. I figured this out in time to divert and head west on an alternate route, but 44 was closed. Why? It was completely underwater. I turned back around and took side roads until I could reach 55, which was my original route. Still under sheets of rain and gloom, I finally hit it and continued south where signs everywhere were warning of closed roads and hazardous conditions. I wasn't but 5 hours into a 15 hour drive, but that's still too deep in to turn around and I really wanted to get to Dallas so I consigned myself to the idea of driving to Memphis or further south and just skirting it along the southern edge of the country, but that would add untold hours to the journey. I followed the route, hoping the road wouldn't close ahead and was rewarded by more rain but the pavement stayed above water level until I hit Arkansas. By this time I was noticing large lakes along the roadside, with little tree tops sticking out of them, an occasional upper half of a street light or telephone pole... the entire area was flooded. Deep canyons were completely submerged, homes and businesses vanished under the waterline. At several points the four-lane highway was reduced to two as we were diverted to the other side, and the highway vanished into brown murk. Once it reemerged we were diverted back onto it - and I have to say, the road crews did a fantastic job at averting as much of that as possible. One of the concerns, however, was that I was in the middle of nowhere and almost at E on the ol' gas gauge - and the few stations I did pass were not accessible due to flooding... at one point I turned off the main road at the promise of a town 2 miles in, which turned out to be a few homes deep, deep in the woods. I've seen too many horror films to run out of gas off the main road so I turned tail and headed back to the highway on fumes. Thankfully fate wanted me to continue and we rolled in, sputtering, to a station in the nick of time. I say thankfully because shortly after the road was completely closed and we were redirected to a detour route into the middle of nowhere for a good hour before I saw anything close to a non-submerged place of business. The water lapped at the road from both sides, humvees and National Guard were stationed at nearly every intersection, blocking flooded roads on either side. I followed a kick-ass trucker who handled the road like a pro, and eventually returned to the course. The journey ultimately ended well, with me rolling into Dallas 10+ hours later - and of course the trip was well worth it.

Folks ask me why I drove, why didn't I fly? Well, sometimes I like to be alone for long stretches of time. I also enjoy having mini concerts of my favorite music and sing along at the top of my lungs. But mostly, it's the next best thing to walking for seeing this big ass country. As I said, I live in Chicago and it's its own world. I start to thinking that it's the way everybody thinks, dresses, feels about our country, etc. On my journey and over the weekend I met plenty of folks who would seem alien in my city, and I was sometimes painfully aware of my own strangeness in my Phantasm t-shirt and with my weird accent. Had I not taken this trip the flooding would've been nothing more than a scrolled photo on facebook, and the folks who live out of my sphere would continue to be people I just don't "get". The world is a big place, this country, this state, the city or town we live in is a rain drop and I will never get an idea of what others are experiencing unless I get out and go check it out.

That said, I'm definitely flying next time.

Thank you everyone! #c2e22017

Rarely has a show rejuvenated me in such a way, Mike Negin and his wonderful crew made the show another success and the fans made it amazing. I was particularly touched that a few young folks came from distant lands to get art from me - I'm glad I could be a part of their experience, and more enthused that there are youths out there with great taste in art! (wink)

I also got some good news concerning one of the projects I've been waiting on, and I'll let you know more about that once it feels appropriate. Suffice to say I'll be very busy soon, and that's a good thing. Beside that, I was able to meet some creators I've long admired and a few that I've only recently met - and let me tell you; I still hold that comics folk are the best.

Well, I've got a bit of work to do now so thanks for following along. Sorry I haven't been keeping up with the weekly stories, I'm just not that creative!

Here's some random art from "Lie Down Low".

I've been negligent! A round-up of things coming up...

I don't know if anyone's been following along with this story challenge, but I've missed almost two weeks now. I was in Seattle for a week, then off to Washington DC for the Native Nations Rise Indigenous March on Washington, which you probably didn't even know about due to the incredible amount of press coverage we didn't get.

ANYHOO, I intend to keep it up, just a little backlogged now but will soon be back in some kind of a rhythm. In the meanwhile, here's a couple things coming up:

THIS SATURDAY I will be at the Frankfort Library in beautiful Frankfort, Illinois, scaring families with my art. It's from 10-4, so stop by and say hello to me, I'll be the one wondering what he's doing in a library show with the kind of work I do. I love doing them, and in many ways owe the library system my personality, but I'm always like the weirdo who doesn't really belong. Ah well, when I was a kid I liked all the gruesome stuff so maybe that's my purpose.

FRIDAY, MARCH 31 is the "RESISTANCE IS NOT FUTILE" art show, which I was lucky enough to be a part of putting together. Anne at SIDESHOW GALLERY (2219 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647) took the idea and turned it into a 3 day extravaganza with music, movies and food. For the art side of things we'll have over 20 different artists of many different walks of life contributing to the theme of "resistance". ALL proceeds will be donated to the ACLU, so each of these remarkable artists are giving their art to a good cause and you can be a part of it as well! You can find a Sideshow Gallery page easy enough on Facebook; I'm too much of a Luddite to figure out how to post a link here.

And of course, C2E2 is coming. April 21-23, in my ol' sweet home Chicago. I'll have more info on that soon, but for now I know I'll be there in Artist Alley. Hope to see you there.

Take care, take care of each other, hope to see you soon!

#writingchallenge week 6, another short story from Jim Terry

I know, week 5 is missing. I wrote one, believe me, but when I reread it I found it to be a little too disturbing, a bit unsettling. Maybe I can polish it up a little and share it down the road. In the meanwhile I just did this nasty little bit of business if you care to take a gander:

Writing Challenge week 6

“INSPIRATION”

When Bailey saw her drinking coffee he didn’t see her in a thick sweater and jeans with her black hair pulled up into a large bun. He saw her on a veranda with warm sunlight slanting sideways across her, a warm glow and soft lines surrounding an impressionistic shape of white clothing settling gently in the sun. He saw a dark and flowing brushstroke, maybe sienna, standing out against a perfectly organic wave of weightless color and completely obliterated by a shock of black hair and blue eyes.

            He couldn’t say that to her, of course, so he walked across the coffee shop with his sketchbook and simply laid it on the empty seat beside her. She set her cup down, looked at it with blue/green eyes that startled him, then lifted them to him. Normally fearless with the opposite sex, he felt something stir inside his stomach that felt like nerves.

            She said nothing, so he said, “Please, look through it. My name is Bailey but I’m also known as ‘Verdant’. I would love to paint you.”

            To the naked eye, her expression did not change. To Bailey’s trained eye the threat of a grin teased the right side of her full, blood red lips.

            “If you think it’s awful I will walk away and leave you alone.” He said, and when she didn’t pick up the book he added: “After I apologize.”

            She allowed the grin to happen, her lips curving up on one side only. He was used to being fawned over, taken seriously and with adoration. He thrilled when someone didn’t know or care about him, it was a delightful chance to win a complete stranger over. She picked up the sketchbook and flipped through it, a little too quickly for his liking.

            He knew there was enough good work in there to captivate anyone with a modicum of art knowledge, so he rocked back in his loafers until she’d fanned through to the last page.

            “How often do you do this?” She asked, handing the sketchbook back to him.

            “Not very.” He fought back irritation, she didn’t seem to be impressed and this venture was looking unfruitful.

            “Why did you ask me?” Her voice was, of course, as velvet as he’d hoped.

            “Well, quite frankly, because you’re beautiful and all painters enjoy painting beauty.”

            “I’ve seen some beautiful paintings of some very ugly things.”

            “Of course. I’m talking about-“

            “Saturn devouring his son.” She said it simply, and he realized he’d opened a door to a much larger room than he’d expected.

            “Ah, you are a fan of Goya.” He smiled, motioning to the empty seat beside her. “May I?”

            She looked at the seat, then back at him and he felt his stomach quiver in anticipation.

            “No, I don’t think so. But if you give me your card I will let you paint me. It will cost you everything, but I will allow it if that’s indeed what you are looking for.”

            “That and nothing more.” He smiled, and he meant it, though he wasn’t really listening for the excitement. What he couldn’t say, if he was even aware of it himself, was that he had already won in his mind. To paint her, to capture her, would be to have owned her in some way and he felt the thrill of it course through him, down through him like an electricity that flicked about his loins and tickled his toes.

            Almost as though she sensed this child-like reaction, her grin stretched wide and treated him to her large and impossibly white teeth. They were imperfect, the incisors were too big, they were all a bit too big, but her utter disregard for this fact made them into something more than perfection.

            “Are you a pervert, ‘Verdant’?” There was no flirtation in her question.

            “Who have you been talking to?” He said, and her smile diminished and he knew his usual banter was going to be useless with this enigma. “No. I’m not what would be normally categorized as a pervert. I do, however, get a great and indescribable joy from painting. Whether that is sexual in nature or not is up to debate.”

            He said this loudly enough that it could be heard by others in the dense coffee shop, others he had completely forgotten about. Her smile came back in earnest and she did not look toward any of the patrons who’d turned to sneak a glance at him. He knew his face had flushed a bit but this seemed to please her as well.

            “Do you have a card?” She asked, finally.

            He went for his pockets, stopped. Of course he didn’t have a card. He never carried a card. That was for amateurs. He was Verdant, and now he needed a card and didn’t have one. The name was worthless.

            “I don’t, but I do have a pen.” He took the precision ballpoint he enjoyed sketching with out of his pocket and wrote on a napkin: Bailey, painter – and his phone number. She looked at it, then at him and his heart jumped at her eyes.

            “Not ‘Verdant’?” She was smiling but there was no cruelty in it.

            “I don’t think that name means anything to you.”

            “You don’t know if there is a single thing in existence that means anything to me.”

            With that, she turned back to her coffee. She didn’t have a book out and she wasn’t staring into a phone like everyone else, she was simply drinking coffee from a ceramic cup, cradling it with both hands.

            “Well,” Bailey said, tucking his sketchbook under his arm, “thank you for your time…” He waited for a name, for her to even turn her head back toward him, but received nothing. After a moment of silence he swiveled and walked away, suddenly intensely aware of every single fucking patron in the place and how they were watching him walk away like an admonished child, like some kind of goddam amateur being turned away at the door, a loser.

            He quickly gathered his things and walked out of the coffee shop and he told himself that he wouldn’t look to see if she was watching him but of course he did and she was staring into the middle distance, sipping her coffee as though their interaction had never happened.

 

                                                *                        *                        *

He was inspired. He draped a sheet over the still life he’d been working on and turned off all the lights save those illuminating his canvas. It had been years since he’d painted free of reference, but a power was building inside him and he had to release it. He tore his designer shirt off, the buttons flying into the shadows and tapping to rest on the hardwood floor. Rolling it into a ball, he threw it into the shadows as well, it settled noiselessly in the dark and he stood before the canvas in just his jeans and bare feet.

            The white fucking canvas was challenging him. With darkness around it the gesso made it absolutely glow and he stepped away from it, squinting his eyes. The blazing white rectangle blurred and disappeared and he pictured her looking up from his sketchbook.

            Those eyes. Her absolute indifference. It was magnificent. He would abandon the veranda idea and simply recapture those eyes, that look. If he could do that it would surpass anything he’d done. In his life. He thought of Goya’s painting “Saturn Devouring His Son” and the swirling blacks, the dreamy and muddy colors emerging from those very physical blacks. He pictured this painting in his mind, and her eyes emerged from within it, wavy, hypnotic and ridiculous like the cheap “water” dissolve in an old horror film. 

            He assembled his colors and laid them out, squirting healthy amounts of pigment onto the palette and selecting his largest brush. Excited, he destroyed the white gesso with slashing strokes of darkest brown. Soon the canvas was almost a shadow with the darkness of his studio. He stepped back from it and admired the stillness of the room, the window was open to combat the linseed oil and the sounds of the city, of the streets below were distant and part of a different world than the womb he was in.

            He began on the eyes. He closed his own and pictured hers, larger than the canvas, piercing beyond the canvas, swirling smoking tumultuous tremors vibrating from that oily darkness. Bailey rubbed his hands on his jeans and put the big brush in the oil. A one inch brush is what he needed, and he selected it, a flat head, and pressed it into the fat blob of cerulean blue even though he knew that wasn’t the proper color. That would come. He would let it go through him until it was right.

            He painted. For hours he painted and the street sounds diminished until he was completely alone in the city, in the world, in the universe, just him and the canvas and those eyes. He could hear her voice, could almost feel her presence in the darkness, milkily swirling, liquid, intangible. Her essence permeated him, guided his hands, his wrist, the very beating of his heart. He let it, he surrendered, and the colors came. The shapes came and he stood finally before the canvas as though he were standing before a god and he’d just slain it. The brush was weightless, an extension of him, as the work before him was an extension of his being made physical.

His hands shook when he stepped away from it, his heart hammering and his breathing intense.

            He had done it. Before the sun rose, in the darkest hour of the night, from a place completely within him, he had created his masterpiece. It was the purest thing he had done, he had transcended Bailey and Verdant and become something completely new. He had created a masterwork. In his heart he knew the clouds had literally parted and gifted him with the One Work. He fell to his knees on the hardwood floor and wept. The brush dropped from his hand and he cradled his head in them and continued to weep until they turned into sobs of gratitude and he found he could he hear himself choking out the words “thank you” until they where whispers.

            When he heard her voice from the shadows he was not completely surprised.

            “What have you done here?” She asked gently, smoky, from the complete darkness beyond the canvas.

            He looked up, wiped tears from his eyes. She emerged from the shadows, completely nude and washed with warm light. Her skin was not pale, not even her powerful thighs or the soft belly, a perfect chiaroscuro into the blackness of her pubic area. Perfect flesh emerging from oil-black pools of shadow, her heavy breasts casting ink shadows down past a ribcage rippling in perfect mechanics as she padded slowly, silently toward him.

            “How…” he began to ask, but he knew. He said nothing more as she neared him, like a leopard, and he could feel the electricity in the air, into his body. He knew. Bailey inhaled her faint scent and it wasn’t like flowers or even the clean skin smell of someone who’d been in the sun, it was cold and had the tinge of meat. Not rotten meat, but salty, coppery meat.

            She smiled and put a hand on his forehead, ran it through his hair. The palm was rough and intensely hot and he did not resist. He closed his eyes and could hear her thick breathing, could smell the meat on her hot breath. His face was an inch away from her stomach and he wanted desperately to rest his head against it.

            “Go ahead,” she whispered, and pulled his face to her belly and he felt her burning skin against his cheek, so hot, but not clammy. Soft, perfect. His eyes remained closed and she continued to gently rub her hands over his scalp.

            “You… gave me something beautiful.” He croaked, inhaling her smell deeply. He felt as though his feet were invisible, as though invisibility and weightlessness was spreading through his body from the legs up.

            “You did well.” She replied softly, and he sensed she’d turned her head to look at the painting. He was pleased to his very soul by how long she remained that way, she was studying it and he felt deep within that she was impressed. Something in his heart exploded warmth and it shot through his invisible limbs.

            She gently took his face in her hands and lifted it toward her. She said nothing, just waited. He knew she was waiting for him to open his eyes, but he held on to this indescribable warmth for as long as he could. His breathing intensified and his bladder released and hot urine spread across his crotch. Bailey suddenly became aware of the price. He did not want to pay the price, he knew this now. A realization shot through him that this was indeed happening and it was beyond his comprehension.

            Panic shook him and he squeezed his eyes tighter but her hands were strong, stronger than he could possibly have imagined anyone’s hands being, unwavering and unbendable. He grabbed the wrists and pulled as hard as he could, his eyes still squeezed shut, but he couldn’t even budge them.

            “Stop, Bailey.” She whispered, and he did. His name from her lips punctured him and he gave up all resistance.

            Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked at her but the overhead light was behind her and cast her completely in silhouette. Only those eyes. Those eyes were glowing inside the dark outline of her face.

            “It’s time.” She whispered, and he cried out, then nodded, whimpering. From the moment he laid the brush to the canvas he knew the price would be paid. He smiled when the shadow-shape of her head grew and he felt the hot meat breath wash over his face and the large teeth stretched and scraped like tectonic plates and his head was in shadow and then in her mouth and all receded into inky blackness.