Be wary, my dear creative friend, when you say you wish to explore the seductive call of the arts. If your conviction is not solid, if your resolve is not resolute, if your ethics are not steadfast, clear, and true, then my advice to you is to run. Run, before it is too late.
Once you dip your brush, your pen, your sword, your soul is forever colored, consumed, altered.
Oblivion lurks at the bottom of a paint can, time becomes malleable, and insignificant thoughts recede.
Art has left me desperate and my car keys have been missing for weeks.
I identified the target. No one noticed the woman with a stroller. The device in my pocket would disrupt any surveillance cameras, but I still needed a diversion.
Stalling, I cooed to the baby. A panel van heading toward me promised the perfect cover for my heist. Timing was everything. I resumed my walk, activated the disruptor, and counted. The truck and my stroller converged at the package.
With payment confirmed, I dropped the package in the black sedan’s trunk. Safe from prying eyes, I removed my mask, hat, sunglasses, and wig. Since the virus, disguises were so much easier.
Earl pushed the paper cap askew and wiped sweat from his forehead. The tiny kitchen was warmer than Hades.
As a kid, he dreamed of saving the world. He ran with his red cape streaming behind him. Flying in the sky, he shot lasers from his eyes and righted every wrong. He remembered the moment a disbeliever’s careless shoe squashed his purpose. Disillusioned, he became a hash-slinger, cooking meals for hungry customers regardless of their ability to pay.
A grimy hand returned an empty plate. “You saved my life, Earl.”
Sad eyes brimmed with unshed tears. It was payment enough.
Reality’s wispy figments hung beyond her grasp. Days begun at four in the afternoon kept her translucent skin safe from the sun’s ravaging rays. Neon demons, crowded clubs, and illicit pharmaceuticals eased her into sensational poses. The paparazzi clamored for more.
Fellini scenes, gray-scale backdrops to life, encouraged Sylvia, sweet Sylvia’s whispers. Begging for peace, she scoured each avenue for escape from her manic world. Exhausted, detached, bordering on sociopathic but yearning for connection, she ended each dawn at the fountain in search of the answer. Hidden from the world for so long, she had forgotten where her soul drowned.
My schedule promised a marathon. Starting strong, my trainer pushed my outer limits. The nutritionist questioned the candy bar breakfast I inhaled while consulting the laundry service and the hack who called herself a housekeeper.
The stylist sneered at my messy ponytail, baggy tee-shirt, and leggings. “You can do better,” she said as I rushed to rouse groggy children. The crisis negotiator morphed into the childcare specialist, reminding me of the lessons with the student-teacher.
Meetings with the CFO, meal planner, and the head chef completed my morning. Exhausted, I wondered how many hats quarantine would force me to wear.
Terri’s bare knee touched cold linoleum. The distinct aroma of disinfectant, liberally applied over thirty years, was strong in this corner. She fumbled with the cord and wrinkled her nose.
“Is this no other way?” she asked.
“No, I’m afraid not.”
Terri yanked, but the plug and outlet refused to end their embrace. She wiggled and pulled until she broke the bond. The whirring compressor grew silent. The familiar vibration faded in Terri’s heart along with memories of late-night bottles, birthday cakes, spilled milk, and Sunday dinners.
“You’ll love the new fridge. It pairs with your phone. There’s an app.”
Lacey flipped through Mama’s checklists. She chewed her lower lip, then dropped the Blush Pink wedding binder into the trash. Dread colored what Mama said would be the happiest day of her life. Her stomach lurched the way it always did when Mama discovered one of Lacey’s many faults.
She tugged at the dress’s too-tight bodice, and a fake pearl fell. Freed, the tacky embellishment ricochet off the discarded notebook and bounced toward the window. Lacey became aware of the raging storm.
Guests texted their regrets. Mama cried when the groom followed suit, and Lacey realized what she had forgotten.