Near 500 words: The Model

Carlos turned the canvas to face his model, then looked over at Rachel. “What do you think?”

“That’s my portrait?”

“Yes.” Carlos smiled. He was proud of the canvas.

“But there’s only blocks of black and white with a few blue. There’s not even a circle. That’s crazy.”

“No, it’s abstract.”

“That’s what you think of me.”

“No, that’s how I think of you.”

“I sat naked for three days. For this.”

Carlos went over to Rachel and took his model in his arms.

Rachel pushed him away. “Don’t touch me.” She hurried over to the corner for her clothes, then she said, “This is what I get for baring my soul to you. This thing.” She pointed to the painting.

“But this is you.”

Rachel was not up to hearing anymore. She slipped on her blouse. Then her curiosity got the best of her. “Okay, how is that me?” Her anger filled the room.

“You are like a city. A beautiful city that is like no other city.” He pointed his brush to the black area at the top. This is your hair. That lovely hair.” There was pleading in his eyes. And tears. “And this is your heart. And in this part, there is the life that you gave me. The life that gave me purpose.”

“Bull shit.” Rachel pulled on her pants. “And to think I believed in you. This is what I get for my trouble.” Her face looked like the face of a tigress. “Friends told me about you and I didn’t believe them. Well, I was wrong.” She zipped up and reached down for her shoes.

“I thought you would be pleased.”

“Well, I am not.” She slipped on her shoe. Then she grabbed her second shoe. It looked like she was thinking of throwing it. But she changed her mind and slipped it on too. She was dressed. “I’m out of here. I will never take up with an artist again. City, my butt. You no talent bum. You just wanted to use me. Didn’t you?”

“No, Baby. You’re wrong.”

She stood glared across the room at Carlos. “Was I that bad of a lover?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Of course, I wasn’t. And this is what I get.”

Rachel headed for the door. Carlos stepped in front of her.

“Don’t go. Please,” he begged.

She shoved the artist out of her way and stormed out of his studio.

The next morning the headlines of the newspaper read: ARTIST KILLS HIMSELF, LEAVES BEHIND MASTERPIECE. Underneath the headline was a photograph of her portrait with a caption: “The Woman.”

On her way to the café where she worked, Rachel saw the headline and grabbed the paper and handed the newsstand owner the money to pay for it. On the bus, she read the story several times. At the end of it, the newspaper asked, “Does anyone know who this woman is?”

She waited her tables that day, wondering what she had lost. That night she cut the painting out of the paper, then for hours she stared at it. It was her. It was beautiful.

Later she dreamed of Carlos.

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Karma

I woke up at eight exactly. Not a minute earlier nor a minute later. I dashed into the kitchen for my cup of joe, kissed my wife, Pam, on the cheek the way I always do.

“How do you want your eggs,” she asked in the usual way.

I gave her the same answer I do every Saturday morning. “Scrambled with a bit of pepper and don’t forget the cheese.”

I poured the coffee and headed out into the morning for a good breath before the day heated up. It was spring in Florida and the day always heats up, except when it doesn’t.

Standing on the back porch, I took a good gander at the lawn. Yep, I decided. The lawn needed a-mowing. And I was ready for the challenge. Nothing like mowing the lawn to make a man feel like a man.

Pam stuck her head out the door. “Breakfast is ready.”

“Yummy,” I said without thinking and made my way to a table set for a king. OJ just the way I like my O J, good and cold and with lots of pulp. And the eggs laid out just so on the plate with a couple of slices of bacon.

Pam and I sat and enjoyed our leisurely breakfasts the way we had for the last thirty years. We talked politics and religion and just about disagreed on both but that was what kept our marriage interesting.

I got up and went to the bedroom and changed into my work clothes. Right then and there I fell over. No pain. No nothing. One minute I stood in my bedroom, the next I was spread-out on the floor. A door knob couldn’t have been deader than I was.

Next thing I know I am standing up, looking down on the me that once was. “What happened?” I asked no body in particular, and nobody in particular answered. Then it hit me. I would say like a ton of bricks but there were no bricks around to be hit by. I was dead.

Since I had never been dead before, how did I know. I could have been having one of those out of body experiences people talk about all the time. But I was pretty darned sure Big D had made a house call and that was it.

Then a second thought hit me. I had not paid the mortgage. And it was due on Monday. I had meant to. I just hadn’t gotten around to it. And, oh yeah, there was another thing. I had forgotten to pay for the life insurance. What the heck had I been thinking? Didn’t I realize that I wasn’t going to live forever. And here I was proving that point.

Poor Pam. She was going to find herself out of a house and with no money unless I could contact her and let her know where I left the checks. They were already written and I had been too darn lazy to get them sent. Now they would have to be delivered. And Pam didn’t know.

I headed off into the kitchen. She was at the sink, washing the dishing and humming “The Sound of Music” the way she always did.

I had to do something to get her attention. So I made an effort to grab her arm and stop her. My hand went through her arm. Oh, no. I’m dead for sure. What am I going to do?

“Why don’t you whistle?” A man stood next to me. He was dressed in a black suit with a bright red tie. His head was covered with a bowler.

“I don’t think that will do any good.”

“You’re probably right.” He reached over and shook my hand. “My name is Mr. D.”

“Mr. D?”

“Yes, I am the one who made the house call. I had some free time, so I thought I would check back and see how you’re doing. You haven’t been to orientation yet, have you?”

“Orientation? Oh, no.”

“So what are you waiting for?” he asked, getting a little pushy.

“Unfinished business.”

“There is no unfinished business here.”

“I need to contact my wife. It’s urgent.”

“No can do. Well, you can do but you’re going to have to wait till tonight when she goes to sleep. You’ll have to appear to her in a dream. What was the unfinished business anyway?”

“It’s a secret.”

Mr. D laughed. “There are no secrets here. You can tell me. I might be able to help.”

“Well, okay. I wrote a check for the life insurance and for the mortgage. I put them away and forgot about them until just a little while ago. I don’t know what’s got into me lately. I’ve been kind of out of it.”

“Where she going?” I wanted to know.

“Oh, she’s going to find your body.”

“It will be quite a shock.”

“I’m afraid not. Let’s follow her.”

Pam had already left the kitchen. As she went through the living room, she picked up a few magazines and straightened up. She seemed to be in no particular hurry. Finally, she opened the bedroom door. Did she scream? No.

I turned to Mr. D. “What’s gotten into her?”

“You don’t know?”

“I don’t know.”

“Poison,” he said, that sly grin on his face.

“Poison?” I asked as I watched her kick my body.

She was kicking it hard. “I told you not to vote for that…that…person for President.”

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Amherst

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the band Quoting Napoleon singing their composition “Amherst“:

This song is a beautiful tribute to the great American poet Emily Dickinson.

Emily

Scraps of Emily everywhere
no single room unattended
nor corner of the private worlds
hidden in New England shadow
unstudied by the thorough eye
of that reclusive brilliance
who gave Amherst a name.

Near 500 words: The Clothing Store on San Miguel Street

Janet was named after her grand mama. Aida was named after the woman in the opera. They had been friends since high school. When she was forty, Janet’s husband left her for a slut named Helen just like Helen ran off with that slut, Paris. Her husband got the clap and murdered Helen. Janet got a divorce and went to work.

Aida lost her husband to cancer when she was sixty. She needed something to occupy her spirit. She could have taken up with the church. But she was not the praying kind. So she bought a clothing store on San Miguel Street and went equal partners with her friend. “Fifty-fifty,” she said when she made the suggestion to Janet.

Their families warned them. Anywhere else but San Miguel Street. San Miguel Street was a part of the worst part of town.

Janet and Aida had faith. They left the door open. If someone wanted to take their money, they would surrender the cash with a smile. They didn’t have much and it wasn’t worth losing their lives over. Besides they liked the people there.

They opened the shop at eight sharp. Not a minute earlier or a minute later. The neighborhood could set their clocks by it. Day in, day out, the two women sat in the doorway, waiting for someone to drop by. And people did.

One morning Senora Alicia came by. “I need a hat for my son’s wedding. Do you have a hat for me?”

“Of course,” Aida said. She went back into the store and over to the hat stand and pulled down a bonnet all decked out with flowers. “I think this one will do.”

Senora Alicia tried it on. She looked in the mirror. She smiled. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”

“And it fits snug,” Aida said.

“Yes, it does.” Then Senora Alicia laughed.

“You’re going to be the hit of the wedding,” Aida assured her customer.

Senora Alicia’s face went serious. “How much is it?” She was afraid she could not afford it.

“No charge. It’s a wedding present.”

“Oh, I have to give you something.”

“You already have. You came to our shop for a hat.”

Senora Alicia handed Janet the hat. Janet took it and sat it on the counter. She went in the back room and brought out a lovely box and gently sat the hat into the box. Then she tied the box up with a pink ribbon and handed the box to Senora Alicia.

“Would you like a cup of tea and a cookie?” Aida offered.

“I would love a cup of tea and a cookie.” Of course, she wanted a cup of tea and a cookie. The cookies were notorious in the neighborhood. Some of the kids thought they were magic cookies because people were always happy after they ate one.

The women sat in the chairs in front of the store. For several hours, they laughed and cried and had a good time. Aida told her stories. Senora Alicia shared her worries about her son. Janet listened. Aida’s stories and the love Senora Alicia had for her son filled her up to the brim with happiness.

Snoops

A shaggy cat story.

Helene, the mother and daughter Helene had a cat. His name was Snoops. Snoops was black with large black eyes. And he wasn’t just black, but the kind of black that scared the heck out of anyone who saw Snoops.

Snoops could be violent. Attack anyone, other than Helene and Helene. The mother and the daughter were not sure why they brought the thing home from the pound. Perhaps it was that they understood that they were Snoops’ last hope. With his attitude, nobody else was going to take him.

Though Snoops should have been an outdoor cat, he was kept indoors by the two. They were afraid that someone would harm the cat. But he was much too large for the house.

There were times the two thought they should get rid of Snoops. He could be cantankerous, even to them. When he was in one of his moods, they knew they had better watch out. As he became older, those moods increased until it appeared there wasn’t a break between them.

Only the mother’s voice soothed him. She sang to him, “Here Kitty, Nice Kitty, Little Ball of Fur”. He curled up and purred. It was as if the demon who tormented Snoops had been lulled to sleep temporarily.

One night, Helene and Helene ate popcorn and watched “The Exorcist”. Snoops was curled up on the couch. The women loved scary movies, the scarier the better. As the credits at the end of the movie rolled across the screen, Helene turned to her mother, “That was something.”

“Yes, it was.”

Then a lightning bolt of an idea struck the two of them. At the same time, they said, “Snoops needs an Exorcist.”

“But how do we get one?” Mom asked.

Helene went to the hall closet and pulled out their computer. With its Windows XP operating system, it took almost a half hour to boot up. She plugged the darn thing into the modem she kept around just in case. Then she headed for a google search.

After an hour’s search, she found just the right website. The Pet Exorcist had a masters degree in Cat Psychology and had been ordained by the Church of the Nine Lives. The reviews glowed with recommendations.

Helene showed her mom. “This is the guy for us.”

She took her cell phone outside. She did not, under any condition, want Snoops to get wind of what she was up to.

“Friday, at 2 pm,” the man’s scheduler confirmed.

Helene and Helene spent the next several days planning their strategy. The morning of the appointment, the daughter put Snoops favorite bowl of kitty food along with some catnip in their cat carrier. He ran in after it, and slam! the door closed. Needless to say, Snoops roared. He scratched. He went after that door like God went after Sodom and Gomorrah. It wouldn’t budge. So he settled down with a look on his face that said I will get you for this.

The exorcist’s office was in one of those run-down shopping malls with weeds growing up through the cracks in the parking lot. On the office window were giant signs, denoting the prices: fish $9.99, dogs $19.99, pigs $99.99, cats $199.99.

Helene said to her daughter, “That’s expensive. Can we afford it?”

“No,” her mother said, then she looked at Snoops. He was baring his teeth and his claws. “But we have no choice.”

The bell over the door rang as the two women and their cat made an entrance. A woman with long, stringy washed-out blonde hair asked in a gravelly sort of voice, “Can I help you?”

“We have an appointment.”

“Walt,” the woman yelled. “They’re here.”

A man straggled from the back room. He was bald, cross-eyed and wore a black robe. He rubbed his eyes as if he was waking up from a dream. Ignoring the others, he went over and poured himself a cup of black coffee. He threw it down his throat, sat the cup down hard beside the pot, then turned and gave Helene and Helene a look that said, “Which of you is the victim?”

Helene said, “No, no, no. The cat’s in here.” She pointed to the carrier on the floor.

The Exorcist dropped to the floor and looked at the cat. Snoops took one look at the man with a green eye and a gray eye and pushed against the back of the carrier. He wanted out and the look on his face said, “Get me out of here. I’m having none of this.” He was scared.

The man sat the carrier on the counter, then said to the women, “You brought cash, I hope.”

Helene, the daughter, reached into her purse and brought out ten twenties. “You can do this?”

The man squinted. “I can do this. The demon’s name is Magillacotty. We’re old friends.”

Suddenly Helene realized his gray eye was a glass eye.

He turned and snarled at the cat. The cat shrank some more at the back of its cage.

“It won’t hurt,” he said. Then he snarled. “Only the demon. The cat won’t feel a thing.” He took the money and handed it to his assistant. He went back to the cat, opened the carrier door, and reached in and firmly pulled Snoops out.

The cat looked up at Helene and Helene and whimpered. Its pathetic whimper said, “Please, please save me. I’ll be good.”

The man sat Snoops down on the wooden counter. He glared into the eyes of the cat and raised his right hand with the palm outward. Then the man’s body grew bigger and bigger. Out of his mouth came words. Unknown words, but words that sounded like an ancient language. Then his body sank and crumpled onto the floor.

On the counter, Snoops was half the size he had been. He gave Helene and Helene the most wonderful meow.

The assistant walked over and threw a blanket over the Exorcist’s body, then she gently picked up Snoops and stroked him. He continued to meow. She handed him over to Helene. “The demon is gone.”

Helene’s mother took the black ball of fur and the two women left with the carrier. All the way home, Snoops slept peacefully in the mother’s lap.

Over the next few days, Helene and Helene were amazed at how well behaved Snoops was. They also noticed he was shrinking to half the size he had been when they left the Exorcist. Deeply concerned, the daughter called the Exorcist’s Office. There was panic in her voice as she spoke into the phone. “Snoops is shrinking.”

“No worries,” the assistant said. “It’s natural. He’s melting.”

“Melting?”

“It happens.”

“How much will he melt?”

“Soon you won’t have any more trouble. Poof! He’ll be gone.”

“No, no,” Helene said. There was desperation in her voice.

“Can’t be helped. That’s exorcism for you.”

“How can we stop Snoops from melting?”

“There’s only one way,” the assistant said. “Put the demon back in. And I’m afraid you don’t want to do that. He doesn’t take well to the procedure and neither will the cat.”

“That can’t be. Snoops has such a wonderful attitude.”

“Give him a couple of days and that’s it.”

Helene hung up and delivered the new to her mother. The two looked over at Snoops. He was such a pitiful sight.

Helene and Helene decided they had no other choice. The daughter called back and asked, “How much for the procedure?”

“$999.99.”

Helene hung up and told her mother. The two looked over at the pathetic cat. Helene’s mother made the final pronouncement. “Sorry, Snoops. I guess we’ll be getting another cat.”