Posted on Leave a comment

OK, I’ll do it

This is Part V of my latest short story. Part I of Until You’ve Bled is here.

opium tales of course Ned didn’t have set office hours. “Whenever you need me, I’ll make time to see you.” That is what’s on his placard. And a phone number.

No other Professor is like that. Weird. But not weird if you knew Ned.

Jess whips out her cell phone and texts him. “Hey, this is Jess, the Biology major. Want to setup an office hour.”

She sends it. Then starts walking around the Art Department, looking at some of the art.

Most of it is pretentious bullshit. She looks for something she likes. And gets a text back.

“Can you wait five minutes?”

“Yes”

“brt”

She smiles, puts her phone in her bra, and goes back to looking the pretentious bullshit.

Don’t worry. I know you’re thinking you’re not supposed to keep your phone by your boobs. She doesn’t do this often. Only when she doesn’t have a purse. Like right now.

He’s wearing corduroy pants, a flannel shirt covered with different color paint spills, and his hair looks like it’s been in a hat.

“Hi Jess.”

“Hi Ned.”

Ned whips out his keys. Most professors fumble with their keys when they have a cute girl half their age with them. Ned doesn’t. He gets straight to the point, finds the right key, and turns the lock.

Jess follows him inside.

Ned sits behind his desk and gives her a look like she could sit. So she does.

He waits for her to start talking. And throws in a smile. That was a cue, Jess.

“Oh.”

“Yes?”

“OK, I’ll do it.”

“Great,” implying he knew exactly what she meant. “I thought you’d come to your senses.”

She nervously chuckled.

“Look, I could tell you’re not even passionate about Biology. Life is short. We all die. And…and you got what it takes to make it.”

He continues. “Most of my students bore me. Occasionally I get someone with life. Most people who get into art do it because they think they’re rebels. But they’re not.”

He waits for her to say something. She doesn’t. So he continues again. “But you, you’re not in it to prove anything to anyone else. You’re in it because you’re in the right place, your heart’s in the right place. You’re the real deal. You’re…you’re an artist.”

“I just…”

“Yes?”

“I just, I guess never saw myself as one. I always liked animals.”

“You can still like animals. Hell, there’s not a professional artist I know who doesn’t like animals.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Well, you might be thinking where to go next. Changing your major is easy. You just need the Dean’s approval and some other paperwork. I can help you with both. I know the Dean. He’s a decent guy. Not someone I’d hang with, but a decent guy.”

He cues her to say something. She doesn’t.

“Do you know your primary medium?”

“Painting.”

“Oils?”

“Yes.”

“Thought so.” He said that without his expression changing. Which made Jess feel like she made the right decision. “You’re going to be good. I think…I think you should get enough done in your four years here to have something ready to sell before you get out. I can set you up in a gallery as soon as you graduate.”

“Really?” Her face finally springs up.

He smiles. Finally, he thinks. She’s easing up.

“I wanted to ask you something else, Jess.”

“What?”

“I’m an empath. Do you know what that is?”

“I think so.”

“You’ve been crying. I can feel it. Are you ok?”

Suddenly, Jess’s heart lifted a little. It’s true she had tons of acquaintances in school and no true friend, but suddenly, she felt like she forgot to count one.

“My father died not that long ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to…”

“My mother died when I was in high school. I guess I’ve been floating ever since.”

“Really sorry, Jess. I had no idea. You, you fake it pretty well.”

She knew what he meant and took no offense. He always tells the truth. Tells it like it is. “Yeah. I learned to because I have no choice.”

To be continued at a later date

Posted on Leave a comment

Ned

This is Part IV of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.

“Don’t call me Mr. Westmore. Call me Ned. Mr. Westmore’s my dad.”

He’s probably in his 40s. Doesn’t act like it though. Acts like a cross between a really old man and a kid. Or not a really old man as in some guy in his 90s. More like someone from a long time ago, like the 1700s or 1800s. Definitely not from this time. But combine that with a kid.

“Do you really want to major in Biology, Jess?”

“Um.”

“You hesitated.”

She says nothing.

“Look. Art gets a bad rap for no reason. People think you can’t make money doing art. I’ve already proved everyone wrong.”

He continues. “I got that same lecture from my parents. ‘What the hell do you think you’re going to do with an Art degree, teach?’ Not that there’s anything wrong with teaching. But I’m teaching because it’s fun. I could have retired years ago.”

Again, she says nothing.

“You’re by far the best I’ve seen in years. Definitely better than any of these pathetically spoiled kids who only think they’re artists. You’re the real deal.”

She smiles, looks up in his eyes, then looks back down at her hands.

“Consider it. If you need me to guide you on the business side, you know where to find me.”

Ned’s cool, she thinks. No, really cool. That’s not one of those “yeah, he’s cool.” She really believes he’s cool.

He has a coolness to him where if she were some rich old lady who wanted to buy paintings, she’d totally buy out his collection. He’s just that cool.

It’s weird having nobody to answer to, except yourself. Most 19-year-olds these days are still under their parents’ wings. Or at least somewhat.

Biology’s cool. But the kids. And the Professors. None of them are like Ned. Nobody’s really full of life like Ned. Nobody has any passion like Ned.

He’s the real deal. He gets it. He is who he is and doesn’t have to change that for other people.

Jess is like that too. She’s always been like that, even when she was little. Her parents encouraged her to stand her ground and be herself. To have her own voice.

She had good parents. Really good parents. Talking to the other kids, yeah, really good parents.

Fuck! Just, fuck!

Jess is almost at her dorm. She really doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now. But she’s carrying her books.

There are bars open. And a few coffee shops. She’ll definitely see someone she knows there too.

Instead, she walks over to the creek. She’s still carrying her books and it’s too dark to look for rocks.

Jess looks around. She can still see some people. So she keeps walking until everyone is out of sight.

She puts her books down on the damp ground. Sits down, Indian style, buries her face in her palms, and cries. For the first time in a very long time, she cries. A lot.

She hasn’t felt this alone since her grandmother and great aunt helped her bury her father.

Continue to Part V of Until You’ve Bled

Posted on Leave a comment

Does she really want to major in Biology?

This is Part III of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.

opium tales sophomore year. Dad lived long enough for her to declare her major. Biology. Something she excels at. Something Jess leads her entire class at.

Yet, she finds solace in sitting at the coffee shop drawing random people. Or things.

Her friends experiment with pot, politics, and pretty much everything else you’re supposed to experiment with in college. Sex, binge drinking, tattoos.

Jess? Not so much.

Not that she’s square. More like she’s an empty shell.

Of course boys like her. She’s not that pretty. But she’s far from ugly. A good height, a good weight, decent curves, definitely good enough to get asked out often.

But it’s not that she’s not that kind of girl. Rather, she buries herself in schoolwork. Deep down inside, Dad and Mom both smiled when she brought home those good grades.

No, not that type of smile where they smile for a few seconds before going back to what they were doing before. A deep, genuine smile where they’re genuinely proud of their little girl.

Did I mention they’re both dead now? Of course I did. You already knew that. But I’m just reminding you that she doesn’t go a day without thinking about both of them.

So the way to cope? Study hard. When things get bad? Study harder.

Her friends talk about their families. Nobody has yet to ask about hers though. Jess never says anything. And to be honest, despite being liked, despite having plenty of friends, none of them are really friends. More like acquaintances. More like people she occasionally talks to.

Not intimately though. She’s friendly to most, but kind of indifferent. Almost as if her smiles are forced.

But she’s good at it. They don’t notice.

Nobody notices. Most people are self-absorbed.

No, I’m not picking on college kids. I’m saying most people are self-absorbed. Period.

So she spends her extra time in coffee shops. Drawing random people. And sometimes things.

She’s getting mostly A’s in her GED. And of the beginning Biology classes, she’s totally killing it. Biology though? Why?

There’s a man who also thinks the same way.

Continue to Part IV of Until You’ve Bled

Posted on Leave a comment

The curse of the smart kid

This is Part II of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.

“Teacher’s pet”.

“Kiss ass”.

“Brown noser”.

Yeah, she’s heard it all. Maybe if the others actually focused on doing their work instead of trying to be popular, they’d get decent grades.

They didn’t like Jessica. An otherwise good kid, Jessica didn’t have that many friends.

It hurts worse as a teenage girl though. When it actually matters.

Regardless, Jessica kept doing her thing. Kept to her books.

Sadly, they didn’t realize she had it worse than any of them. But alas, we all know that teenage girls are the last people you’ll ever get any empathy from.

First Mom died in a freak car accident. Lost control of her steering wheel. Crashed into a tree. Took her almost an hour to die.

People would have stopped if they had known. But of course, it happened off the beaten path. By the time they found her, it was too late. When the ambulance arrived, she was already dead.

Then, in her senior year of high school, Dad got cancer. He stood strong. Lied to Jessica that he’d beat it, and would always be there for her. Who knows? Maybe Dad even believed that nonsense. You never know with grief. Grief does funny things to you, especially when you haven’t even gotten over the last one.

So she had her reasons to be buried in her books. They were her only safe haven. In her freshmen year of college, her books were all she had.

Continue to Part III of Until You’ve Bled

Posted on Leave a comment

Daddy’s Little Girl

This is Part I of Until You’ve Bled

Opium Tales It’s been said that greatness requires either madness or sadness. Or a combination of both.

Little Jessica had the best relationship with her father. Her Daddy loved her. And took her everywhere.

The two of them were inseparable. Daddy loved Jessica every bit as much as he loved Mommy. And he loved his two little ladies even more than he loved himself.

Don’t get me wrong. He loved himself greatly. You could even say he was in love with himself. But as much as he was in love with himself, he loved little Jessica and Mommy even more.

On the days he didn’t work, he would take Mommy and little Jessica to the river. You’d see the three of them, all hand in hand in a row of three with Daddy in the middle. All three smiling and happy.

Little Jessica loved two things. She loved rocks. And she loved lizards. She’d pick up a lot of rocks, but only keep her favorites.

Her favorites weren’t very consistent. You’d have a hard time predicting which rocks she’d like and which ones she’d put back down again. That was her nature though.

Her mind spun so much faster than the other kids. Whereas, you could predict what other kids want, you couldn’t with Jessica. Except lizards. She never met a lizard she didn’t love.

Daddy didn’t let little Jessica take any lizards home though. She had to play with the lizards by the river, and put them back by the river before they all headed home. That was the rule. The lizards live there. They don’t live with us.

Little Jessica didn’t like bugs. But she still would catch them to see if the lizards would eat them. She’d catch a fly, then tear off both of the fly’s wings so the fly couldn’t fly away from the lizard. Sometimes, she’d let the lizard loose and the lizard would eat the fly. Other times, she’d let the lizard loose and the lizard would immediately scramble back into the bushes.

The latter made her sad as it was a waste of a fly. But Daddy would assure her not to worry. Another lizard would come along, find the fly, and eat it. And be thankful to little Jessica because little Jessica made his job easier. It’s not easy for a lizard to catch a fly with wings.