Edward looked at the canvas he had spent all summer on. It had four brand new razor slashes across it–a creative addition by his newly-exed girlfriend, Mia. A real hot-head. Perpetually pissed and ready to shoot hostages, she finally blew. Earlier, she had taken all her stuff and left, but not before vandalizing some of his best work.
He fished out a half a butt from the ashtray and lit it. Easy come, easy go. The girlfriend, not the painting. He wasn’t so flippant about that yet. Fucking oil paint. Took forever to dry. He really tried with that one. Not his usual slap and splash.
It was of a cartoon devil smelling the stocking-clad leg of a fat woman eating a drum stick. A signature piece. Now ruined.
Fortunately, he had been suffering loss his whole life. This stung, but not enough to want to make him change anything. Except maybe to go back to acrylics.
And keep his fucking mouth shut about Pilates. That’s what started all this.
He got up and walked to the fridge. He opened it and counted seven beers left. He closed it and put on his jacket. He felt around for the keys in the pocket. Not there. Oh man. He walked over to the window and lifted the blinds.
It was gone.
Walking to the liquor store, he debated calling the cops. They ask too many questions. He’d somehow wind up getting arrested. So he wrote off the car too. He had paid $1.700 cash for it three years ago. The last time he sold any work. All was not lost. He still had some bolt cutters. In the morning, he’d take a bus to the junior college and clip himself off a bike until he could figure things out.
He walked into the liquor store. Devon the Dick was working. Great. Not in the mood for his brand of ball-busting. Not tonight. Feeling too sensitive.
“Ah, it’s the great arteest!” he greeted.
“Ah, it’s the great liquor store clerk, ” Edward greeted back.
Motherfucker. At least I’m trying. Living off the largess of some pretty vulnerable people, but I’m still trying.
Edward put two six packs of Steel Reserve on the counter. Devon the Dick looked down and smiled.
“Uh-oh! 211 in progress!”
“Yeah, that’s funny. A half a pint of Dark Eyes.”
“Hey, the good stuff! You must have sold one of your masterpieces.”
“And Camel light, hard pack, please.”
Why is it that some guys can only communicate by being assholes? It was always something with this one. A remark about the shoes. The gut. The cheap shit you’re drinking. Always a jab. Fucker dying behind the counter of some shit-hole liquor store trying to make me feel like the loser.
He took the bag and started to walk out. Here it comes. He could count. One…two…three.
“Hey, don’t forget us when you’re famous!”
“Yeah, don’t worry.”
You never forget the demons that have tormented you…as you lay in bed at night, chainsawing their heads off.
Edward knew he wasn’t going to make it. He knew a long time ago. Way before he blew his art school student loan smoking opium with that coven of performance art lesbians. A good time, for sure, but not the power career move it felt like at the time. Eventually, The Academy of Art kicked his can down the road. He wound up delivering pizzas and eating handfuls of mail-order Tramadol to ween off the poppy. Then he borrowed more money from his grandmother and moved back home.
He was resigned to languish in obscurity, using the tortured artist bit to cut him slack for his fuck-ups. Show some stuff in group shows. Try to bed chicks that go to those. That would be good enough. It would have to be.
While he knew he had some talent, he also knew that he lacked the self-promotion skills that move you up the gallery food chain. He sucked at talking about his work.
“Tell me about this piece, Edward,” some divorcee in a western skirt and concho belt would ask.
“It’s a man licking a dog’s balls,” he’d say, which would be very clever, if it really wasn’t.
For a while, he tried playing the disinterested iconoclast, but it seemed his disinterest was contagious. The less he acted like he cared about his work, the more people seemed to want to join in. And not care about it either.
His new plan was to create a body of work while drinking himself to death. A tragic death would have to help sales. Trouble was, the older he got, the less tragic his death would be. It was now a race against time.
He was walking along when he felt his his phone buzz in his pocket. A text.
“I am telling EVERYBODY about the herpes!!! ;)”
He put the phone back and climbed the stairs to his apartment. He could hear Narco rap blasting from the neighbor next door, a latino kid, that installed garage door openers. He was okay. Always had pretty good weed. Told him about the volume, but he always claimed to forget. Good weed will do that.
He went inside, and put the beer in the refrigerator. He snapped off the cap of the vodka and took a long hit. It tasted oily. Dark Eyes. He opened a beer and sat down on the couch. He looked at his slashed painting.
The longer he stared, the more he liked it. It really was a signature piece. Now.
After his death, it sold for $1.700.