Indigo’s Susan DeFreitas hosted this month’s Mini Sledgehammer at Blackbird, and Kerrie Farris earned the prize package. Congratulations, Kerrie!
The prompts were:
Character: An out-of-work sign painter
Prop: A pair of jumper cables
Phrase: “The meaning of life…”
by Kerrie Farris
Chris had been hanging around Walmart for at least an hour, waiting for Jill. It was the only place in town after 11, besides the bars, which he was still too young to go to. By the time he was old enough to go, Chris thought, he’d be out of this shitty little town.
Jill was late. Very late. Getting later all the time. They’d been seeing each other for three months, and Chris wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about her. When she laughed, she was bright and beautiful, and Chris felt good reflecting that light.
An hour and a quarter. An hour and a half. Chris bought a pack of cigarettes, going through the same quiet check stand and quiet girl he had when he got to the store and bought two sodas. He realized halfway through the transaction that he must’ve set Jill’s soda down somewhere as he wandered through the fluorescent catacombs of electronics and sporting goods. He lunged for another Cherry Coke and thanked it down on the belt before the cashier had finished ringing him up. She looked at it for a moment with her colorless eyes, then smiled, revealing crooked teeth.
Chris stuffed the soda in his pocket and walked out the electric doors. He rounded the corner of the building, the pack of cigarettes smacking into his palm as he went. He shivered and shuddered and wondered when the hell Jill was going to get there as he lit a cigarette. It was clamped between his teeth, but he nearly swallowed it when he heard a voice call “Hey!”
A man with shaggy gray hair was calling and waving from beside a parked car. Chris looked behind him – no one there. The man was definitely calling to him.
Chris didn’t recognize the guy. It was a small town, and he had lived there too long and knew nearly everyone. Still, he walked over to the man.
“Hey, buddy, you got any jumper cables? My car won’t start.”
Chris shook his head. He’d walked to the store. Since he’d graduated, he walked often at night. Sometimes to the 24-hour Walmart, sometimes nowhere.
“Well, hell.” The guy said.
Chris didn’t know how to help, but he didn’t just want to walk away. He was about to offer his cell phone, but the things in the backseat of the car caught his eye and instead he asked “What’s all that?”
“Oh, that’s my painting gear.”
Chris was puzzled. The debris in the backseat did not include an easel, and this guy didn’t look like a Rembrandt, or even have the crazy-panache of a Van Gogh. But then, neither do I, Chris thought.
“Painting…?” Chris echoed.
“Yeah.” The creases between the man’s eyes melted as he shifted his gaze from the open hood of the car to the jumble of pots and brushes and towels and hoses in the backseat. “I paint windows. You ever see those storefronts, at Christmastime, with Sanna Clause and snowflakes and angels and shit like that? I paint that stuff. Sometimes anyway. It’s getting harder because there are hardly any Main Streets left. Just these big ugly hummers now.” He pointed at the looming, spotlit store. “Yeah, hardly any little shops with windows that need something pretty for the holidays…sometimes I wonder a little bit what the meaning of it all is, if there’s nothing little left.”
Chris pictured the guy, traveling from town to town, leaving little bits of art in his wake, Chris wondered if he could get a gig like that.
Chris turned at the sound of another “Hey!” It was Jill. He smiled at the man, who grinned and nodded with a faraway look.
He jogged over to Jill.
“Chris, I’m late.”
“Yeah, I know.” He smiled at her, waiting for her laugh.
“No, Chris, I’m late. I’m pregnant.”
© 2011 Kerrie Farris
Kerrie Farris is currently working on her first novel, which was supposed to have been done by now. She lives in Northwest Portland with her fiancé and two cats. She enjoys reading, rain, conversation, and waffles.