Monday, November 12, 2007

Be true

Beatrice was running late to the café. Malcolm had opened up for her and he needed to be at a job by 10:00 am. As she hustled down the street, turning the corner by the flower shop with the sunflowers leaning into the sidewalk, she marveled at the sunlight. She had a painting in her head, one that captured fall on the Lake. It wasn’t a literal image of a tree or leaves but more the essence of the season. The crispness in the air, the smell of the leaves, the brightness of the sunlight as winter was looming.

But first she needed to get to the shop she owned with her husband. Both the café and his side work as a handyman helped pay for their tidy little house nearby and covered their student loan payments. They didn’t need or want much more and had no plans for children.

What they wanted was to find more time for their art. Bea tried to paint while at the café. There were quiet moments and it was easy for her to have the watercolors out. Sometimes the occasional brown smudge of coffee added a hue she had never considered. Malcolm though was often too tired to write after a job. Lugging wood for flooring jobs or reaching up all day for molding installation just drained him. While racing down the street it struck Bea as a bit odd that the one who only needed a pen for his craft couldn’t grab snippets of time to make art while she could set up a virtual studio next to the cappuccino maker and create two paintings in half an hour.

But she loved him. She loved her life. Growing up in San Francisco she never envisioned she would be happy in a mid-west town.

The phone rang in her bag. Bea assumed it was Malcolm calling for an update on where she was. While she was only three storefronts away she loved to hear his voice on the phone. It reminded her of their year living in different cities when he would read her his poetry late into the evening. She didn’t bother to look at the number on the screen. She loved the idea of being on the phone with him as she walked into their shop.

“Beatrice!” the stern voice demanded. “Why didn’t you take my call yesterday?”

She stopped walking. Malcolm could see her and immediately opened his phone to call the house were he was installing a new banister. He explained he would be a bit late. He then started frantically waving in Bea’s direction, pointing at his phone, telling her to hang up.

“Mom?” Bea studdered, “How…. How are you?”

“Well, I could be better if I knew what you were doing. Going to that little coffee place of yours?” she asked, tilting more towards a sneer. “And” she always paused before saying his name “Malcolm? How is he? Still being a day laborer? When will he write that epic poem?”

Suddenly the painting, the image Bea was forming in her head was shriveling. Going from vibrant reds and oranges to a dull, lifeless brown.

Malcolm explained to the two customers sitting in the café that he needed to step out. He nearly leapt to Bea. He wanted to fold up the phone and throw it down the gutter yet he knew Bea could not step away from a call with her mother. He lowered his head to be at her eye level and so his voice could be heard over a thousand miles away.

“Bea, I need you in the store.”

“Oh he needs you at the store,” her mother replied. “And what about me? Don’t I need you too?” This last comment was torture for Bea. Her mother never paid attention to her as a child and when she did it was simply to criticize or compare her to another, more perfect, child. Her mother suddenly needed Beatrice. She called her daughter daily but not to ask how Bea’s life was or if she was happy. She called to continue the criticism. Yet she cloaked it with a claim of need.

Suddenly Bea was tired. Too tired to face the shop, face her watercolors, face the day. Malcolm knew the look, knew the stooped shoulders and watery eyes. He needed her to get it together because of one of the customers in the shop. He looked in her eyes and silently pleaded with her to pull away from the voice that caused her pain.

“Mom, I need to go” she finally said. Quietly but firmly. Then she folded the phone without waiting for a response.

Malcolm didn’t give her a chance to cry. “Bea” he said as he took hold of her shoulders to straighten her up, “there is a man in the shop wearing a polka dot shirt under a sweater. He has on those glasses you keep telling me you like and wish I would get.”

Bea smiled a bit. She had been nagging Malcolm to replace the glasses he keeps together with a safety pin.

“Anyway he was asking about your paintings” he continued. “ Said he liked how you weren’t literal in your imagery but still conveyed something concrete.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t make sense to me but he sounded convincing.”

He hands her a business card. It was from a well-known gallery in New York City. Under the gallery imprint is a name with “Owner” printed underneath.

“He said he was pulling together a watercolor show next year. He wants to showcase ‘non-New York’ artists. I‘d say Ann Arbor is pretty ‘non-New York‘”

“Bea, this is a chance to prove your mother wrong. You can be a painter and be happy contrary to what she thinks. This is your chance to be true to who you are, not the failure your mother keeps putting you out to be.”

This was the first time one of her mother’s phone calls hadn’t reduced her to tears. While the knot was still in her throat, it didn’t seem so all-encompassing as it had in the past. Malcolm reassured her he would stay a bit longer. He pushed the door in and held it for her as she walked into the café, her hand outstretched to the man in a polka dot shirt standing to greet her.


Wait? What's going on? Is this a piece of FICTION? Yes, inspired by Jen at A2eatwrite, I joined in a writing exercize. We had to send Jen our ideas for a story, she mixed up those ideas and sent them back out to us. I got Anno's ideas and she got mine. Go see what convoluted plot twists I sent to Anno and commend her for making sense of them. Then go visit Jen for more short-stories.

Music Monday

But where is Music Monday? This week the music has spilled over to Jenn in Holland and Flower Child. Thank you ladies for keeping the tunes going while I played along with Jen.


Adventures In Waitressing said...

Excellent as always!!

Jenn in Holland said...

Holy crap, I am totally speechless. Well, except to be able to say I am totally speechless.

I will now gather my thoughts and share some of my reactions.

First of all, Holy crap! I am speechless!

Seriously, S.P.E.E.C.H.L.E.S.S.

I am going to go read it again.
Girl, you are a WRITER.

Jenn in Holland said...

Okay, I think I am breathing now and can form a full sentence in response to what I've just seen here.

This piece is so rich in imagery and detail. I really GET the relationships here and they feel so concrete, like I know just how these people will respond to one another and to the things which arise as the story progresses. The introduction of the three of them is just that solid.
I am completely intrigued by the tension between mother and daughter. And I am touched by the relationship Bea has with her art. That is just a rich image.
Love the line about the painting in her mind fading as she speaks (listens) to her mother...
Love that bit.
What else?
Just that I want to move to Ann Arbor now and meet these folks, see the paintings, read the poems, have coffee with the artists. They are real, right?

Jenn in Holland said...

I am swept away.

Wholly Burble said...

Oh my, I'm ready to turn the page--you left me wanting MORE . . . more of these characters, more of this story! In short order you've involved me with these people, with their lives, with their hopes and dreams. What an outstanding job!

So glad you decided to play jen's writing game. Now when do we get more of this story?

anno said...

This was so much fun to read! I love what you did with this; the line about her mother calling her daily with criticism, cloaking it with the claim of need is going to stay with me for a long time. Thanks for playing along...

painted maypole said...


Anonymous said...

That was a fabulous read!

soccer mom in denial said...

Thanks everyone for the comments after I've been MIA for a few days.

JiH -


JiH -

I was worried about being "too imager-y" but it felt like Bea's story would have it.

JiH -

what are you doing today?

Burbler -

So nice to have you become a repeat customer and I will become one soon - espcially after reading YOUR story!

Anno -

Was a bit nervous what with the stories you and Jen tell about being writers.

Maypole -

Thanks doll. How was the performance?

Chelle -

Thanks so much especially since you have NO TIME to be reading frivolous things!!

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you aren't a fiction writer? Truly, you have a gift! Eloquent. Captivating. I think you should write more like this.

(P.S. I received your story ideas.)

Heather said...

Well done! Looks like a fun exercise.

Jen said...

Wow, SMID! This is wonderful - and here you were saying you've never written fiction before? Amazing!!! This is great stuff and really brings a lot of themes together. Great characters, great story.

Just lovely!

I'm sorry it took me so long to get here today - brutal day on this end!

Wow! Wow! Wow!

Jan said...

Go Beatrice ! What an exciting story so far. I can feel Bea choking back the tears while talking to her mom. And the love & encouragement her husband gives is wonderful. Sounds like my fabulous hubby. More Please !!

Gunfighter said...

Nicely done, SMID!

Alex Elliot said...


Fourier Analyst said...

This is great! It could easily expand into a much longer story (hint, hint!) Glad to see such lovely writing and get carried away from my daily drudge, even for a short moment. (sigh)

BTW, I have tagged you for a meme. I know, I know, they can be a pain, and you can pretend you didn't see it!! But if you want to use it as an excuse for inspiration in the NaGoNoBlowPoMoShow you have gotten yourself into, then here it is!!