Chapter 1: the afterthought

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 436

the afterthought
After all is said and done, insight is, at best, an afterthought.
-Todd Rundgren
At four in the morning, Todd Rundgren woke up with his face buried oddly in the space where his pillow, mashed against the wall, met the corner of the wall.His lips bore that congealed film, coupled with the sand that often cemented one’s eyes shut after a deep sleep.Needless to say, he had a hard time getting up.
He had had a bad dream.This was the only reason that, struggling to move his face from the corner he buried it in, his legs had been moving that way dogs did in cartoons when they were asleep.It also was the only reason he was making an effort to get up, as it was his day off.He never got up early on his day off.However, today, proved to be an especial kind of coincidence where the bad dream he had, one where the newly appointed young CEO at the company he worked for, had personally seen fit to terminate his position upon starting, and this irked Todd.It irked Todd enough so that when he finally came to, after making it to the bathroom and splashing water on his face a few times, he looked in the mirror and shook his head, as if to throw away those few remnants of the memory that were left in the dream’s residual.After doing so, he closed his eyes and remembered the day that he had gotten fired in his head, just as it had happened.
The dream residual that was fading, showed Todd walking around the room full of cubicles asking the people who had not gone on lunch that day if they had seen Chad.Chad W. Wollingcraft, was the newly appointed CEO.It was odd that Todd would even be asking for him, as he rarely made a visit to the floor in question.He literally stayed in the ivory tower.In the case of the Stanford building, at the corner of Smith and Rivington, the 11th floor was just that.
Todd could not find Mr. Wollingcraft, and became more and more frustrated.Apparently he knew that he had been fired, or “let go,” as they would be saying on Monday morning.At least the members of management would be doing so.They would speak of him as if he was a member of a family, a close-knit family that met in July for pecan pie and volleyball games at the beach, all reunion-style.He’s “no longer with us,” they would say.Todd walked faster as he thought about all this.He walked even faster in his dream, and his heart rate began to speed up.There was no chance of finding Mr. Wollingcraft.Surely he had gone for the day, that is, if he had even been there to begin with, and so Todd sat down in one of the meeting rooms that was not being used for those last minute cram sessions that came prior to the weekend.
Janet, a relatively new coworker whom Todd did not know the last name of, was walking towards the small room where the coffee machine and condiments were kept for the day.She was caring a rather large coffee mug that bared a phrase that he could only see two thirds of, as her hand covered the rest.He could assume that the bright abnoxious, baby blue writing that spelled out “Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s…)” placed against a nauseating yellow background, that overall color of the mug itself, finished up by saying “and it’s all small stuff.”He knew that he had heard that super optimistic saying before, possibly in a movie he had rented or seen on television, and then promptly turned it off.On this day, the day he was fired, he felt the same about Janet, Janet, the new employee who had a hyper-optimistic coffee mug, and was walking with a happy hop in her step towards the coffee room, a few minutes after five on a Friday.
Janet, in her insanely polite manner, that Todd still attributed to being a new employee and not being broken just yet, paused when she was about to pass Todd, whom at this point was sitting at a meeting table with his head in his hands, pawing through his own mangled hairdo.“Everything alright?” she asked with sincerity.Todd looked up and wanting badly to reply with something cutting and sarcastic like I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers, he instead held restraint and just simply smiled a pressed and forced smile and said “Yes, thanks for asking.” She showed notice that the face was forced and continued to walk.She had done her part.She didn’t know him from Adam, and she would still have her job on Monday because of her polite inquiry.Todd, on the other hand, had lost his, and now was scampering for an explanation from the man who had done it.
As the dream residual began to slip away from Todd, he opened his eyes and was right back in his own bathroom, staring back at himself.The feeling that came with this moment was so much more comfortable than those prior, which occurred directly after he woke up.He sighed rather loudly and stepped back.Running the palm of his hand in a soft grip over his unshaven stubble, he shook his head slower this time and breathed deeply.“Phew,” he told himself in the mirror and turned to take a piss.He didn’t even have to step towards the toilet as it was cramped right on him, less than a few feet from the adjacent shower.
While on the way to his kitchen, Todd stopped to bend down and turn on his PC which sat atop a table that basically blocked the entrance.It was Todd’s workspace, such as it was.The small apartment bore a striking resemblance to the small cubicle at work.The computer came on slowly, as always, almost as if it was doing it on purpose.Todd looked at it, as it went through its preliminary booting and sighed, continuing on to his kitchen counter.Then he turned his head back towards his bedroom and saw the glowing red numbers on his digital clock.It was 4:15 now, in the AM.He did not want to be awake this early.The fact that he was, pissed him off, and he thought hard about going back to bed, to lay down and try it all over again.But his body was telling him something, no?His bad dream had shaken him into an excited state.It had opened up a door to a new awareness this morning.It had done something that he typically used coffee to do, and he turned back towards the kitchen.As he walked towards his kitchen, he observed his PC.It had booted up to his desktop and was waiting patiently, in its outdated manner, to be utilized, or at least that was the way he perceived it.It was almost as if it was speaking to him.If you don’t do it now, another day will go by and you will suffer.You will get lazier.Sheila will be right.You don’t want that, do you?
Before sitting down at the computer, he did in fact make some coffee.This decision was the one that would be followed with work.The writing that he had been putting off for the past few days, not necessarily out of laziness, but because he had been busy with the other little nothings of life, eventually came around to this moment.He believed that in a way the dream had brought him to this moment, and had allowed him the freedom to concentrate only on his work, his real work, and not to worry about the office, his so-called personal life, or anything else really.It was a rare moment, this early morning awakening, and in realizing this, he most certainly wanted to take advantage of it.
Opening the file that he had been working on, tentatively titled “working title,” for lack of anything better, he zoomed down the page and came to the last sentence he had written.Amidst this process, he had been stirring in the six packets of Splenda into the skim milk laden coffee that sat before him, the smell filling the room and wakening him further throughout the whole ritual.He tried to remember the first time he ever had coffee.Although he couldn’t remember the exact moment that he himself had started drinking it, he did remember the first moments that coffee drinking seemed to enter his life.
When he was very young, maybe not even 12 or 13, he would get up early in the morning, before his father would get up, and start the coffee maker for him.His father, a construction worker, held a routine that began somewhere between 4:30 AM and 5.In thinking about this, Todd wondered if sleeplessness had always been a part of his life.He used to leave his own bedroom, in the winter months, and sleep on the floor in front of the woodstove, as it was one of the warmest places in the house, and the uncomfortable nature of that sleeping process would leave him waking up constantly, and he would eventually help out his dad.His father would get up and be very grateful that this laborious little detail in the greater morning routine had been covered, and Todd imagined that when he became a teenager and longed to sleep every minute that he could, the lack of continuing this father-son ritual might had saddened his dad.He didn’t know.
Lackson, Samuel Lackson, was the first to drink coffee regularly, in his group of friends.Todd had gone over to sleep at his house once and remembered distinctly his friend brewing a pot for himself, almost as if it was second nature.He had always been told when he was younger that coffee stunted your growth---an old wives tale, no doubt, but it stuck for a while when he was pondering that first sip during the early morning when he made it for his father.Lackson, Samual Lackson, was one of those teenage friends that was living as an adult, regardless of his age.He had a separate bank account that he had been pumping a percentage of his income while working for a number of years at the local Subway.That savings had a specific purpose.It was his escape money.It would be used when he finally had had enough of his crazy stepmother, or when she had made up a new excuse for the week in question, which finally cemented his own father to the cause.Lackson had little respect for that man, as he had married a “psychotic Christian piece of white trash,” as Lackson himself had put it on several occasions.Coffee drinking then, was simply par for the course in his early adulthood.
Todd remembered that early strength and determination in his young friend while sipping from his own freshly made cup, and finally sat down at the computer.It had finished booting and was now showing the familiar desktop image that he had place up there.The image, a stretched out image of “The Dude,” a stretched out photo of Jeff Bridges’ character from the movie, The Big Lebowski.
As Todd continued to sip, he thought about just how far his own current state of mind was from the zen-like state of the anti-hero in that film. He had been trying to apply the “just fuck it” mentality that held a strain throughout that film to his own daily life as of recent, however, nothing was seeming to truly pan out in that area.Staring at the screen was becoming something of a hobby.Staring at the screen at all hours of the day, was becoming something of a part-time job---one he wanted very much to quit.As his coffee was almost gone, he felt the need to work from the shot of caffeine entering his veins, but he still didn’t have anything.He opened the file that he had been working on, and scrolled down to where he’d left off---nothing.His hands stood perched above the keyboard like a famous pianist who had just finished performing an extremely difficult piece of work.However, here, there was no spotlight.There was no fancy tux, and the crowd lad long since been clapping in a great applause.They all had left years ago.
Todd had won a writing competition when he was a sophomore in college.Had he spent the time on his schoolwork instead of working on that piece, he probably would have finished in the fours years he had planned, instead of the five and a half that it actually took.It didn’t help matters that he was majoring in business, something that made his parents satisfied during the period that he was in college.Had he been an English major, he probably would have been the talk of the town, at least in the department.He had let the whole thing go to his head.A small bit of success had closed the creative portholes and he had been trying to rewrite that piece since he had won the prize.The daily ritual of staring at the screen for a few hours was all part of it, he thought.Many great writers had gone through great boughts of block and he felt he was just doing the same.But then again, how long could one be telling themselves this?How great was a writer who had only published one piece of work---and a short one at that?Certainly the length of a work did not determine its value, but the hours put into slaving over it most certainly dwarfed in comparison to the most recent battle against the stalled document before him.
As the caffeine took affect, he realized the most miserable fact regarding the whole subject---now, he was up.Now, he was wide awake, and still not writing.A few moments ago, he could have blamed it on grogginess, or a simple lethargy due to a lack of motivation brought on by the need for more sleep.That need for sleep was now masked by the rush of caffeine, that which would soon fade as well, but which could provide any mildly competent writer the means to begin writing something.He knew that there were hard working individuals out there just as he was sitting there, writing something---cookbooks, DVD machine manuals, short hand transcriptions from court cases…but it was still something!He pushed himself back in the upright chair.It wasn’t the most comfortable thing that he could have found at that IKEA in Jersey, but it wasn’t the worst.It had been a middle-of-the-road choice.
Regardless of the chair he was sitting in or the coffee he was drinking, Todd was not producing one word, and he was feeling guilty now that he had come to realize that now he was killing those precious hours that he could have been sleeping.The coffee itself had proven to be a tease, as the jittery high and awareness that had come quickly with the gulping down of the mug had already worn off, leaving him with a headache and a true lack of any ambition.All so quickly he went from being completely ready to fight the bad dream with some huge outburst of creativity, only to fall back into that safety-net of nothingness.Afterall, if he didn’t write anything, he certainly wouldn’t be scrutinized by his own criticism.He could go about relishing in the glory that he was a great writer, and that his magnum opus was just waiting.He was in a slump because that is what it took to write a truly great piece of work---yes, he could tell himself that.He could stand up and walk into the bathroom, splash that water on his face and watch it trickly down through the little grooves of his stubble and drop one by one down into the sink.He could lie to himself, one more day.
And with that he got up after shutting off his computer and walked out into the living area of his dwelling.There the stereo sat, staring up at him.Surely he was cramped in his place, but wasn’t everyone that was living in this city, and surely he wasn’t the first to let it almost swallow him whole.But he wouldn’t let it.Instead he pawed through his cd’s, finding a record of REM’s from ages ago when he was younger---sucking up that nostalgia, seemingly that last sweet refuge of the failure.With that, he put it in the disc drawer and let it randomly select the song “Man on the Moon.” He had always wondered about the lyrics, no doubt written by Michael Stipe, the lead singer of the band.However, how could he be certain of that?He supposed that he could have gone back to his computer, logged on, and after getting online and doing a little bit of searching he could find out the original author of the song’s words, be him Stipe or another, almost assuredly in the band.He’d always wondered about the last main verse.Here’s a little agit for the never believer.Yeah yeah yeah yeah.Here’s a little ghost for the offering.Yeah yeah yeah yeah.Here’s a truck stop instead of St. Peter’s.Yeah yeah yeah yeah.Mr. Andy Kaufman’s gone wrestling.Yeah yeah yeah yeah.The one line that he went over in his head again and again was the one about the truck stop.It was as if Stipe was siding up with his own beliefs and was saying for one person the truck stop was just as valid a place of rest and redemption---that is, whatever St. Peter’s supposedly had to offer someone.He was even skeptical about those words because of all the talk surrounding one of his all time favorite songs by the band, “Losing my Religion.” It seemed that Stipe had never come out and actually said what that song was about, however, many speculated that it had nothing to do with doubting the belief system that had been pounded on your skull like a hammer all the days of your upbringing---and instead only had to do with losing one’s virginity.What a disappointment, he felt, if that speculation had any real truth within it.
While pondering this, he had been pacing back and forth in the small cramped living area, and had grown quite bored with himself and the whole scenario.Why had he made the decision to continue writing after he won the contest when he was younger?Why was he still working a job that he hated, boxed in a cubicle, counting away the minutes of his life like burning matchsticks?Even more so, why did he give a shit what Sheila may or may not say about what he was doing at any particular time?This apartment he was wallowing in, echoed the wallowing hole in which he worked, and the both of them together matched that large hole of nothingness that had been left by Sheila when she skeedaddled.
He slumped down to the floor sitting with his back against the table holding his stereo.In just that moment, he was engulfed by the overwhelming obviousness of his situation.What he needed to be doing to better his own existence was not to improve on those things that simply propped up his enduring demise, but to reject them---to uproot them all and move out into the world freely---free of these restraints.There was no time like the present to begin this process, he felt.And with that he sprung up fom his sitting position and began to move quickly around his apartment, gathering the necessary items that he would take with him on any given day, to go out into the world.It was a sunny day outside, and so he clothed himself lightly.Always dressing in monotones, primarily in green and khaki colors, he dug inside his closet and found the loudest shirt he owned.It was dark blue with neon green lightening streaks randomly passing all over the whole of his torso.Although he couldn’t remember where or whom he got it from, he was certain that there was some story surrounding it.
As such a shirt could not go unaccented by a pair of boring jeans or plain colored pants, he took the time to look in his clothing drawers to find the perfect pair of pants that might accent the shirt.Finally, after looking through all of his dresser drawers, he found a pair of suit slacks that were black with thick white pinstripes.He had no idea whatsoever where he had got these.He couldn’t think of any friend along the path that would have been so cruel as to insinuate that he might someday wear them---that there might be an event or outing that he would even consider sporting the Prohibition-era gangster pants.Even more amusing to him was that he had no matching suit jacket, or for that matter a button-up shirt that would have gone with them.Nonetheless, after brushing his teeth and throwing yet another hands-cupful of water on his face, he was out the door.
The world outside was different.He felt like he was making a first move in a brand new strategy for his own life.He felt alive, like all his senses were a bit more aware than they had been.He didn’t walk fast, as if he had to be somewhere, or rather, as if someone was pushing him to go somewhere.There were no deadlines.There was no need to count in his head the moments until the lunch break, until a moment when he could breathe.Instead, every moment was a new breath.And the looks on the people’s faces around him, they seemed to have changed as well, from when he had been walking towards his building the night before.People made eye contact with him, and he smiled.His smile was not one of flirtation, but instead that of a witnessing of the momentary beauty of his own existence in conjunction with those around him.
Todd made his way to the stairwell down to the subway and took his time stepping down, although people still raced past him in an effort to get somewhere a nanosecond quicker.He made his way to the platform, waited for the train to come, and got on after letting people pass on after him.While on the train, he stood looking around at the various faces the expressions they carried.He was noticing things that he never had noticed before.There was a tension on the train, held in some people’s mannerisms and not in others.The teenagers on the train, who were by far the loudest, seemed to make others uneasy.And he remembered days when he too felt uneasy by just the sound of a baby screaming or kids shouting loudly on the train.Now though, he seemed dumbfounded in a way---as if he had really been asleep the whole time, not really seeing what was the problem.The problem had been all on his side of things.The things that he had been forcing himself to endure, in order to perpetuate his own participation in the status quo of everything.As his stop came, he let others off and walked out, climbing the steps up and made his way to Central Park.
Amidst the typical spring day atmosphere of street musicians and artists doing their best to make a buck while the tourists wandered around the park, the horse-and-carriages passed him as he made his way into the park.He stopped at a vendor that was selling hotdogs and pretzels to buy a bottle of water.As he was walking towards a bench he noticed a little girl pointing at his shirt and giggling.She was doing so with another little girl, one whom Todd imagined, must have been her good friend.They were both dressed in a similar fashion and were about the same height.They could have been sisters, he reconsidered, but they didn’t look that much like one another.He sat down on a bench across from a man who was doing a chalk drawing of another man who was sitting down in front of him.
As Todd opened his bottle of water, he couldn’t help but watch the man who was being drawn.He was remarkably interesting, and yet Todd couldn’t understand exactly why that was.He continued to swig his water and watch the man.The man in question had gray-black hair---crazy, like that of Einstein or Warhol’s wig.Maybe, Todd thought, it was a little of both, this impetus, conscious or unconscious, with which the man had come about his hairstyle.Then again, he might have just rolled out of bed, just as Todd himself had.More importantly, the expression on the man’s face seemed to expand and grow as he continued to watch him.He was laughing with the artist as they carried on a conversation during the whole process.Todd thought it was quite impressive that these street artists would be able to construct such a realistic depiction while undergoing such distraction, not to mention the fact if they let the subject move around, they wouldn’t be able to hold any kind of consistency in what they were trying to mimic in chalk or whatever medium was in question.
All of this swirled around in Todd’s head, as he took in the beauty of the sunny day in the park.He figured that these street artists, the really good ones, they certainly must have been students of humanity---individuals who were in touch so much with the aesthetic quality of those around them, that with no more than a few glances upon the face of a stranger, they were able to design a brand new, accurate composite.With that thought, he felt he should just get up from where he had been sitting and cross over to where the man was getting drawn.He hesitated, of course, because there were those cultural mores---steps that got in the way of any real connections here on our earth.The thoughts like “What will he say? Is it really polite? Will I be made to stay and hold up my end of the conversation?”---they all burrowed their way down inside his own heart, even on such a blissful day of awakening, as he felt it really was.So he kicked back a bit more on the bench and looked up at the way the sky was peering through the branches of those tall trees that characterized the breadth of the park.
With his head bent over the back of the bench and his body slouched out on the bench (not to mention the lightening streak shirt and Prohibition-era pants), he began to let himself drift off a bit, his eyes resting and closing a bit.Inside he was feeling the rhythm of music, first something indistinct and far off in the aural plane.But as he began to focus more on the sounds and less on the objects that were trying to distract him from it, within his mental realm, he began to recognized the tune.Bob Dylan started to drive into his space those penetrating lyrics from “Tombstone Blues”---a song from Todd’s favorite Dylan album, Highway 61 Revisited.The song itself became the soundtrack to a greater vision, where suddenly he was walking on a road and it was considerably hotter than in the park where he had been sitting.All of it was coming into focus.There was a weight in his hand, and looking down, he recognized the Gator case of his acoustic guitar.The road that he was walking was actually Broadway, the long drawn out Broadway that he had walked in Nashville when he was younger and had moved down there for a bit.He felt the dream state make itself known, as it usually did later on in his dreams.He was aware of how much he hated walking long distances everywhere in that city.He was aware of the gusto that he had as a young musician, feeling that he was going to make a bunch of money busking that day.Finally he made it to the area where there was civilization, after walking over the bridge.
There, he searched for a place to lay his guitar case and play all day, in hopes of gaining enough money to pay the cover charge at the only good pizza place in town, which after it had closed for pizza sales, was converted into a music venue (converted being used liberally here) which showcased some of the only true entertainment that he had witnessed while residing in that cesspool.Of course, when he arrived on the main strip, even as early as eleven in the morning, most of the key places had been taken by men already playing and doing so with the intent of staying there throughout the night.Todd remembered how much this aggravated him.His eyes squinted in his actual physical state and as he was sitting down atop a large garden bed to play guitar and sing, he heard a shout.He tried to focus on it, looking around behind him but all the people walking were either talking together or silently walking.The oppressively sunny day beat down on him and he felt like he was beginning to sweat.Then the shout happened again, but was more audible.“The name’s Woodwork, Ambrose Woodwork!” Todd looked around frantically as he was playing guitar and singing along with it.Was the voice coming from inside his head?What exactly was happening?
Still, as he was beginning to feel frightened, the borders on the streets, where the sidewalk met the outer side of the restaurants began to fade.He was being pulled out of his dream by this demanding shout.This man that he could not locate in the dream was shouting at him, and finally, the dream world caved in on itself as Todd’s eyes broke open to the midday sunlight bursting down through the trees and onto his body like a beam from the alien ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.This man’s voice attained complete clarity and it came into both of his ears with a swoooosh as if a door had just slammed and locked into place in a windy storm.Todd turned his head down from the way in which he had fallen asleep and looked out in front of him.It had been the interesting man that was being chalk-drawn that had shouted to Todd.Todd squinted and rubbed his eyes.Suddenly the man and the artist drawing him came into focus.
“Why don’t you come on over and see how it is turning out, sir?” The man continued, relentlessly.Todd couldn’t help but think that the man’s voice reminded him of an older boisterous man’s voice from some film he had seen.He couldn’t put his finger on it, and with that he smiled a bit, after all, he had no reason to feel odd about this man as of yet.There were overly extroverted people crawling all over the island and Todd felt this man was just another.He had been watching the man getting drawn for quite some time, prior to falling asleep, so he felt that the man must have noticed it at some point.Better for him to politely ask him if he wanted to come over and see the nearly finished product, than to yell at him or even threaten him.
Todd got up from the bench that he had been sitting on and walked to the other side of the park path.When he got close to the two of them, the man told the artist to pause and got up with open arms, giving a reluctant Todd a hug.Todd felt like a member of the mafia who was just about to get hit---shying away from a hug that held no true compassion.Still he was just judging this man before he had any real idea what was happening.“Ambrose Woodwork,” the man said and said back down.“And your name is?” Todd moved his head from side to side as if he was cracking it.The man continued without getting an immediate answer.“My son, that is one crazy shirt you are wearing.I am interested in knowing where one might purchase such a shirt.” Todd chuckled and answered the man.“Actually, I think it was a gift---if you can believe that.My name is Todd, Todd Rundgren, and I haven’t the faintest as to where I got this shirt.” “Understood,” the man continued.
A.W: “Well, we know one thing.If you received that shirt from a friend, then you must have some pretty interesting friends, no?”
T.R: “Well, if in fact that was the case---that I did receive the shirt as a gift, then it was certainly a long time ago.”
A.W: “Why, no friends now?”
T.R: “It is a long story.I have had something of an awakening this morning and I broke my own tradition of wearing monotones---greens and khakis---by pulling out this fashion concoction to sport, while I took my first refreshing walk outside.”
A.W: “And has it been satisfying so far?”
T.R: “You know, it has.I have no complaints.I think I have actually felt lighter since this morning.I have definitely enjoyed things like just breathing the air today, more than I have in the past.”
A.W: “Ah ha.So this was something of a spiritual awakening.”
T.R: “It was an awakening---more like an acknowledgement of the blatantly obvious.I never have understood why one’s wisdom always has to be attributed to some already determined canon of thought.”
A.W: “Ah, now you are sounding interesting.Possibly more interesting than your shirt, Mr. Rundgren.”
T.R: “Todd, please.”
The two laughed and Todd moved around the side so that he could see how the chalk drawing was going.He was always astounded when he saw these things.There was an uncanny likeness between the picture that he was seeing being finished and Woodwork himself who was sitting there pushing back the bits of his unique gray-black hair that would fall in bits in his eyes every so often.
A.W: “Well, Mr. Enlightened, what do you say, when I am done here, that you and I go get a drink---on me, of course.”
T.R: “That could work, I guess.I didn’t really have anything else planned.How much longer do you think this is going to take?”
A.W: “Two shakes of a lamb’s tail, Mr. Buddha.Two shakes of the tail of that lamb!”
The chalk-artist moved his little stool back and dusted off his drawing hand with a rage that he had placed upon the stand where all his chalks were.“It looks good, I think, Mr. Woodwork.What do you have to say about it?Is it satisfactory?” Woodwork got up from where he had been sitting, stretched a bit and smiled at the artist, looking at the drawing and then back to the artist’s face.“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Xian---It most certainly looks like a guy that I know.I would have to say that this would jog the memory of any of his former flames!” As the two laughed in tandem, Todd felt that odd need to laugh a bit with them, though he was still completely out of the loop in terms of what the joke was actually about.He figured that Woodwork had had a drawing of himself done for a woman, no doubt a woman that he had lost contact with, or whom had cut him out of contact as the case may have been.Woodwork pulled from his pocket inside his black suit coat a black pack which seemed to be the size of a pack of cigarettes.He flipped open the black aluminum case and took from the stock one black cigarette with a gold filter.After placing it in his mouth and quickly lighting it with a lighter that almost magically popped from his other hand in a quick moment, he moves to offer one to Todd and Xian.
“Mr. Rundgren, do you smoke?” Woodwork drew one long drag from the cigarette and held it down next to his leg as he blew out the smoke.Todd shook his head and kindly declined on the offer, however, when Xian saw the Treasurers come out of Woodwork’s pocket his eyes opened wide.The two puffed away together as Xian made the final touches with his other hand.“Well, that, Mr. Woodwork, I do believe, is the most accurate depiction one could make of you, given the limitations of chalk artistry in the park,” Xian mentioned, as he bore down on what was left of the cigarette in his mouth.Todd had watched this man and wondered how someone could literally drink down the ingredients that were so bad for the human body with such fervor.It was as if he had run a marathon and someone offered him a bottle of water at the end.He had sucked down the tobacco as if his body needed it to survive.Meanwhile, Woodwork
picked up the drawing after Xian had stepped back and he moved around in the light of the increasingly setting sun to look at it from various angles.“Yes, if I was an old flame of mine, and I walked into an office, stumbling upon this dashing portrayal, I have to admit Xian, I would be quite captivated,” boasted Woodwork.Xian nodded and flicked his cigarette butt to the side.He turned to Todd.“And you, mister um…,” Todd cut him off politely and offered, “Todd, Todd Rundgren.No, I am not interested in getting a drawing done today sir, however, I thank you for the offer.I do believe you are quite talented.”
Woodwork handed the drawing back to Xian and he pulled from underneath his portable desk a black envelope which was used to hold the drawings when they were in transit.He handed it to Woodwork and Woodwork moved the drawing in slowly, as if it was a piece of fine china.The envelope had an official and almost ancient kind of clasp which Woodwork slowly fastened carefully. After doing all this, he held the drawing under his left arm and with his right he gently patted Xian on the shoulder.“Well my friend, this is where we part.It has been a good time, but all good things must come to an end, as the cliché goes.” Xian laughed.“What about you forking over a couple more of those Treasurers before you get going Mr. Woodwork?You know I’ve got a ways to go before the day is over, and it’s not every day that I see Treasurers.” Woodwork smiled and pulled from his jacket the tin.He opened it, took three from the tin and handed Xian the tin which was hardly used at all, it was almost brand new---holding many cigarettes.Xian was both astonished and grateful, and he held the tin looking up at Woodwork.“Are you sure you want to be without the rest for the road?” Woodwork lit up one of the three that were in his hand and dropped the other two in his suit coat pocket.After a long calming drag, he replied, “Cigarettes can be found anywhere---A great chalk-artist is hard to find.” And with that, Woodwork turned and nodded to Todd who had been looking around aimlessly, more or less, and had lost interest in the conversation that had been going on between them.“And now for that drink?” Woodwork exclaimed to Todd.Todd was shocked into a new conversation, one that included him now.“Absolutely.I need to get some walking done as it is.”

Submitted: February 03, 2011

© Copyright 2021 delapruch. All rights reserved.


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