Pleasant

The artist painted.

Naturally.

His name was Giuseppe. His parents had moved from Italy to New York City before he was born and there they lived happily. His father was an artist too, and his father, and his father before him as far back as anybody knew. Giuseppe had always loved painting, fascinated with the beauty and craft. He appreciated all styles of art but he truly enjoyed impressionism the most. Van Gogh was one of his favorites, but then again, who doesn’t like Van Gogh?

Giuseppe was a street artist. The urban life of New York City was his studio and every day he made his living painting the streets, the buildings, the people there. He would move around the city frequently, for a week at a time, before relocating and painting some more. When he would finish a painting, he would set the canvas on the ground for passersby to look at, admire, and buy. On good days he’d make a few hundred bucks, on bad days nothing at all. He managed to squeak by, pay the bills, make some New Yorkers happy, and have some fun in the meantime.

Most people moved on from this stage of life, he realized. Plenty of people tried to pursue what they loved, but after a year or two of hardship and failure, they seemed to give up. They moved on to stable jobs, ones that made their wives happy, ones that allowed them to own a fancy car or comfortable furniture.

Giuseppe refused to move on. Success is a relative thing, and for him, it meant doing what he loved to do. He felt a profound sense of fulfillment in painting and he simply wasn’t ready to give that up.

~~~

It was a breezy day, the trees moving together in a strange sort of synchronized dance. The smog that typically hovered about the city was gone, the sky impressively visible above the high cityscape, and it was a rich sapphire color. Clouds like islands drifted along the currents of the ocean sky. Below them, birds soared, enjoying every second of flight gifted to them by the good Lord above.

Down below, Giuseppe had found a quiet park to paint in. It was serene.

With a smile plastered on his face as he hummed contentedly, he drew a scene that sat picturesquely before him. Sitting on the edge of a fountain with the full grace of the water splashing at his back, a musician strummed his guitar and sang passionately. He was good. Giuseppe was within ear shot, enjoying the melodious tunes as he ordered his brushes around like soldiers on the battlefield of his canvas.

Here was the man’s head, now his guitar, now the fountain behind him, all created out of nothing on this white canvas. He was rather pleased with his painting thus far and thought about keeping this one for himself.

“Very nice.”

A voice behind him startled Giuseppe. It was the street musician, who was standing behind him, admiring his artwork and grinning widely.

“Scare you?”

“Yes, a little,” Giuseppe smiled back at the man, “I did not even notice you were gone from the fountain!”

The man was bigger standing up than he had seemed when he was sitting. Giuseppe perceived he was about six and a half feet tall.

“I like it,” the man gestured at the painting, “Can I buy it when you’re finished?”

“Of course! What is your name?”

“Thomas,” he said, extending his hand around his guitar to shake Giuseppe’s hand.

Giuseppe received the man’s outstretched hand with his own.

“Giuseppe is my name. I enjoyed your music, you are quite talented!”

“Thank you! You’re very kind. I’ve been playing for ten years and never regretted it once. What about you? How long have you been painting?”

“Ever since I was a kid. My father taught me how to hold the brush and make nice strokes. I have always known that this is what I wanted to do forever.”

They conversed a few minutes longer before Giuseppe returned his attention to his art and painted a magnificent brown and green tree in the distance.

Thomas watched, enchanted with the artist.

“That’s incredible! I wish I could draw,” Thomas said.

“Here, draw a little tree next to that big one.” Giuseppe offered Thomas his brush. “Take it. It is your painting anyway, you will not ruin it.”

Thomas took the brush emphatically and painted a sloppy tree next the magnificent one Giuseppe had made. He laughed.

“It is not so bad. Here, let me finish the painting and it will be yours to keep,” Giuseppe said, taking back the paintbrush. It was turning out very nicely, he thought; Thomas thought so as well.

“How much?” Thomas asked.

“You can have it for free, my friend, but would you play a song for me?” Giuseppe returned and smiled up at Thomas’s beaming face.

“It would be a pleasure!”

Thomas played a sweet tune as Giuseppe finished his painting and handed it to his new friend; they both admired it for a minute before Giuseppe spoke.

“I will be here for a week, will you be at that fountain every day?”

“Yes, I’ll always be here I’m afraid. I’m destined for a street musician’s life.”

“I am sure you will find where you are meant to be soon. This can only be a phase. Just like me! Painting for passersby is just a phase. I will one day soon have a nice studio and gallery and people will come from far and near to see my art! You wait and see, Thomas, my friend, It will happen soon; sooner than later! And the same for you. Not too long and you will be playing your music in front of thousands of people. ”

“I wish that would be true. Maybe it will happen one day.” After a long sigh and a moment of silence, Thomas added on, “But if I’m destined to be a street performer the rest of my days, I’m okay with it. It’s not about being famous and getting to play for a bunch of people, it’s about making a living and enjoying life with people. I truly believe that. Although it would be nice…”

They chuckled.

For the next week, Giuseppe painted in the same spot by the fountain, selling his work and Thomas played his music for the passersby, occasionally receiving a few dollars in his open guitar case, and a few times throughout the day, Thomas visited Giuseppe and they would banter amiably.

Finally, at the end of the week, Giuseppe had to move on to another location. Before he did, however, he spoke to Thomas one last time.

“Why don’t we pool our money together and rent a place where we can show my artwork and you can play music? This is what I am thinking, a small show with a stage up front. I am painting and the people are watching, and you are playing your music, and the people are listening. We charge five dollars for them to enter, and we share the profits. This way, I have a place to show my talents and you have an audience to enjoy your music.”

“What a great idea! Let me think about it. I’ll tell you tomorrow. Let’s get lunch and I’ll have an answer by then.”

They agreed and parted ways.

Thomas was late to lunch the next day, but when he finally arrived, he looked excited and happy.

“Come with me, Giuseppe!”

Thomas led Giuseppe to a small, vacant shop that was ready to lease.

“This is it!” Thomas said with enthusiasm, “This is our venue, Giuseppe! It’s perfect. Big enough for you to display your art and it has a stage for us also!”

They were in business.

In A Cave Somewhere

What if?

There could be a bug. An ugly, creepy critter. 

Who knows?

She could get bitten by a vampire.

A monster could lunge out at her and maul her.

Or maybe.

Jazmine’s mind wandered frantically this way and that, exploring all the endless possibilities.

She was scared, that much was obvious.

“Calm down, Jaz. There’s nothing to be afraid of,” said Merle, her fearless and intrepid boyfriend and guide.

“Easy for you to say, you’ve been in how many caves?”

“Don’t you trust me then?”

“It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of –AAH”

Jazmine jumped with fright, hitting her head on the ceiling of the cave. Merle laughed, his sentiment resounding off the walls.

“That’s my favorite part about caves; the ECHO!”

“Shh! Stop that, Merle!”

Jazmine gripped the back of her boyfriend’s shirt.

Merle laughed again. “You really need to ease up.”

They continued their spelunking journey in silence, well, if you consider Jazmine’s terrified thoughts escaping her brain and pounding off the walls as silence.

Was that a spider?

Where did that gust of wind come from? Was it the breath of a creepy cave bear?

What if the bats are just waiting for us around that corner?

“Merle, let’s go back. I can’t handle this.”

“Oh come on, don’t be a wuss. Why don’t you talk or sing or something to get your mind off it?”

“And practically beg all the monsters to come attack me? No thank you!”

Merle laughed.

“I find it funny that you’re not claustrophobic or scared of the dark, you’re scared of the bugs.”

“Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and found a cockroach crawling around on your hand?”

Merle laughed again as Jazmine shuddered at the memory. If only she had known that it was a toy roach.

They squeezed through a tight tunnel which opened up into a massive cavern.

“Wow, this is cool!”

“See? Caves are cool!”

“I feel safer in a bigger space I guess,” said Jazmine, releasing her grip on Merle’s shirt and timidly exploring around the cave.

“Hey look at this map engraved on the wall,” Jazmine said from across the chamber. Merle walked over to check it out.

“Hm. That looks like this cave system,” he pointed to a segment of the map, “that’s where we just were, and this is the cavern where we are now. It looks like it goes a ways farther and leads out the other side.”

“Hey look, there’s a poem here also.”

She began reading slowly, squinting to make out the crudely carved words in the rock:

Where bones are buried,

And something else too.

Ignorance is bliss!

What will you do?

“What does that mean?” Jazmine wondered aloud.

“And there’s an arrow pointing to this spot on the map,” said Merle, furling his brow.

“Dude. It’s a treasure map!”

Merle’s eyes brightened and he looked at his girlfriend and they shared a hearty laugh.

“There’s no way this is a treasure map, right?”

“Let’s go check it out anyway!” Merle never was able to quench his curiosity. “Modern day Indiana Jones!”

They were off, hunting treasure a hundred feet beneath the earth’s surface. When they reached the portion of the cave where the arrow had pointed on the map, they began exploring, looking for some ancient chest. Merle was giddy with excitement, Jazmine was meh at best.

“C’mon, why aren’t you getting into this?”

“Merle… we’re following a crude cave map in a creepy dungeon where bugs and bats and monsters live to try to find some golden crown worn by the king of Atlantis!”

“Hey, nice imagination!”

Merle was about to give up searching for the hidden treasure when something shiny reflected his headlamp. With a shout, he rushed over to it.

“Just a rock,” Jazmine said unenthusiastically, “let’s get out of here, I’m hungry.”

“Look Jaz, this spot in the ground is soft, like dirt or something. I bet the treasure is here, help me dig!”

“You’re nuts.”

Merle rummaged through his small backpack and grabbed the chisel and hammer that he always kept in case he found some rare gem. Chiseling away at the soft ground, he uncovered the earth. A mere foot below, his chisel struck something hard. Merle’s heart skipped a beat.

“Jaz,” he said, eyes wide as the sky.

He frantically dug and dug until the object was uncovered. It was a small wooden box.

“JAZ!”

Merle held the box up into the light of his lamp, and he looked ecstatically with his girlfriend.

“The map was real!” he said much too loudly.

“What– is this for real?”

Jazmine took the box from Merle and peered at it. Merle grabbed his water bottle and poured a little water over it, cleaning off the dirt.

“Open it?” Jazmine suggested.

“Yeah,” Merle’s voice cracked.

Slowly, with breath suppressed, Jazmine lifted the tab that held the lid of the box shut.

What’s inside? Is it gold? Some rare artifact?

What if nothing’s inside?

What if it’s a joke?

What if there’s a spider!

“A watch!” Merle’s echoes lingered in the cave.

They examined the watch in the light. It was made of brass, a large face with hands that had stopped working ages ago. It had a rusty chain extending from it.

“Just a watch,” Jazmine sounded disappointed.

“Well, who knows? Maybe this was Captain Blackbeard’s old pocket watch or something.” Merle’s sense of humor was relentless; what a guy. “Well this was a rush. Let’s take it with us and we’ll see how much it’s worth when we get home. Maybe we’ll be rich!”

Little did the two spelunking love bugs know that this was only the beginning of a lifetime of treasure-hunting adventures.

Dream Big

Creativity, candy for the brain.

Colors, relief for the pain.

Money, food for the vain.

Light, life for the stained.

Knowledge, truth for the trained.

Power, a soul engrained.

Crime, to cope with the blame.

Anger, voice of the enflamed.

Courage, to free the enslaved.

America, home to the free and the brave.

Prayers, for the lost and depraved.

Hope, for those alive and in the grave.

Dreams, to strengthen and to save.

Forgotten Soul

A child steps off the train,

His figure, drab and plain.

Poor child, tired and drained,

Walks through the endless rain.

Through the crowds he finds his way,

In the streets, nothing less than a stray.

This boy has no name,

And if he did, would anyone care anyway?

He makes his home among the stained,

With those who are wrongly blamed

For problems caused by those less tamed

than this poor boy could ever dream.

And yet, he’s tossed with bad grain

In the trash bin of disdain,

Left to die with such raw pain.

How bleak, how gray!

But here comes hope unplanned

A sliver of light among the bland!

She is a mother, her heart untanned,

Willing to foster with open hand.

The boy is scared, but sees his fare

And chooses her, who will to care

For him as if her child to stroke his hair

And love him always despite his weight to bear.

Time Is A Funny Thing

“I’m just reading so much lately.”

“So?”

“I don’t have time to write anymore!”

“You don’t?”

“No! All I want to do is read now. I think I’m giving up writing forever.”

“Dramaqueen.”

“Ugh. Maybe you’re right.”

“Yes.”

“Yes what?”

“Yes I am right.”

“Oh.”

“You have time to write. You always have time.”

“How’s that?”

“You just have to make time.”

“Yeah, maybe…”

“Not maybe.”

“Okay, I guess so.”

“It’s not about how much time you have; we all have the same amount of time in a day. It’s about what you do with that time.”

The Great Mountain

The men on the ship crowded port side as the mountain shook in the distance. A terrible thing was about to happen.

The mountain trembled like the lower lip on the face of Earth, and it grew in violence. It was a massive mountain, forged in the very center of Earth, unparalleled in brilliance. And yet, here it was, shuddering with horror, ready to burst into a million shards and grace these sailors with its spiteful omnipotence. Not only was the mountain itself quaking, but the ground around it was pounding, the water beside it, pulsing. The waves began to grow, outward and faster toward the men on the boat.

The men scurried to their positions and tried with all their might to evade the shattering landscape around them, but the mountain overtook them. They were tossed in the tumultuous waves, the worst storm any of them had seen, and all this with sunny skies above. The ship struggled to hold its own, the men on her praying and cursing alike.

Then the mountain culminated in a billion tremors, veins popping, muscles snapping, and with a mammoth descent, tumbled into the heart of the sea. Boulders shot through the sky, cannonballs in the midst of a raging battle, and rained fiery terror upon the sailors. How small was the ship now, compared to the magnificence of the mountain? The poor vessel was pummeled and destroyed, the men left to fend for themselves. Most of them heaved overboard with the hope of survival. Those who stayed accepted their fate kneeling, arms wide and face lifted to the sky. They were soon to be a distant memory.

Within minutes, it was over. The war had ceased, the waters had stilled. All again was quiet. The screams of terror that pierced the air moments before were all but forgotten, remembered only by the calm sea as it carelessly swallowed up the remains of the once mighty vessel and its fateful crew.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 46:1-3

The Moon

A clear night, stars litter the sky.

I feel huge, a giant among flies.

Twelve O’clock, the sun long gone;

Morning waits in anticipation.

 

A lot can happen now till then.

I watch the bats flutter in.

The wolves howl, the foxes hunt;

I listen to the fat hogs squeal and grunt.

 

But in my time I always die,

No matter how hard I try and try.

Morning overtakes me and I am hid.

Each day the sun: “Good rid!”

 

I yawn and stretch and say my prayers;

throughout the day I sleep upstairs.

In the sun the people play;

At night, alone, I’m left with strays.

 

Is it a cruel world in which I dwell?

My story, people rarely tell.

The clock controls me, the sun disowns me,

Yet I refuse to let this be my destiny.