Pencil in hand, he stands immobile. His eyes are locked onto the pristine expanse before him as though searching for some secret buried within the paper itself; an image that his pencil will simply be highlighting rather than creating. Above and beyond his eye line, the graphite point gleams dully in the harsh light that cascades down onto the easel. It is pointing forward and downward at the end of an arm that is stiff both with purpose and melodrama.
The psychology of those in thrall to the visual arts is a mystery to the chronicler of these events, but a guess could be hazarded that any resemblance between the pencil and the obsidian blade used by Aztec priests during human sacrifices is not entirely coincidental. This then, is to be a moment of creativity touched by something of the divine; the first stroke of the pencil a votive act.
There are signs of hesitation rarely seen on top of those ancient stone temples. The pencil shakes slightly as though reluctant to take the plunge onto paper; the eyes are clouded with doubt in a way those of one hepped up on (very) old-time religion and coca leaves seldom were. A long, low sigh escapes from between lips pressed tightly together in a thin line of determination and the moment passes.
Released from the tension of imminent Art, the artist's pencil drifted down towards his right ear to deal with an itch that had - loftier considerations having been momentarily shelved - become the centre of the universe. As he worked the point gently against his troublesome lobe, the artist acknowledged out loud the truth that he had realised before he'd even sharpened his pencil:
"I'm just pissing about, aren't I?"
Displacement activity, that's all it had been. He had simply wanted to distract himself from what he knew was coming, to bury the awareness beneath work.
It was a transparent, cheap ploy, he knew, and he felt bad about it. The sad truth was, however, it was - short of facing up to things - all he could think of. And there was no way he intended to face up to things until he absolutely had to.
In search of further distraction, he looked at his immediate surroundings. The large living room (he could never bring himself to call it a studio unless he'd had a few and was on the pull) was liberally sprinkled with items deliberately chosen to provide any amount of inspiration.
Peering into the dimness that hemmed in the little cone of light in which he stood, he saw, on an overcrowded mantelpiece, a Popeye the Sailor Man alarm clock. It wasn't the most comforting sight. There was nothing particularly unpleasant about it in and of itself - though perhaps to an aesthete conditioned by the more sophisticated tastes of the early 21st Century, its lurid colours and robust execution may have looked a little crude and tacky.
To the artist, it had always seemed rather charming; a bright and kitschy evocation of childhood innocence, and all that.
At least, he'd thought that when he'd bought it from a jumble sale several years ago. A fleeting comment from a friend had changed all that, however. As soon as he'd glanced at the design on the clock's face - a idyllic scene, in which the much-loved mariner and his chums disported themselves in a meadow, he had noticed something that he had pointed out with an eagerness that bordered on the macabre:
"It looks like Swee'pea's giving Popeye a hummer."
Eight simple words, but they'd tainted the whole business forever. The artist had dismissed his friend's remark at the time, of course, and had resolved to leave the clock where it was (in case, by removing it, he was tacitly admitting the truth of the chap's squalid statement), but once again, he had to admit that he'd had a point: it wasn't just the fact that the baby's head was positioned near the old salt's groin; nor was it that the recumbent Sailor Man wore a blissful expression of nigh-on moronic contentment.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Crackers By Pete Texas
I was 12 ½ when my dog ate my rabbit
He chewed on its head like a malnourished Gannet
So I traded Ben for an Arini Parrot
Put her in the hutch with the lettuce and carrot
I was sure with the straw to build Polly a nest
So when she fell asleep she'd have somewhere to rest
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - The Flat By The Silver Fox
He emerged from the oven to see the landlord eyeing him as though enquiring as to what he'd expected to find in there. He adopted a knowing expression - as though saying that he hadn't found it and was disappointed.
"Seventy a week?"
"That covers your water rates," came the expansive reply. He nodded, fearing that further conversation would bring
Fiction - Independent By Katherine Horrex Photos by Darren Rogers
The room was pulsing with white noise and euphoria. Giles was positioned behind the sound booth, stupefied by the scene on stage: five Burberry clad men thrashing manically at their instruments, their sixties feather cuts flicking through the damp air.
A final power chord growled through the Marshall stack, reverberating triumphantly and the lead
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - The Prescription By The Silver Fox
The pen flashed across the pad like a magic wand. Jeff watched, appropriately spellbound. The prescription was pushed across the desk with neither comment nor eye contact.
"Not much of a bedside manner."
"This isn't a bedside."
Pain sent a stinging retort flying to Jeff's lips; need bit it back.
"Not funny," he mumbled, leaving.
After an agonising moonwalk
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Kids Like That By The Silver Fox
The abuse, though muted by the noise of the engine, was clear and vile in the thick afternoon air. It poured onto the bowed head of the smaller boy; rank as his sweat and tears. He pressed down upon the accelerator and the car shot forward, elongating the bully's last insult into a thin scream.
He was out onto the hot road before the broken bundle had rolled off of the bonnet.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Who's The Daddy? By Catherine Horlax
I heard footfalls; hollow thuds echoing down the corridor, and drew my knees up so my boots wouldn't be visible. He'd said he'd be there. A tap gushed.
I noticed the door was inscribed with idiocy, and calmed myself with the fact that
'Lisa Hyde stuffs mashed potato up her cunt'.
At least I'd kept my word - I'd said I'd be there too. I laughed because, barring crying,
Fiction - 3 Phones, 300 Words By Joe Hakim
She smiled as she handed him the bottle. He took it from her and poured himself a glass.
'So what do you think?' she asked.
'I'm not that bothered,' he replied.
He was pretty drunk by now and he attempted to think of something to say, but the silence remained stagnant. She took a gulp from her glass,
Fiction - Lessons Learnt By Nick Quantrill
DS Richard Coleman pulled into the lay-by and headed towards the flashing blue lights. An hour later it would have been someone else's problem. But it wasn't. An articulated lorry had been isolated from the other vehicles, cones placed around it, linked together by barrier tape.
A mobile generator providing power to the small floodlights
Fiction - Mr Keith Fortner By The Silver Fox
In assessing the nature and worth of Mr Keith Fortner, it helps to be acquainted with one or two salient facts about his background. This is true of anyone, of course; understanding can rarely come without some awareness of their past experiences and emotional development after all.
Even the vast majority of people who tend to exist in a very limited context - the parameters
Fiction - After The Rain By Joe Hakim
He noticed there was another crushed snail by the doorstep. It was the third one he'd found this week. It was funny because he could never recall standing on the snails, but there they were.
He opened his back door and lit a cigarette. He'd been in this place for a month now, but it still didn't feel like his home, just a place he was staying in for a while.
Fiction - The Suicide Park, Self Surgery And Brutalised By Affection By Christopher Skolik
Dennison followed Snaith from the road, through trees, to a wire fence. Snaith slipped through. Beyond the skeletal
trees, Dennison could see a smoky illumination. Snaith and Dennison walked around as if inspecting a gallery.
It looked like a derelict industrial estate from a distance. Only when he got closer could Dennison hear the sound
of 22 engines humming.
Fiction - Off To See The Wild West Show Part 2 Chapter 4 By Frank Beill
'There, there bai'n. It's o'right now. The bad man's gone away.' Sal walked up and down her bare living room, hugging her sobbing baby.
'Sorry, Sal. I shouldn't have done that.'
'Don't matter, Sammy.' She kissed the child's tearstained cheek. 'He deserves a good hidin'!'
'What was it all about? Sounded as though he was up to no good.'
I put two large lumps of coal
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Rosemary By Merle R. Stone
"Have you the time?" she asked. As always when our eyes meet, my thoughts turn to tender things.
Cuddling naked by the fireplace, chilled chablis in hand. Her charming giggle rising above
the crackle of the flames. Twenty-five years married and still we idle like teens, content
in each others' embrace. The children grown, grandchildren on the way.
How long we have
Fiction - Off To See The Wild West Show Part 2 Chapter 3 By Frank Beill
The red brick Board School stretched for nearly half the length of the street. Did Sal still live 'somewhere opposite'? My heart sank seeing all the doors to be knocked on especially after the Westbourne Avenue experience.
Fortunately, shops and other businesses occupied most of the buildings facing the school.
One caught my attention: Henry Tiplady,
Fiction - Smooth Operator By Edward C. Lynskey
Kenny was a thief. Nothing big. He'd only rip off the 'swag' owners wouldn't miss right away: CDs, auto parts, jewelry, tools, handguns from nightstands. Yeah, he was a smooth operator, nickelling and diming 'ditch-digging chumps.' A pawnshop run by his pal (never mind who) did a bang-up business, too.
Why did Kenny steal? Can't say. Could be he swore the world owed him
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Shipwreck By Michelle Dee
I sat on a shipwreck, the proud bow pointing at the river slowly drifting by. Most of the ship had rotted away long since. I sat there wondering what lay ahead, what life had in store.
The afternoon sun warmed the wood, until hot to touch. I sat longer.
The water lapped against the vanishing timbers. I sat until the sun dipped the water; waves turned gold,
the air turned cold.
Fiction - Merry Christmas, Here's A Present By Nick Quantrill
Brett 'Razor' Rawcliffe; 'Razor' to his friends because they thought he was sharp as a tack. He was 16 years old but he'd already built a rapidly expanding drugs empire specialising in supplying his schoolmates and friends. It was one day away from being Christmas Eve and he was sat in a city centre pub with his trusted side-kick, Stevie.
The Christmas CD compilation
Fiction - Fighting the Drink By Jose Escobar
My opponent stands before me, tall and proud. We size each other up, bare knuckle fighters circling each other in the ring. He feints towards me but I don't flinch. Then one move and combat begins. The rules the same as always, last man standing wins.
I make the first move, one quick slug and the rasping and burning in my throat begins. Discover an old ulcer
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - One Shot, One Kill By Merle R. Stone
I watched him every day for two weeks. I learned his habits; where he slept, how he spent his days, his favourite watering hole, his acquaintances. Every aspect of his life did I observe, as my years of experience in this line have trained me to do. Not once did I sense that he suspected anything. Not once did he peer over his shoulder in my direction,
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Justice By Merle R. Stone
There was never a time when Al wasn't my friend. Children learning music together. Adults sharing liquor and time. He had a special beer glass for me, and placed it by the tap when he sensed my approach. We agreed to disagree about everything as we grew into wise and ancient men. We would live forever.
Five crackheads robbed the bar where we would meet and shot him dead