by Kristine Remick
The storm driven darkness pulled shadow onto surfaces where the contrasts turned them to art. Ordinary things cast spectral gray shapes on the luncheonette’s friction worn Formica and scratched country patterns. Salt. Pepper. Chrome napkin holder. Thunder rattled the diner as the storm built outside.
“What if I did?”
The hooded woman with her long dark sweater coat shrugged at her acrylic paint stained companion.
“What if you did? It wouldn’t be the end of the world – might even be the beginning of one?”
She sipped her dark roast coffee delicately from the plain porcelain cup, refusing to elaborate further. Her companion leaned back drawing a sinewy hand through chic sweaty brown hair. His expression was one of puzzled irritation; a study in artistic suffering.
“I could ruin everything, I could show everyone that I am not worth what I charge. As if what I do, can be had for free if you’re willing to plead.”
The woman turned her shadowed face only slightly toward the artist, pausing before taking another sip of coffee, “Then don’t make them plead.”
Thunder rolled and there was a flash of lightning that gave the scene a sudden strobe photo effect.
“Are you saying I should volunteer one of my works without being asked?” He sighed, leaning on the backrest of red swivel stool, “If it’s so important why don’t the people who would buy from the auctions, give their money without it. They have more to give than I do.”
Although most of the woman’s face was in the darkness of her damp hood, the tilt of her head implied one eyebrow had risen, “Do they?” Her slender form and full lips hinted at a sultry young woman, but her voice was full of distant unanswered mystery. The people with money have one thing to give. Art, on the other hand, can give so much more.”
Lightning flashed twice and the thunder on its heels shattered the quiet conversation. She was a model of calm decorum and composure, while he sprawled, uncomfortable in his own skin.
“Why not you?”
“It could ruin my reputation as a salable artist.”
“It could make your reputation as a kind human being.”
“There are so many good causes to contribute to, why this one?”
“There are so many good causes to contribute to, why not start with this one?”
“I wouldn’t be making a dent in the problem.”
“It would be better to give up on a cause rather than giving a little? What are you really afraid of?”
“Who says I’m afraid?”
“I just did. So what are you afraid of?”
The young man shrugged and looked out at the fading storm as the extreme bass grumble of thunder vibrated across his skin. “I don’t know. What if people don’t like my work and won’t buy it? What if people look at what I do and compare it to the major artists who contribute to the cause? What if I’m just wasting my time by contributing something for this problem that is so huge I can’t fathom the amount of help those on the front lines must need?”
She paused at the jumble of questions and took another sip of warm coffee, “ ‘what will people think? What if people compare? What if I waste my time?’ – then you follow these questions with the idea that the problem is so huge it is unfathomable” She turned to him, her face still in shadow, “do you see how small and petty your fears are next to the realization of the full extent of the problem?”
She turned back to face the pastry coolers behind the lunch counter, “Here is a question that should cause you some consternation. What if everybody like you does nothing, no one contributes, and those on the front lines don’t even get the help that the many people like you would have given because they are too self involved to even give a little? You give because it is the right thing to do. You give to show that you are aware that someone is fighting on the front lines. You give what you can, and when possible, the best of yourself, for the worst of the problems.” She fell silent as lightning flashed in the distance. “Not everyone will, but everyone should.”
He fidgeted uncomfortably and tried to change the subject that he, himself had initiated.
“What kind of name is Miss Nina Peach?”
“It suits me …for now.”