I had been quietly observing the man as he dragged his paintbrush in fluid movements, moving the purple paint in a circular motion on one corner of the page. It was only one color he used, but there was a method to the madness, and a magic in the method.
Nearly an hour and a dynamic discussion later, my friend and I found ourselves watching amused, as our new friend proudly displayed each of his paintings in a show-and-tell manner.
“Now I’m going to ask you something – and you are free to say ‘no’,” the man named Steve began excitedly, “If you take one of these home with you, you will be – ” Steve stopped to count on his fingers “ – my 2,466th patron. I’ve written down all the times someone’s taken one of these.”
In all the years that he had been freely giving away each masterpiece, only a handful of young people regarded the shaggy-haired artist’s offer of free paintings with skepticism. I laugh aloud when he illustrates the terrified reaction of one young woman whom he’d approached some time ago.
“Really? That one?” Steve asked when I indicated the piece I wanted. It was an eerie, dark green and black-themed piece resembling something of a dark forest.
“Yes,” I replied without hesitation.
I had left the house only intent on sustaining myself with coffee, but would return as a patron of a Steve Hardy original.
In class, I mentioned how turning the topic of “making a sandwich” into an engaging narrative piece was difficult without making the writing come off as a high school freshman’s expository/demonstration speech.
Instead of taking a this-is-how-I-make-my-lunch writing approach, I decided to incorporate as much sensory detail as I could into each step of the sandwich-making process. Adding strong descriptive words is one of my weaknesses in creative writing, so I tried to imagine the sight, smell, and yes, even sounds of some of the food items listed. For example, I thought the “crackle” of bread and the “zing” of hummus were stronger descriptors than if I used simpler words like “flavorful.” To be quite honest, I think I channeled the film “Ratatouille” at times when trying to make the food terms more lively.
I settled on this representation because like advertisers trying to market the trendiest food, I wanted to make readers feel something – like increased appetite, not necessarily a super strong emotion (after all, it is just food). I think the “turn” at the end (when the sandwich preparer dismantles the entire creation) is original as it may garner the sympathy of readers who have now seen the dedication poured into making lunch.
Instead of the satisfying “crackle” the knife would provoke when slicing through a loaf of sourdough bread or French roll, there is no such crunching sound as the bread knife shimmies through my thin, wheat pita pocket.
Next – hummus. Mustard is too sour and mayonnaise too sickeningly creamy, but lemon pesto flavor for some extra “zing!” will do just fine. I spread the hummus on the bottom bread slice in a circular fashion, as though polishing a piece of furniture.
I’ve never outgrown my distaste for onion, and move onto tomato. The seeds threaten to push out of each rind as I maneuver the knife through the tomato’s plump red center. I delicately arrange three or four spinach leaves on top, and pour just a little bit of canned chicken next to weigh the spinach down.
I sprinkle a dash of pepper on the meat, and place the second pita slice over it. Voila!
It’s a simple meal, but pleasantly so. Yet it lacks something…
I’ve forgotten to toast the bread first. I dismantle my kitchen creation, wipe the hummus off the first bread slice with a paper towel, begrudgingly toss the two pita slices into the toaster, and push the lever downward.
Water conservation signs are planted on the yellowing, withered grass, bending just slightly to the slow, occasional breezes of the otherwise stagnant air.
The newspapers have been talking about “the worst drought in California’s history,” but I wonder if this is just one of those attention-grabbing catchphrases journalists sometimes use to attract readers. It’s been effective though; people have been exercising more caution as to not receive fines for water waste.
It couldn’t have always been like this; this fear of not having enough.
I am seven years old again – the dead grass crunches under my virtually un-calloused feet as I traipse through the front yard. I throw my arms behind me, soaring headfirst into the vertically-shooting streams of water from the sprinkler.
I used to live in a smaller house, with much bigger front and backyards than where I live now. The size of the yards enabled my sister and I to have our own water park on days like these.
The water’s cold – biting cold – but couldn’t be more welcome under the scorching summer sun. As cars pass by on the street, I’d like to think that the cars envy me; they drive over burning asphalt while I let the moisture seep into my skin.
At 21, I’m one of them now and no longer a child. I speed past the suburban housing complexes, but see no sprinklers nor carefree children to run through them.