When depression strikes

Image source:  http://guardianlv.com/2013/09/can-religion-and-spirituality-cause-depression/

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and there are reasons for why there are gaps in the posts I make. I do try to keep what goes on in my personal life off of my blog but unfortunately this is unavoidable and it must be put out there.

The truth of the matter is that I suffer from depression. And I don’t mean the “depression” that people like to talk about whenever they’re feeling down, blue, melancholic or anything like this, this is the kind that lasts for days, weeks and even months. And certain aspects in my personal life have managed to compound and exacerbate the problems. As a result my craft in writing suffers because of it.

It’s a case where you try to find the will to do the thing that once gave you such vitality. That you hate going to sleep because there’s so much to do but when depression strikes all the vitality has gone out of you. The will to do anything is lost. And this is the reason why I haven’t been posting very much. Often I would get up and think, “why bother? No one is reading it?” By that point, I reach for the covers and pull them over my head.

I hope all of you, my loyal readers, can understand this and forgive a man fighting such a demon.

And I hope that you go forth into the world and remember this one thing: depression is a disease, not a mood.

50 Shades of Grey movie?

 

Just like before with “twilight” we the more intelligent audience members will be subjected to the popularity of a movie based on a book that was a fan fiction of an atrocious set of books. I, of course, mean “50 Shades of Grey” which was based on “Twilight”. Even the author E.L. James has admitted this herself when asked about the origin of the book.

That part aside, the entire story seems rather convoluted, trite and tried. For one, the setup seems a little too similar to the story “Bad Behavior” by Mary Gaitskills, which was made into the film “Secretary” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. Even James Spader’s character is named E. Edward Grey. Already the suspicions start mounting, don’t you think?

If there are doubts, have a look at the trailer for yourselves: Secretary Trailer (2002)

And for those who think that “50 Shades of Grey” is still the best “erotica” or “BDSM” fiction out there, I have a reading list for you:

“Lady Chatterly’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence

“Bad Behavior” by Mary Gaitskill

“The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy” by Anne Rice

“Exit to Eden” by Anne Rice

“The Story of O” by Pauline Réage

The Book of Life, Chilren’s Movies and Facing Reality

Coming this Halloween, there’s going to be a new movie by Guillermo Del Toro called “The Book of Life”.  A typical children’s underdog story about a man named Manolo who is torn between his families expectations and following his own heart.  And so he embarks on a supernatural journey and three tasks.

YouTube Link:  The Book of Life Trailer

The idea of the story aside, it does look to be an intriguing film, mainly based on how the characters are visually designed to look like puppets that one finds on Dios Le Las Mortes (Day of the Dead) and added to this is that the film takes place on the Day of the Dead, a holiday that isn’t given a lot of exposure in American pop culture because it’s so close to Halloween that it’s often overlooked.

But in the aspects of the underdog and making efforts to follow one’s own desires, I was thinking back to something that was spoken about by Stephen Fry (when asked the difference between British and American Humor). What he talked about in his opinion was how in America there’s this cultural notion of “optimism” and a “refusal to see one’s self in a bad light”.  Basically, that “life is refinable and improvable” (source:  Stephen Fry on American vs British Humor).  In a case of the Underdog Story it’s a case of where one can rise above their place and achieve what they want, such as getting the girl (as will probably be seen in “The Book of Life”) or winning the race even though you’re slow as hell (example:  “Turbo” from Dreamworks Animation).

In a way, stories like this are inspiring but there is a danger in putting too much stock in it.  What I mean by this is that it may setup the notion that you can win just because you’re an underdog, that you don’t even have to try that hard to win whatever you want.  All you have to do is be an underdog and be likable and somehow it’ll all workout.  And if you carry this idea through life, the disappointments that one will face are going to be devastatingly hard to take and the delusion of “not seeing ones self in a bad light” will be too engrained to really make any kind of change.

Another way to do an Underdog Story, which doesn’t seem to be done as much in America would have to be like what was done in the film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”.  Now, anyone who has grown up watching the Peanuts specials on television or read the comic strips will understand this when I say that Charlie Brown is the ultimate underdog.  He’s at a position in life where he has so much going against him.  He’s fat, he’s bald, and he doesn’t really have a lot of skills going for him and despite going with the American idea of “Life being improved upon”, he just fails miserably at it.  The examples of this are laid out in the film, he tries to fly a kite and it crashes and gets torn up, but he comes back inside, makes another one and goes back out to try again.  He’s the manager of a failing baseball team and they lose nearly every game they play.  The only games that they win are the ones where he’s not around.

But then, in the same spirit of getting up and trying, he tries out for the school spelling bee.  He manages to beat his classmates, then he manages to beat the rest of the school and then he goes on to the National Spelling Bee.  At the end, it’s down to him and one other kid and he loses miserably and ironically because he couldn’t spell the word “Beagle”.  To rub salt in the wound of it, his own dog, Snoopy, is a beagle breed and one would think that he would know how to spell this word but in the true Charlie Brown style, he fails miserably at it.

So, he goes home a defeated man with his tail between his legs and spends the next day in bed with the shades drawn unwilling to get up and face the world.  But, his best friend, Linus Van Pelt, comes to him and tells him that yes, he lost the spelling bee.  Yes, he failed miserably.  Yes, he made a fool of himself.  Yes, he disappointed himself and everyone else at home because of it.  But before Linus leaves him alone he asks him one simple question:  “Did you notice something, Charlie Brown?”

Curious, Charlie asks, “What?”

And Linus tells him the most pragmatic thing that a child can say to another:  “The world didn’t come to an end.”

Afterwards, Charlie slowly gets up from his bed and goes out into the world and continues on with his life.  In a way, it is inspiring.  It may not be as inspiring as a snail winning the Indianapolis 500 (“Turbo”) or the quirky underdog getting the unattainable woman or anything like that, but still inspiring in a way.  It’s inspiring in an everyday man sort of way that tells us that through life you’re going to face one disappointment after the other, that you’re going to fail a lot, that you’re going to trip over your own feet but the world keeps on spinning and you have to keep on spinning with it.

Oneirophilia – A Short Story

            “I’d like to request a fantasy, please.” The customer said as he approached Miles Greene – the proprietor of the Cloud Nine Dream Lounge.

            “Of course.” Miles smiled pleasantly at the approaching customer who was a man that must have been in his mid-forties, dressed in a fine suit, and had a gold ring on his left ring finger.

            Despite already having an idea the question still had to be asked, “What kind of fantasy would you like?”

            The suited man looked over both of his shoulders like a child hoping to impart a secret without any eavesdroppers. “I’d like to have sex with a famous person.”

            If only Miles had made a bet with someone about his deduction he would have made a few extra bucks.

            “Certainly.” He nodded and led the suited man from the reception area and to one of the many chairs in the lounge. “Who did you have in mind?”

            “Marylyn Monroe.” The suited man said in a hushed voice.

            Miles could already see the embarrassment rising in the man’s cheeks.

            “Excellent choice, sir.” Miles complemented, “No school like the old school, right? Is this your first time here?”

            “Yes.”

            “You know that we do have a policy that we charge an hourly rate and if you don’t use the full hour we will give you a Time Card that will retain information of how much time you’ve used. And if you like you can buy more time to be put onto the card for when you wish to return.”

            “Okay.”

“How long would you like to be in for?”

            “Um, one hour?”

            “One hour coming up, sir.”

            Miles prepped the controls and strapped the suited man into the chair as if he were about to go for a ride on a roller coaster. Then again, these wet dreamers were always in for a wild ride since the machines made it extra lucid. There was also the added fact that these customers usually had to use the bathroom before they left but to Miles as long as they don’t stain the chairs he was fine with it.

            Bringing down the ring around the suited man’s skull and pushing the start switch the suited man had closed his eyes. The machine had already taken over for him.    With the customer already involved in his dream, Miles went back to his chair at the reception desk where he pulled out his music player, slipped on the headphones, and pressed play. It was best not to have speaker stereos in a place like this since the sound can disturb the dreamers. That was also the reason why dream lounges were always made to be so sound proof and that the reception area was to be closed off from the rest of the lounge so that people may enter and leave without leaking in any noise pollution from the outside.

            Looking up from the reception desk and to the glass doors he saw that it was a typical day, lots of people walking back and forth, cars moving barely an inch, the air thick with exhaust fumes, and not a cloud in the sky.

            He looked over the monitor to check on the time remaining for the five people that were in the lounge. A few had plenty of time but one was down to fifteen minutes so either that one would get out of the machine themselves or Mile’s would have to pull them out and ask them to pay for more time or leave.

           The music still playing, Miles pulled out his sketch book and began to doodle. Having such a job is so nice since he didn’t need to do very much. Just shepherd the customers to their chairs, monitor their time, and charge them before they leave. It is such an easy job to make people’s dreams come true for an hourly rate. And the lounge got quite a range of customers.

           The older crowd usually wanted to relive old and fond memories or do things that their wives won’t do. The younger crowds usually wanted something from television or movies – boys wanted to be superheroes and girls wanted to be swept off their feet by their idol singer or movie star. Fat people wanted to be thin and beautiful. Stupid people wanted to be smart. Some wanted to reenact certain favorite movies. Others wanted to do something outrageous like run naked through the field of a crowded stadium or be the kind of person they want to be but never could actually do it.

            No matter what the dream, fantasy, or memory it was never Miles’ place to judge what a person wanted. Opinions are bad for business.  

           Miles had already filled up a page of his sketch pad with doodles and went onto the next one when the door to the lounge had opened up and the suited man had come out. He was walking oddly and tugging at the fabric of his pants over his crotch. There was a look of mortification on his face like he had done something that he shouldn’t but this wasn’t that unusual.

           Taking off the headphones Miles told him the same thing that he told to all wet dream customers.

           “The bathroom is there.” He pointed to a door opposite of his desk.

            The suited man said nothing, only dashed in and locked the door behind him.

            Within a few minutes the suited man came out of the bathroom and approached the reception desk.

            “How long was I in there?” He asked.

            Miles checked his watch. “Ten minutes.”

            “Felt like so much longer.” The suited man commented.

            “Usually does.” Miles said.

           “How much do I owe?” He asked pulling out his credit card.

            “That’ll be one-hundred and fifty.”

            “Fine then. And the card that says that I have time left?”

            “Right here.” Miles held up a card with a magnetic strip.

            “Okay.” The suited man said as he slid his card through the card reader, entered his pin number, was authorized, the receipt was printed, signed, and exchanged for the Time Card.

             “Thank you, sir.” Miles smiled. “Come again soon.”

             The suited man said nothing. Only turned and headed back out into the noise and air polluted mess of the urban jungle.

             Just another day in dreamland.

The Pen – A Short Story

DOUG MICHAELS DIES AT 35

            Tragedy has struck the literary world as Doug Michaels was found dead this morning at his lavish New York Penthouse hung by the neck from the balcony.

The author had begun his writing career over five years ago with his debut novel The Madness of Ink and had since risen to superstardom with over twenty-three novels which has won the hearts of critics, fans, and many other authors across various genres. He has also been the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for In The Depths.

            Towards the end of his life, Michaels had exhibited strange behavior such as shutting himself up in his penthouse and never leaving for months at a time. There was also the famous incident where Michaels had attacked a fan at a Seattle book signing.

            Fans from around the country and possibly even around the globe have gathered in New York to mourn the untimely passing of the author who was taken in the prime of his life and his craft.

 

            “Poor soul,” Paul Linden said shaking his head as he thought back to that day.

            He set down the paper and sipped his tea when the phone rang.

            “Hello? This is Paul Linden.”

            “Mister Linden, my name is George Bachman. I’m the attorney representing the estate of the late Doug Michaels.”

            “Oh yes, I just read about his death in the paper.”

            “Mister Michaels has left specific instructions in the event of his death. Would you mind if we met?”

            “Of course not. Please, come to my home. The address is-“

            “No need to tell me, Mister Linden, my client had left that address in his instructions.”

            “Very well. I shall see you around one o’clock?”

            “One o’clock is fine.”

            Linden hung up the phone knowing of what was to arrive.

 

* * *

 

            The attorney, George Bachman, was just as Linden had imagined him: very cold, exacting, and well dressed. The two gave no introductions to each other but instead headed into the library where they sat down for business.

            “My client,” Bachman began, “asked for this to be delivered to you in the event of his death.”

            He reached into his case and pulled out a simple envelope. Across its front was “To Paul Linden” written in black marker with a long bulge at its bottom corner.

            “If I may ask, how did you know my client?”

            Linden held the envelope and looked at it.

            “He came to me five years ago.” Linden began his story.

 

* * *

           

            “I know why you’ve come here.” Linden said and poured tea for two.

            “Do you?” The man said while he stepped into the library.

            Linden sipped the tea and looked up at his hungry and desperate guest.

            “Yes, I do.” Linden set down the cup. “You’ve come for the pen.”

            “I’ll pay whatever you want for it.”

            “Money is not the issue. Please sit.”

            The man sat down in the chair across from Linden. He sat forward with his arms lying across his thighs with one leg was jittering up and down.

            “What do you want for it?” The man asked.

            “What’s your name?” Linden responded.

            “Doug…Doug Michaels.”

            “How did you hear about the pen, Mr. Michaels?”

            “Why is that important?”

            “Humor me, please.”

Michaels ran his hand over the beard stubble.

“I heard about it from a man who owned a bookshop in Dunwich Falls where I grew up.” Michaels explained.

“What did he tell you?” Linden asked

“He told me that the pen would help me become a published writer.”

“Is that all he told you?”

“Pretty much.”

Linden looked Michaels over. His clothes were filthy; his white shirt already gray from grime, his pants had tears at the knees, and his brown coat was frayed at the cuffs. There were pens in his breast pocket and a folded up notebook at the side-pocket. His face that had grown into a very light beard, the eyes large and sunken, and his lips chapped and cracked. Linden felt such a great swell of pity for this poor soul who seems to have gone through hell to come this far.

“How big is your pile?” He asked.

“My what?” Michael’s responded.

“Your pile of rejection letters.” Linden explained. “If you’ve come this far, you must have quite a pile.”

Michael’s paused and looked down at the elegant coffee table that divided them.

“Yeah, I do have a large…stack…of rejection letters. Publishers. Agents. Magazines. All of them said ‘no’.”

“Do you really think that the pen will solve your problem?”

“I’ve done everything!” His voice cracked and then he began to cry. “I’ve done creative writing classes. Writers’ colonies. Workshops. Every-fuckin-thing! Nothing’s worked! They all still say no to my work! I’ve spent years developing my craft. And working low-level jobs just makes me realize more and more that I’ll always be nothing!”

He used the sleeve of his ratty coat to wipe away the tears.

“I know the pain that you’re suffering, Mister Michaels.” Linden said. “Many other writers have gone through the same pain as you. And dozens of others have come here hoping that the pen would be their salvation.”

Then why won’t you give it to me!?

“Because the bookstore owner didn’t tell you about what the pen does.” Linden explained. He leaned over to the side of his chair where there was Kleenex housed inside an elegant box. After giving it to Michaels he got up and went to one of the many bookshelves surrounding them. He pulled out a thickly bound red book and brought it to the coffee table. After turning a few pages he presented it to Michaels where there was a faded photograph of Paul Linden with another man at his side. In the picture, Linden looked so much younger but still had those rectangular lens glasses. The other man in the picture was wearing a red flannel shirt with the sleeves pushed up, a receding hairline that was turning into a soft widows’ peak and peppered with grey. Michaels face lit up in his recognition of the one who was standing next to Paul Linden.

“The pen has had many different users.” Linden explained. “All of whom met with very…horrid…endings. One of them was a very dear friend of mine. His name was Sean Branney. He wasn’t just a writer. He was also an actor who performed a lot of monologues at the Performing Garage here in New York City. There were times he took roles in major films but they were very small parts. In the early eighties he was struggling with his first novel but he took time off of it to do a small role in a movie that was being filmed in Thailand.”

Linden reached out for the photo album and pulled a small sheet of paper from the back pages.

“During his time in Thailand,” He unfolded the small sheet of paper, “He found something and he wrote a letter to me about….Paul, I have found something here in this beautiful land. I know it sounds crazy but after getting this pen I have been writing non-stop on my novel. Sometimes I have to put the pen down to give my hand a rest because of the swelling pain in my knuckle but I can’t stop. I don’t want to stop. I know that this novel is going to make me and I know that it’s thanks to this pen. I’m certain of it.

“He once told me that the pen seemed to open up a great window of the mind and allowed the ideas and words to perfectly flow from his mind and through his hand. Each time he used it there was not a single word that was misspelled and not a sentence in need of revision. The pen just seemed to make everything perfect but he came back from Thailand a very different man, you see, because he had the pen. He finished the novel just as he said he would and became famous because of it…but then I saw something else happen to him.”

Linden paused as he folded up the paper, set it back into the photo album, and then took off his glasses to wipe his eyes. Clearing his throat and putting back on his glasses he continued the story.

“It was as if something was eating away at him. Before he went to Thailand he was a wonderful and happy man. A little neurotic maybe but still a happy man. After he obtained the pen he grew darker, morose, cynical, and depraved.”

What does this have to do with anything?!” Michaels snapped.

“I’m trying to save you from it, Mister Michaels. At first I didn’t want to believe that it was the pen that did all these things to my friend but it was the way he talked about it. He would never part with it. He had it with him everywhere. His wife told me that he slept with the pen on a chain around his neck and that he would fall asleep while twiddling with it in his hand.”

“So what?”

“It wasn’t just that. Even when people would ask to borrow a pen he would become violent. There was an incident in January of 97 when one fan at a book signing asked to borrow his pen and he attacked him. You have to understand that he wasn’t a violent man. He was the kind of man who could stand being yelled at by anyone and he would simply smile. To see him attack a fan of his just because they wanted to borrow his pen was…just too much.”

“Did he call the pen his ‘precious’?”

Linden shook his head, “No. He called it his ‘love’. The final straw came in 2001 when his wife tried to throw the pen away. He caught her before she even threw it out the window.”

“What happened?”

“What would you expect? He killed her. Stabbed her to death because no one was going to separate him from his ‘love’. Not even his wife. I think at the end even he realized that it had gone too far. He gave the pen to me. He told me never to use it. He told me to keep it away from anyone else who would want it.”

Linden took another sip of his tea.

“Where is your friend now?” Michaels asked.

“Where else would he be?” Linden responded. “After murdering his wife threw himself into New York’s East River and his body was found several days later.”

Michaels said nothing.

“Now you understand why I can’t give you the pen?”

“Yes.” Michaels said and he reached into his coat and brought out a small handgun. “But I’m still going to take the pen. I’d rather die famous than die as nobody.”

Linden shook his head and set down his teacup. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“I’m not.”

He pulled the trigger.

The bullet pierced Linden’s shoulder. He grasped at it and let out a great howl of pain. Michaels dashed and grabbed him by the shirt.

“Where is the pen?”

Linden said nothing only continued to cry out in pain.

Where’s the fucking pen!?”  

“Wall safe…” Linden grunted.

“What’s the combination!?” Michaels demanded.

“9…19…23…”

Michaels ransacked Linden’s Library looking for the safe. All the while he kept repeating the combination to himself over and over again. He threw books off of the shelves not caring if some were first editions or hard to find copies of old books.

In a bookcase near the fireplace he found a wall safe that had a keypad combination lock. He punched in the combination that he kept repeating to himself over and over in his head.

“9…” he said as he punched in the number, “19…23.”

The green LED above the keypad flashed on and the safe unlocked. Inside there was a stack of papers and a small box at the back. Reaching in, he pulled out a simple wooden box, and inside he found the pen sitting at the bottom as unimportant as a piece of artist charcoal. It was such a simple looking object with its slim and silver body. It looked like any other metal casing pen. The kind that is a little above the plastic pens but wasn’t too expensive in looks or style.

He picked it up and something unexpected happened.

The pen began to change.

In his hand, the pen began to grow thicker in its body and its body shifted from its silver sheen to a dark red but still had that high gloss to its surface. The end changed from its ballpoint tip to the nib of a fountain pen. At its opposite end a cap grew from the thickened body.

“It’s true.” Michaels thought, “That son-of-a-bitch at the bookstore said that the pen changes shape from user to user.”

He brought the pen to his lips and kissed it.

“You and me, my love.” He thought as he rubbed the pen against his face. “We’re gonna be great!”

He took the cap off of the end and slipped the nib tip into it. He clipped it onto the edge of his chest pocket and left Mister Linden’s home.

 

* * *

 

            “That’s quite the story.” Bachman responded. “It almost sounds like someone made it up.”

            “If only it were.” Linden shook his head.

            “Why didn’t you call the police after you were shot?”

            “The police did come after I checked myself into a hospital. I told them I was shot by an unknown assailant.”

            “Why did you do that?”

            “Because even if I did get the police involved I doubt that they would have taken me seriously if I told them that only a single pen was stolen. To an onlooker who doesn’t even known the history of it would have been seen as trivial as taking someone’s gum wrapper.”

            “Why haven’t you used the pen?”

            “I’d like to think that I’m strong enough to resist the temptation and that it is now my responsibility to be its guardian but the truth is…I’m frightened of it.”

            A silence came between Linden and Bachman but the lawyer looked at his watch.

            “Thank you for your time, Mister Linden. No need to show me out. I know the way.” Bachman said as he headed out the front door.

            Linden went to the envelope. Opening it and shaking out its contents he saw a deep red fountain pen fall into his hand. Following the pen was a handwritten note:

 

            You were right, Linden.

            You tried to warn me but I didn’t listen. I just wanted so badly to be a published writer. I wanted fame. I didn’t want to consider the risk. At that time the risk was only a small price to pay but now I’m seeing the price with my own eyes. I can feel the pen eating away at my mind. It’s making me write things that I don’t want to write. It’s as if the thing is working through me instead of me working through it.

            I wanted to keep it away from anyone else so no one would have to suffer what I’ve suffered. I tried burning it but nothing worked. Not even a foundry could melt it. I tried breaking it but that didn’t work. The damn thing is indestructible, Linden.

            Now I see what I have to do both with it and myself.

            I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for this.

 

-   Doug Michaels

The Exhibition – A Short Story

            The mood at the gallery was tense. Everyone had taken their seat and was waiting anxiously for the artist to take the stage. The room was setup in an informal form with fold-up chairs laid out in front of a large white canvas with three spotlights trained upon it making it even whiter.

            Megan Lara leaned over and whispered to her friend, “Who is this artist again?”

            “Honestly,” Her friend, Jean Watts shook her head and smiled, “you are so uncultured. But I suppose that’s why I brought you here to try to open your mind to the world of culture.”

            “Yeah, but who is this artist that we paid two-hundred bucks a ticket to see?” Megan asked, frustration starting to vacillate, “And what does he do?”

            “The artist’s name is Ben Roth,” Jean explained, “He’s done various art pieces across several different mediums. He’s done charcoals, oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolors, sculptures and photography. He’s done it all.”

            “And what makes his work that great?” Megan asked again the frustration coming more to the surface.

            Jean reached up and pinched the bridge of her nose underneath her glasses and giving a very audible groan.

            “Fine then,” Megan said reaching into her purse and pulling out her smartphone. She pulled up Google and typed into the search engine the name “Ben Roth” but also added the words “New York Artist”. And that was when a link came up that read “Ben Roth Official Website”. Pressing on the link the website came up and that was when she was floored. For the first time in quite a long time she was floored by what she saw on such a small screen.

            His paintings were absolutely beautiful. The way that he used color and shading was like nothing else she had seen. Even though Megan had taken a couple classes back in college about art appreciation she never saw anything like it. She then moved onto the charcoal drawings and even that made her gasp a little bit. She had to look at the header to make sure that she was looking at it correctly. It did say “Charcoal Drawings” but with the way that they were done she could have sworn that they were black and white photographs.

            “You see?” Jean asked.

            “Yeah…” Megan uttered. She was so mesmerized by what she saw that she couldn’t put down her phone until Jean poked her in the side and saw some activity in front of the white canvas.

            There she saw the man of the house: Ben Roth.

            She had to admit to himself that he was rather cute in the starving artist sort of way. He was dressed for the occasion in a very slim suit of black with subtle pinstripes. A powder blue suit shirt and a muted red tie hanging about his neck. Just like the suit, he had a very thin face with the bones of his skull gently jutting at his cheeks and chin. His nose straight and hard with a pair of hazel eyes underneath shaggy dirty blonde hair that looked “fashionably messy”.

            Taking his position at the center in front of the canvas, Megan started to wonder if he was going to paint on that canvas in the suit he was wearing. If that were true then he would have a hell of a dry cleaning bill.

            The room broke out into a mild applause with Brian raising his hands to calm the audience.

            “I’m going to do something different for you today,” he told them, “it’s hard to believe that I’m here. And yet for years and years, your kind has rejected my artwork. It was only after some self-appointed critic said that my work was good that the rest of you jumped on board. No different from fan girls jumping onto the next big pop hit. Bubblegum art, wouldn’t you say?”

            Several audience members turned to each other in muffled conversation. There was even a sense of insult, especially from Jean as Megan had perceived it. After all, Jean was the top reporter for “Art Today” magazine and she wasn’t one to take insults lightly.

            “Many other artists who have come before me would love to have this appreciation. Van Gough only sold one painting. It was only after his death that any notice was taken of him. If he continued to live then no one would have cared. And there are many artists out there, better than me, who are trying to gain your attention but you all ignore them. So, I say that this will be my final exhibition.”

            Brian turned and stepped toward the canvas. His hands reaching out as if he wanted to hug the canvas then one hand reached into his jacket and pulled out a small handgun.

            The audience gasped and some tried to get out of their seats when Brian turned, put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

            The bang was deafening when it rang through the art gallery. His head flung backward and his body collapsed. Half his body lay limp on the floor, his back against the canvas, red blood, and gray brain and pink with white skull scattered against the white surface, dripping and drying like wet paint. Brian’s head was hanging forward on his chest with smoke from the gun snaking up through the hole in the back of what was left of his head.

Several members of the audience screamed, others cried, and a few were dialing 911, but not Megan. Her eyes were locked onto the canvas and saw how Brian had turned himself into his final piece of art.