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FICTION: ACCOUNTING FOR AN ARTIST’S ACCOUNT By Charley Daveler  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Luke’s eyes dimmed as he stared at the television set, the flickering lights of a 1970’s horror film shinning red across his pale face. His blonde hair tinted orange against the glow, his black t-shirt absorbing the light.

Michelle watched him as studiously as he gaped at the screen.

“Anything yet?” she asked.

“Nope.”

Her brows drooped with not exhaustion but agitation as she crossed her arms in an attempt to demonstrate her disdain more obviously as he was clearly not getting it.

He didn’t even look over.

“Okay, let me help,” she said finally moving to swipe away the pizza box and land on the couch.

The thing collapsed before she could realize what was happening, and an umph escaped as her seat dove into the recesses of itself, her knees now to her chin. She paused before glancing over to her boyfriend with an exaggerated scowl.

Still he did not notice.

She pushed herself up onto the edge of the seat.

“Let’s see,” the girl continued, grabbing the remote from the floor and clicking it.

The screen froze on a picture of a young, beautiful woman with threads of ribbon being pulled from her stomach. Her hair made of yarn, her hands mittens, and the attackers thousands of puppets, the actress seemed to be more comical than terrifying. Michelle stared for a moment, feigning thought as Luke slowly glared.

“I was watching that,” he said.

“Clearly…” the girl continued, making a point to ignore him. “The ribbons symbolize love, and the puppets are society; puppets because people only do what they’re told and they rip apart anyone who doesn’t.”

“Don’t be stupid,” the man replied, yanking the control back from her. “They’re puppets because there was no such thing as CGI in the 1970’s, and it’s ribbon because he’s trying to symbolize it’s theatrical. Like Shakespeare. It’s supposed to be blood.”

The video continued.

“Pink blood,” she agreed, studying it.

“That’s just our screen. We need a better T.V.”

She started, her mouth open and her body lurching, a speechless incredibility overcoming her. Several contradictions and arguments jumped to her mind, but none of them clever or even succinct. So, instead of speaking, she just dropped back into the gaping couch as demurely as she could—forgetting, of course, that it was gaping and having to recover—and decided to just be mad for the rest of the night.

He continued to watch.

As Michelle waited for him to recognize her annoyance, she gravitated towards fuel for her irritation, taking in the room with a menacing motive. It backfired a bit, because most of it just enraged her more, making her vision a little redder than the filter on the film.

Small as it was, she couldn’t expect him to have a place for all his things, but she was certain he wasn’t keeping the trash for novelty’s sake.

She couldn’t even find his camera.

“Now?”

He paused to think about it.

“Nope.”

“Oh, my God, Luke. There’s no way that you’re going find the inspiration again. You’ve watched this ten times!”

“Twice.”

“Twice after trying to remember the idea. A hundred before you got the idea in the first place.”

“I’m sorry if I can’t afford cable.”

“You’re wasting your time!”

He finally removed his eyes from the screen.

“I’m working.”

She frowned at him in amazement. “This is not work.”

His plaintive and enduring droopy look suddenly soured. “I’m trying to remember my idea! Inspiration is a big part to art.”

She paused, glancing back to a new girl now running down an impossibly long hall from a sheet hanging on a wire. Michelle nodded and Luke assumed he had won, going back to the movie.

“So,” she said finally. “Question.”

He looked at her.

“From this time last night, after the freak out as you tried to recollect your brilliant idea, to today after I came home from work, what exactly did you do?”

He frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, you couldn’t remember your idea last night, and now you’re watching the movie again to have recreate the mood. What, pray tell, did you do before deciding to do this?”

Faster than she realized he had the remote in his hand, he clicked off the T.V.

“What are you saying?”

“Do you do anything?”

“Just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean I’m lazy!”

She just smirked disdainfully.

He slapped his hands to his sides. “Do you not remember how I’ve collected your laundry from the dry cleaners? How I picked you up at the subway? For God’s sake, I went to your mother’s last Christmas?”

She ignored the raise of his voice, leaning in closely to hiss, “Excuse me? Are you kidding?”

“I do a lot around here!” he spat.

And she just started laughing.

“What? Michelle! What is your problem?”

“You do realize that everything you’ve named has been sparse within three months? And furthermore nothing included you doing anything useful?”

He threw up his arms. “Useful? Picking you up wasn’t useful?”

“It’s kind. It was sweet. It’s not productive. And considering the only person who could have done it was you because for the past three months you’ve been jobless, and the fact you had to use my car doesn’t say anything?”

He said nothing, just slammed down the remote and jumped from the couch.

“By the fact that you became angry when I asked you shows me that you know you’re doing nothing!” she shouted over the back of the broken furniture.

“Don’t talk to me about this! You’re just stressing me out!”

She just stared at the black T.V. shaking her head as he tried to get away from her. Of course, in the small studio apartment, the only “away” was the bathroom and considering the size of the cockroaches in there, he remained in the room.

Michelle got up and walked over.

“Listen, Luke. Have you written anything recently?”

“Michelle, drop it,” he growled.

“Have you done anything? At all?”

He launched himself from the bed to sit up. “Michelle, drop it.”

“I’m sorry, but I look around here and I see this mess… I get up in the morning with you sitting on the couch playing video games and I come home to you playing video games. Stop yelling at me when I ask you to actually do something.”

“I am doing something!”

“No, you’re not. You’re not doing anything at all!”

“You knew marrying an artist would make you poor!” he shouted.

“I don’t mind the money! It’s not about the money.”

“Then why are you complaining about me not having a job?”

“Because, Luke! I don’t mind that you’ve sat here for three months, I mind that you get all the time off in the world and how many films have you made? How many scripts have you written? Pitched even? None! Absolutely none! You’re living the life that all artists dream of and you’re not using your time to actually do your art! It’s making me believe that maybe you didn’t want to do it in the first place!”

“Leave me alone, Michelle! I can’t just make movies.”

“You can make scripts. You can make short films.”

“Short films are idiotic. No one takes them seriously.”

“Then I don’t know! I don’t care. Just do something.”

“I’m job hunting! I’m doing my best. I’ve applied to millions of places.”

She threw up her arms. “You’ve applied to two! When you first lost your job. Don’t sit there trying to tell me that you’re trying as hard as you can. Don’t you dare sit there and try to lie to me.”

His face contorted into a snarl, “How dare you accuse me of lying? You don’t know what I do.”

Before he was even done talking she had already strolled back to her purse and pulled out an envelope. He didn’t notice, however, continuing, “I am trying my best, and all you can do is criticize. And I don’t appreciate your lack of support. I’m trying to do what I love. It’s hard, okay?”

He stopped as she held out the paper. The man stared at it in silence, recognizing it, immediately.

“How did you get that?”

“I found it in the trash,” she said coldly.

He said nothing.

“I called him too,” she said softly.

“Oh yeah?” he muttered, suddenly avoiding her gaze.

“This seemed to be a pretty good offer,” she said. “A once in the lifetime. It also seems to be for something that you actually wanted to do. So, can you explain to me why you didn’t take it?”

He mulled it over before finally turning to her. “I’m not going to sell out, Michelle.”

She chucked the paper down, her arms slapping against her sides. “Sell out, Luke? Sell out?! This guy wants to pay you to make a documentary for him! Pay you to make movies! What the hell do you mean, sell out?”

“I’m not going to just do something for money.”

Her chest erupted. “What?! What do you mean, you’re not going to do something for money?! That’s what a job is!”

“It’s selling out!”

“No it isn’t! It’s literally a job! A job where you like doing it! How is it selling out? What are you doing that you wouldn’t normally be doing? Having money?!”

“I want to film what I want to film!” he shouted, standing. “You don’t understand. You’re not an artist. But if I take a job just for the money, I’m going against my morals! Art will be diminished! We can’t just do it for the money, Michelle. That’s how art was before the renaissance and guess what? It was terrible! Meaningless! Portraits of people in good light. People who paid for it. It was about purveying those with the money well and those without it poorly! That’s not what art is about! We need to not go back to the times where people only did what they were paid for!”

She scoffed. “Art is about having a point of view, not saying, ‘I feel like painting a butterfly today.’ Get over yourself!”

“How dare you say that to me.”

“You won’t look for a job that isn’t artistic, and when you’re giving one that is, you won’t take it! And when you have time on your hands, you don’t even do anything with it. The fact of the matter is you don’t want to be an artist because you enjoy it; if you did, I wouldn’t be able to get you away from that camera, little lone not have lost it. Just grow up.”

“You can’t tell me what to do.”

“No I can’t,” she said finally, pushing past him to climb onto the bed, “but I can demand rent next month. And let’s see if I buy you any more of those crappy ‘indie’ films that you love so much.”

“You just don’t understand art.”

“Maybe. Too bad you’re not doing it.”

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 12:50 AM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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