Check your equipment before you drive
Dexter sketched the Moonbeam Coffee Shop’s barista in pastels, his face flushed with drama. This wasn’t art, it was performance art. His premiere and his audition. After weeks of begging, he’d convinced the owner, Chuck, his boss, to let him sketch customers and display the portraits for sale on the coffee shop wall. The owner would have a weekly event to attract customers, and Dexter would kick back twenty percent for each sale. So it was win/win.
His fingers flew across the sketch pad. Chalk dust flew in every direction. The Barista’s face emerged from the rough shapes on the pad, and from her face emerged her hair, her floral summer blouse, the dragon tattoo that wrapped her arm from elbow to wrist. When he finished, he blew the excess chalk from the paper, sprayed the image with fixative (and sprayed with dramatic flourish he might have added), framed it with a mat he’d cut the night before, and hung it on the wall over the table with the three hot college chicks.
Chalk dust flew in every direction. The Barista’s face emerged from the rough shapes on the pad, and from her face emerged her hair, her floral summer blouse, the dragon tattoo that wrapped her arm from elbow to wrist.
The applause was light. No, tepid. He couldn’t understand it. He’d have to slay them when he sketched a volunteer customer, but no one would look him in the eye. The girl who finally volunteered blushed while she sat and looked away when he placed her pastel on the wall next to the barista’s.
No one else volunteered. The owner thanked them and hinted that he might not schedule a second session. Even Chuck didn’t have the guts to make eye contact when he spoke. When Dexter rode his bike home, he could feel the eyes of everyone he passed, but not stares, more like snide glances and snickers.
Projection, he assured himself. He was imagining things. And he took comfort from that thought until, at home, he reached to unzip his fly, only to realize he’d never zipped it that morning — the only morning he’d been in too much of a hurry to pull on his boxers.