WORKS OF ART: First, Fig
WORKS OF ART is an exercise in serial flash fiction, as part of Declaration Editing’s Super-Short Summer Serial Challenge (S4C). Part one, First Fig, is below.
Fig went to work the way he always went to work – freshly stoned, slightly drunk and in greater need for sleep than he cared to admit or talk about. It wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle, nor did he intend for it to be. A poem about burning the candle at both ends bounced around his head. A professor had recited it in a literature class back when Fig was still a student. He never knew the title. Just a short thing about a candle and a lovely light. A woman wrote it. He didn’t remember her name. The world was full of poets – he didn’t bother trying to remember them all, especially the female ones.
He wished Pen Boulevard could be empty for once. It never was. There were too many bars in the six blocks between his apartment and Shorty’s, the restaurant he cleaned. There were always people waiting to get inside one or the other. Or they sat outside under umbrellas with drinks in their hands, even on a night like this with a little rain coming down. It was Art Week, which meant the town was again filled with students and strangers who came looking to get drunk and forget themselves for a few days. He wanted to be out there too, wasting the little money he had chasing a shot with a beer and making eyes at a girl. Any girl. As it was, he’d partied up until 10 o’clock at Smith’s, left just as the party was getting good, walked back to his apartment to change, rolled two joints and headed to his late night cleaning shift.
Lily was the first person he saw when he walked into Shorty’s back entrance. Lily with the crystal blue eyes and mean furrow between them. Stark white skin Lily who used to sing in coffee shops before she decided poetry was a more serious art. Now she hosts various reading series that Fig never goes to.
“You look like hell,” she said.
“Thanks. Are you heading to Smith’s?”
“We’re having a reading circle at my place. You should come.” She smirked. She knew he was working but said it anyway. It was all she could do to make Fig feel somehow lower than she was. They’d been friends, used to workshop each other’s poems until they started sleeping together. Then things went to hell.
Lily bent over and scribbled something on a slip of paper.
“This is for you,” she said.
He looked at it.
“Is it a haiku?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“What is it then? Who’s St. Vincent?”
“OK.” He still didn’t know.
“A woman saint?”
“You’re a jackass.”
She couldn’t tell if he was kidding. Neither could Fig.