The Spot Writers – “Courage” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller. Check out her brand-new release: The Girl Who Flew Away is a coming of age tale of a freshman prone to keeping secrets. Follow this link to receive a free four-chapter preview + 35% off coupon!

This month’s prompt: These objects should appear in your story: a train, a pink post-it note, and keys. One of your characters must be an animator. One of your characters (it doesn’t have to be the animator), must share a name with a famous public figure, and this coincidence must come up in the story.

***

Courage (by Val Muller)

As soon as he came through the door, he made for the chair in the corner. “The lighting here is best,” he said. He spoke with as much purpose as he walked. As soon as he opened his satchel, I could smell his charcoals, his erasers. He smelled like an artist.

Of course he did. Meagan only knows artists. It’s like she’s a lightning rod for creative types. How she came to know a world-class animator is a story best left for a soap opera. That’s how her life goes. Ex-husband of a college roommate, but not as simple as that. Meagan was part of the reason he’s an ex. Cheated with him. And with her. That’s Meagan for you.

Not like boring old me. There I was, taking a sick day off work and letting Christopher Lloyd play hooky from school so that he could do gymnastics on the living room floor for a famous animator, who hoped to become lead animator on some new film that apparently featured a kindergartener gymnast. It was the most exciting thing that would ever happen to us.

“Christopher!” I called. Christopher was still upstairs. I turned back to my guest. “Can I get you a drink, Mr.—”

“No,” he said. “And call me Mike.” He looked down at his art supplies, and the sun from the window danced in his perfectly-sculpted hair. Bed head, accented with the perfect amount of stubble. Rustic and artsy. Not like clean-shaven James, who looked as vanilla as a member of the military every day of the week.

I smiled. “Mike. Christopher’s a little shy, but he’ll warm up to you.”

“Christopher Martin Lloyd,” I called up the stairs.

“Coming,” came a muffled reply.

“Christopher Lloyd, huh?” Mike asked, laughing.

I smiled. “We could barely resist. Maybe we’re raising a future mad scientist. Doc Brown was always a favorite character of mine.”

Mike flashed a smile. “Mad scientists are fun to animate.” He flipped open his sketchpad, and charcoal raced across the page. Before long, he’d drawn a mad scientist that looked like Doc Brown.

“That’s amazing,” I said. I tried to remember whether I’d ever been that passionate about, or talented at, my job. Or any job. Ever. I began to understand why Meagan had chosen him for an affair.

“Christopher!” I called a bit too loudly. The poor boy was already descending the steps. “Oh, there you are. Chris, this is Mr. Mike. He’s going to draw some sketches of you while you go through your gymnastics routine.”

Christopher turned to Mike. “Am I gonna be in a movie?”

Mike shrugged. “Hope so. If they choose my drawings, then the things I draw today will be used to create a character—” The man was already at work on a fresh page, sketching Christopher. He perfectly captured my son’s shy, strong demeanor.

I watched the tendons in his arm work like magic, rippling and tensing and helping his fingers dance around the charcoal as he made my son look more like my son than he did in real life. I brushed away goosebumps and tried to breathe. I glanced into the kitchen. “Looks like you left your toy trains out again,” I lied. “I’ll go put them away. In the meantime, do your warmup for Mr. Mike.” I flashed a smile. “Maybe you’ll be in a movie, Chris.”

I didn’t wait for a response. I hurried into the kitchen and then through to the living room, where I dug through Christopher’s toy chest and pretended to put away the trains. On the wall, a picture of me, James, and baby Chris looked down at me. Why did James’ eyes make me feel guilty? He knew about the appointment today. Heck, he was prouder of Christopher’s gymnastics than I was. Why did I feel guilty?

I could hardly deny it. I’d never done anything glorious like have an affair. And never with a renowned artist. But based on his past with Meagan, Mike was fairly open to possibilities, right?

My body moved without my permission. I barely recognized my feet as they padded into the kitchen. I barely knew my fingers as they grabbed a pink sticky note from the kitchen desk and picked up a purple pen.

Megan told me that—

No, that was stupid. I crossed it out. Pulled off the sticky note.

I thought maybe—

What am I, in middle school?

My fingers smiled and danced as they decided to write on a fresh note:

James works late on Thursdays, and Christopher is away at practice.

Blushing, I pulled off the note and stuffed it in my pocket. My hands might be able to write it for me, but I’d never work up the courage to give him the note. I stood in the kitchen for an eternity, watching him complete sketch after sketch of my boy. His eyes lit up as he discovered the best of my son. He filled up two entire sketchbooks with Christopher’s essence. He was like a father discovering his newborn son for the first time.

I stayed frozen in the kitchen, just watching like the passive person I’d become. I stayed as he flipped through the pictures with Chris. I stayed as he got up to leave. Chris led him to the front door, and I watched him clutch the two sketchbooks like precious relics. But my eyes travelled to the chair in the corner. He was about to forget his satchel. I hurried to grab it for him, and once again my fingers worked without my consent. They were too afraid to reach for the sticky note, but they swiped my keys on their way past the counter. And as they retrieved his satchel, they tossed the keys inside it. And then, while Chris was taking one last glance at the drawings, they even threw in the sticky note. One of those items, at least, would force a return trip.

“Oh, my satchel!” Mike said, looking up at me. “I would have missed that!”

He took two steps toward me—he was still a lifetime away—but I panicked. I did the only thing I could think to do. I upended the satchel, and the world exploded in a blur of charcoal and pastels, pencils and kneaded erasers. And of course, a set of keys and a sticky note.

All manner of art supplies cascaded down on the kitchen floor. Christopher giggled.

“I’m so sorry,” I lied as I bent down to snatch the keys and note. In an instant, he was there next to me, picking up his supplies. He smelled like an artist.

I stuffed the sticky note back into my pocket and put my keys on the counter while I watched him put away the rest of his supplies. Before he left, he pulled off one of the sketches: Christopher jumping in the air with his fist out like Superman. I tacked it up on the refrigerator, a testament to the most exciting day of our lives, and to the day my courage failed.

 ***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

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