Eleventh in a series of Flash Fiction shorts that I’m writing while in Thailand. I’m allowing myself a maximum of two hours per story so please forgive the rough edges. Cheers!
The subway brakes shrieked as the train came to a stop. Morgan engaged in a power struggle with the urge to slap her hands over her ears. She still had the self conscious bravado that comes with being new to New York. The kind of bravado that you have before you realize that nobody really cares what you do with your hands and ears on a late train to Bushwick.
She was meeting Jamie at this art commune she shared with thirty other people. The party was high concept, having to do with retro roller skating and rooftops or something.
Uncool butterflies wriggled in Morgan’s stomach while she paced past two warehouses trying her best to figure out which was the right one.
“Hey! First door!” Jamie shouted down from a window above.
Morgan adjusted her thrift store dress. This was the place to meet artists, maybe talk one of them into checking out her Myspace. Who knows what could happen? This was the real deal, not some second tier west coast city bullshit.
She stomped up the stairwell. Jamie screamed her name and took her on a whirlwind introduction. The girl with the dreads had four names and graduated from Sarah Lawrence. There were some Pratt kids. New School. Jesus, this dude with junkie eyes just finished his MFA at Yale.
“Morgan here is a sculptor.” Jamie swung Morgan around by the arm. Her pupils were pin pricks.
“Kinda mixed media, actually. I–“ she said, attempting an introduction but the MFA dude looked right through her. He mumbled something about prescription drugs.
“He’s fucking Harrison Ford’s daughter,” Jamie whispered. “Come on, let’s hit the rooftop.”
Hey, at least she could say that she fucked a guy who was also fucking Harrison Ford’s daughter. His name was Vaughn and he had the whitest smoothest torso she’d ever seen. Disturbing.
She rolled off his mattress when the sun made it impossible to sleep.
“Hey, fun night,” she said. His eyes opened a sliver. “You uh maybe want to see some of my work sometime?” She felt like a ghoul asking, but at least–.
“Not really.” Vaughn pulled the covers up around his head.
She’d managed not to feel gross until that moment.
Through some mixture of youth, timing, and bullshit Morgan talked her way into an entry level design job. The agency was tiny, like six people. Paid less than Jamie made bartending but at least she had regular hours.
After saving for a while Morgan split studio space with another sculptor. Put together a few pieces. A year or so later there was a roommate sitch and she couldn’t afford rent.
Jamie helped her lug her shit to mini-storage.
“Hey, I fucking love that you know?” Jamie said, pointing at a smallish piece that was also one of Morgan’s favorites.
“Seriously. Think I can get you into a show. Open studios at least, some outsider shit.”
A text flitted across Morgan’s phone: “Girl! OPEN STUDIOS! you’re invited! COME TO BWICK!”
Jamie pulled it off! Holy shit, after everything that girl had promised she finally delivered.
Morgan instantly unregretted the money spent on that damned portfolio website. She reregretted losing her own studio and not choosing to live on street meat and Chinatown dumplings as trade off.
None of that mattered. Finally something.
She pulled up the message.
“Hey girl, you want to meet me at your stop?” Jamie was talking about the Morgan stop. Because names.
“Sure, be right there!” Happy dance.
Morgan stepped out onto Bogart St. The neighborhood changed a ton since that first night hanging out with Jamie a few years back. Fancy bodegas with rich person beers. A fucking wine shop?
To be fair, the wine shop wasn’t much more than a few planks of wood on milk crates and some cheapies. She splurged on a bottle of purse wine.
God, it was busy in the hood.
She unscrewed the wine.
“Hey bitch!” Jamie shouted from across the street. She had that chopped bangs thing that all the burners were doing.
There were gallery signs out everywhere.
“God, are you ready to check out some art?” Jamie pulled out a printed map of the neighborhood. “Dude, this thing is supposed to be nuts, let’s go up Thames St. Ooh, purse wine. Good call.”
Open studios was today.
She wasn’t invited to talk to an indie gallery. She was invited to come and get drunk with Jamie and look at art.
It was her own fault. She swallowed her embarrassment and washed it down with a gulp of her sauv blanc. Stupid, really. It’s not like she’d made anything new in ages.
“Come on!” Jamie was now doing that thing with her arm in the air flopping her hand one way and the next. “Dude, you know who’s killing it?”
Please don’t say it.
“Vaughn. Man, his shit is blowing up. Let’s go check out his show.”
The worst thing about the exhibit was that Vaughn’s stuff was really good. He nodded at Jamie. Morgan finished her purse wine. She dumped two complimentary cups of rosé into her bottle. Refills, bitch.
The painters collected the last of their drop cloths and brushes. “Nice apartment, lady.”
“Thanks,” Morgan said. It was a fucking nice apartment. Ten years of blood sweat and tears in this goddamned city. Sold her second creative agency. She deserved this.
Morgan opened one of the tall windows facing The Bowery. She couldn’t believe the mission was finally moving out. No more leering bums harassing her on the way into the New Museum.
She’d miss them.
Morgan was walking down Prince when a striking piece of sculpture caught her eye. She ducked inside the gallery.
Beautiful. Reminded her of her old work, or what she wanted her work to become one day. Ah well. Another life maybe, one without shitty roommates and expensive studio space and one where she was a bit more willing to live on dumplings.
She laughed to herself.
“Everything okay, ma’am?”
“Fine, fine.” Morgan busied herself by inspecting the artist’s plaque to avoid further conversation.
Vaughn Eligh Richards
The piece was small enough to carry by herself, which was good. It would have been embarrassing to ask for help. The gallery girl about fell over when she bought the thing on the spot and walked out of the store without having it packaged up properly or shipped anywhere.
Expensive. Probably a little too expensive.
The wind was cold on the Williamsburg bridge. She wished she’d wore a thicker coat, but then again she didn’t know she’d end up there. Besides lugging that fucking sculpture across town from Soho kept her mostly warm. It was the standing around that put a chill in her.
“Seriously, what you did was dangerous.” The cop finished writing his ticket.
She took the slip of paper.
“Promise not to throw anything off this bridge again?”
“Of course, officer. This was a one time deal.”
He shook his head and walked away.
The ticket was two hundred dollars. Morgan folded it up and put it into her pocket.
She watched the video she’d taken of Vaughn’s sculpture splashing into the water a few more times on the way back to her apartment.