Still Life

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A pop-up book of flowers from grade 4 are driving her insane...

Still Life

Postby happening fish » 11/10/2005, 2:43 am

i'm writing a short story to try and cure myself of my hatred of them!
this is the first bit.

Clarissa had always considered herself a tolerant woman. Yet here she was, drumming her fingers impatiently on the counter as the cashier struggled awkwardly with the register. She sighed inwardly and remembered Beauregard's tone from that morning. He had been trying very hard to sound casual, but she knew him well enough to pick up on the subtle difference. He had sounded distracted, lacking that distinct confidence he usually had, the one that Clarissa had always envied. It had been disorienting to hear a flustered note in cool, calm, Beauregard. A painful bang brought Clarissa back to the present as the trainee cashier's head collided with the register drawer on his way up from retrieving fallen change.
"Here you go, ma'am," he managed, his face the bright pink of Clarissa's nails. She flashed him a forgiving smile, but couldn't quite contain her exasperation at the delay. It appeared tellingly in her eyes, and left the poor cashier with the impression that he was probably not going to last long at this job. Clarissa snatched her purchase and tugged at her hair compulsively, as she always did when she was annoyed. She sighed again and slipped out of the pharmacy, later than ever.

* * *

Several minutes later, Beauregard observed Clarissa alighting from a cab on the street below him. He had been peering anxiously out of his apartment's bay window for the past twenty minutes, waiting for precisely this sight. He slid immediately from his chaise to the intercom, where Clarissa's voice momentarily crackled through.
"Beau, open up. It's me." Beauregard shuddered at the nickname, but buzzed her through anyway. A moment later, she flounced through his door.
"Ahh, Clarissa! Welcome. You are late, you know," Beauregard pronounced through an affected accent, eyeing her feet disdainfully until she complied with apartment rules and slipped off her shoes.
"I know. You won't believe the day I've had." She elected to skip further formalities and simply pushed the white paper bag into his hands. Beauregard inspected its contents critically as Clarissa continued. "The fact that I'm only fifteen minutes late is practically a miracle... I slept in, couldn't get a cab, broke a heel, you name it. And that," she pointed angrily at the bag, "took me about ten minutes longer than it should have. The service was deplorable. Hey, got anything to eat in this place, Beau? I missed lunch."
Beauregard flinched, and put the bag down carefully on the coffee table. "Please, Clarissa, it's Beauregard." He pronounced his given name slowly and clearly, though they had known each other for the better part of ten years.
"Uh huh. Munchies?"
"Certainly. Come into the kitchen, I'll make us tea."
Clarissa would have much preferred coffee, but she knew that her friend hated the stuff. He claimed the caffeine interfered with the 'creative process'. She snorted, quietly. Creative process, indeed. The apartment was littered with half-finished paintings that closer resembled fingerpaintings than masterpieces. Beauregard was terminally protective of each and every one.
Clarissa absentmindedly stirred sugar into her tea as she thought of the best way to broach the subject that hung, unspoken, in the air. Beauregard eyed her third spoonful of sugar with disgust as it disappeared into the tea. "Must you poison my perfectly brewed tea?" He was being snippy today. Not wholly unusual, she thought, but she still sensed an edge to his voice that spoke of deeper concerns than her calorie count. Besides, Clarissa noticed with a start, he had spilled some tea on the marble table top and it had gone unnoticed for several minutes. Highly out of character, she decided. There was definitely something wrong here today. She mustered her resolve and broke the uneasy silence that had developed.
He looked up in alarm. It was a game they played - she had only called him by his full name once before, he remembered, in all the time they had known each other. Of course she would have guessed that something was up. He supposed that Clarissa knew him a lot better than he had realized. Well, he thought, no reason to panic. Perhaps he could still play his way out of it. He gazed at her in feigned curiosity, hoping he looked innocent. "Yes, my dear?"
"You'd better tell me what's going on."
He dropped his quizzical expression, gave a calculated sigh, and met her level gaze with a small chuckle. "I never could hide anything from you, you know."
She raised an eyebrow. "I know."
"Well, ahh," he stalled, "where to start..."
"How about you start by explaining why it was so important that I come over in the middle of the day to bring you some silly decongestants?"
Beauregard glanced at the white bag that sat untouched on the coffee table. "You bought the wrong kind, you know. I specifically asked for non-drowsy..."
"Beau!" She was tugging at her hair. Not a good sign.
"Er, what I meant to say was, thank you. My allergies have been acting up..." he lied, squeezing his eyes shut dramatically "...ever since I fired the head assistant for next week's exhibit and thought that maybe you could help..."
Clarissa wasn't sure whether to laugh or pour her tea all over him. "God, Beau, I thought you had gotten yourself in debt with the mafia or something!"
Beauregard gave a look of highest offense, sharpened by years of practice. "I simply didn't know how to broach the subject -- how you would react to it! I was hoping to wait until after I had managed to get an expensive dinner into you tonight."
"As if you could put one over on me! Well, I guess I could help guard the hors d'oeuvre table or whatever. What'd you go and fire the help for, anyway?" The topic breached, Beauregard was resuming the cool finesse that Clarissa identified with him. He inspected his fingernails in annoyance.
"Roscoe was being cheeky with me. Can you imagine! Refusing to make the smallest adjustments to the placement of the pieces!" Clarissa was sure Beauregard had driven the poor man crazy for hours, insisting on sliding the finger-paintings millimeters to the right or left. "At any rate, I was hoping you would be able to drop in for the next week and help with the logistics. You know, invitations, PR, et cetera." Clarissa was tugging on her hair again.
"All next week? What about my job? You expect me to take an entire week of my vacation time for this?"
Beauregard eyed her, his uncharacteristic weakness long past. "But, my dear Clarissa, surely you do not have any other notable use for that vacation time." It was true. Clarissa hated to travel alone, and recently there had been no companionship on the horizon. She hated to admit it, but her life was rather dead-ended at the moment.
"Fine, Beau. Only for you. But you realize that this translates into at least two extra boxes of Godiva on my next birthday.
Beauregard smiled triumphantly, his eyes grazing the floor. "Deal."

* * *

A week later, Clarissa found herself running over this conversation again and again. She was plopped on the floor of the gallery, surrounded by third tier artwork and incompetent aides. She held her clipboard up to her face and moaned into it, trying to understand why exactly she had agreed to this. Beauregard minced over to her and clapped his hands commandingly, urging her to stand up and continue. Clarissa glared up at him. "Four," she stated resolutely.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Four boxes. Two Godiva, two Lindt." Beauregard waved this away.
"All the chocolates in Switzerland, my lady, but first there is someone here to whom I would like to introduce you." He presented the visitor with a flourish. "A Mr. Elliott, here to oversee the catering. I should hope you will be most gracious to him, Clarissa," Beauregard added archly. He watched Clarissa give Mr. Elliott a once-over and saw understanding dawn in her eyes. He stood just over six feet with a striking, Northern complexion and friendly eyes. Satisfied that she would be fully occupied for the next little while, Beauregard smiled to himself and returned to the side of the assistant he had been harassing before Mr. Elliott had arrived. The poor woman was struggling with a large canvass, attempting to straighten it to Beauregard’s exacting standards. He reached towards it protectively with his left hand, using the excuse to make a mental note of the time on his wristwatch.
"Be careful with this piece, please," Beauregard chastened the assistant, "it is an ode to the central theme of the entire exhibit; I insist that it be handled with the utmost care..."
awkward is the new cool
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Postby Axtech » 11/10/2005, 10:04 am

Wow. That's awesome.

Among other things, I love the shifting perspective. I'm so used to reading naratives that give a third person omniscient perspective, concentrating on one character's thoughts and feelings at a time, so it was refreshing to shift back and fourth between Clarissa and Beauregard to get a fuller perspective on each scene (particularily during their exchange over tea). I also love the subtle clues into each character's personality. Like Beauregard glancing at the floor while he smiled in triumph, while typically you might imagine someone making eye contact at that point if at no other time.

I also like how you revealed their game after showing them playing it. That really allows the reader to experience the impact of Clarissa saying "Beauregard" just as Beauregard himself does.

The only thing that I'm tempted to critize is Clarissa's vocabulary. When she says "The service was deplorable" it doesn't really seem to jive with the rest of her speech (at that point anyways). Perhaps it's just a connotation that I'm incorrectly attaching to "deplorable", but it seems light a rather haughty word, where at the time I felt she was being a little less formal. Particularily since she continues on to ask for munchies. It does serve to juxtapose the rest of the converstaion (munchies, etc), but I just got the feeling that it didn't quite fit.

Otherwise I really love this piece.

And this is your first short story? I hate that this stuff seems to come so easily to you. :P
- Robert Marshall -
Every now and then I fall out into open air just to feel the wind, rain and everything.
And though the hum and sway gets me down
, I'll find the way to peace and openness.

"Robbo" - © Alex (happeningfish)...^5 ^5 v v
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Postby happening fish » 11/10/2005, 10:41 am

Good point. Thank you.

And yes, in a long time, but I started it over a year ago, abandoned it, and tried to come back to. PS I have no idea where it's going right now. So easy might be an overstatement! <3
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Postby trentm32 » 11/14/2005, 1:54 pm

lol! It's fantastic!
"When looking up there, I just felt whole, like I belonged. Like one day I too would shine my most brilliant. Sitting there also made me think about sitting through services at my little country church back home. About that never-changing congregation of the same sixty-seven people and everyone has known you since before you were born. Now, out here in the real world, everything just seemed more vivid than when I used to sit in that little pew. That pew that was now so, so far away from where I was. I feared I had somehow left God behind there, too. I feared he was somehow just sitting there, saving my seat on the fifth pew from the front row, just waiting on me to come back. I left so quickly, I worried that he may not have noticed I was gone. And, now, I’m just too far away to find. So he’s just sitting there, patiently waiting on me to come back. I closed my eyes and prayed a moment. I hoped more than anything that he could still hear me." -an excerpt from my novella, A Sea of Fallen Leaves.

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