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Friday, August 31, 2007

Short Story: Life In the Details

Life in the Details
by Marianne Arkins

I hated Mr. Hepworth's art class. I'd only taken it because my dorm-mate Sheila wanted a chance to hit on the teacher's assistant -- some hot guy named Todd -- and she offered to pay for me to go with her. I needed the credits, but… ugh. Give me good old biology or calculus anytime. Ironically, after only a few days, she lost interest in Todd and moved on to the guy seated next to her.

After four weeks of sitting through lectures and creating pieces in various mediums, I'd made a game of it. I took the assignments and then twisted and squeezed them until they were barely recognizable. Because of the drama class I took so Sheila could meet the star of the last production, I kept a straight face with each increasingly absurd presentation.

Today we were required to show a sculpture to Mr. Hepworth. This one piece was worth thirty percent of our grade. After a great deal of thought, I took my bathroom plunger, spray painted it gold, blue and violet and then hot glued on a pair of tiny angels wings.

Thanks to my surname of Zarbo, I was last to make my presentation. The room was empty except for the teacher and Todd. I strolled up to the professor's desk, past piles of clay and what looked like paper-mache aliens until I stood before him. After waiting a dramatic beat or two, I reached into my canvas bag and whipped out the piece.

"I call it 'Life in the Details'." My voice was soft and reverent.

I set it down gently and dusted off an imaginary bit of dust from the rubber at the bottom. Todd stood just behind Mr. Hepworth, and his gaze was locked on my sculpture, his face utterly blank. I understood why Sheila oh-so-briefly had the hots for him. He really was cute. But, he was an art major and therefore so not my type. His gaze moved away from the object d'art to my face, and I'm sure I read laughing disbelief in those burnt umber eyes. His lips may even have twitched, but I couldn't be sure since I was trying to gauge the professor's reaction. Had I gone too far this time?

Mr. Hepworth pushed back his chair and stood, hand on his chin. After a moment, he circled around his desk, closely observing my sculpture from every angle. Then he flopped back into his chair and pounded one fist on the desk. "Yes!" His exclamation echoed throughout the room. "Why can't the other dolts see that there is more to art than clay and canvas?"

Todd snorted, but covered it up with a sudden hacking cough.

"My thoughts exactly," I agreed. "You need to reach for it, here." I thumped my chest. "Not here." I poked the side of my head.

"Clarice," he said, wiping a solitary tear from his eye. "You. You are my star." He shook his head. "Leave. I need time alone with this gift you've offered me."

I turned and sauntered to the door, a huge grin on my face. Did it again. Ha. Before I could step into the hallway, I was stopped by a hand on my elbow.

It was Todd. Todd who hadn't given the time of day to Sheila since the beginning. My wonderful friend was currently dating the guy who modeled nude for us the week before. Ah, her fickle heart. Perhaps I would design a sculpture to represent it, made from coat hangers, feathers and duct tape.

"Yes?" I fought back the triumphant smile and put on my game face. After all, the guy was the teacher's assistant. I wasn't about to get busted now.

"Have coffee with me?" There was an odd glint in his eye… could it be merriment?

"What? Why?" I couldn't tamp down the suspicion I felt. Why him? Why now?

"C'mon, take the plunge." Yup, he was definitely amused. He propelled me through the door and down the hall before he finally chuckled out loud.

"The plunge?" I looked at him with new eyes. He wasn't just another handsome face. He had a warped sense of humor, too. No wonder he'd never hit on Sheila. She had one layer, and it wasn't very deep.


"Coffee, yes, as long as there are no discussions involving art." I slung my now empty canvas bag over one shoulder. "I do have a couple of very important, personal questions before we go anywhere together."

He looked a bit worried, but I gave him points for courage when he replied, "Shoot."

"How do you take your coffee?"

A surprised grin filled his face. "Sweet and light."

"Whipped cream on your latte?"

"Is there any other way?"

"Not in my book." I slipped an arm through his and let him lead the way down the hall. You see, life really is in the details.

About the Author: Marianne has five short stories published with The Wild Rose Press, and is contracted for three more. Originally from California, she currently lives in the frozen north of New Hampshire, and uses comedy to get her through the obscenely long winter. Visit her at her website or blog.