Right, I’m just getting started here. I have a few topics I want to write about sooner or later, but here is my first “real” post. It’s a short story I wrote as part of my MA course. It’s called “White Cat in Snow”. It tries to capture the humour but also the dangers of procrastination. I think we’ve all been there… Now without further ado enjoy the little story!
White cat in snow
“The example piece has to be handed in no later than Friday 14 June, 12pm.” He ran his eyes over the text for what seemed the 100th time in one night. He looked at his round Quartz watch mounted on his bedroom wall. “You still have 13 hours.”, it told him with a patronising slanted inter-hand grin. The clock didn’t think he would make it. With a moderate to strong swearword and an accompanying hand gesture he showed the clock what he thought of her opinion. He’d been thinking about this assignment for a while. It wasn’t his fault that his parents had surprised him with a one-week holiday in Italy. And that was the week he had planned to plan his piece. And then the last week had flown by like a silver bullet. But he should manage to do this piece in one night. He had thought about it before after all. “A piece that shows your interest in arts (painting, sculpture, etc.) and strongly represents your work.” Yes, he had thought about this. He liked abstract art. He had done a bit before. He did also like live drawing and portraits and naturalistic paintings. But probably something abstract would be good. Or a self-portrait. No, a self-portrait of a self-portrait and with each layer it’d get more and more abstract. The pencil was ready in his hand, as it had been for the last hour. A fine line, a careful wave of the hand, giving slowly more and more pressure. He stopped. What if it had been done before? He wanted to be sure.
Quickly he opened his laptop that he had sent to sleep about an hour ago. “You should not have come back”, it told him with Darth Vader’s voice and followed the threat with some heavy electronic breathing. Click. Self-portrait of self-portrait. Click. Click. “I know that’s been done!” Click. Self-portrait of self-portrait abstract. Click. Click. “Thank you Mr Wikipedia.” Click. “I really like that painter. Looks like he had a similar idea, but mine is still a bit different.” Click. “True! That band made a really cool song based on that painting.” Click. Youtube. Click. “Oh no! Why do people hate that video? I’ll write abusive comments to them- no, wait! I’ve got something better to do. Just one more video.” Click “Lol. Wasn’t that the guy who did…” Click. “Yeah, I knew!” Click “…” Click “…” Click. Click. Click. “Okay, what did I just see? I’m in the weird part of youtube again…Holy shit!! It’s almost one!” With a bang he shut his laptop with youtube still opened. How did this always happen? He took a deep breath. Focus. All he had to do was focus and the master piece would draw itself.
With determination he took the pencil. He wanted to go to that college. He wanted to! He needed to… After all, that was his only option. There was no plan B. Only plan A. He simply had to get in and the admission people simply had to recognise this. He put the tip down on the paper where he had finished the last line.
He swung his head around. What was that sound? He listened intently as if his life depended on it. It well might. A burglar? There was the sound again, he was sure! Still sitting on his chair he rolled to his bedroom door and put his ear on it like a professional spy. At least what he considered a professional one. All was quiet, only the electronic gadgets around him emitted a barely audible humming. There was the sound again! He dropped his head in his hands at his stupidity. “Just dad bloody snoring. I mean… snoring!”, he scolded himself.
When he wanted to wheel back to his desk, his glance met the general untidiness of his room. He surveyed the dirty laundry in and around his bed and took in the impressive pile of disorganised videogames in one corner. In the other corner his growing collection of empty beer bottles stared back at him. He always meant to take them down. Recycling was good, he knew that. Not now, the reasonable personality in him said.
He actually started to draw now. Line after line came together until he finally managed a rough sketch. A productive half an hour passed. Pleased he looked at it, drew another quick line here and there. He decided he had earned himself a beer.
Taking up two empty bottles, he sneaked his door open and stole past his parents’ bedroom, down the stairs and into the silent kitchen, where he put the green glass recycling on the counter. Only the fridge complained with his constant hum about the cold, or maybe the weather. He opened it and took out one of his father’s beer bottles. About to close the fridge his attention was drawn to the remainder of yesterday’s dinner. It had been very nice indeed. Gingerly he took it out and emptied the little Tupperware box into a pot. He also put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. “I must be comfortable or else my work will be shite.”, he told himself while eating the nice aubergine curry his mum had cooked. He was going to miss it once he had moved out. It would be more expensive, but better. He would learn to manage the household, clean and stuff. And he could do whatever he wanted without his parents being nosy about it.
When he was done he put the plate and the pot in the dishwasher (which he usually didn’t do, but he wanted to start practising for his own flat). Then he made for his room, half-empty beer can in one hand, teacup in the other. He just managed to open his bedroom door with his elbow. He put the things down and looked eagerly at his piece. “This is utter crap!” He crumpled the sheet in his hand and threw it blindly in the direction of the bin- and hit it. Hearing his missile hit the target he turned, a grin on his face. Now he tried to shoot various objects without looking, but the paper seemed to have been beginner’s luck. Disgruntled and disheartened he turned back to his desk. “You only have eight and a half hours left. And don’t forget you have to get there on the slow bus to hand it in. You will have to leave an hour before.”, the watch rejoiced. He stared at the new paper just in front of him, ignoring the chill that was spreading out through his body. “I just have to find something that’s done quickly. Like really quickly. Then I’ll manage and can sleep for a bit as well.”, he kid himself. The page was still blank. “Oh, who am I kidding?!”, he exclaimed and threw himself from his chair on his bed. The impact of his head on the pillow produced a peculiar mish-mash colour effect. With a jerk he sat up again.
“A cat in snow!” Inspiration had finally hit him. He saw the image clearly in his head. A cute and furry curled up cat in a winter garden, with a lamppost and some fir trees in the background. That wouldn’t take too long and not too many colours, either. He had always preferred naturalistic painting anyway, so that would be very representative of his work. He knew he had struck gold.
He took a motivating gulp of tea. The sketch of the background took longer than he thought and when he finally leaned back to scrutinise his piece he caught a glimpse of his torturer. “Only seven hours. Six if you count bus time. Five if you count shower and breakfast.” He took a brush, dunked it into the already stale water and scooped up some colour with a circular movement. He would finish it. “I have to go to that college. I have to. It’s what I want!”
He had managed to draw half of a fir when he fell asleep. Not for long, but it was enough to mark the sketch with an ugly green smudge. Swearing, strongly and loudly, he applied cover up white. At least he liked the half-finished fir. With his left hand he slapped his cheeks, left and right. Then he rubbed his left thigh (for lack of his brush hand) and pushed out a primordial sound to motivate himself. Line after line, fir after fir added to the master-piece-in-progress. He put away the brush. Yes, the trees looked nice. They still needed their white snow caps, but he could do that later. And the rest of the background could wait, too. He would draw the title creature now. He carefully selected an HB pen and tried to roughly sketch the cat. But no matter what he did, the cat always looked ugly. Something was not right. He resisted the urge to open his laptop to look for the picture of a cat. He’d end up on cheezburgers and look at cute kittens until tomorrow morning. Still, it didn’t help his piece if the cat looked weird. Then he had a brilliant idea.
“Maybe I should lie down for half an hour… I’ll be able to work better.” Convinced he cleaned his brush, set his alarm and crawled under the nice and comfy duvet. He felt sleep coming the instant he closed his eyes.
Half an hour. Beepbeep. Snooze. Ten minutes. Beepbeep. Snooze. Ten Minutes. Beepbeep. Snooze…
Four hours and 53 minutes. Waking up was a horrible sensation. All alarm bells were ringing. Unfortunately just in his head. He had just wasted five hours. Hurriedly he got out of bed and was greeted by a cold draught. “One hour. Good Luck, sucker!” the watch shouted at him as he rushed through his room. In panic he grabbed his sketch block, the handing-in form and his wallet. He ran out without keys, slamming the door. He sprinted towards the bus stop at the corner of his street and waited, whipping back and forth on his feet. The bus was late. Why was it late? Why why why? When it finally arrived he could hardly pay the fare, he was shaking so violently. He sat down and wanted to look at his nearly finished piece. At least the things he had drawn looked nice, yes, he could even accept the cat. Abstract was his strength after all.
But there was just a blank page. “No way!” He flicked through all the sheets, but all of them were as virgin and untouched as the top one. “Where is it? I can’t have lost it. I can’t have lost it on the way to the bus, surely. I can’t have…” But he could have. When he looked at the top sheet he could still faintly see the lines of the cat he had drawn on the sheet above. Only that sheet wasn’t there anymore. He couldn’t even go back to look for it. He didn’t have time. As in a trance he took out the application form. But when he at least wanted to fill that in, he realised he had forgotten to take a pen as well. He would be able to fill it out there, surely. They wanted him to. They wanted him to come to their college. He had made his way to the second round of applications and all they wanted was a bloody piece of art! And there was the blank block, driving sweat out of his skin at the back, making it run along the spine. He couldn’t even sell it as a painting called “work in progress” now… He got off, conscientiously thanked the driver and took weak step after step towards the college building. There were already some people queuing, chatting excitedly and sharing their work. He pressed his sketch block tightly to his chest.
After an eternity in the ever lively queue it was his turn. His feet brought him to the desk of their own accord. The woman behind the desk took the blank sheet he had ripped out of the block without a comment. But she asked him to fill out his handing-in form. Hastily he scribbled his name, address and A-Level results. “I don’t know my application number.”, he mumbled. “Oh that’s fine. Just write down the title of your piece for me, will you.” He stood blank. Automatically he started writing “White cat in snow”. The desk-woman took a furtive glance at it and told him with a straight face:
“You must have thought about that for a very long time.”
(Copyright lies with me, Copyright stays with me – Thank you 🙂 )