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Inspirational Drama American

“No way, man,” said Shempert. “This isn’t working.”

Shempert had been slaving for months, years almost, trying to finish his self-portrait. He’d tried and given up a dozen times, at least, never knowing how close he came to realizing his dream.

“What’s blocking me?” said Shempert. “What’s missing? I’ve been doing this forever.”

Shempert picked up a cup of what he assumed was water and began to drink. Paint thinner again. He spit it out. For a while, he just stood there and looked at the picture.

“I can’t figure you out. What is it? What is it that I’m missing?”

A voice came in over the intercom in his artist studio.

“Mr. Bolveras,” said the voice. “Your 4:30 appointment has arrived.”

“I’ll be right there. Right there.”

He put down his brush, wiped off his hands and went to the sink. He then proceeded to wash his hands with soap and splash some on his face.

“You’re not washed up,” he said. “You’re learning.”

He then left the artist studio, where the maid was waiting for him to vacate.

“Hello,” said Shempert, before heading down the long hall to his office.

To say that Shempert Bolveras worked from home was a major understatement. He lived in a 35,000 square foot mansion in the Beverly Hills neighborhood, a place known for its eclectic tastes and trendy merchandise. But he was different from most of the people around him. He was an “artist.”

As he walked down the hall, he began to think about his self-portrait. The problem wasn’t that it didn’t look like him. Of course it did. That was never the issue before. The problem was; he didn’t know what the problem was. It just didn’t feel right. His friends called him crazy whenever he would ask them, “What’s missing?”

They couldn’t answer because they were neither tortured artists nor inherent perfectionists in thought.

As he made it to his office, he was thinking about this problem: how to create his magnum opus without going crazy like van Gogh.

He knew who it was before he walked in the door. The smell of expensive perfume. The look of wavy hair through the translucent door window. He knew his schedule. Unless it was another surprise…

“Ah, the Bolveras exhibit,” he said.

Before him stood his own sister. The woman who had introduced him to rock climbing, kayaking, and writing poetry.

“Mom always said you’d be buried with a paint brush in your hand.”

“Oh, what of these here red flags has go the world asunder?”

“You’ll finish your piece soon enough. You just wait.”

“And where will we, through much and more, escape the storms and thunder?”

“Sit down,” said his sister, waving toward the executive chair on the other side of a mahogany desk. “As the breeze flows, the wind is a tempest.”

“Well, I’m happy to see you, Shirlein,” said Shempert. “How surely we have met.”

“You should take a break from that painting. It will drive you crazy.”

“Yes, yes, I am taking a break right now, as I’m talking to you. How is everything?”

“It could be better.”

“Why have you come? Something with the foundation?”

Shirlein looked away, and Shempert knew the truth.

“What? What’s wrong? You can tell me. Was it the economy? The recession?”

“You know me better than I know myself?”

“What do you need? An investor? Angel investor? Your foundation has always been rock-solid financially. You still have a few things to teach me.”

“I want to merge foundations.”

“Merge foundations?”

“Well, yes, I…I felt that it would be best if we pooled our resources instead of fighting alone.”

“What did the big foundation say to the slightly less big foundation?”

“What?”

“That’s exactly what the big foundation said to the slightly smaller one. And you know what? I think you may have something.”

“What? You think it’s a good idea? You would like to merge foundations?”

Shempert thought about it for a moment. As he did, Shirlein’s eyes searched his. She seemed desperate, as if he were the only one who truly understood her, as if he were the only one who could help.

“What are the particulars?”

“Well, I think that, given your extensive research into deep-sea exploration, your foundation would be a perfect fit for my foundation’s mission of oceanic revitalization.”

“Is that everything?”

“Yes. I think that you would be well-served to partner up with us in our quest for a better tomorrow.”

“Deep-sea exploration meets oceanic revitalization…”

Shempert thought about those words all day after. For days, he tried to paint, that phrase making itself known to him, in his mind. He thought it was helping with his artistic blockage, but he still was at a loss on how to finish his self-portrait.

“One little ducky sleeps in the pond. Another little ducky is eaten by a bear. What am I missing?”

A week after, Shempert and Shirlein met together to finalize the paperwork for their new venture. It would be called The Bolveras Ultimatum Foundation. They had an idea for how they would get the word out. Mainly, that they would use social media advertising to reach as many people as possible. Then, they would follow up that strategy with print ads in certain fashion magazines like The Dells and Haberdashers Deluxe.

When they finished setting up the structure, Shirlein and Shempert hosted a party in its honor. It was to be held at the Rolls Royce hotel in San Francisco. Shempert was sitting on the veranda, sipping Charlemagne, when it came to him.

“That’s it! Wait, is it?”

“What’s it?” said Shirlein.

“Well, I’ve lost it again, haven’t I?”

That weekend, Shempert was painting, furiously painting. He had no idea what he was doing or what would come of it. Suddenly, he started painting a face. But this one was different. It was powerful, yet peaceful. Gentle, yet overcoming. And it had so much color. He painted, more and more, until it was finished. Afterwards, he stood there and looked at his new creation.

“Now, this is the type of creation that one should write home about.”

And that he did, grabbing some pencils from another room and some letter-sized paper. He began to write a letter to his aged mother and father, hoping to have caught them at an impressive hour.

“Whatever, this isn’t a phone call,” he said to himself.

After he had finished the painting to his liking, he went to an art dealer friend to see what he thought of it. Ultimately, the painting sold for a personal best, $25,000.

November 20, 2023 18:37

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3 comments

Keoki Nunies
00:01 Nov 30, 2023

Aloha John Jenkins! The strength in this short story comes from the wonderful descriptive words. I was quite surprised witnessing the goal of the self-portrait/magnum opus as well as the goal of his sister merging the foundations because of intimated financial hardships. Binary themes remain the key to this story and it was well written. The only parts I would change is making his inner dialogue more in his head rather than him speaking out loud. But, it really is a preference. I have seen many web dramas not short stories, in which charac...

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John Jenkins
16:27 Nov 30, 2023

Grazie mille! Danke shon! I do tend to have the characters speak their thoughts out loud because I often get into trouble when trying to express the character's thoughts on the written page. I definitely had that problem with my first novel. Thanks for the insights.

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