American Contemporary Drama

CW: Mature themes, substance abuse

His name was Jerry. He had a profile on Grindr.

The artist messaged.

“Is it short for Gerald?” he typed out. Then he hit send and waited. He felt stupid for asking. It was too intimate for a first exchange.

Finally, the answer came.

“Jeremiah. I don’t usually tell people that.”

“Nice to meet you, Jeremiah.”

The artist scrolled yet again through the photos. They were amateurish, at best. Unattractive was a better description. A series of contrived sexy poses. Lips puckered, eyes batted. A hint of pubic hair peeking above low-slung sweatpants. A dick pic. The artist stared at that one longer than he cared to, allowing his mind to wander.


“Right. Sorry.”

“It’s $100 to fuck. And you have to wear a condom.”

“That’s not what I’m looking for.”

“Ok. What are you looking for?”

The artist began to scroll again, stopping on another image this time. It was slightly out of focus. Jerry sat on the edge of what looked like a cheap futon. He was smiling, not trying to hide his buck teeth. His bangs were cut short and straight across his forehead. He was bare chested. Rail thin and sallow skinned. The complexion of someone who spends almost no time in the light of day. He had the sinewy muscles and sunken chest of a heroin addict, which was appropriate. But it was his eyes that wouldn’t let go of the artist. Dark brown and sadder than any eyes he’d ever seen before, despite the smile on his lips.

“I want to draw you.”

“LOL! That’s some pervy shit.”

“Seriously. I’m looking for a male model. Mostly portraits, but maybe some nudes too. I’m an artist. You may have heard of me.”

“Is your name Banksy?”


“Then I haven’t heard of you.”

“I’ll pay you for your time. How old are you?”

“23. How old are you?”

“I’m sixty-seven. How old are you really?”


“I’ll pay you the $100. All you have to do is sit for me.”

“Whatever gets you off, old man.”

That was followed by a winky emoji.


The artist drove his Jaguar to the corner of Frankford Avenue and Ann Street in Kensington. Jerry was sitting on the curb in front of a church and across the street from a methadone clinic. Litter spilled out of a nearby trashcan and gathered in the storm drain. He was alone.

The artist stopped and rolled down his window.


Jerry nodded and glanced up and down the street, like he was nervous.

“Nice car.”

“Get in.” The artist unlocked the passenger side door. “Do you have a bag or anything?”

“No. I travel light. Where are we headed?”

“I live in Rittenhouse. It’s just a couple of miles.”

“I know where it is. Lots of old, rich queens in Rittenhouse.” Jerry laughed.

The artist didn’t say anything. They drove in silence for a while until Jerry reached over and turned on the radio. He spun the dial, settling on 106.3 FM. He turned up the techno beat. Then he put his hand on the artist’s thigh and started to caress it gently.

“You like that? Does that feel good?”

“That’s not what this is about. Like I said.” Jerry pulled his hand away. The artist looked across the center console at Jerry. “There's something special about your eyes.”

“Jesus Christ. Don’t say romantic shit like that.”

“It’s true.”

They drove the rest of the way without saying anything more, the techno beat blaring. 


The artist unlocked the front door of the four-story brick townhouse.

“Come on in.”

Jerry stepped into the plush foyer with its floral-patterned wallpaper.

“I like your place.”

“Thank you. I’ve spent a long time curating it.”


“Putting it together. Figuring out what belongs. The things I find beautiful.”

“Do I belong?"

"We'll see, won't we?”

"Uh huh. Are these your drawings?”

“Some of them.”

“They’re good. How about this one?”

The artist chuckled.

“I wish. That’s a Picasso.”

“I’ve heard of him.”

For a moment, the artist took in the sketch. A few simple lines forming the curves of a woman’s breasts and thighs.

“How much is it worth?”

“I don’t know, exactly. A lot, I imagine.”

“I could do that, I bet. It doesn’t look so hard.”

The artist motioned toward the stairs. “My studio is just upstairs.”

The artist went first. Jerry followed. On the third floor, the artist opened a door to a small room. Paints and charcoal pencils cluttered every surface. Half-finished canvasses leaned against every inch of wall.

“So, what now?”

“Now I draw you.”

Jerry started to take off his shirt.

“Not yet. Put that back on. I just want to draw your face. Let's start with a basic portrait." The artist pointed toward a wooden stool. "Sit there.” Jerry did as he was told.

“Should I smile?”

“You should do whatever you want.”

Jerry didn’t smile.

The artist sat across the room. He picked up a large pad of paper and peeled off the top sheet. Then he thoughtfully selected a charcoal pencil and began to work, his eyes darting quickly between the canvas and Jerry. The artist’s hands moved fluidly across the pad.

“I need to scratch my arm.”

“That’s fine.” The artist paused his work.

The pale skin of Jerry’s forearm was scabbed with needle tracks. Jerry scratched. A scab opened, and a bright red drop of blood gathered on the surface.

“You’re bleeding.”


“Your arm is bleeding.” The artist pointed at the inside of Jerry’s elbow. Jerry glanced down and saw the blood, which was beginning to trickle along the ridge of a thin blue vein.

“Oh, shit.” Jerry put his arm to his lips and cleaned the blood with his tongue. "This happens sometimes," Jerry mumbled.

The artist again began to work.


“With what?”

“My first sketch.”

“That was fast.”

The artist tore the sheet from the pad and held it up so Jerry could see it. Curved lines forming the almond-shaped head, the straight bangs, the buckteeth, the sad eyes.

“You made me look kind of ugly.”

The artist considered. "I'm still searching for the beautiful parts. It's going to take some time."


The artist messaged.

“Come over? Same arrangement as last time. I'd like to draw you again."

“You’re fucking crazy, old man.”

“Is that a no?”



“I’ll be at the same place.”


Jerry was there under the streetlight when the artist pulled up. He wore cut off jean shorts and a fishnet shirt that showed his nipples. His lips were painted red. There were others too. A man and a woman, the artist thought. He wasn’t sure though. They disappeared into the shadows before he could get a good look. Jerry’s head was bowed to his chest. He wasn't moving.

The artist parked the car and stepped out onto the street. He held the car door in one hand and peered over the roof toward the dimly lit sidewalk.

“Hello?” he called out.

Whoever the others were, they had vanished into the dark recesses. The street was empty and quiet. A siren wailed somewhere in the distance. He stepped around the car and stood over Jerry. A needle hung from his arm. He was bleeding again.

“Oh, Jerry. What have you done to yourself?”

Jerry mumbled something that the artist couldn’t understand.

The artist picked Jerry up from the curb. He weighed almost nothing. He placed Jerry in the passenger seat and then stepped around the car and got in.

“Do you need me to take you to the hospital?”

Jerry didn’t answer. The artist spoke louder.



“Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“Why would I want that?”

“You overdosed. You have a needle hanging out of your arm.” The needle was still there. The artist hadn't removed it. Jerry opened his eyes, the narrowest of slits. Then he indelicately yanked the needle from his vein.

“Just a little party is all.”

“I just want to make sure you’re not going to die.”

“I’m not gonna die.”

On the road from Kensington to Rittenhouse, Jerry again put his hand on the artist’s thigh. It sat limply, not moving. And this time the artist let him keep it there.


“Should I just sit here again? Like I did last time?” Jerry had come to somewhat, but his eyes were still glassy. The artist let his gaze wander.

“I want you to take off your shirt.”

Jerry managed a coy smile and took off the fishnet shirt. He let it slip from his fingers and fall at his feet.

“Now we’re talking.”

“I wish you wouldn’t put that stuff in your body.”

“What stuff.”

“That poison.”

“Ok, dad. Whatever you say.”

Jerry held his arms above his head. With one hand, he gripped the opposing forearm. The hair in his pits was wispy and almost blonde. His nipples were like pink dimes.

“Stay just like that.”

“Like this?”

The artist nodded. He tore back another sheet from the pad and this time searched out a few pastels from his set. Maroons and greys and shades of pink.

“My price has gone up. It’s two hundred now.”

“You said one hundred.”

“Yeah, well, shit’s changed.”

The artist's eyes flicked up and down beneath bushy grey eyebrows. He crossed his legs while he worked. Then he uncrossed them. He shifted slightly in his seat and picked up the dark grey pastel and put it to the paper, made a few last marks.


The artist turned the sheet around and showed it to Jerry.

“You made me look evil.”

“Not evil. Angry.”

“Fair enough.”

“I want to do a few more. Every time I draw you, I see something new."

"It's your money."

The artist tore a page and began another sketch.

"It's late. You can spend the night, if you want.”

“That's not going to happen.”


The artist messaged.

“I can’t stop thinking about you. I need to draw you again.”

“It’s $500 now.”

“Ok. But I don’t want to waste my time again. Are you using?”

No reply.

“I can pick you up in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll be in the same spot.”

When the artist pulled up, the others were there again. This time they lingered. There were definitely two of them, but he’d been wrong about the woman. They were both men. The streetlight cast shadows across their faces.

“This is Angel.” Jerry patted one of the men on the back. The other one, bigger, older, with a ponytail and a ragged trench coat, stepped away from the car. “I told him about you. He wants you to draw him.”

“Nice to meet you, Angel.”

“How much will you pay me to let you draw me?” Angel’s voice was raspy, and he swayed unsteadily as he spoke.

“That’s kind of you, Angel. But I’m not interested.”

“I’m way better looking than this fucking guy,” Angel said, hitting Jerry on the shoulder. “Just look at those teeth. He's hideous.”

“I don’t think he’s hideous.”

“Fine. How about I suck your dick instead? Fifty bucks.”

“Come on, Jerry. Let’s go.” The artist rolled up the window of the Jaguar. Jerry opened the door and got in. The artist pulled away.


“How do you want me this time?”

“I want you naked.”

“You’re the boss.”

Jerry was wearing the same shirt he’d worn the other night. He removed it. Then he unzipped his jeans and peeled them off. He wasn’t wearing underwear. His legs were narrow and straight. There was a gap between his thighs.

“Do you like it?” Jerry grabbed his uncircumcised penis and shook it at the artist. “Do you like my cock?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Of course, you do, you old queen. You’re just like the rest of them.” Jerry stroked his penis halfway to erection. The artist watched him do it.

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.” Jerry turned slowly around, shaking his hips as he did. A sort of awkward burlesque. Then he bent over and with his hands parted the cheeks of his ass. “That’s what you’re after, isn’t it?”

“Stay just like that.”

“Whatever you say.”

The artist tore back another sheet of paper from the pad and began to sketch. He traced the curve of Jerry’s back, penciled the thin hairs of his upper thighs, painted the star of his anus. When the artist was done, he turned the canvas around and showed it again to his muse.

For a long moment, Jerry studied the drawing.

The artist broke the silence.

“You look so graceful."

Jerry laughed. "What exactly? My asshole?"

"The whole of you.”

There was a long silence. Then the artist said, “I had an old friend over the other evening. I showed her my drawings of you. She said it’s a study in love.” He paused. “I think she’s right.”

“Love?” Jerry laughed a cruel sort of laugh. “I don’t love you.”

The artist turned away.

"I expected not." He put down his pencils and set the pad on the floor. “I’m ready now.”

“For what?”

“To fuck you, as you so inelegantly like to put it.”

Jerry sat on the stool and began to put his pants back on.

“Yeah. I’m afraid there’s not time for that, old man.”

“What do you mean?”

“Can I have the painting?”

“This one?”

“Uh huh.”

“Of course. But it’s just for you. Nobody else can see it.” Jerry nodded. The artist handed Jerry the large sheet of paper. Jerry held it up and studied it again. Then he folded it in half, creasing it. The artist winced.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

“Do what? This?”

Jerry folded it again, creasing it even harder this time, licking his fingers for emphasis.

“I said I was ready to fuck. Are you a whore or not? Take your clothes off.” His voice was raised. There was an edge to it.

There was a bang from downstairs, the sound of the heavy wooden door slamming shut.

“That sounds like them now."

"Sounds like who, Jerry?"

“Angel and Rodney. I left the door unlocked for them.”

The artist leapt to his feet. He began to walk quickly to the door of his studio.

“What have you done?”

The artist didn't wait for an answer. He ran down the three flights of stairs. When he stepped into his living room, he was out of breath. Angel and the man with the ponytail stood on the thick Persian carpeting beneath the recessed lighting. The artist could only think how out of place, how uncurated they looked. Tucked under Angel’s arm was the Picasso.

“You remember my friends.”

Jerry was behind him.

The artist turned and looked at the young man with the buck teeth and the straight bangs and the sad eyes. “Why are you doing this to me, Jeremiah?”

“Jeremiah? What kind of stupid name is that?”

Jerry and Angel and Rodney, laughed. An inside joke.

“If you call the cops, I’ll show them this drawing you did of my asshole, you fucking pervert.” Jerry patted the pocket of his pants, which bulged with the folded sheet.

“So you were just using me? This whole time?”

A flush of anger swept across Jerry’s face. His brow furrowed. He gritted his teeth.

Me using you? I’m sixteen! That makes me a minor. So you see, old man, you were using me!”

“You said you were older.”

“I lied. I do that a lot, turns out. But you already knew that. Like when I said I was twenty-three."

Jerry and Angel and the man with the ponytail opened the front door.

We’ll be taking this too,” Angel said with a sneer, picking up the keys to the Jaguar and stepping out into the quiet night.

The door slammed shut and the house fell silent.

The artist exhaled. He listened to the sound of the Jaguar’s engine turning over and the whine of the wheels on the pavement.

Then he locked the front door and climbed the three flights of stairs to his studio. He searched through the pile of sketches and paintings, which had grown tall over the course of the sessions. At last, he found what he was looking for. The first portrait he’d done. The one Jerry had said made him look ugly.

He returned to his living room and there, in the spot left absent by the Picasso, he carefully hung the one of Jerry.

August 12, 2021 15:10

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K. Antonio
20:32 Aug 14, 2021

That ending was so unexpected! I think this is the first time I've read something from you that has a bit of LGBTQ+ details sprinkled through it (the world of Grindr was basically on point). Anyway for some reason I really liked the artist (I also enjoyed how he wasn't named), the way he viewed Jerry through an abstract lens was so strange to me, yet mesmerizing. The fact Jerry was a substance user and had buck teeth but still called the artist's attention played to that idea of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". I did sort of wish th...


David G.
13:35 Aug 16, 2021

Hey, K. Thank you for reading and for the really thoughtful comments. This is the first time I've tried to explore some LGBTQ+ characters. I was nervous about doing that. I always have a fear that I won't get it right when I do any characters that aren't just like me, so I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the story. I was inspired by a really beautiful short film from the New York Times. I reimagined the story in the most cynical possible light. https://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000007853016/drawings-of-my-bf.html By the way, ...


K. Antonio
01:09 Aug 17, 2021

Thanks a bunch! I can honestly say that writing often and also all the feedback from many authors has contributed to that growth! Maybe I've just entered a stride in my writing, but I definitely think reflection and sometimes just resting and not putting so much pressure on myself has been a big help. I'm going to check out that link! Also I think the characters in a way were like pieces of art, intricate and complex without feeling overworked. Kind of rich for me to say this (considering all the contemporary fiction I write), but I defin...


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H L McQuaid
09:32 Aug 14, 2021

Hello David, Great story, with deep questions of who is using whom, and nice contrasts (artists versus muses, johns versus patrons, etc). A few small typos: "artist" instead of "artists" here: The artists didn’t say anything "of" instead of "if" here: I showed her my drawings if you Nice to see you again. :)


David G.
13:36 Aug 16, 2021

Thank you, Heather. I'm glad you enjoyed the dynamics between the two characters. And thanks for finding those typos. There's always something!


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Scott Skinner
07:15 Aug 14, 2021

I wanted the artist to be more angry at the end, maybe violent with the gang after they'd stolen from him. The rub of Jerry's age and the threat of what he would do with the artist's picture is how you convince me that he couldn't do much more than just hang up the replacement piece. However, jacking a Picasso & a car is grounds for a beat down. I guess I'm to believe because of his 4 story townhouse in his affluent neighborhood, these items don't have as much value to him, or maybe he's rich & closeted, so even though they do have value, he...


David G.
13:40 Aug 16, 2021

Thank you, Scott. Good points, all around. I think the artist is really cornered. He's committed a sex crime with a minor, so there's no way he can go to the cops. But yeah, he probably could have been pissed off. Somehow, in my mind this was not the first time through this for either of the characters. The artist is always looking for a muse. Maybe he's found some before. Maybe some of the other drawings in his living room are of previous muses/lovers. I don't know. And Jerry and his buddies have done this before, which is how they know wha...


Scott Skinner
13:55 Aug 16, 2021

Thanks for offering some more insight. FWIW, your story stuck w/ me a bit over the weekend, I def liked it. Thanks for sharing that link to the video. Such an interesting relationship, couldn't help but laugh when the artist said, "It's amazing to get so much mileage out of one person"


David G.
14:01 Aug 16, 2021

I couldn’t shake that little movie either. It just feels like more than a purely romantic love story. There’s more to it.


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A.Dot Ram
17:58 Aug 13, 2021

It's good to see you back. Haha, I like the glib catch-all of your CW. This is a moving story. I agree you could make this for the prompt. Maybe it's the original sketch of Jerry the artist has seen 100 times before--he's thinking of how to develop it, wondering where the beauty lies? And finally somehow finds it. In a way I feel like that's what you've implied, without so many words.


David G.
19:49 Aug 13, 2021

Thank you, Anne! Great to hear from you! I didn’t write this one for the prompt, but it was just close enough that I thought I’d post it this week. I tried to stretch it a bit to get it more aligned, but it’s starting to feel a little contrived, so I think I’m going to leave it as is. I’m trying to teach myself to write what I want to write and not worry as much about the competition! Re: the CW, it’s the first time I’ve ever included one, but this story is pretty raw, so I felt like I should put something up top. Fair warning, and all.


A.Dot Ram
20:57 Aug 13, 2021

Reedsy has added them conspicuously (to mine and others) so many people have started phrasing or own. I'm glad you did. The brevity was artful. Great for you for following your own vision. That's just being a mature writer, I think. And your story really did address the prompt. Probably better that it did so through subtext and feeling than with direct words. What I said in my last comment was really what I got from your story. There's not a real need for you to define it if it evokes a feeling in readers.


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Shea West
21:29 Aug 12, 2021

David, I know you said it doesn't fit the prompt...but I could see how you easily could add a few lines that would make fit. Like perhaps the artist drives by the users often, sees them there all the time sort of thing. This felt sad and melancholic to me. The artist is so sad that his muse is poisoning himself. That the artist has to find a muse in this way. So many sad aspects to it. I kept finding more when I went back and read it again. Great read


David G.
22:36 Aug 12, 2021

Blah. You're right. It does almost fit the prompt. Now I'm going to have to spend more time with it! Why'd you have to go and do that?!?!? Thanks for the read. I appreciated your feedback. It's always insightful!


Shea West
02:56 Aug 13, 2021

Because! It's a great story and some minor tweaks would make it fit. I will come back once you've made them ;)


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Peyton Kocinski
01:00 Dec 20, 2022

Good job on the story keep on doing good and making more.


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David G.
14:21 Aug 20, 2021

This story never got approved. I’m afraid that I may have offended someone. If that’s the case, I apologize. It was not my intent.


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