‘A Question of Now’ - This week we look at Street Art

Submitted into Contest #85 in response to: Write about someone fighting to keep their city neighborhood the same.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Funny

The cacophonic assault of traffic, thumping music oozing from shops and half heard one-sided phone conversations of passers-by, that provided the aural backdrop of urban white noise to Brenda O’Lox’s podcast, ‘A Question of Now’, was so dense you could almost chew it. 

“This week I’m taking you on an audio tour of our city streets, to the places where sharp eyed urban dwellers like yourselves may still see glimpses of the efforts of a local artistic icon.” 

The echoes from concrete stairwells, the footsteps on unkept gritty pavements, and a melange of electronic alerts and warning sounds coalesce into an audible hors d’oeuvre that eventually meets Brenda’s salivating production expectations.

“The graffiti that adorns the empty shops, the monolithic car park facades and the scary poorly lit, misused pedestrian underpasses are regularly obliterated by coverings created by the legend known as ‘Blanksy’.” 

The background sounds stop abruptly after being preceded by a two second rewound collage of everything heard so far, culminating in a reverse whoosh. (Brenda likes to play with her editing software.)

“Secretive as he (or she) is, we have managed to convince him (or her) to participate in a touring audio interview for this week’s podcast and, to preserve his anonymity, we have digitally masked his face.” 

“Or her voice,” interjected a bobble-hatted Blanksy. 

“Yes, quite, thank you,” replied Brenda, “we can edit that bit out. So, Bryan,” Brenda paused, “Ah, damn! We can edit that bit out as well, sorry. So, Mr (or Ms) Blanksy, firstly your choice of colour, a colour that has become synonymous with your style, ‘Blanksy Beige’, what made you choose that?”

“Ah well, now, I have to correct you there, if I may,” replied Bryan in a strangulated voice that would not be out of place for a cliche character in a sketch show about trainspotters. “Although initially I did use what you may call beige for the first five to six years, then made a significant change quite some time ago now. So for the last four weeks I have been using a wide variety of colours.” Blanksy then removed an immaculately maintained colour chart from the inner pocket of his khaki warehouse coat and pointed out the wide variety of colours he’d been deploying. “These range from ‘Doctor’s Surgery Magnolia’ to ‘1980’s British Rail Oatmeal Seat Cover’ and even occasionally ‘Frasier Crane’s Harvest Gold Living Room Carpet’. I like to use a wide range of colours that reflect the many different facets of my personality.”

Brenda was a little concerned that regular listeners may believe from Blanksy’s distinctive nasal and rather choked vocal tones that they can (mistakenly) identify Blanksy as Brian Anorak. Brian had been a recent guest on the podcast as the renowned collector of between-the-wars vintage lawnmowers. But Brenda needn’t have worried as the digital masking of Blanksy’s face made him sound like a dilapidated yet excitable Dalek. In any case, Blanksy was in fact Bryan Steeplegate the less renowned collector of not-so-vintage post-war lawnmowers and hence had not been the subject of a podcast (as it was believed the listenership would be quite low). Also, and equally significant for the purposes of identification on a podcast, Bryan Steeplegate/Bryan Blanksy’s first name was spelt with a y not an i so therefore could not conceivably be confused with Brian Anorak.

“I do see myself as an urban artistic crusader,” Blanksy continued, “with a mission to paint over the garish and somewhat poorly spelt graffiti that blights this city and thereby create a calm and gentrified environment for nice people.”

As the two of them wandered around the thrusting glittering steel, glass and concrete edifices of the business quarter Blanksy identified a wall he had recently neutralised. 

“Naturally my work has got me noticed, and a bit of a following, by the more flamboyant members of the street art community,” winced Blanksy as he caught sight of himself in a slightly concave full length office window which gave the impression of reducing his five foot five and half stature to five foot two, despite having starched his bobble hat.

Brenda desperately inspected the wall but could only just manage to see a small remaining patch of ‘County Council Highways Department Office Drab’ lovingly painted behind a guttering down pipe elbow. Her eye was initially mesmerised by the vast cosmic iridescent hypnotic patterns of a Herculean avenging Merman. This image of a rainbow eco-warrior ramming ocean detritus down the throats of a dozen ‘stars and striped’ jacketed oil executives consumed the other 200 square meters of wall. It was an artistic endeavour completed fresh that morning by one of Blanksy’s more flamboyant followers. 

Brenda pretended not to notice. 

“As I say,” muttered Bryan, “I have a following that follows me around and it seems that my neutral tones create opportunities for others to take advantage of.”

At this point, Brenda felt the need to distract Blanksy from the disrespectful and discouraging present and enquire where he saw his future. 

“Actually, I am just releasing a limited edition collectors’ set of post cards. Here, have a look.” Bryan handed Brenda a pack of 12 pristine picture postcards. “These are close-ups of a multistorey car park wall I finished painting in the early hours of this morning. I call them ‘Close-ups of a multistorey carpark - in Digestive Biscuit.’ There you go, yet another colour, really went wild this time and the car park is out of town so my work will be preserved for a while.”

They slowly mooched around the rest of the city with a disheartened Blanksy pointing out other walls, public toilets and subways he’d worked on but without any remaining evidence to show for it. 

Brenda thought about the magnitude of Bryan’s mission and his efforts last night, up and down ladders and hanging off balconies at that out of town multistorey park which she already knew was no longer ‘Digestive Biscuit’.

In a regrettable attempt to end the podcast on a positive, constructive note, Brenda pointed out the USP of Bryan’s ‘Close-ups of a multistorey carpark - in Digestive Biscuit,’ postcards. “Your contemporaries have shown you the path,” said Brenda with the jolliness of a school teacher telling a child that participating and getting to the end of the egg and spoon race, even if it was last, is just as important as winning, “Your famous ‘Blanksy Beige’, or variations of, means you can market the postcards as double sided, ‘Postcards by Blanksy - space to write on both sides,’ what do you think Bryan?”

Blanksy’s response, almost lost in the faded-up aural backdrop of yet more urban white noise and the desperate unscrewing of a hip flask containing a Strawberry-lemon Mojito, was that of a retreating Bryan complaining, “It’s not beige! I don’t do beige! I use a wide range of colours that reflect the many different facets of my personality.”

Sean Hodgson www.seanhodgson.co.uk

March 12, 2021 16:37

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Nina Chyll
20:47 Mar 21, 2021

Ha! Not sure you’ve ever seen Red Dwarf, but the names for the colours really reminded me of Rimmer’s varieties of gray. I thought the language for the characters and the narrative wasn’t varied enough in that it all read like one uniform voice (a little too flowery for me at times), but I had fun reading at many points.


Sean Hodgson
15:41 Mar 22, 2021

Nina - Thankyou for taking the time to comment much appreciated. Yes I know about Red Dwarf and the varieties of Grey - I suppose it's a comic motif it's been used in various ways many times I accept my 'beige' angel isn't unique.


Nina Chyll
16:25 Mar 22, 2021

That wasn't a criticism at all - it just reminded me of another funny person, who, much like the character here, doesn't see the funny side.


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