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White on White
“Look. Sean. I get it. I understand where you’re coming from here, but you gotta work with me a little. Throw me a bone, man. I’m busting my balls for you. I’m on the phone day and night tryna’ make things work. Tryna’ talk to these guys, but I can’t do this alone. Work with me abit.”
“I won’t cut those lines. I can’t. I already told you.”
“Sean…” Chad shook his head slowly – like a frustrated parent, trying to explain to his five year old son why he can’t eat the new Oreo cookie ice cream in the fridge until he finishes his asparagus.
“I thought they said they liked it.”
“They do. Sean, boy, they love it. Love. It. They just want a few little-itty-bitty changes, that’s all – a few cuts here and there.”
Sean opened his mouth, but Chad silenced him with his eyes.
“This is coming from the very top of the food chain – it’s not my choice. If you want your novel published you’re going to have to make some compromises. Not everybody sees things you’re way. This is your shot. Right now. Seize it. Take control of your life. This is what you want, what you need.”
“I know. I know. I just can’t do it. They said they like the book–”
“–loved the book.”
“Yeah, whatever, but those lines are part of the book.”
“Look, Sean, I can’t talk to you like this.” A waiter walked by and Chad snapped his fingers to get his attention. “We’re done here,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Get me the check.” He snapped his fingers again, patting Sean on the head, as he got up to leave. “Let me know when you’re going to get your head out of the f***ing clouds, alright?” He clapped his hands together once. “You hear? Let me know.”
“They said it was going to rain today,” Sean’s eyes stared lazily at the sky.
Chad smoothed the wrinkles out of his blazer. “Yea, so?”
“Nothing. Just weird. They said 87 percent chance of rain.”
“They’re wrong all the time. Who cares?”
“You mentioned clouds.”
They were pretty clouds, Sean thought to himself – very cloudlike, but not like a real cloud, more a caricature of a cloud than anything. They were shaped very uniformly, like the clouds he used to draw into the margins of his biology textbook in elementary school. He had always liked to draw lightning bolts under his, usually hitting something, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a stop sign. He had liked to think that he was pretty much a cloud-drawing expert by then. He still remembered his first.
It was the first day of the 3rd grade and his teacher, Ms. Herring, had told everybody to draw an “about me” picture to share with the class using finger-paints. Sean had wanted to paint himself standing outside his house, but, as he’d told the shy girl sitting next to him, he didn’t know how to draw ears real good, so he’d started with the clouds. He painted them big and white, even though Ms. Herring had said they wouldn’t show up on the white paper they were using. When he was done, he’d told Ms. Herring that he was ready to paint the ears please, so he could finish, and he needed another sheet of paper, on account of him making his cloud too big. But she said he wasn’t allowed and plus he shouldn’t be so wasteful. Afterwards, they’d tacked all of the paintings up on the wall by the “to-do board.” His painting had just looked like a plain white sheet, next to the other kid’s paintings of red bicycles and baseball gloves, but just the same his parents had said that it was very lively and creative when they saw it. They’d even stuck it on the fridge, which was white too, so you couldn’t really see it without squinting.
The waiter scurried over to the table with the bill, placing it cautiously in Chad’s outstretched hand. Chad glanced at it briefly before sliding it over to Sean’s side of the table. “You pick it up this time, sport. Call me when you pull yourself together.” With that he picked up his briefcase and began to leave.
Sean stood up. “Hey, Chad.” Chad turned. “It’s my d*mn cloud.” Sean smiled, inordinately content with the puzzled look on Chad’s face.