Waiting for Everything, and Nothing

July 18, 2011
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Kade scrunched his eyes shut, willing the sun that had filtered through his ratty blue sleeping bag to retreat. The mornings were always the worst. He woke up grasping for his ebbing dream, like a time traveler trying to jump into the portal before it closed, only to crash onto the hard ground and realize that he would be stuck in the past forever. Reluctantly, Kade sat up in his sleeping bag and rested his head against the gray, concrete wall of Sherman’s Bakery. He rubbed his gritting fingers into the corners of his eyes, trying to rub the sleep from his face. He slid his sweatshirt off of his back, feeling it stick as he pulled it over his head. When he stood, he let his sleeping bag pool around his feet, the folds of puffy fabric creating a small circle around him. Kade stepped out of his circle, and slipped on his shoes, no socks; those had become useless months ago. He lifted his backpack and unzipped the biggest pocket. His hand delicately removed the eight or so finished pieces and the one that was still in progress. He lined them up against the wall, evenly spaced, and sat back down to wait out the day, trying not to think about the tight pain that was growing in his stomach.
He had picked this location for a reason. He and his mom used to go there everyday after school. He knew that Sherman’s Bakery would often dump out their stale bread in the garbage out back and Kade could usually get to it before it was too contaminated. Also, one of the girls who worked there would always come out around lunch-time and bring him a croissant. He thought her name might be Mary; she looked like a Mary. She wore the same gold necklace as his old foster mom, a small heart encased in a circle. He remembered his foster mother, Janet. She was a plain, quiet woman, who worked long hours at the Carver Hotel as a maid. She was nice enough, but she was always gone, and Kade was left to fend off her drunk of a husband alone. Every once in a while, Kade would reach up and touch the scar that cut through his left eyebrow, to remind himself that he could never go back.
He altered his position on the ground, his back starting to ache from leaning against the hard wall. All he really had now, were his sketches. He drew what he saw; an old man waiting at the bus stop, an exhausted women trying to corral her two children, Mary, her hands covered in flour, kneading dough. He saw a lot when he sat there, watching the day go by. He was surprised that people actually bought his sketches. He thought they were satisfactory and realistic enough, but he never knew if people bought them because they actually liked them and wanted his drawings hung up in their house or given as a gift, or if they just felt sorry for him; wanting to help out a boy who looked far older than he actually was. Today though, he had had no takers.
He drew while he waited, the sweet smell of baked goods tormenting him every time the door was opened. The sun was setting, moving behind the buildings, casting dark shadows over the street. He looked down the empty sidewalk and decided that it was time to pack up and see if he could find something to eat for dinner.
“Maybe just five more minutes,” he thought settling back onto the ground. He wanted to delay his disappointment, letting the hope that food would come comfort his aching belly. He closed his eyes, imagining a great feast including a whole platter full of corn on the cob. He wasn’t sure why, but recently, all he wanted was corn. When he opened his eyes again, letting his fantasy slip away, he saw a woman angrily pounding down the street, coming in his direction. She was old, in her sixties at least, her wild gray hair flowing freely behind her. Her cargo pants were spotted with paint and her shirt had a stain of what looked like gravy on the collar. “Who was she?” Kade thought to himself, already reaching into his backpack for pencil and paper.

“Pretentious art students,” Franny muttered to herself as she walked down the street. “All they want to do is something that has never been done before. They don’t care how atrocious it is, as long as they can call it ‘original’. Shock value, that’s all any of them want.” She had taken a different route home from work, being taunted by the sweet smell of baked goods. She needed something to cheer her up from today’s pitiful class, so she followed her nose to a quaint little bakery. But as she was about to walk through the glass door, she noticed something to her left. There, leaning against the wall, were some of the most amazing portraits she had ever seen. Sure they were rough, drawn by the hands of an untrained artist, but they were just so honest. They had a certain quality to them, she felt she could look at one for hours and still notice new details. They weren’t trying to be anything else than they were, just pure and true drawings of people. She let out a sigh, and crouched down to get a better look.

“Five Dollars,” said a rough voice. She looked over to her left. She hadn’t noticed before, but there sat a man, hunched over a piece of paper, sketching intently. “One for five dollars,” he repeated, not looking up from his work.

“You should ask for more,” she said in a soft voice. When he looked up, she saw that he was not a man at all, but a boy, no older than 18. His hair was dirty and matted, but she could tell that if it were washed, it would become a rich gold color. His face was smeared with soot, but his eyes shown brightly, their green color displaying hope and sorrow at the same time. He gave her a puzzled look, then went back to his drawing.

“Do you want one or not?”

She stayed in her squat, pants tightening against her knees and her eyes trained on the portraits.
“You should come to my class. It’s a couple blocks down at the New York Academy of Art. You could show all of my students what it really means to draw a portrait.”

“Lady, it’s getting dark, you should probably be getting home.”

“We would have to deal with logistics and things like that,” she said wistfully, “but I’m sure we could work something out. Tomorrow, I’ll come pick you up. What do you say?

He stared at her for a while before saying “I can’t.”

“Why not?
He cast his eyes down and looked at his hands, turning them over to examine his fingernails.

“I need to stay here. I’m waiting for someone.”

“You’re waiting for someone everyday?”

“She’ll get here, I know she will.”

“It would just be for a couple of –

“I just can’t,” he said harshly.

He shook his head again and trained his eyes back on his paper, is pencil making rough scratching noises against the page.

“Well, I guess if you don’t want to…” she frowned. “Just know, that you have talent. You don’t need to be here on the streets. What you have right there in your hands can get you far.” She turned around, opened the door to he bakery, and stepped inside. When she came back out, cupcake in hand, she saw that the boy was gone. He had taken his bag and all of his portraits, except for one. A slim piece of white paper leaned against the bakery wall, and on it Angie saw her own face staring back at her. She picked it up and slipped it into her bag, hoping, for his sake, that it would be worth something someday.

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Garnet77 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 8, 2011 at 3:52 am
I really like this story. It's creative and I love the idea. I'm kind of sad he didn't want to go to the academy! But on the other hand, it kind of works really well and you tie it together smoothly at the end. 
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