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Beneath The Skin(10)

By´╝ÜDaryl Banner



“You’ve walked out of that class, like, ten times already.”

“We haven’t even had ten classes yet. School year’s just begun.”

“Nell. How many times do I have to say it? Don’t let the world ruin your art. Let your art ruin the world.”

I sigh and kick something in the grass. If it weren’t for this one person I have in my ear right now, I’d be pretty convinced that there wasn’t a person left on this planet who wasn’t totally put-off or offended by my very existence. People don’t like me. I don’t easily make friends and I live alone. Maybe that’s why I’m so good with animals.

Maybe Brant’s just a big, dumb animal.

“Nell?”

I bite a finger and rue the day I quit smoking; I could really use one right about now. “I need to leave this campus. You coming to get me?”

“No, I have that thing with Crystal, remember? Besides, I’m stuck on I-10, sweetie. HELLO, WELCOME TO MY LANE, ASSHOLE. Sorry. I’m an hour away pushing through Houston traffic. Listen, I’m all about you getting out of that school, but I want you to be carrying a degree when you do. Don’t just drop out like I did.”

I can’t stop picturing Brant sitting on that stool in front of me naked as his birthday—except I doubt he had that many muscles when he was born. It’s impressive, to be as slender as he is, yet to be so toned and cut with muscle in every curve of his sinewy body.

He is such a lean, mean cut of meat.

“Remember the nude model I told you about last night?”

“Yeah. The one with the big dong. How can I forget?”

I swallow a chuckle. “I was thinking of taking him to see Object. You know, the piece for my—”

“Oh, yes!” she cuts me off excitedly. “For your thing this weekend!”

“Right, my thing this weekend.”

“Do you think you’ll get into the End Of Year Showcase? You have shown your latest work to Diane and Jacquelyn, haven’t you?”

I grip the phone a bit tighter at her words, glancing off as a stray breeze catches my face and tosses my hair. “Diane’s always been good with me. It’s Jacquelyn whose taste is questionable.”

“Now, now …”

“It is,” I argue before she’s had a chance to say anything. “She has the emotional depth of a doorknob and wouldn’t know true artistry or innovation if her face were made out of it.”

“Considering the amount of makeup she wears, it is made out of it.”

“I’m going to have a piece in the showcase,” I go on. “There’s no doubt in my mind. The only question is, will they let me show the piece I want to show? Or will they censor and silence me?”

“I wouldn’t recommend offering them Pussy.”

“But Object, maybe …”

“Nell. You’re pushing it.”

“That’s what I’m made to do, Minnie,” I retort, pulling hair behind my ear to get it out of my face as the wind has its way with it. “Push. It’s an artist’s responsibility. If you’re not pushing, then you’re being pushed. And anyone in a crowded subway station will tell you, unless you’re making an effort to push through the bodies, you’re gonna miss the train.” I smirk knowingly. “And I’m not missing the train.”

“Well,” grunts Minnie, unimpressed, “if you’re feeling all that fiery inspiration, I’m not going to stop you. I hope your new big-dong friend enjoys Object as much as you do. Maybe he’ll inspire your next piece, the one you submit for the End Of Year Showcase, provided he survives you long enough to inspire. He sounds like a tasty drumstick.”

“Shut up. I haven’t had lunch yet.”

She screams an obscenity, causing me to jerk my ear away from the phone for a second. “Sorry about that. Go have fun with big-dong, but remember to leave a little bit of him intact when you’re through.”

“You think so little of me,” I murmur teasingly, thinking about his bright blue eyes, “like I’m some kind of monster.”

“We’re all some kind of monster,” she retorts. “Just some of us have the sense to know it.”

“Bye, Minnie.”

“Don’t eat him alive!”

I hang up, slipping the phone back in my pocket with a smile, then bring the slightly-wrinkled picture of a cat to my face, looking over it for a while. It’s so intricately done. No one noticed the dilated eyes. I can’t stand the people in my class, how they just look at the surface of everything. They see what’s in front of them—and by seeing just what’s in front of them, they see nothing.

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