This short story is in response to the Five Minute Friday prompt: Work. The rules are: write for 5 minutes and no editing (although I can’t stop myself a little. I am an editor after all). I’ll see you on the other side. Hope you enjoy it.
Her name is Hope, and she sits bowed in the corner, pouring herself into a painting. A cord sprouts from the base of her enormous earphones and tethers her still…at least for the moment.
Voices leak through the music, and she swats them away.
Not real. Right? They’re not real.
She glances from the angel emerging from her canvas to the community room, expecting it to be empty. Instead, a woman glances up from her sketchpad, breaks in a sunrise smile, and then returns to her sketch.
Hope knows what most everyone sees when they look at her—crooked glasses, hair so bleached it’s broken uneven, sharp uncontrollable movements that make even the most compassionate volunteer nervous.
But this woman smiled.
Curious, Hope sets down her brush, and wipes paint spatters onto her grubby jeans. Hope twitches against the shadow man always lurking behind her. He’s whispering something about not getting her hopes up and giggling about how she can never even have her own name.
It isn’t anything new, but it makes her stop. Angry now at the woman. Her parents for cursing her with the constant reminder of all that she’s lost.
Hope snatches the paintbrush gouging it into the black paint, dripping now on the floor. A single spatter catches the angel across the face like a slap.
But most of it, most of it slings across the hand of the woman now standing in front of Hope still smiling as black paint drips from her worn fingertips.
And the woman’s voice is smooth as the creek back home admiring, accepting. Hope touches the black paint smeared into the knuckles. Real. She’s real.
Mama always said angels were real.
While this story is not based on any real person, my mom long ago befriended a woman diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Her struggles have always touched a deep fear in me. Her story always reminding me that not one of us is immune to a debilitating chemical imbalance that can snatch reality from our closed fists.
Through a series of events involving my daughter’s soft heart and artistic abilities, I have begun volunteering with a group in our inner city that has an open art studio for area residents*.
I see Hope in many of these homeless folks, desperate for acceptance, yet never wanting pity. And when they find genuine compassion, they’re at a loss, bending over backward to share whatever little they have. Gifting me and my kids with mints, drawings, stickers, secrets to their own artistic stylings.
I wish I had had more than 5 minutes to explore Hope and the mystery woman. Perhaps I’ll have the chance in real life.
Wishing you a blessed weekend.