It’s been a while since I did a Wednesday Briefs post, so for the new readers, here’s a brief overview: every week, a group of writers post flash fiction pieces based on prompts provided via mailing list. A lot of people like to write series of flash fiction pieces; I have done that before, but recently have preferred stand alone pieces when I do write them.
Below is a new stand alone piece that may be expanded on in the future. It’s a story about two college age guys working in the library, and one dead artist. Please enjoy, and tell me what you think!
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973. Prompt used: can you give me a hand here?
“Can you give me a hand here? I can’t carry it down by myself…”
Henri recognized the voice on top of the ladder as one of the RAs from the history library, but couldn’t name the guy. “Sorry, my hands are full.”
He shifted the weight of a stack of bound art periodicals in his arms, nudging a step stool aside as he maneuvered down one of the tight aisles that made up the main stacks. Normally, he enjoyed working in the art section, but when he had to gather up multiple volumes of a journal for shipping purposes, it became more of a chore than a pleasure.
“Ah, shit. I mean, shoot.” There was the soft slam of heavy books being pushed across a metal shelf. “Would I get in trouble if I dropped Picasso on the floor?”
“Only if you drop him into a trash can.”
“In my dreams.”
Henri couldn’t help but look up. He saw the Research Assistant’s round face. Framed by waves of dark brown hair and splattered in freckles, he reminded Henri of an unfinished Seurat painting. Sam, he remembered.
“Not a Picasso fan?”
“Anyone who turns bodies into cubes is not to be trusted. Here—”
Sam dropped a three-inch thick rebound quarto of Picasso sketches onto Henri’s periodical stack. Henri teetered on his feet for a second before regaining his footing.
“Coming down for that now,” Sam called down.
“Thanks.” Henri’s teeth chattered slightly from the impact. “What’s with the Picasso anyway? I thought you were in the history department.”
Sam squinted at him from the halfway rung, and Henri was self-conscious of the thick shoulders and bristly red hair that set him apart from his colleagues. “Do I know you? Sorry, I probably do, I’m just bad with faces. That’s the problem with being in research, you get used to people by their handwriting more than their actual features.”
Henri’s cheeks flared red. “I did a GA stint at the history library last semester. Mainly circ stuff, but I was assistant on the ref desk for a few weeks.”
“Oh shit, you were there for Nasty Cate and the fridge drama. That was pretty awful.” Sam continued downward, and Henri could see that the freckles from his face also reached the back of his hands and along his arms. “That was the semester half the GAs quit at midterms and the rest didn’t reapply for spring.”
Henri pretended to examine the spines on the nearby shelf. He’d been one of the GAs who didn’t reapply. “It was tough.”
Henri jerked his head up to see Sam now in front of him, separated by a stack of art books.
“I remember you. Henri, right? You were one of our best shelvers. And I remember when you ran the reference desk. Sorry you didn’t come back.”
“It—um—it’s okay. I’ve got an assistantship now in the main library. It’s all right. Here.” He lowered his arms enough so Sam could reach the Picasso book.
“Thanks, man.” Sam grabbed the volume but didn’t move. “You need help getting those to a cart? Never mind, you got that in the bag, right? The cart’s on my side of the aisle. Lemme get out of the way then—” He spun around and trooped out of the aisle and, before Henri could say otherwise, pushed the book cart to the end of the aisle.
Henri managed to set them out on his side of the cart. He didn’t have any problem with that normally, but suddenly he had to do it perfectly or look foolish. “Thanks.”
“No prob. Anything for a former history guy. And by the way,” Sam added, “this isn’t for the history department, it’s for me. I know, I said I didn’t like Picasso. I dunno. I thought I’d give him a second chance.”
“It’s not all cubes,” Henri heard himself say. “His Cubism phase really only lasted for five years at most. He also had periods in which he experimented with one color at a time, like his Blue Period. That’s where we get a lot of his more well-known works. The Old Guitarist, for one, or Self Portrait. He also did sculptures. There’s one in Chicago and there were some at the MoMA for a while. A lot of his work is neoclassical and surreal, along with his cubism.”
Sam blinked, as if coming out of a daze, and Henri realized he’d rambled.
“Dude, are you an art major?”
Henri felt hot again. “No, engineering. But I like art.” He started to push his cart down the main aisle, and Sam followed
“Well, that settles it. You’re the guy.”
“Yesterday, I remembered a past GA who mentioned like, once, that Picasso did cool stuff and I thought I’d find a book of his sketches to see if I’d like him. And that was you! You said that!”
“It was the spring break picnic, and we were all in the quad, and Jamie from cataloging had gotten you talking about yourself—anyway, there’s an exhibit on Picasso’s contemporaries coming to the gallery space in the library next week so I thought I’d read up on him. Are you —were you going to show up?”
“I don’t know. I’m surprised you remember me.”
“I once saw you push two trucks filled with math indexes into a van by yourself. That’s hard to forget. Anyway, you should come with me. It’ll be fun.”
They stopped at the elevator. “Really?”
Sam grinned. “Really. I promise! Call the history library desk and we’ll talk scheduling, okay?”
“Okay.” Henri exhaled a little too loudly. “Okay, I will.”
“Cool.” The elevator doors opened, and Henri pushed his cart inside. “It’s a date, then!”
Before Henri could answer, the doors closed between them, leaving him to stand in the elevator for a minute with face blazing and palms perspiring before realizing he had never picked a floor.
Here are my fellow bloggers also flashing this week: