The Fate Of The Muse

By: Derrolyn Anderson

“I used work on a larger scale,” I said, thinking about how cramped I was in my tiny bedroom, “But I need to find some studio space first.”

“Really?” He looked surprised, “There’s a loft right above us I’ve been trying to rent… wanna see it?”

“Sure,” I shrugged, following his faded jean jacket and bouncing gray ponytail out the door and down a narrow alley to the back of the old brick building. A wrought iron fire escape stretched up to the second floor where a small “for rent” sign hung in the window. He wasn’t asking much, and I expected even less. The stairs rattled in protest as we climbed them to a small door that turned out to be unlocked.

“Those dang kids!” Bill complained as he entered. “They skipped out on the last month’s rent and left me with a mess to boot!”

I looked around at the huge space in awe. It didn’t look this big from the street. There were blackout drapes on large multi-paned windows that faced west, and when Bill pulled them aside I could see that some of the glass sections were broken out and taped over with cardboard. I looked down to the street below and saw the top of the Range Rover, and the surf shop beyond it. I didn’t even know this place was here.

“What do you think?” he asked hopefully.

There were yellowed newpapers scattered around, interspersed with some ratty looking cushions on the floor. Bags of fast food wrappers and cigarette butts were scattered everywhere, and a chair with broken legs tilted in a corner. I looked up at the towering walls. There were scraps of carpet tacked onto nearly every vertical surface, topped with cardboard egg cartons that created a strange patchwork of texture on the wall.

“What’s all this stuff?” I asked.

“Soundproofing,” Bill said with a grimace, “The neighbors complained about the noise.”

I smiled, “A band, huh?” Someone had stuck a multitude of glow-in-the-dark moons and stars on the high ceiling, and hung a bunch of surfing posters all around. How appropriate, I thought, remembering nighttime surfing with a sharp intake of breath and a stab of longing that surprised me.

“Yeah, surf-punk-ska something,” said Bill, “They were pretty good too… But I guess they just never found their muse.”

I looked at him in alarm, but he’d already moved on to the far end of the room where a half-wall partition blocked a small, grubby looking bathroom from view. I peeked around the corner to see an ancient looking clawfoot tub full of empty beer bottles sitting next to a rust stained pedestal sink. He flipped the faucet on and it ran brown for a few seconds before turning clear.

“At least the plumbing still works,” he said optimistically.

I walked back to the center of the room and stood looking around. The afternoon sun slanted in through the wall of windows, highlighting shafts of dust swirling in the freshly disturbed air. It looked like rays of light shining through murky water.

“It needs a lot of cleaning up,” I was thinking out loud, already envisioning where I’d set up my easel to take advantage of the light.

“Take it ‘as is’ and I’ll give you free rent for the first month…” Bill said enticingly.

“I don’t know…” I wavered.

“All utilities included…” Clearly, he didn’t want to contend with the mess.

I smiled, holding out my hand for a shake, “Deal.”

We picked our way back down the stairs and over to his office where he handed me a set of keys and an envelope of cash from the paintings I’d sold. I pulled the poster I’d made out of my tote bag and asked him if he’d hang it in his window.

“Save Our Local Small Farms,” he read aloud, “Righteous.”

The poster outlined the plans we’d made to hold the rally on Ethan’s five acre plot, on a section lying fallow between crops. Thanks to Abby’s tireless efforts on the phone, we’d gotten considerable support from the community. It had already morphed into a pretty big event, with a couple of local bands slated to perform, and a salmon barbeque courtesy of Dutch and his fishermen friends. Even Lue Khang was encouraged, inspired to make a giant vat of his famous fish soup for the event.

Bill was shocked when I told him the news about the proposed golf course, “What a bummer!” He shook his head in disbelief as he taped the poster up in the window, “We should stage a sit-in at Congressman Hill’s office– it’s just down the street! He’s even in town… I saw him on the news yesterday.”

“A sit in?”

Bill’s eyes grew dreamy with nostalgia, “You know, I did the whole war protest thing back in the day…” he leaned in and winked at me, “And I have the arrest record to prove it!”

I giggled, imagining Bill as an idealistic young hippie, “No thanks, we’re going the legal route, but maybe I should stop by his office and hang one of our posters,” I said caustically, “He should know who’ll be voting him out of office next year!”

“Power to the people!” Bill called out after me as I headed out the door.