A Blank Page

This is not about THE Blank Page. The one every writer dreads, the one that stares back at you from screen or notebook, begging to be filled with winsome words.

No, this is a short story about A blank page. A different blank page. It is a short story in response to a writing prompt given by Amanda Staley in the Writers’ Coffeehouse G+ Community.

~~~

A Blank Page

A short story by Christine Campbell

Justin stared at the blank page attached to his easel. Six-thirty in the morning and it was still blank. This was the seventeenth blank page he’d been confronted with since he rolled home from the pub last night with Steve’s remark ringing in his ears.

‘Gotta go,’ Steve said, downing his last mouthful. ‘Gotta put the finishing touches to my sketch for tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow?’

‘Yeah, exhibition time, remember? You’ve probably already submitted yours.’ He thumped Justin on the back and started putting his coat on. ‘Not like me. Always at the last minute. Can’t stop fiddling with the blessed thing, probably making it worse instead of better. Oh to have your flair and natural talent. You don’t need to fiddle. Sketching seems to come easy to you as breathing.’

Justin smiled. It was true, he did find it easy. Give him a subject and in a few sweeps of a pencil, he had it captured.

He’d forgotten about the whole exhibition thing, though, and, contrary to Steve’s assumption, he had not submitted. He signaled the barman for another pint. No worries, he’d skip this one. It was only an art college exhibition.

Just as Steve moved off, he threw back the killer remark. ‘Wouldn’t care so much, but it’s fifty percent of this year’s final assessment. See ya!’

And he was gone.

Grief! So it was!

The memory of Professor Clarke standing in front of them, trying to get their attention as they all packed up for home, shouting the information, waving a sheet of paper at them, telling them to take one as they went…it all came flooding back with the beer he swallowed.

He hadn’t bothered to read what was on the sheet of paper. All he remembered was, it wasn’t blank!

Finishing his pint too quickly, feeling its effects as he grabbed his coat and staggered to his rooms he lunged into the flat and dived into the drawer where he’s stuffed the forgotten instructions.

Grief! Steve was right. Fifty sodden’ percent! Fifty! And it had to be ‘new work. Not seen or submitted previously.’ That put paid to one of the plans he’d hatched on his way home.

Seventeen failures later, he was staring at a blank sheet of art paper tacked to his easel, with nothing in his mind. Nothing! Nada! Rien!

He knew there were seventeen failures lying crumpled at his feet because he had started a new pad of eighteen sheets and here he was on the last one with nothing to draw. Another hour and he’d be too late to sneak it into the exhibition along with all the other last minute entries.

Closing his eyes, he could visualise the area he’d been assigned. A delightfully prominent spot, assigned to him as one of the Professor’s  favoured pupils, the rest of his year’s work already beautifully displayed there with just the right sized spot left expectantly dead centre for this most important piece of the year.

The piece he’d supposedly been working on all term.

The piece he hadn’t bothered to do, assuming he could rustle something up anytime, and what did it matter anyhow. It would be good enough. He was great at sketching — once he had the inspiration.

Inspiration, that fickle, flirtatious female had waltzed out the door as he’d staggered in last night.

And there it was.

A blank page.

And half an hour left.

He showered and changed into fresh clothes, stood at the easel again and summoned the fickle female.

This time she came at his call. Elated, he did what he had to do, gathered his things and rushed out the door, his coat flapping behind him as he dashed down the stairs out onto the street and made a crazy flight to the art college. Last of the last, he hung his work, stepped back and smiled. Sublime. Inspired. Unique. Perfect.

Standing well back, modesty forbidding him from flaunting his smugness, he watched the punters view his work, delighted that it drew so many comments, initiated so many conversations among them, caused so many to stand gazing at it, deep in thought, as he’d intended.

Even Professor Clarke had smiled and nodded his head, as though seeing for the first time the quality of his student.

Victory was his! Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Steve was speechless. ‘Wow! Don’t know how you do it. Always a shocker how far out the box your work is,’ what he eventually managed to get out.

The description Justin had pinned beside his work had invited the viewer

~~ to interpret the work as he would ~~ to allow his mind to wander where it could ~~ to view his work as a catalyst to deep, meaningful pondering~~

Perhaps it should not have surprised him when the year assessment results were posted out, and, after ‘deep, meaningful pondering,’ these were the marks Professor Clarke gave him:

A blank sheet of paper.

A smaller, but equally empty page as the one he’d so proudly hung as the masterpiece of the exhibition.

~~~

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda Staley
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 16:19:06

    I enjoyed reading this short story. Your writing always captivates and entertains me. Can’t wait to see your next story.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Z. R. Southcombe
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 20:16:42

    hehe! Brilliant, Christine.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin
    Jan 09, 2015 @ 04:56:48

    Very enjoyable Christine xx

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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