The flyer said, “Come
see our showing of brand
new works from promising, up-
and-coming artists,” everything modernity,
careful with its lower-case m had
to offer. So we went
to the showing, down
an alley, in a corner
of a repurposed warehouse.

You, hopeful, I, skeptical, the door,
unmarked, except for a copy
of a copy of a copy of our
flyer. Inside, the air
and the floor were unclean,
which figures. Everyone looked
like an Artist, with an illegal
cigarette smoking and disheveled
clothing, tilting together in circles
at the walls.

You walked several steps
ahead, your eyes searching
the harsh thatched slash
of a Pollock wannabe’s five minutes
last March. I read the title before
you and whispered it aloud with a laugh,
and you stared and moved on
to the next rough approximation,
next Sloppy Starry Night set apart
from its great-grandpa by nails driven
through it and the words FOR SALE
painted directly on the canvas.

After the performance
piece, I took your hand to lead
you out, and said loud enough for the artists
to hear, “Up-and-coming sounds
like a stretch,” which was kinder
than picking on the specifics
or my own decision
to follow the flyer in the first
place, to actually expect “brand new.”

I thought they weren’t trying
too hard, or enough,
and thought you might have
also not seen what I’d not,
but you asked, “Do you...”
and, “Are they...” and then walked
three more steps, turned
to hail a cab, and left.

I held a wet copy of the flyer down
with my shoe, struck up a light,
a cigarette glowing at the corner of two streets.

About the Author

Robert Schuster is a high school English teacher and writer who lives with his fiancé in Charlottesville, VA. His work has previously appeared in From the Depths, Swamp Ape Review, Eureka Literary Magazine, the Black Market Re-View, the Magnolia Review, and Blast Furnace, and he read for River City Poets' Tea for Two in Richmond, VA. He enjoys William Faulkner, Elizabeth Strout, Ralph Ellison, hiking, bass guitar, tabletop gaming, and petting cats.


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