He dips into his assets and makes a determination. The funds are there. Some rates would have to be negotiated, but the numbers make sense. His ability to calculate has become dull. The fresh red pencil fleshes out the skills.
The money would not really be leaving his cold pink hands. His life savings would be cashed in, held briefly in foreign hands, then diverted to his new home; he’d flip assets like Helm and Manuel. He would own the boards beneath his feet for the first time.
The place is large and on the outskirts. The city is a mess that far north—diverse but unnatural. Gunfire. The poor and minority are being kicked out slowly as the city ruptures and bleeds out, and they are pissed off. The majority is up in arms. He has three bedrooms. He is 25.
He banks days and paints nights and weekends. The banking pays the bills. He has a brother who’s a doctor, with no concept of holidays. This is fine with him: holidays are a bonus chunk of time for painting. His brother is all he has left. The rest of his family didn’t survive the last war.
A few years go by and he sells. He wants a place closer to the city, with a little more noise. He needs a bigger edge to paint against. The second place has two bedrooms and the traffic is bad. He gets a cat at age 30. His assets are increasing.
He quits his job at the bank and plays the stock market awhile. The funds are there. He paints more and gets a show at a local cafe. The response is tremendous. He prints a stack of business cards, secretly. They turn out nice. He gets a lot of email. People love his work, but they don’t buy it.
The paintings are mainly of forests. There is usually a central figure, but it is not human. Maybe a large or white or burning tree. The texture is the key. He paints with oils—very little linseed for a thick mix.
His selling price on the second place is twice what he paid. He empties his account on the third place: one bedroom, downtown.
The city is sharp-angled and gray here. He is very aware of his walls. He has room for a basil plant in his one window — he snips the leaves and crushes garlic onto his frozen four-cheese pizza. He can afford frozen food, and doctors it up nice.
He paints a horse and a woman holding a fan.
He stands, frozen, in a tiny square in the city’s dead center.