She had to take slow, careful steps to reach the center of the stage, but her pain disappeared as the applause reached a crescendo. This was why she kept performing; not for the applause, but for the audience. For a chance to create something meaningful.


A trophy, gleaming gold. Lights shining in her eyes. Faces turned toward her expectantly. “Thank you,” she began. They would think she meant for the award. How could she let them know it was for so much more.


The audience had been thin and the performance had been exhausting. Bad reviews had scared people off, and they had never managed to turn it around. Each night she asked herself if it was worth going on, not just with this show, but with the whole damn career.

When she left the dressing room that night, a wide-eyed girl lingered in the theatre lobby. “It’s you,” she said. There were tears in her eyes. “Thank you”


She stood in Times Square, dizzy and delirious, staring up at a her name on a marquis.


“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

“It won’t be easy.”
“I know. But maybe it will mean something.”


“Sloppy,” the old man announced, shaking his head.

Mara’s brush hesitated, her brow furrowed. “Sloppy? I’ve hardly even begun.”

A flippant wave at the canvas. “And you paint as though how you begin does not matter.”

She examined her scant progress, suddenly hyper-aware of its imperfection “But I can just paint over all this anyway, can’t I?”

Thick white eyebrows arched in exaggerated shock. “You think you can cover over your inadequacies so easily? I teach artists, not house painters or politicians. Every brush stroke matters. To make a masterpiece, every drop of paint must serve the whole.”

The words stung, and they confirmed her own suspicions. “So, I’m just doomed then. Anything that’s not perfect from the start should just be thrown out, right?”

“No, no,” he began bellowing, then paused. With an artist’s eye, he observed her downward glance, closed posture, inward agony. “No, child,” he resumed more softly. “What I mean to say is that if you try to hide your mistakes, then the whole painting will revolve around them. You must move forward from the failing, acting because of what is before you, not because of what could have been. Only then can you achieve wholeness.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox


“Remember, you were all like, ‘I don’t know even know what I’m looking at.’
And I told you, ‘It’s a veggie burger.’
But you still didn’t get it. You were just like, ‘Huh…? What…? Where…?’”

“I don’t think that’s how I sounded.”

“And then I had to explain art to you, like, ‘It’s abstract, you know? It’s the essence of a veggie burger.’
And you were super impressed like, ‘I didn’t know you could paint.’
But I knew I could never lie to my best friend, so I just told you, ‘I can’t paint. I commissioned someone I found online.’
And your jaw actually dropped. You said, ‘You mean you paid someone to make…this?’”

“Yeah, I was there for all that. What did he think?”

“So he came inside from running, and he was all sweaty, which was kinda ick, but also totally hot. And he stopped right in front of the painting. I kept it completely casual, like ‘Oh, yeah, that’s your birthday present. Like it?’
He said, ‘Babe. This painting of a veggie burger is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I love you.’ And then

“That’s enough. I’m assuming kinda ick, but totally hot?”