Swanwick Story, day 42 (Gregory Scheckler)
So I've written a story a day every day but one of the workshop. It would have taught me enormous respect for the workshoppers and the tremendous amount of work they put into these past six weeks, if I hadn't had that already.
Clarion West Class of 2010, I salute you.
Here's the forty-second and penultimate story:
Artists are subtle and quick to wrath. They strike like lightning and they choose their enemies almost at random. So it’s entirely possible that Gregory Scheckler had never met whoever it was who dosed his coffee with a synesthetic drug. It could well have been a stranger who envied his work. It might have been an artist manqué driven mad by aesthetic theory. It could even have been someone with no motive at all – a student, perhaps.
All Scheckler knew was that shortly after drinking that coffee the blare of car horns in the street outside was a jagged orange and the morning sun slanting through his office window smelled of honey and cinnamon toast. The coffee dregs, when he sniffed them, felt like flannel. So did the empty vial he found on the floor by his desk. When he stepped outside hoping the air would clear his head, a breeze sprang up that tasted like sugared grass clippings.
So far, so odd. But when he started mixing paints on his palette, preparatory to an oil he’d been planning for some time, the cadmium yellow was as loud as a chromed truck horn and the French ultramarine as cold and salty as the water in the Marianas Trench. He dropped his brush in astonishment and its clatter on the floor felt like six sharp little raps on his knuckles.
He couldn’t work like that. Nobody could. If this continued, it would be the death of his art.
In a panic, Scheckler fumbled out his cell phone (it felt like garlic butter and celery) and tapped out the number for a friend in the Chemistry department. “Hello?” said a voice as rich and smooth as black granite, and Scheckler’s words tumbled out like so many sulfur-scented canaries.
“Okay, I know that one,” his friend said. “You’ve got nothing to worry about. It’ll wear off in a few hours. Just take it easy and drink plenty of fluids. Do you want me to come over and stay with you?”
Scheckler took a deep magenta breath. “No . . . no need. I’m going out.”
“Out?” A distinctly denim texture entered his friend’s voice. “Where?”
“On a picnic.”
Scheckler spent the rest of the morning outside, listening to the wind ruffle gold through the aspens. Eating . . .