Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 2

A reply to: A letter from Newt


Hey, Newt! You wrote back! Guess that means we’re pen pals.

So, how do we go about this sort of thing? I tell you about my boring life, and you tell me about your exciting one?


Hmm. I’m wondering if I didn’t get the right “How to Be the Boss” manual, because my experience heading up the company doesn’t include one-on-ones with any good-looking women, unless they’re the chemists and engineers in R & D, and then we’re talking formula and design, not dinner at five.

I guess I still follow my dad’s rule: no dating members of the team. Sort of had it drilled into me.

You asked if I could some use moves or pick-up lines.

Will you totally not respect me if I say yes? Because, yes. I could.

I was at the café the other night with my sister and uncle, and I saw the cutest woman in braids and a black barista’s outfit. I’ve always had a thing for baristas.


I stood at the end of the line, like a moron, trying to think of something witty to say.

Meadow, my sister, was no help. She had her nose in a book.

Finally, I came up with, “I hear dark roast is higher in caffeine, but lighter in acid. Smooth, you might say.” Then I was going to ask her what she was drinking.

But she was gone.

My uncle, Jasper, was there. “What’ll you have, Norm?” he asked.

“A hot cup of plum,” I said. And my uncle ordered me Chinese plum tea.


My sister was in a total good mood. “We should do this more often,” she said.

Maybe it cramps my style to go out with my uncle and little sis.

What do you think?

I do it because it’s fun, and they’re good company.


I try to act cool, but I am such a dork.

If you go to a party, and you see a guy in the center of the room, talking to all the cuties, that guy’s not me.

I’m the guy at the bookshelf, reading up on mycelium. I’m the guy standing on the back porch, looking up at Venus in the arms of the crescent moon.


I guess that’s why I love hanging with my sister so much.

She must be a bigger dork than me because she thinks I’m cool.


I’ve been thinking about your advice on working out. I run. But maybe I’ll hit the gym. I got myself a cool jersey from my favorite team.

Yeah, I’m a big Raging Llama fan. Are you?


All right. You’ll probably want to stop writing once you learn how clueless I am.

But hey–you could be my mentor!

That’s an even exchange, right? You teach me how to get to know a few nice women, boost my cool factor, and I’ll help you check off that therapy homework.


Take care, man.


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Whisper 1.4


College. I arrive. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long. When I get here, everybody’s heading into the dorm.

“Get a room quick,” says a student in knee socks. I guess she’s one of my new dormies. She looks nice–kinda rebel spirit, like me.

But as I paint a ground mural on the front walk, I hear her talking about me to the other dormies. I can’t hear what she says, just my name, a sarcastic tone of voice, and their snickers.

Don’t worry. It always takes a while to make new friends. Don’t let first impressions get in the way. Yours–or theirs.


In the evening, after orientation, I head over to the quad. A student with a shaved head and tattoos comes up to me.

“I’m worried about snails. Like, they don’t have any rights. And they totally should,” she says, “because they exist, too, right?”

I agree. I like snails. “Their shells are like works of art.”

“I’m thinking of some kind of protest at the groundskeepers’ building. Or maybe I’ll just like blow up all the snail poison. What do you think?”

“Well, that sounds like it might spread toxins into the environment. Maybe we can just start a public awareness campaign.”

“I’ll get back to you,” Shannon says.


In my first class, I halfway check out all the other students. There’s this guy in a dog collar who makes really intelligent comments during the discussions.

After class, he happens to come out of the hall at the same time I do.


He’s already dashing off to his class, but I call after him.

“Um? Excuse me? Do you know of a good place to get a cup of coffee?”

“Did you say a cup of Cathy?” he asks, and I blush.


What do I say?

“My last name is Tea.”

“Oh! Indian or Chinese?” And we launch into a conversation about how Indian tea might actually be a different variety than Chinese.

“They’re both camellia sinensis,” I say, “but the Indian is varietal assamica and the Chinese is varietal sinensis.”

“Oooh! Camellia sinensis var. sinensis! Because, you know. Sinensis means Chinese!”


I like him, this guy in the dog collar. Derek Khan. I’m glad we’ve got classes together. That means I’ll see him again.

In the afternoons, I paint.

Before I’ve realized what I’ve done, I’ve painted the center of the canvas red. It’s the same color as Countess Snypes’ glowing heart. That image is burned so deep in me.


My dorm mate with the knee socks is also a fine arts major. She plays the guitar with expression and skill. Since we have classes and interests in common, I begin to hope that we’ll be friends.


In the evening, I paint murals on the side of the dorm. The bricks make a nice texture for bolder designs.

I invite Derek to come hang out. He arrives right away, but then, while we’re talking–and, OK, I guess I’m flirting a little bit–he starts insulting me, and walks away. I don’t even want to think about what he said. And it’s that whole cycle like with Chauncey again. What am I doing to bring this on?

It’s not you.

I just want to meet somebody nice, considerate, gentle, and strong. Who likes tea and likes to talk about it. Is that asking too much?


After class on Thursday, this guy with blue hair stops me.

“You’re Cathy,” he says.

There’s something about him. I’m seeing hearts and feeling as high as party balloons.

“Hi, Cid,” I say. “I was kinda hoping to meet you when I saw you in class.”


“Really?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I mean, how can my education in art history be complete, if I don’t get to know one of the greatest modern masterpieces?”


To my surprise, he doesn’t mind my corny brand of flirting!

In fact, he says, “Life is like a pallet. It’s not complete until we fill it with all the colors.”

I nod like I know what he’s talking about.


He comes back to the dorm with me, and I fix us veggie wraps.

“Look how the plates reflect the light,” he says. “Trippy.”

I like him, this guy with the blue hair. Cid Serverus. I’m glad we’ve got classes together.

Easy does it.


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Wonder 42

I think I don’t understand women.

Having grown up with Tia Berry and Mãe, I always assumed that I knew all there was to know about women: how they think, what they feel, what makes them happy.

But what I learned from my aunt and mother doesn’t seem transferable to others.

I invited Sofia over Sunday morning.

“What do you want, Charlie?” she asked when she arrived. I felt confused: she looked sad, disappointed, a little hurt, and a little angry. In fact, her face reminded me of the way that Yuki looked when I met her at the restaurant the night before.

Was there some secret handshake I was missing? All these beautiful young women, and when I look in their faces, they’re looking at me like I forgot their birthday or something.


I tried the honest approach. “I just wanted to hang out with you!” I said. “I hadn’t seen you since that first day when I moved in, and I thought it might be fun to spend some time together.”

She stayed for about five minutes, and then she “had stuff to do.”

I changed out of my pjs and started working on a new novel. This one was about a lone traveler.


I’d finished the first draft of the first chapter when Pai called.

“Bring the ferry across the waters,” he said. “It is the night for the rapazes.”

That sounded like just what a needed: hanging out with the guys. As soon as I got there, Pai texted me: Hung up. Eva. Jade. No can make it.

Ah, well. I made a few new friends. After my recent social awkwardness with Yuki and Sofia, it felt great to be able to relax–no expectations!


While I was chatting at the bar with my new friends, a young woman stepped up to ask me if I wanted to join her in a game of darts. I haven’t played much darts, but it seemed like a fun idea.

“You’re really good at this. I can tell,” she said.

“Oh, I’ve hardly ever played!” I answered.

“No. I don’t believe it. You’ve got the moves.”


Darts turns out to be a lot of fun. I got engrossed measuring the angles and calculating the best trajectories.

I looked over at my new companion, and I noticed that she seemed to be favoring her right leg. She was holding her shoulders up stiffly, too.


“Is your back OK?” I asked. “Sciatica? Stiff lower back? Tight shoulders? You know, yoga’s really good for that. Downward facing dog, maybe a few sun salutations, and you can work out all that tension so you don’t have to favor your right leg so much.”

And then, she got that look. I still don’t know what it means or what I do to bring it on, but I’m getting pretty good at recognizing it.


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