Cerulean Rider

This is my first attempt at Flash Fiction.  It’s based on one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges.  In this challenge the title of the piece was picked for you using a random number generator and two columns with 20 words in each column.

My job was to make the story fit the random title. I randomly got Cerulean Rider … and here’s my story.

(Note: I didn’t even know what Cerulean meant … I had to Google it!)

CERULEAN RIDER 

1877.  Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris.

Awash in steam, steel, and sweat, there were people everywhere, rushing from platform to platform.  One Traveller stood still watching the trains, noticing everything.  And no matter how rushed or boisterous other travelers became, none of it phased him.  

739px-Claude_Monet_004

Claude Monet: Gare Saint Lazare, 1877

His mind stayed on mission.  And nothing would distract him from his day’s purpose.  A single goal, undeterred.

Any other traveller would have lost focus a long time ago.  There was too much going on in the terminal.

But not this Traveller.   He’d been in this situation before, and his purpose was set.

Handsomely dressed, with a pleasant smile and positive air, it was easy to see he was different.  Bright colors accented a meticulously tailored suit.  And with a proper hat and cane, one could assume he was man of means.

And even if you couldn’t put your finger on what was different about him, it was obvious the Traveller was like no other. Turning his gaze from the arriving and departing trains, he walked toward the man with an easel, stopping slightly behind him and to the left.

“Bonjour monsieur.”

“Bonjour” said the Painter.

“A picture of the station?”

“Yes.  My impression of it anyway.”

“I see.” said the Traveller. “Why so dark?  There’s a beautiful sky today.  The sun is absolutely radiant.”

“Yes, but from here it’s hard to see.  The sky and sun are at the other end of the platform where the trains enter and leave the station.”

“Ah … so the light is too far away.”

“Precisely.”

The Painter was polite.  He wasn’t accustomed to talking about his work before it was complete.  Especially today.

“I don’t mean to be too forward, but may I ask you a personal question? It’s related to your painting?”

Highly unusual  thought the Painter. But not wanting to be rude, and hoping a short answer would send the Traveller on his way, the Painter reluctantly agreed.

“Certainly.”

I have spent my life honing a specific skill, making it my ambition to notice things most people miss. The dark tone of your painting has nothing to do with the fact the sun and sky are too far down the platform. There is a much bigger reason. Am I right?

Unsure if he should be offended or if he should break down in tears, the Painter didn’t move.  This stranger.  This Traveller.  In his well-heeled attire and a confident air, who was he to burst into the Painter’s head and heart with a pointed question.

Seconds turned to eternity as the Painter tried to speak but couldn’t.  He wanted to scream out loud.  But the fear of security taking him away gave him pause.

Eternity turned to seconds as the Painter finally found his words.

“That’s an interesting observation.  And a question not to be answered lightly.  If you must know the truth. This is still a work in progress.”

“Indeed.  Take your time.  I am in no hurry.”

“In no hurry?”

“That’s right.  I’m in no hurry,  I am here because of you.”

“Because of me?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t even know you.  How could you be here because of me?”

“Today, you are my purpose.  May I …?” The traveller motioned toward the painting as he spoke, inviting himself closer to the Painter and his work. “I travel all over this city from Montmarte to Montparnasse and from Pigalle to the Champs-Élysées, with one purpose, to find people like you.”

“Like me?  A painter?”

“Yes.  But not every painter.  Only painters who are in need of a new perspective.  A new view on something they’ve seen a thousand times.”

“You mean those in need of inspiration?”

“No. Painters like you already have inspiration.  But when life happens, inspiration can dim.  It fades. It loses its color.  And I can tell that something has happened to you that has made your color fade.”

“Am I right?”  The Traveller asked the question again.  And it hung in the air with an unbearable weight.

The Painter’s eyes welled with tears as he fought them  with everything he had.   Today was a dark day. In fact, it had been a dark week and a dark month. But only now did the Painter see how the darkness had leaked all over his canvas.

Turning to the Traveller, a tear in the corner of his eye, he groaned. “My benefactor has gone bankrupt, and left the country in shame.  All of the art he commissioned has been auctioned off to pay his debts.  I have not only lost a dear friend, but all the children I created.  My art was  family.  My impressions, my emotions, my experience.  And now they’ve been sold to the highest bidder. Yes, you are right.  Life happens and inspiration fades. My colors are gone.  They’ve been consumed by a darkness I cannot shake.”

“That’s precisely why I am here.” The Traveller said with a wide, warm smile.  “I am here to help the darkness fade.”

“How do you propose to do this?”

“Very practically.”

The Traveller lifted his leather case with one hand, and lay it flat across his other arm.  It was an expensive case,  well used, with nicks, cuts, and smudges everywhere.  Even the gold trim on the edge didn’t stand a chance from the years of use.

Slowly, he opened the top of the case .  And to the Painter’s surprise it was filled with vials of color pigment and countless tubes of paint.

The Painter couldn’t help but smile—a salesman. My heart and head have been touched by nothing more than a paint salesman, he thought.  He wanted to be angry.  He wanted to be offended.  But the question the Traveller had asked was too insightful … and his timing to perfect to ignore.

The Traveller knew exactly which color the Painter needed, and within in seconds  he was handing it to him.

“This is what you need … Cerulean Blue.”

“Cerulean … Blue?”

“Yes, it comes from the latin word ‘caelum’ meaning ‘heaven sky.’ This is what you need.  You need a touch of heaven once again.  Your life is real, and the darkness is real.  But as you paint with heaven’s light, the darkness will fade and the colors will come alive.”

The Painter was stunned as he thought again … a salesman. I’m being counseled by a salesman.

He took the paint and spread a small portion on his palette.  The blue glistened, even under the dull light of the station.  Dabbing his brush in the blue, the Painter looked up  as the sun burst through the  other end of the station.  Instantly, the Painter saw the blue sky.  And it was the same color as the blue on his palette.

A smile on his face, he turned to the Traveller.  But the Traveller was gone.

The Painter looked  at his palette.  And seeing the brilliant blue, the darkness vanished as he smiled with new eyes and a full heart.

 

What’s missing from your life?

Brad Thor is one of my favorite authors.

And I love the way this “Meet Brad Thor” video starts out with him saying, “No, I wasn’t always an author … but I knew that that was missing from life.”

Is there something missing from your life?  Have you put your finger on it?

Watch this 2-min video on Brad’s wild, unexpected ride to becoming an Author.  Then ask yourself … as Brad did … “What would you regret on your death bed never having done?”

Anything come to mind?

If so.  Take ONE step toward “it” right now.  Just one step.  Maybe it’s making a phone call. Or mapping out the budget you’ll need to do “it.”

For me, it’s writing another 500 words (minimum) today.

No matter what “it” is … start moving toward “it” and all providence will move in your direction to help you make it happen.

It did for Brad … and it will for you.

Also … if you are a writer.  I like the one nugget where Brad say’s “One of the worst pieces of advice that writers get is ‘write what you know’ … [WRONG].  Brad think’s you should write what you love to read.

I think it’s great advice.    So if your a writer … go write what you love to read.  And for any of you non-writers … go do what you love to do.  Don’t wait.  Time is ticking. Do it now.

And if you did do something after reading this post.  Leave me a note in the comments.  I’d love to hear what you did.

Do The Work Mon!

I was gasping for air.  And the gap was big.  I played with the thoughts in my head … do I really want this?  Do I want to chase them down?  If I do, will I be able to hang on after I’ve caught them?

It was like a bubonic plague of doubtful thoughts.  You suck.  You can’t do this.  Why even try?  Are you serious? There is no way you can do this.

cycling pain

Photo Credit: Clara S. via Flickr

Frankly, I’m sure there were a few other riders with a similar dialogue at this point in the ride.

It was Sunday morning … early.  There were at least 30 or 40 riders and we were already hitting 27 … 28 mph.  The front group had created a gap over the two or three riders ahead of me.

 

And since I had my head down as I sucked the wheel of the bike in front of me … and as my lungs exploded from the lightening pace … I didn’t see the damage until it was too late.

Too late to stop since there were 15 riders behind me … and too late to speed up since I just felt pieces of my lungs come up through my body and hit the pavement as I heaved forward with less and less oxygen after each pedal stroke.

The negative thoughts rushed in again … you don’t really want this anyway, so just quit and go home.  You haven’t been riding enough so why don’t you take the cue from your weak-ass body and pack it in.

And then it came from behind me like a bolt of lightning.  A simple phrase.  Was it encouragement or the ultimate insult? It didn’t really matter at that moment.  When your body is in oxygen debt … you can’t really make sense of things at the time.  You  only have two decisions … keep going or stop.

There it was again.

A simple phrase that cracked every negative thought in my head … DO THE WORK MON!

Gary was a cyclist from Jamaica with a clear patois accent.  A guy who was never afraid to turn on the afterburners and drag a whole line of riders up to the front group at 30 … 32 … or 34 mph.  And today, he had just called me out.

DO THE WORK MON!  DO THE WORK.

He was respected in just about every local group.  He was strong, fast, and still affable … even when the screws got tightened and everyone was gasping for air.

But this time his words were firm.  And they were directed right at me.

Two other riders had already peeled off to the left in front of me.  And now I was all alone.  The front group was over 250ft away … and their speed was increasing.  Even if I sprinted to catch them, I could blow every ounce of energy I had left only to see myself slide to the side and let the riders behind me latch on and race away.

But the simple words in that Jamaican accent rang true.

They not only pierced my head … they pierced my heart.  How could I stop now.  All I had to do was “do the work”.  Nothing more nothing less.

Show up, be intentional, and do the freaking work.

Of course the negative thoughts continued to plague me. But now I was on notice.  I wasn’t just in my head … my thoughts were now on my sleeve as riders behind me were counting on me to do the work.

They’d done it for me in the past. And now it was my turn.

DO THE WORK MON! DO THE WORK.

Where did this phrase apply in other areas of my life?  As writer, as a husband, as a dad?  Do the work mon!  Suck it up, be strong.  Be in the moment and move your ass!

Whether it was ego, shame, or chutzpah, I slammed my pedals, put my head down, and cranked up the rpms.  In seconds I was flying at 30 … 31 … 32  mph hour as my lungs screamed for air and my hands and feet went numb.

I was going to do the work.  And the 15 or so riders behind me were going to reap the reward as I closed the gap and dragged myself and everyone behind me to the front group.

And here’s the crazy part.

Right as I caught the front group … 15 or so riders in tow … the fast group slowed down just a hair.  I caught the draft behind the last man, and my lungs gasped as sanity raced through my blood.

I was there.

I had done the work … right then.  No more hesitation.  No more negative thoughts.  I had done the work and the gap was closed.  We were all one group once again.

No shame.  No regret.  Just the satisfaction that I had beaten back the demons of negative thought and did the work.

But candidly.  That was just the start.

I couldn’t get Gary’s words out of my head.  Do the work mon.  Do the work.

What a beautiful phrase.  A life changing phrase.

When you do the work … the payoff is hard-earned but it’s real.  And best of all it’s yours. Its something you own.  Something you can share with others who can benefit from your hard work.

So here’s the question for you.  Where do you have a gap in your life that you need to overcome?  And who is tagging along behind you that will benefit from the hard work you throw down.

Think about it.  Is it a relationship?  A business endeavor?  Do you need to close a gap in your marriage?  With your children? With your dreams?  With your goals or ambitions?

Whatever it is, it’s ok if there’s a gap right now.  Just realize the gap exists and …

DO THE WORK MON!

Trust me its worth it.  Your worth it and so are the 15 riders behind you.