A/N: Please review! This is a new writing style for me, and I want to see if it's any good. And if you review, I promise I'll read your stories (blatant bribery, but if it works, it works)!

Art and Macaroni

There's this guy named Peter. Great guy. Used to be one of those starving artist types. Had a wife and a kid, and another on the way. Poor as church mice as the saying goes. Miserable as hell, too. Poverty wasn't his thing. He dreamed of Park Avenue and Beverly Hills and sending his son to Harvard. It wasn't just him, either; his wife was crazy about Prada and Gucci and all that designer fashion junk. Dreaming was a bad habit with both of them, and they didn't have the cash to support it. You talk about cigarettes being hard on the pocket? Well, let me tell you, dreams are worse. At least with cigarettes once you pay for them they're yours.

So anyway, one day this Peter guy is at a mall. Not one of those kinds where all the stores are in one big fancy air-conditioned building. Nah. It was one of those roadside jobs with a grocery store and a bunch of shoe shops and cheap hair salons. Well, this one also had an art supply store. Art's and Kraft's it was called. Supposed to be a cutesy pun – the owners were Art Binke and George Kraft, but it wasn't all that bad a store. Had some good stuff.

Anyway, Peter's digging through his pocket for cash because the kitchen was just about empty food-wise. Roach-wise they were at an all time high. Had maybe a carton of milk and a half-empty box of Kraft Macaroni, sans cheese, and a broken dishwasher full of the nastiest creepy-crawlies. That morning Annabelle (his wife) had pulled her head out of Hollywood long enough to remark that it was a lucky thing cockroaches were (supposedly) edible, as they would soon be the staple of their diet. This didn't sit well with her significant other, if you know what I mean, and so now he's digging and digging through his pocket and what does he come up with? Ten bucks. He's about to go in to the grocery store when the Art's and Kraft's sign catches his eye. It's a sign that you could light up at night, like at a Fifties diner, but this one was on and flashing red light even though it was the middle of the day. Peter's old paintbrush (being a starving artist, he could only afford one, but he used his son's watercolor paintbrushes when he needed to) was losing bristles kind of quickly, and the wooden handle was beginning to splinter. It was fast approaching the time that comes at the end of every paintbrush's life when it must begin to consider retirement options.

Now, while Peter's thinking about this brush of his, sly Temptation comes up and bites him in the posterior. He's got ten bucks – enough to buy a new paintbrush or a couple of boxes of macaroni for his family. So Temptation tells him, Oh come on, Petie-sweetie (that's what his mother used to call him), follow your dreams, you only have one life (she said that a lot, too). But then Reason crops up and starts arguing. His piece went something like this, Peter Allen (Allen was his middle name, not his last), you have a family now. Take care of them first, then worry about your artsy fartsy nonsense (the last time Peter'd spoken to his dad, he'd said something very similar). One would think that Reason had a better case, being the Logical Choice, but Peter's always been a bit of a mama's boy. So Kraft's Fine Wooden Paintbrushes (50 off, one time deal) wins over Kraft's Macaroni & Cheese.

It's not until he gets home that Guilt beings to gnaw at his innards (they couldn't afford a dog, otherwise it would have been gnawing at his dirty sneakers the moment he stepped in the door). For hours and hours he agonizes, visions of blue cardboard boxes and cheesy pasta floating before his eyes. It does not help that they have the last of the Mac for dinner, causing Annabelle to make another appearance on Earth with a snide remark about selfishness and welfare.

Returning the brush does not occur to him. And if it had, it wouldn't have mattered: Kraft's Fine Wooden Paintbrushes (50 off, one time deal, sale items non-refundable). So, like all artists with something on the brain, he turns to art. He works the entire night painting a picture of a box of Macaroni & Cheese. With a pink background (he wants to make it red, but he is out of red paint and has to thin it out with water) and a random scattering of paintbrushes and roaches, it is not exactly his preferred style. His theme of choice is dark, gloomy paintings of bleak mountains (none of which he has ever seen except on postcards) and cityscapes with every dirty speck in evidence (these he has seen; he lives among them). This more colorful painting is out of character for him, but he believes that if he gets the damned thing on paper, it will leave his mind. Never was much good at psychology in high school.

He finally finishes the touch-ups at six (in the evening) the next day. He's skipped both breakfast and lunch (Annabelle had been forced to take their son to her sister's apartment for both meals), and now, at dinner, he is stuck staring at a painting of food. Unable to eat it, of course. And, to add insult to injury, he accidentally steps on the paintbrush (having flung it down in exhaustion just a few minutes before) and breaks it in two. After all, while Art's and Kraft's may've had some good stuff, you're sure as heck not going to get it for ten bucks.

Peter's worked himself into a hole. He needs money. Now, most people driven to this point would go out and get a job. Not Peter. All his life he's wanted to be a successful artist, and be damned if he wouldn't be. So he calls up a guy he knows, Rich Simmons (an art collector) and asks if he'd be interested in buying Mac and Cheese Betrayal (his name for the painting). Rich comes over and takes a look, hears the sob story out, and recommends someone who "might be interested" – enter Marty Ruthfield III.

Marty (short for Harvey Reginald Martin) is rich. Not "I live in a mansion and have ten dogs, a housekeeper, and a Rolls Royce" rich. Oh no. Marty's kind of rich was more like "I live in a mansion in the countryside, own an apartment on Park Avenue as well as a beach house and a cabin in the Adirondacks, am run by a staff of fifty including a personal assistant who gets paid just a tad less than your average CEO, and own a sizeable chunk of a certain luxury car company and get free use of any of their cars I like – and I inherited all this from my dearly beloved father." However, Marty has recently become a victim of the common delusion that less is more. And so he fires Frank (don't feel bad; the lucky dog got a $200,000 parting gift), sells his myriad of homes, and kisses each of his cars good-bye (the hardest parting of all).

Now, Marty's left with a bank account full enough to take him anywhere he likes. But where he likes would only take up fraction (an almost invisible sliver on a pie chart) of his cash at hand. And what's the point of letting money like that rot in a bank? Marty's looking for some good charity he can donate all his money to. That's easy enough for most people; all they need to do is call up Sisters of Mercy or the National Wildlife Fund and they'll be in the world's good graces for life. But Marty doesn't want that.

Marty's first word (after "mama," "papa," and "pooka," short for Barney Fritzpooka Ruthfield I) was color. All through his life, Marty yenned for Art. Unfortunately Art did not yen for Marty. Nor did It yin or yang. And Marty was forced to begin facing the facts.


Parent Alert

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ruthfield,

It has come to our attention that your son, Harvey Reginald Martin Ruthfield is not performing up to our standard of excellence here at Truman Alexander Academy for Gifted Boys in the subject of fine arts. We suggest remedial measures be taken in after-school hours and/or during vacations to boost his skills in this area. While we do not expect improvement to be immediate, we do hope that this timely notice will soon bring about great change in Harvey's quality of work. If arrangements have not been made by the end of the semester, we urge you to consider whether the course is the correct one for Harvey's time and effort.

Thank you for your cooperation.


Michael Anderson-Piculi

Michael Anderson Piculi

Guidance Department

Extension #---

Teacher's comments:

Marty is a talented boy in many ways, and a very clever one. Unfortunately, I feel he does not have the aptitude for art or music that is necessary to succeed, especially at this level. I'm sure it's not from lack of applying himself; I happen to know that he studies almost religiously, and tries his hardest in class. While this counts for much, I feel he would be better off dropping the course and taking something a little more suited to his great capabilities, especially keeping his future colleges in consideration. If you have any questions, you can contact me at ( ---) --- - ----.


Angela Hardings

Marty graduated high school and college with flying colors in all subjects but those that required colors (pun very much intended). Somewhere in the middle, he had come to the conclusion that Art hated him. And as with any sane but sadly scorned lover, he decided he wouldn't like it either. But the yearning was still there, buried under onion-like layers of embarrassment, ego, and denial, and covered with a paper thin skin of respectability.

Years later, the onion layers began to rot. By then, Marty had inherited Daddy Dearest's fortune, and Art is within his grasp – not as the love of his life, nor even his mistress. More like he could afford to hire Her if so he wished. And so Marty attaches a stipulation to the money.

He insists that it is donated to an artist. Preferably a starving bohemian. Enter Peter.

Marty takes one look at Mac and Cheese Betrayal and the world suddenly takes on a golden cast. The chirping birds outside suddenly seem to be singing just for him, in dulcet tones. Real pretty. And a voice is calling to him, a sweet, soft, unearthly voice. The voice of Art. And it says,

Oh Maaar-teeeee…Maaaaaaarr-teeeee…Marty, he is the One…He is your Destiny…

Now, Marty is a pretty impulsive guy. Especially when talking about – or too – Art. So he gives Peter his fortune in return for the painting, and retires to his less-is-more hovel far from civilization. His companions: the now dog-eared teddy bear "Pooka," and his fiancée, Art (short for Arturia) Binke. Go figure. We'll leave him too it, and his happy ending.

Let's return to Peter. He's just been given an amazingly large sum of money, practically enough to buy both the art supply story and the macaroni and cheese company. With enough left over to feed his family and obtain enough painting supplies to last a lifetime or two. Cue second happy ending, right?

But it's not to be so. As I've shown you, Peter's judgment isn't exactly the best in the world. Well, his business judgment is worse. Bad enough, in fact, to lose the amazingly large sum of money in some kind of major swindle involving fake diamonds and old ladies. And Annabelle, a real shrewd lady when she's not dreaming dollar signs, takes the kids and hitches a ride (and herself) with the swindler, and gets her happy ending on E! True Hollywood Story (well, as happy as those ever go). So do the kids and the swindler. But Peter?

No happy ending for him, I'm afraid. He is forced to give up painting, though not starving, and join a partnership with George Kraft (the opening being made available by Art's retreat to the simple life). The new store name: Pete's and Kraft's. It doesn't have the same ring as before, right?. And this lack of…something manifests itself in the clientele – or the lack thereof. And Peter's life does not improve after the store goes bankrupt. He suffers through one bad career move after another, ending with the ultimate betrayal of all he held dear – and that for a mere pittance of a salary, hardly enough to keep the cupboards stocked with EZMac. It's almost to sad to say, actually. Terrible that such a great guy should've ended up like this. Well, to get it over with, Peter became an art critic. Middle-class, paunchy, and near-sighted at that. His job now to tear down the very bohemians he used to belong to.

The moral of the story?

Luck and Art are useless; success depends on the Macaroni and Cheeses of the world.


Some people just don't have what it takes.

A/N: Technically, review means to look at again. Did you know that? It's cool how people use the word to mean something almost totally different now; people use it to mean a critique. Or an uplifting, extraordinarily complimentary message. But I'll - I mean, the general public - will take anything.

And yes, this is my idea of a subtle reminder to hit the review button shown below.