"No. I'm sorry," he said. Once again the portfolio lacked something to land the job. She left the office with her packet of color and form, her color and form neatly bound in a portfolio.
"I'd hate to have to put this on disk," she said. She thought of computer artists with distaste. Computers are only for making money, she thought. But I'd like to start making a living. She felt out of step with the people on the sidewalk.
At the bus stop she waited. The 61 arrived a little late- as expected. She got in line- two "ones" in hand.
"Exact change only," the bus driver said.
"But all I have is two ones," she pleaded.
"No. I'm sorry," he said, eyes lidded with boredom, "We're behind schedule."
She turned around and walked home. Her home was nice, a second story studio apartment with bay windows facing east. She had a deal with the rent, but it was still expensive for her means.
"I've got to sell some of this work," she sighed- jacket, bag, and portfolio sloughing off on to the couch. She went to the kitchen to fix a meal. The answering machine light blinked.
"I don't want to bother with anymore 'No's' today, thank you," she said.
She had some wine with her food- a spinach salad and left over noodles. She had some more wine, and some more. The bottle nudged its way down towards empty. She watched the afternoon sun reflecting off the building across the way. The couch was very comfortable.
"No," the committee said- a chorus of negativity. Each member looked like the next, huge frog jowls and jaundiced eyes. The room was dim and dry. A haze of smoke formed a low ceiling. Little pillars of beige from stinking cigars supported this roof. The ugliest of the bunch took a long drag. The head of the cigar glowed- a bright orange "O". Simultaneously all the doors swung shut and locked in place.
Then the committee began to remove their black jackets and stand up. They each faced her with wide, lewd grins.
"No," each belched in turn, a cacophony of sound like a random and tone-deaf bell choir.
They approached belching "no's" and reaching with clammy boardroom hands. She couldn't move, couldn't speak. She could hardly breathe. The room darkened, until only their yellow eyes and corpselike hands shone. The floating hands reached forward and took her portfolio, took her work, her life.
"You don't need this," the ugly one said. The inside of his mouth was a luminous red rift in the dark. A mist of smoke, garlic, and rotten tomatoes wafted over her. She watched the beast toss the portfolio back into his mouth. Her work incinerated and with his tongue's help disappeared down his gullet.
"No!" she screamed and exploded in a holocaust of heat and flame. All of the frog men melted to black little piles of goo, and the boardroom walls fell outward to the street below. After she reformed from her ashes she took a look outside.
She stood high in a tower. A lonely wind played about in the dust outside, far below. No one else moved in the desert.
She found herself groggy upon the couch. Her cat lapped at the olive oil on her discarded dinner plate. Outside her bay window the street lights gleamed. The city was alive with night noises.
She got up to pee, and get a drink of water.
"I'm so dizzy," she said.
Her cat followed her like a little tabby ghost.
She sat back down and looked around, disoriented. Then she got up again to clean up the dishes, and take a shower. Time to go to bed, she thought.
The shower refreshed her. She wrapped her hair in a towel and sat back down naked upon the couch. "What is wrong with my work?" she asked. Her cat tried to get comfortable in her lap.
Under the light of the table lamp, she looked over her portfolio. She saw nothing wrong with any of her designs. "Just, nothing done with a computer," she said. Looking up at her artwork on her walls, however, she was unimpressed.
"What was I thinking?" she asked.
The cat purred. She pet the cat. The cat was happy.
"You silly tabby," she said teasing its tail. "You have no idea what I'm thinking. All you want is pets."
She pet the cat.
"I miss your mom," she said, "She was so attuned to me." She became sleepy again, and turned out the light. She remembered to put on her black undies with pads before she went to sleep. Her bed was much nicer than the couch.
She was in the boardroom again. The walls were fixed, the floors cleaned. Around the table were some different men.
"Your treatment of the last committee was rather unbusiness-like," a man in a black suit said, "So I have hired another."
A circle of gray heads and pastel ties leaned forward in unison and winked. The man in black was above winking. He passed some blackened, ashen eight-and-a-half by eleven's around.
"What are those?"
Deadpan he replied, "Your portfolio."
He looked a bit like a stand up comedian. The circle of gray mumbled amongst themselves with knowing nods and pensive frowns, solemnly contemplating the ashes.
"Quite good, but will it sell?" one asked.
"Hard to say. Hard to say."
The man in black stood up with a white cane and hat. He began a stupid little dance. The cane tapped and the hat whirled. "Clam chowdah!" he roared.
The committee laughed- her work forgotten. The old men danced in their chairs. The old men ignored her. The man in black told her, "Take the stairs!"
Non-plussed she got up from the table. This guy is horrible, she thought. She looked around for something to distract the committee, and found nothing but her ashen portfolio. She gathered up her work and rolled it in a ball, throwing it across the room.
Max, her tabby, found it and batted it around. The ashes left streaks on the floor. Max swiped it and sent it back to rest at her feet. She picked it up and saw her hand.
"I'm dreaming," she said.
With the ashen ball she drew on the walls. She covered those walls with bold lines, gestures from her soul. She filled the walls with trees, great boughs reaching down. She drew squirrels, and cats. Flowers sprung up from the floor boards. Life teamed wherever she sketched. With her mind she gave green to the leaves, and to animals shiny coats.
"Its all just a dream," she said feeling free. Max intently watched her work, languidly swishing his tail and blinking his eyes. The committee was also caught up with her art, forgetting the buffoon's act.
When finished her ashen ball was spent. "Goodbye," she said. She and Max passed into the wall to a greener land. Behind her the committee tried to enter, but they were unable stepping and pressing into a wall of glass.
She awoke, happy.
"I suppose I will buy a computer, Max," she said.