Joel Miner has always had an active imagination all his life. Joel enjoys writing short stories and many of his inspirations come from movies and television. Joel enjoys traveling as well and so some of his writing inspirations come from travel shows.
Joel started writing in high school. He wrote a play for a Christmas project and his senior year he wrote three steampunk short stories for his senior project. Joel also has taken a creative writing course at Onondaga Community College to enhance his writing and creativity skills. He constantly works on new stories. One of the short stories he submitted to numerous magazines called “The Painter” is about a man who paints lost dreams. It is a creative story with much potential. He also recently submitted a pitch for Nickelodeon a comedy called “Lights, Corgi, Action!’ This piece is about a dog who wants to make it big in Bollywood.
One of his lifelong dreams is to have one of his stories get published in a magazine. In his spare time, Joel likes going to the movies, going for walks, listening to music, and anything related to trains.
Here is Joel’s story The Painter.
By Joel Miner
It was October 15th. At 5:00 pm, rain fell as a young woman of middle eastern descent in her mid to late twenties drove her car through the city. Because of how much rain was falling, she could barely see anything, even as her windshield wipers slapped left and right and her headlights shown as bright as they could, combined with the streetlights. As she drove, she was listening to the news on the radio. The topics included typical political disagreements, an angry theater owner implanting a virus into a streaming site, and Hong Kong protestors turning to guerilla warfare after acquiring firearms from oversea supporters.
She then came to a dead-end and stopped. Getting out of her car, she opened her umbrella before closing the door. In front of her was the abandoned industrial neighborhood. As she began to wonder how to continue towards her destination, she looked to her left and saw an old staircase leading downward towards the neighborhood. Sighing, the woman locked her car and made her way down, her hands gripping the rusty railing. She walked down the cold and lonely street, lighted only by the street lamps that flickered on and off. She looked around nervously, occasionally reaching for the pepper spray in her pocket, expecting someone to jump out at her any second, whether it be a gang of robbers or a stalker.
“Why would anyone want to live here?” she thought to herself.
Suddenly, a strong wind blew and her umbrella came out of her hand. Immediately, she chased after it. The wind finally died down and the umbrella landed softly onto the concrete surface right in front of an old factory. After picking it up, the woman took a card out of her pocket, looking at the address written on it to make sure she was at the right place before putting it back into her pocket. She ran up to the door, eager to get out of the rain.
At the last minute, a series of thoughts raced in her mind, causing her to hold back hesitantly, worrying about what kind of person would live in such a building. She then took a deep breath and put her fears aside. She pressed the button and the doorbell sounded. What she heard sounded like an old chime.
After several long seconds, a staticky voice was heard: “Hello? Who is this?” Startled at first, the woman looked around until she saw the source of the voice: a speaker with a security camera at the top right side of the door frame. She was baffled by the fact that she easily missed it.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I’m looking for Diggory Amets Ververs.” she said. “Does he live here?”
“That would be me,” the voice answered. “May I ask who you are and why you are here?”
“I am Munya Laska,” she answered. “We were both at the grief share meeting in town. I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with you there, but I was able to collect one of your cards.” There were five seconds of silence before the voice responded.
“I remember you now,” he replied. “You sat across from me. Hold on, I’ll be right there.”
One minute later, the door opened and a young Caucasian man around the same age as she with black hair, a mustache, and a chinstrap greeted Munya.
“Please come in,” Diggory said kindly. “There is no use standing out in the rain.”
Munya then stepped in through the doorway. She closed her umbrella and shook it before putting it in a nearby umbrella stand. Diggory helped her take off her coat and hung it on a nearby coat rack.
“Follow me,” Diggory said as he guided Munya down a long hallway. “It’s easy to get lost in here for first-time visitors.” She couldn’t believe her eyes. For a building that was abandoned on the outside, it was well-kept on the inside. Paintings and African masks decorated the walls along with vases of flowers on stands adding to the fengshui. It was almost like she was in a mansion.
Eventually, they entered a spacious room with numerous paintings resting on easels. Two chairs were placed before a fireplace. A grandfather clock rested in a corner.
“Would you like something to drink?” Diggory asked his guest. “I have coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and bottled water.”
“Tea would be fine,” Munya replied.
“Excellent choice. I’m a tea and hot chocolate person myself. I don’t drink coffee as I can’t stand the taste, but I would serve it depending on the guest. I tend to drink water mostly. What flavor would you like? I’ve got plenty to choose from.”
“Any flavor will do.”
“Very well, I shall surprise you. I have just taken some rose petal scones out of the oven. They might still be a bit hot, so be careful.”
“Thank you, that would be nice.”
“Feel free to walk around the room while you wait.”
After Diggory left for the kitchen, Munya looked around the room. Particularly at the four paintings. One showed a happy man and a woman playing with a young child. Another showed a girl being crowned prom queen. The third one had a football player being lifted up by his teammates as they had just won a big game. The last one had a boy walking down a beach at Rio de Janeiro, looking out towards the ocean. Munya could see that a lot of detail was put into them as the people in the paintings looked almost real.
“I see you have taken a fancy to my art,” said Diggory. His voice brought Munya back into reality. She turned and saw he was holding a tray carrying an antique Chinese tea set, a plate of scones, and a jar of marmalade. He was no longer wearing his apron. “Why don’t we sit down by the fire and enjoy this little treat I’ve prepared.” They sat down on their chairs in front of the fireplace.
As Diggory poured two cups, Munya admired the intricate design of the tea set. “That is a very beautiful tea set you have, Diggory.”
“Thank you. I won it at an auction in Shenyang, China. It was made during the Qing Dynasty. I only use it to entertain and impress guests.”
“Interesting.” Munya took a sip of her cup, savoring the distinguishing flavor. “This tea is delicious. What flavor is this?”
“Spiced chai with pumpkin,” said Diggory. “It was the first hot tea I enjoyed when I moved to this city a few years ago.”
“What a unique combination. Tell me, Diggory, are all the paintings here yours?” she asked, pointing at the four paintings on their easels.
““The four in this room are.”
“What about the ones in the hallway? Along with the vases and the mask”
“No. I’ve bought those paintings and the vases at various places. The masks were gifts from a friend of mine in Zimbabwe.”
“Well, I must say that you have exquisite taste.” Munya said before taking a bite of a scone.
“Why thank you. I get that comment a lot.”
“Do you paint your paintings here in this room?”
“Yes, I do. Being a member of the Art Society, I like to have a wide space to let my creativity flow. You could say this is my studio.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly do you paint? I know what they are visually, but what are they, mentally?”
“I paint dreams. But not just any dreams. Lost dreams. The desires and goals we wanted to fulfill in life, but couldn’t. I give them second lives and immortalize them with every stroke of my brush.”
“Did you have a lost dream?”
“Yes. When I was 17, my school hosted an art competition and all of the best high school artist were invited to compete. The winner would have their masterpiece on display at the local museum and would get to take an all-expenses-paid family trip to Florence, Italy. Sadly, I lost. I was quite the sore loser for my age simply because I was desperate to go see the world. I painted a picture of myself in Florence just so that I could feel like I had won. This inspired me to do the same for others as I have painted paintings for those who still wish to fulfill what’s no longer possible. That’s why I often attend grief share meetings, so that I may be inspired.”
Munya looked at Diggory with sorrowful eyes. The feeling that Diggory described was no different from what she had been feeling lately, even though the origin of the feeling was different.
“Do you think that perhaps you can paint my lost dream?” she asked.
“I’ll be happy to.” He took out a pencil and pad. “If you don’t mind, I’ll be taking notes as you tell me your story. That way, I can have an idea of the picture I’m painting. I know you told your story at the grief share meeting, but I wouldn’t mind hearing it again.”
“Whatever works for you.” Munya took a deep breath and began her story. “I was engaged to be married to one of the nicest people you would have liked to meet.”
“What was his name, again?”
“That is an interesting name. The same can be said for yours as they are both quite exotic.”
“What do you expect when we are both of Arabic and Czech heritage?” Munya said as she let out a light chuckle, attempting to keep herself together, as tears began to form in her eyes.
“Tell me, what was he like?”
“Hanif was one of the nicest people you would have ever met. We knew each other since middle school. We would do a lot of things together whether it be going to see a movie, taking a hike in the state park, or go out dancing.”
“It was. Five months ago, he proposed to me and I said yes. We were supposed to get married a few weeks from now.” Munya paused, taking a deep breath. “But then, one night, we were taking a walk down the street after dinner. We were laughing about past memories when… he showed up.
“Who?” asked Diggory.
“Nihal Teufel,” said Munya. “He was an old friend of Hanif from his childhood days. They were best friends until high school when he started taking drugs, so Hanif kept his distance not wanting to go down the same path. He still talked with him, but over the years the distance grew and it seems Nihal blamed everything wrong with his life on Hanif.
“On that night, he had a gun in his hand and was swearing and blabbering about how life was not the same ever since I came along and how he would take away Hanif’s love away from him. Hanif wrestled the gun away from him the moment he pointed the gun at me. He threw it out of reach, and it went off when it landed, hitting a nearby trash can. Nihal, not deterred, stuck his jack-knife into Hanif’s chest, but at the same time, Hanif punched him in the head, causing him to be knocked out. Immediately, I called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital. I can still remember holding his hand when he died in that hospital bed.”
“Oh dear. I remember learning about this Nihal guy on the local news. He was a member of some neo-pagan cult devoted to alcohol. I didn’t know he had connections with you and Hanif.”
“Not with me. I only met him once before. Anyway, I had to testify against him in court, but even that doesn’t make me feel better. I would do anything to be with Hanif again!” She couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. As she cried, a teardrop fell onto a pallet that was nearby.
Diggory leaned towards Munya and placed his hand on her shoulder. “I am so sorry. So basically, you would like for me to make you a painting that can help you get through this tragedy is what you are saying.”
“Get through it? Don’t you mean get over it?”
“No, I don’t. There’s a big difference between getting over something and getting through something. Getting over something means forgetting it and having it not make an impact on you. Getting through something means accepting the pain and becoming a better person because of it.”
Munya was impressed by his explanation. “Who told you that?”
“A friend of mine from Liverpool, New York. He goes to a Baptist church there.”
“Those are interesting words. He must be very wise.”
“Believe me when I say that he and the other members of his church are fine examples of real Christians.”
Munya smiled before looking at her wristwatch. It was 6:15. “Oh my! I must be on my way home.” As she got up from her chair, she turned to face Diggory. “Thank you kindly for your hospitality.”
“Anytime. Why don’t you give me your phone number? That way, I can inform you when the painting is done. That is, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” Munya got out a pen and notepad from her purse. She wrote her phone number down on it before ripping out the paper and handing it to Diggory.
“Thank you,” said Diggory. “Have a safe trip home.”
“I will,” Munya said as she began to walk in the direction towards the hallway that lead to the front door. “Enjoy the rest of your night.”
After Munya left, Diggory turned his attention to one of the blank canvases and an easel leaning against the wall. He brought them to one of the empty spaces in the room where he set them up. Picking up his pallet while eyeing Munya’s teardrop, Diggory squeezed some paint from some bottles onto his pallet onto it. Using the paintbrush, he mixed the teardrop with the paint before putting the first color on the canvas.
Three days had past and Diggory had finally finished painting. He called Munya the day before and invited her to come see the painting. It was 11:50 am when she arrived at his home.
“How are you today?”
“I’m feeling well, thank you. Listen, may I ask you something?”
“Ask away.” The two then walked down the hallway as they talked.
“You see, I visited the Art Society and they said you were no longer a member for a reason they couldn’t explain. Can you tell me why?”
Diggory briefly froze in his tracks before taking a deep breath. “Perhaps I can let you know. You see, on that day, my colleagues and I were working on paintings to present before very important visitors. One of them was captivated by my panting and seemed to like it at first, but then, he suddenly freaked out and threw my painting to the floor, breaking the frame. I got so angry that I, for lack of better words, smothered his face with red paint. Fortunately, it was nothing to fatal, but my actions cost me my membership and I was kicked out. Now I just paint pictures to sell to galleries and such as a way to redeem my reputation. I keep cards like the one I gave you on hand as a way of sharing contact information.”
“No wonder the Art Society didn’t want to talk about it. I’m sorry that it happened.”
“Thank you for your concern. To be fair, there were lessons that had to be learned.” Once they arrived in the room, Diggory changed the subject. “Would you like to see the painting I made for you?”
Diggory led Munya to an easel with a cloth over it. Then, like a magician, he pulled the cloth away, revealing the painting. The picture showed a church wedding, with people sitting on both sides of the aisle. The bridal party and the preacher stood at the front of the church, but something – or rather someone – was missing.
“Where’s the bride?” Munya asked.
“Why don’t you take a closer look. I’m going to get some sparkling cider from the fridge. Let me know if you found her.” Diggory said as he walked away, leaving Munya by hersellf.
After Diggory left the room, Munya could only stare at the painting. Feeling mesmerized, she couldn’t help but see that the groom bore a striking resemblance to Hanif. The clock stroke twelve. When Munya heard the chimes, they sounded like church bells. Suddenly, without knowing, Munya began to hear music. She could have sworn it was the Bridal March. She then started walking towards the painting as if she was walking down an aisle. As she got closer, Munya thought she saw the groom reach his hand towards her. She reached out her hand to grab it.
Diggory reentered the studio holding a bottle sparkling cider in one hand and a glass in the other. When he arrived, he noticed that Munya was nowhere in sight. He then turned his attention to the painting. Only this time, the empty space next to where the groom stood was filled by a young woman of Middle Eastern descent wearing a beautiful white gown.
“Ah, my painting is now complete,” he said with a smile on his face. “I’m sure the gallery will be pleased with this collection and I will have more money for my trip to the Louvre.” Diggory picked up the now-finished painting. Placing it with the others, he looked over his work. He then filled his glass with cider before putting the bottle down on a nearby table. “A toast to the happy couple,” he said as he held the arm holding the glass in the air before taking a sip. He then took out his phone and said “I think I’ll order ramen tonight to celebrate.”