ILLUSTRATIONS BY JUAN ORTIZ
Except Chapter Three by Vince Musacchia and
Chapter Thirty-One by the author
Cover illustration by Juan Ortiz
Photography by David Johnston
Design Jada D’Lee
Models: Erik Odom & Anais Mendoza
Copyright © 2013 by Ruth Clampett. All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
First Electronic Edition: April 2013
For my Dad who taught me to set my imagination free
and that an artist needs to takes risks with a brave heart.
For my Mom who showed me that strength of character
and kindness will lift you out of darkness.
But most of all for my daughter, Alex
my inspiration, my best girl.
From the day you were born I knew
we would share a brilliant journey.
Your shine has led the way.
\’a-ne-met\ 1. to bring to life 2. To give spirit and vigor to 3. To make appear to move for a cartoon
here you go with the breasts too big again.
I rub my eraser over the sketchbook page and brush the crumbs away before reworking my lines over the ghosted image. With each stroke of the pencil my dream girl comes to life, her heart-shaped face graced with huge blue eyes and plump bow lips.
Oh, how I want to kiss those lips
My pencil trails down to define her shapely thighs leading up to her small waist, just below the finale of her perfect breasts. I erase the rough sketch lines under the final clean pencil. Yes…there, she’s just right. I may not be so comfortable talking to girls, but I sure know how to draw them. I hold my sketchbook up to admire her before setting it down next to the cash register.
At least I’m over my huge-breast obsession. Holy hell, during the months where I had newly discovered online porn I just kept drawing them bigger and bigger. If those girls had been real, they would have toppled over. Picasso had his blue period; I had my breast period. Eventually I got bored with the mechanical episodes of online porn. Now I’ve matured to studying vintage pin-up girls and reading graphic novels that still leave something to the imagination. As a result, my work is more refined, well, not really…but at least in that regard. My girls are safe from toppling over now.
Hearing a cough, I push my glasses up my nose and look over at the kid still transfixed in the new release section of the Playstation 3 aisle. He handles each cellophane-wrapped game like it’s a treasure, a sacred gift from the video game gods. I have a fondness for this kid, Theo, who comes to the store every Saturday while his mom gets a manicure on the other end of the strip mall. He reminds me of myself at that age, a social misfit who couldn’t look people in the eye. Now I chat with customers when I ring up their purchases. This is certainly progress for a guy like me who didn’t start talking until he was four.
I let Theo fondle the packages knowing full well that he hasn’t saved enough allowance to make a purchase this week. He blew his wad last Saturday on the latest
release. When a car honks just outside the door, he turns to me and waves.
“See you next week, Nathan,” he calls out before he runs through the door and slips into his mom’s SUV.
When I was his age, I spent my Saturdays with my parents at my brother Curtis’ various sporting events, grateful to have my sketchbook and pencils while I sat through hour after tedious hour of games. I learned early on how to get lost in the page and create worlds in my head where I could escape. Nothing’s changed, just now I’m getting paid to draw as a studio animator, and I sure as heck don’t have to go to sports games.
I pull out my colored pencils and start back in on my drawing when the door rings indicating a new customer. I look up in time to see a flash of female before she heads down one of the side aisles. A rush of adrenaline surges through me.
No…it couldn’t be. Not her. She
here shopping at Jimmy’s Geek World. Impossible. No.
I close my eyes and count backwards from ten to try to calm myself. Around four, I give up and lean forward to see if my imagination was playing tricks on me.
She steps into the center aisle and strides towards me in slow motion, the sway of her hips distracting me from her black leather boots that lace all the way up to her knees. She has on a short pleated skirt and a vintage looking T-shirt with faded type that says
The Sex Pistols.
I sway and grab the edge of the counter to steady myself.
“Hey,” she calls out with the bow lips parted just so. “Can you help me?” Her long auburn hair looks like spun silk and cascades down her back like those happy girls in shampoo commercials.
Can I help you?
I repeat to myself, confused. Brooke Tobin, the woman of my dreams, my obsession from afar, appears to need me. I note that this is where my fantasy usually starts, before it ends with me fondling her in the stockroom. Today it is real and I must rise to the occasion.
“Sure, what can I help you with?” I cringe. My response is a little too enthusiastic but she seems unfazed. I can tell she has no idea who I am.
“I need a cord thingy for my computer, and I’m not sure which one.”
I smile as I step out from behind the counter and move authoritatively towards the
section. “Do you need a USB?”
“What’s that?” She arches her brow and folds her arms like I’ve asked about a sexually transmitted disease instead of her port entries.
“A USB cord? The USB connection simplifies the process of connecting peripherals to the computer and offers much higher data transfer rates.” I push my thick, black–framed glasses back up my nose hoping she’s impressed.
Her hands move to her hips, and she steps closer then leans towards my chest. My breath catches until I realize that she is reading my name printed on the lip of my pocket protector.
“Na-than?” she half questions, half confirms. “I think now’s a good time to tell you that I don’t speak tech geek. Can you give it to me straight so I’ll know what you’re talking about? I just want a cord thingy so I can hook my old computer to my new one.”
Considering my track record with impressing women, I shouldn’t be surprised that she doesn’t appreciate my vast technological know-how. Looking down at my feet, I desperately wish the phone would ring or something so I could step away for a moment and gather my thoughts, but the store is quiet as a tomb.
I’ve imagined talking and being with her for so long that my misstep has me unraveling. I don’t want to mess up my one big chance to make a favorable impression. I fear she’s already concluded I’m a freak.
When I look back up she has a broad grin on her face. “Cord thingy, Nathan?”
I reach for the USB’s. “This is probably what you need. Do you know if it is a male to male connection?”
“I highly doubt it. Not my computer,” she snickers.
Oh God, she thinks I’m being suggestive with her. I want to disappear. Where’s my cloak of invisibility?
I try to regain my composure.
“Well, you can always try this, and if it doesn’t work you can bring it back,” I offer.
She twists a lock of hair with her perfect fingers and considers what I’ve said. “Okay.”
“Nope that’s it.”
We move towards the register. Sensing she’s right behind me, I can smell her perfume, subtle and quiet like pears on a summer morning.
She pulls a wallet with a dangling Hello Kitty charm out of her little purse with the really long strap. “How much do I owe you?”
“Twelve forty-nine,” I respond after double-checking the register’s screen.
When she starts to set her money down I realize that my sketchbook’s still open. I yank it off the counter so fast that the pencil and eraser take flight. Then I snap the book closed before she has time to really study the image.
She tips her head sideways. “Was that your drawing?”
“Yes,” I mumble.
“Are you an artist?”
I can’t lie. She may recognize me at work now. “Yeah…well, actually, I’m an animator.”
She lights up, her eyes bright and happy. “Really? I work in animation.”
“I know. I work at Sketch Republic too. You’re Brooke in development, right?”
Good, that sounded cool…believable—like I don’t dream about her all day and draw her naked late at night.
“Oh, you work there too. Sorry I didn’t recognize you. Yes, I’m in development even though what I really wanted was to be an animator. I just didn’t have the talent for it so I focused on what I’m good at. What show are you on?”
Bernie and the Beaver Patrol
with Joel’s team. My buddy, Nicholas, is the head writer.”
“Oh, I love Nick,” she enthuses. “He’s so damn funny.”
“Yeah, everyone loves him—he’s a riot,” I grumble jealously.
“So what are you doing here?” she asks, waving her arm across the rows of games and accessories. “Don’t we pay you enough? I thought animators did pretty well.”