Contest closes Monday June 6th 2011
Left: Phil A. Buster oil on masonite 8"x10"
Right: Phil A. Buster wash drawing on cold press w/c paper approx 8"x11"
Click on pictures to enlarge
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words. Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your info. There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it. E-mail it to me at email@example.com
Entries for this contest may be used in a future show.
Renovated Reputations is the result of an internet blogging project in which paintings and assemblages based on vintage and antique vernacular photography are the inspiration for short fiction.
The impetus for this project is based in a solo show of paintings in I am having at ArtHaus Gallery in San Francisco in April through June 25th 2011.
The show is called
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs.
at ArtHaus 411 Brannan Street San Francisco, CA 94107
Download the draft of Tabloid Newspaper catalog as a PDF.
Here's a link to the free newspaper style catalog as a pdf:
Here's a link to the book:
(This is about 5MB so if you are using firefox it may stall. You can right click and save or use explorer.)
This came in by e-mail:
The Root of all Evil by Patrick Nelson
"But Sir, your honor, I do not want the billions Mr. Buster has apparently left me. As a matter of fact I find the idea of being given his fortune to be extremely repulsive and horrid" Albert Christian said in mildly dismayed distress, yet he possessed a melodious English accent. He was still wearing his butler's uniform which was pristine. He was a man in his seventies who had worked himself into the body of a ninety year old man through a lifetime of servitude to one Mr. Phil A. Buster, a pioneer in the rest home boom. The billions he made off the veiled neglect and abuse of the elderly helped fund a lavish lifestyle of comfort and ease well into his nineties.
That is until last week when he died in his sleep with a smile on his face.
Arthur was actually the one who found him that morning: he had brought up the master's coffee enema and newspaper. Yes, you read that correctly: coffee enema. Every morning Arthur was required to administer the enema via a device while his master lay in bed. Then he was required to attend the master as he sat in a bottomless chair over a large sink reading the paper. Arthur was quite sure that this was not a treatment recommended by any physician. He was almost certain it was just another trial he would put Arthur through to break him.
That was Mr. Buster's soul ambition and hobby in the years since he sold his empire and retired: he wished to see this stoic servant from Britain who was the finest human being he knew broken.
In an interesting side note: the shareholders who did purchase his majority shares were soon rewarded with not princely dividends which they were promised but an anonymous phone call to the press about the horrible living conditions at the rest homes they now fully owned. The stock plummeted, there were lawsuits from families that had never even noticed these conditions their loved ones were forced to live in until they heard it on their televisions. Philip A Buster had managed to break every single person who even dreamed to have the same thing he did. Arthur was forced to make the call.
That was how he had crafted this game: he made every required demeaning task appear to be under the guise of either a business necessity or a medical therapy: from firing board members at company picnics in front of their families (which Arthur had to do) to the yearly earwax collection and weighing. It would appear to any outsider to be an albeit eccentric but nevertheless required chore. After all, any outside individual would, upon examination, never believe the complaints a mere butler over the defenses of 'Lord' Buster.
Another tack Buster used was constant degrading verbal abuse: he would come up with some of the most offensive and disgusting comments in order to debase his employee and force him into rash action. He would go so far as to have his head of security sweep every room and Arthur daily for listening devices. This way none of the vile and provocative things he spewed at his human disposal were ever used against him. It was fortunate Mr. Buster was retired because the amount of imagination, time and energy required to carry out this daily crusade was staggering and Phil was no longer a young man, either. None of it succeeded. Arthur bent but never broke.
"I am afraid this is just a final attempt to bring me low and for master to see me as rich but worthless as he was. For years I argued that a man was nothing, even with riches, if he did not have pride in his life and work. He scoffed and often attempted to force me to renege on my contract with him and be a broken man. I persevered, and I will not succumb to his phantom, sir. I deny his wish."
The judge who was a very influential man and friend of Philip's, was completely baffled by this simple man's stubbornness: "but my dear sir, do you not realize what this means? You can now live as you choose without a care in the world. You owe nothing to anyone and you now have power beyond anything you could ever have imagined as a mere butler." The judge said.
"I know that given the circumstances and my reaction to them you believe you are speaking to a simpleton, but I do fathom the gravity in this situation. I have lived with the daily reminders of what wealth can do to a man. I have seen the consequences first hand for most of my adult life. In many ways I have lived so near the edge of that abyss of the soul for so long just to remind myself where the path of human decadence can lead; where the heart can become seduced by riches and become a factory of depravity. The one thing that has kept me at the master's side is my honor bound duty to strive to never become such a vacuum of the human spirit such as Mr. Buster. With that as my model opposite, I found the path much easier."
"Well, I must say..." The judge said as he scratched the bald area at the top of his head which was surrounded by shock white downy hair. "I thought I knew old Philly, but with your description here, I am not so sure now."
"Indeed, sir" was all Alfred would offer.
"What about your retirement? I knew Philly fairly well and since he's dead and gone I can tell you he was a cheap son of a bitch. I can't imagine him paying very much. How will you fair? Would you be looking for employment?" The judge let it trail off in hopes that Alfred would pick up the thread just as any good servant would.
Alfred just flashed a friendly smile and shook his head: "no sir, your honor. I took my hard earned wages, which were as you intimated, quite small and managed to sock away quite a nice nest egg. You do not spend so many years with a financial genius and not pick up a trick or two. I chose wisely in my investments and withdrew my money when the amount was sufficient to my needs. I have just enough to move back to England and spent the rest of my days catching up on my reading."
"But investment in the stock market would seem to draw a very close parallel to the monster you describe. Were you not afraid of becoming the soulless man just as you say Philly became?" The judge felt he had him there and maybe he could lure him in through that loophole.
"My dear sir, I am but a man as was Mr. Buster. That similarity does not doom me to his fate. As I said earlier, it is what a man chooses to do with what he is presented that define what becomes of his soul."
He could tell the judge was still hopeful about trapping this man into taking the bequeathment. He added: "when we are placed before a table laden with a feast it is up to us whether we eat our fill or gluttonize and make but pigs of ourselves as if we were before a trough. Food is like money: we need it to survive in this world. You can either control how much you earn or it can control and "earn" your soul.” He folded his perfectly manicured but worn hands in his lap. He was done trying to explain.
"Well" the judge said "this is extremely unusual. I suppose the money could be redirected to the two grandchildren..."
"Oh, my!" Alfred gave a moan of disdain with a dramatic eyeroll for good measure "that would be an even more distasteful solution! I abhor those vicious little brats. They are worse in every evil quality and vice than their grandfather could ever hope to be. This added fortune would just further their depravity. That would have entertained Mr. Buster to no end. No--I will find another solution to this dilemma. Perhaps I can give it to a charity..."
"Ahem" the judge interrupted "there is a specific stipulation in this will that states that the money must either go to you or his heirs but it will not be spent on any charitable works. It seems he may have anticipated this maneuver on your part."
"Indeed. Well, I will find an appropriate solution was all Alfred had left to say.
"In that case, I only will require your signature on these few papers and I will then hand over this check to you.
One week later Alfred was on a chartered jet flying out of the private air strip on the estate he now owned. He no longer wore the starched and well kept uniform he donned every day of his sentence, but instead wore the simple country attire he had come to work in that first day. As the plane lifted into the thick cloud layer that kept the glorious sun from shining upon his new empire, he caught a glimpse of the conflagration that had been the estate of Phil A Buster as it billowed black smoke high into the sky.
As soon as he had left the office of the Judge he made the call to his sister back in England. He told her what had transpired and gave her the authority to access his personal account and buy the small cottage in the countryside outlying London. His real dream was coming true. He then went to the bank and withdrew all the money his vile employer had left him and took it the mansion and had it piled in the library: the master's favorite room in which to berate Alfred due to the comfort of the one leather chair by the fireplace.
The pile of bills looked comical. He did have the opportunity to get the full sum in a cashiers check or bearer bonds, but it would doubtless not have had the theatrically cathartic result as that pile before him. This was the cancer that had eaten away Philip Arthur Buster's soul.
He set it ablaze. It has been burning for two days now. The local authorities are up in arms at the fact that they cannot attempt to put out the blaze. Alfred denied them access. They feel it will be perceived as them not doing their jobs, but it is private property well outside the limits of any local jurisdiction. They, as Alfred was, were reduced to watching from a safe distance.
The plane lifted and so did Alfred's spirits (after all these years) as he remember the final exchange with the judge: "why will you just not take the money and leave it at that?"
"For the simple fact, your honor, that he would have won and I would have lost everything."