The Undisputed Champions of Texas, Part 17

While it was true that Aspen’s discovery of chalk art was directly linked to her search for a cure for her insomnia, there was a little more to the story.

The more accurate version would be that Aspen turned to chalk art because late night strolls in the middle of the night had failed to make her tired.

When she couldn’t sleep, she would sneak out of the house, regardless of the hour, to go for a wander.  Her parents were ridiculously laid back and just wanted what was best for their only child.  Had she’d bothered to ask for their permission to go on these adventures, they would have granted it and then reminded her to take a sweater because it tended to get chilly after midnight.

Walking didn’t work, though.  Maybe it was because Aspen walked so much already due to her hatred of driving and mistrust of public transportation.  It wasn’t a total loss, though, because on one of her post-midnight jaunts, she came across a series of old buildings covered in graffiti.

The street art intrigued her, and Aspen was eager to give it a try.  However, she had recently read an article about how the police had vowed to crack down on such vandalism because the people who owned the buildings weren’t fans.

Aspen thought art was cool, but she didn’t want to get arrested for creating it.  After all, that would put her in the system and potentially derail her plans to pull off the ultimate heist.  She needed to remain off the police radar and out of their computer systems.

At least that logic made perfect sense to a teenager who was roaming the streets at three in the morning while half asleep.

She couldn’t get the itch to be creative out of her system, though, and those late night walks turned into brainstorming sessions about how to express her creativity to the masses without getting taken down by the man in the process.

Ironically, all that thinking woke her up even more and made sleep impossible.

Then one fateful night she walked past a construction site.  Even though the crew was long gone, they had left behind their equipment and a half dug up street.  What caught her attention, though, was the writing on the black top.

There was scrawl like “Dig Safe” and “City Gas Line” in crudely scribbled white letters.

Aspen wondered how many people saw those words on a daily basis.  This was a busy part of the city where foot traffic was considerable during rush hour and lunchtime.  It was also a city of strangers, who walked with their heads down because everyone knew better than to make eye contact.  You had no idea who might get offended if you looked them in the eye, or heaven forbid, offered a smile or a quick hello.

That was when she knew that the street and sidewalks would become her canvas.  She would leave art for passersby to enjoy while they rushed across town determined to keep their heads down and avoid any form of human contact.

No one owned the street or sidewalk.  Maybe the city did, but the city was too busy with bigger problem, so they wouldn’t go crying to the cops about it like building owners would.

And if she used chalk instead of spray paint, there would be no permanent damage.  It would just wash away the next time it rained or some drunk urinated on it.

The latter was more likely to happen because the entire region was going through a drought.

And because way more people engaged in public urination than city officials cared to admit.

short story, serial, Modern PhilosopherAspen loved the path along the river, but hated how decrepit the city had allowed it to become.  She had stopped walking down there partly out of protest, and partly because she couldn’t bear to see how awful it looked.  There was trash strewn everywhere, weeds forced their way up through cracks in the blacktop, and the city’s criminal element had turned the path into their unofficial business center.

That was why she decided to do her very first piece of chalk art on the river path.

She’d heard the police supposedly patrolled the path more regularly now that the Mayor had promised to chase the drug dealers, thieves, and prostitutes out of the area, but she had a feeling the cops focused on certain areas and left others completely ignored.

Nevertheless, she did exercise some caution.  She wore a baggy sweatshirt with the hood pulled up to hide her uniquely colored hair.  More as a joke than anything else, she also put on an old Halloween mask.  It was just a simple black mask that covered her eyes, like the one Robin wore when he was fighting crime alongside Batman.

She bought one of those headlamps that joggers and hikers liked to wear, as well as a battery powered lamp popular with campers.  At least that’s what the sales guy in the big box store had told her when she made the purchase.

Properly disguised, drowsy from lack of sleep, and armed with proper lighting and a giant box of colorful chalk, she headed down to the river walk.  Before she left the house, she looked at herself in the mirror, chuckled at her reflection, and said, “Look out, everyone, Art Girl can’t sleep so she’s going to make the world a brighter, more colorful place!”

serial, crime, mystery, Modern PhilosopherHer first piece was of the skyline on the opposite side of the river that she had to draw from memory because it was too dark for her to actually the buildings.

After that, she went with more generic, uplifting, and colorful images.  Rainbows were her go to because they allowed for the most use of color.  Unicorns, clowns, and astronauts straddling multi-colored rockets were also favorites.

She would draw for hours by lamplight and never encounter a soul.  By the time she was done, she was exhausted.  After the walk home, she would collapse onto her bed and sleep for hours.

Aspen loved having a secret creative outlet that also conquered her insomnia.  Everything was perfectly anonymous until the second week of Art Girl’s adventures.

That night, she had decided to dabble in monkeys.  Specifically, space monkeys who traveled by somersaulting down rainbows that connected the planets.  She was working on the getting the form just right on the third monkey in the rainbow caravan when a voice in the darkness almost caused her to jump out of her skin.

“I really like your drawings, but I don’t think someone like you should be down here all alone in the middle of the night…”

Aspen turned to face the voice.  A tall, muscular man in his early thirties stepped into the edge of her lamplight.  He had a purple bandana tied across his forehead and another on his right arm.  His arms and neck were covered in tattoos, and he wore a leather jacket with the arms cut off.

He looked damn scary, but he smiled at her.  That didn’t do much to lower Aspen’s stress levels, but it did slow down her heart rate just enough so she no longer had to fear that it would explode out of her chest.

Aspen didn’t know much about the city’s gang culture, but she had done some research before deciding to venture down to the river walk in the middle of the night.  The guys with the purple bandanas were the Heathens.  They were said to be the scariest gang in the area and saw the path as their domain.

“Nice mask,” the stranger said.

Aspen, who had just then remembered to breathe, had completely forgotten that she had the silly Halloween mask on her face.  She still had enough wits about her, however, to know not to offend the frightening gang member.

“Thank you,” she said weakly.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said as if reading her mind.

“Well, you failed miserably then,” she quipped.

The big guy chuckled.  “I’m not going to hurt you.  I really do love the drawings you’ve been leaving along the path.  They make me smile when I’m working.”

“That was my intention,” Aspen replied.

Even Aspen was amazed at how quickly she’d regained her composure and quick wit.  Maybe it was the mask that made her feel more confident.

Still, she made a mental note to pack some mace and maybe a metal pipe for future adventures.

“But you really shouldn’t be down here alone in the middle of the night,” he reiterated.  “Some very bad people frequent this place, and wouldn’t they love to come across someone like you.”

Aspen nodded and pointed at his bandana.  “That means you’re a Heathen, right?”

The guy smiled.  “That’s right.  That should strike fear into your heart.”

“Oh, it does.  The only reason you can’t tell that I’m peeing myself right now because I’m wearing a diaper,” she replied dryly.

He chuckled.

“Can’t you pass the word to your crew to leave me alone and keep me safe from creeps?” she proposed.  “After all, I am creating a better work environment for all of you.”

He nodded.  “I’ll see what I can do, but honestly, we’re not usually around where you do your thing.  I’d hate for something to happen to you.”

“I understand,” Aspen conceded.  “I was thinking about moving my art show to a more traveled part of town to see if I can reach a larger, more law abiding audience.”

He chuckled again.  “You do that.  Just promise me you won’t give them space monkeys.  I think those should be our special thing.”

“You have a deal,” she agreed.  “I’m Art Girl, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Art Girl.  I’m Raptor.  I’ll stick around until you finish.”

“I appreciate it, Raptor.”  She smiled at her new friend and went back to work.

Little did Aspen know at the time that this encounter would one day come in very handy…


About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Undisputed Champions of Texas, Part 17

  1. WebbBlogs says:

    Ohhhhhh dang it Austin, I wasn’t ready for this chapter to end. 😁 This story is so addictive I keep wanting more and more. 😁😁

    • Austin says:

      Alas every chapter must end so the next one can begin. Was it fun to see our old friends the Heathens make an appearance? 🙂

      • WebbBlogs says:

        Yes was definitely surprised by the Heathens. Of course my mind is left spinning trying to figure out how he will fit into this later. 🤔🤔 I need to be patient….but its hard to be when the story is this good.

      • Austin says:

        You never know with the Heathens. Their leader already owes Bruno a favor for returning his bike…

  2. kristianw84 says:

    Ohhh… I’m so intrigued!! I’m excited to see how Aspen’s encounter with the Heathens plays out. You’ve got my mind racing! Looking forward to the next installment!!

    • Austin says:

      As we’ve discussed, Aspen wasn’t in the original plans for this serial, but I’m damn glad I added her. She seems to be the hurricane sweeping through this entire story and moving it forward…

      • kristianw84 says:

        I’m so glad you added her, too! I can’t imagine this serial without her now. I know it’s mostly about Champ and Tex, and I definitely appreciate their “odd couple” banter, but there’s just something about Aspen…

        I agree, she moves the story forward!

      • Austin says:

        The inclusion of Aspen had changed this from the intended odd ball comedy to another mystery thriller. She’s been a good influence on the writer…

  3. beth says:

    aspen is an important character in this –

    • Austin says:

      She wasn’t meant to be. She wasn’t even in the original story idea. However, she’s infected the story and has exerted her dominance. 🙂

  4. markbialczak says:

    You do need many friends, Austin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s