Monday, December 3, 2012
Beau & The Beast excerpt by Rick R Reed
Beau is a down-on-his-luck street artist living on the streets of Seattle, drawing portraits of tourists to make enough money to live hand-to-mouth. He has a knack for capturing his subjects’ “very souls” on paper. One rainy night, he is accosted by a group of fag-bashing thugs, intent on robbing him of his art supplies and humiliating Beau for who he is. Beau is beaten into unconsciousness…
…and awakens in a beautiful bedroom, his head bandaged and with no memory of how he got there. Outside his window, pine trees and mountain vistas beckon.
Beau’s tale grows even more mysterious when a large, muscular man begins bringing the injured Beau his food. The man says nothing—and wears a wolf mask. When he finally does speak, it’s only to tell Beau to call him “Beast.”
What secrets does the wolf mask hide? What do these two outsiders have in common? And will their odd circumstances bring them to the brink of love—or tear them apart? The answers lie in Rick R. Reed’s haunting love story that reveals that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
This is the opening from Rick R Reed’s gay, modern-day fairy tale and in many ways, it really sets the scene for what’s to come. The line about seeing into a soul is particularly pertinent, if you read the entire story.
Beau & The Beast
Seattle’s Elliott Bay, Beau thought, was a study in gray. With his artist’s eye, he could appreciate the gunmetal shade of the churning waters, here and there supporting the weight of massive ferries taking late afternoon commuters to Bainbridge and Vashon Islands. Beau thought the clouds appeared pearlescent in their pale tones of faded white, smoke, and touched with peach as the sun, all but invisible on this drizzly day, set over the water. Even the buildings, across the sound, and lining Alki Beach in West Seattle, appeared as colorless geometric shapes, stalwarts lined up against the approaching night.
Beau had been here almost all afternoon, just behind Pike Place Market, hoping even on this chilly and damp day, that he would be able to attract tourist trade from the busy marketplace. After all, even Seattle’s tepid winters drew tourists and their favorite destination, equal to the Space Needle, was Pike Place Market and the Elliott Bay waterfront behind it.
But today, the blustery winds, constant drizzle bordering on mist, and oppressive dark skies more suited to night, kept most tourists pursuing activities indoor in nature.
Yet here Beau sat on his little collapsible folding stool behind the market, easel set up and hoping to do a portrait or two to make enough money to perhaps get himself a room for the night in one of the fleabag motels lining Aurora Avenue farther north. He hoped for the added bonus of a little something extra to lessen the aching emptiness of his belly. The reality of the term ‘starving artist’ was not lost on poor Beau.
His skin was moist and he had grown weary of smiling and trying to cajole those tourists that did walk down to the waterfront to let him try to capture their likenesses with charcoal and paper. Now, all he wanted to do was find a place to hole up for a while, to try and dispel this chill that had crept into his very bones. Seattle was like that in the winter—even though the temperature seldom dipped down to freezing, the damp caused the chill to seep in, thwarting even layers of flannel, wool, and fleece.
On better days, Beau sometimes walked away from this area with enough money in his pocket to treat himself to teriyaki and a room, if he was lucky, for more than one night. On better days, Beau engaged with the tourists and locals who posed for him, getting an original portrait for only ten dollars (the highest amount he found he could charge, to his dismay).
Packing up his art supplies, Beau tried to warm himself by remembering the praise he would get on those good days, when he would do several portraits. He remembered one woman, a regal looking, olive-complexioned lady with a mass of graying hair she had pulled sloppily atop her head, effusing over her portrait. In it, Beau had captured the beauty that shone from her, luminosity not immediately apparent to the casual observer. He didn’t think the woman was being conceited when she smiled at the drawing, tears springing to her eyes, and said, “Why it’s like you captured my very soul.”
And that’s exactly what Beau tried to do when he drew someone—find their essence, some unique feature that made them them. He knew he was good, better than the hardscrabble existence he eked out, but aside from times being hard these days, he also constantly told himself that, albeit poor, he was free. He had no boss to answer to, save himself and his own biological imperatives—which were sometimes very demanding indeed—no set hours around which he would be forced to fashion his life.
Yes, he had to admit to himself, he was homeless, even though he usually made enough money to keep him off the streets most nights. Yet he had no permanent address, no real place to store his art supplies and to hang the straw hat he favored wearing. But when the fact of his aimlessness left him low, he could always remind himself he was free.
Beau finished putting what he could in the large backpack that transformed him into a beast of burden. He folded up his easel, compacting it, and turned to look once more at the waters of the sound, now still and shiny, mirror like, reflecting the last of the dying light of day. Below him, rush hour traffic rushed north and south. He checked his pockets, pulling out its meager contents. Today, he had five dollars and fifty-three cents to his name, barely enough to buy him a bowl of pho, the flavorful Vietnamese noodle soup that could be found in just about every neighborhood here in Seattle. It certainly didn’t leave him enough for shelter for the night.
That was okay.
He was free.
He would find a doorway in Belltown, the close-to downtown neighborhood, and curl up in layers of fleece and denim, and perhaps tomorrow would dawn a brighter day—and a more prosperous one.
He began trudging away from the waterfront and toward the market and Post Alley, looking forward to being away from his makeshift workplace, to eating some pho, and finding a quiet place where he could sleep for a while.
The walk toward food and possible shelter was all uphill and Beau wished he had not left it so late to attempt to find either. Quickly, as it did in winter, the sun beat a hasty retreat behind the mountains, barely noticeable anyway behind its thick shield of dark clouds—and now it had fallen to dull dark, the only illumination the artificial lights of the city.
Beau squared his broad shoulders, looking forward to sitting down for a while in the little Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Bac, near the downtown Greyhound station. He could practically taste the savory, star-anise flavored broth as he trudged uphill toward downtown, imagining the steaming noodles wrapped around chopsticks, the Thai basil, bean sprouts, and mint leaves floating in the soup, the tender pieces of beef tendon.
Simple thoughts like these kept him going, kept his mind off the ache in his shoulders and back from lugging around virtually everything he owned.
He was so focused on food, as hungry people often are, that he didn’t notice the two strangers trailing him. They were young men about Beau’s own age, but lacking his delicate, fragile, yet manly grace and beauty. These two were thugs, apparent in the cockiness of their walks, the fierceness of their frowns framed by dark stubble, and their attire, which leaned toward too-baggy jeans, hoodies, and heavy, steel-toed boots.
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