No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

As he crossed the threshold of a museum that sold expensive artifacts that local artists hoped might supplement their poverty, he caught the eye of the woman behind the sales counter. “Welcome.” she said, not a drop of unpleasantness in her manner, though she seemed more interested in doing paperwork than engaging him. The two of them were the only ones in the premises.

Is this a housing for art or a gift shop? he wondered. Yet his first impulse was to spend money. Some of its walls held paintings or elaborate drawings. There were carvings too. Metal sculptures. Also more mundane items: t-shirts, phone cases, keychains, each printed with odd designs. Unusual to him anyway.

In the end he bought nothing there, and he hesitated for a moment–then another–before heading out the door. The woman behind the sales counter smiled at him without a hint of duty. “Have a nice day.” she said and meant it.

As he went out toward the highway a memory surfaced. He recalled an afternoon spent inert and listening to loud music whose rhythm and lyrics escaped him now save one: “disappear.” repeated again and again. He’d wanted to. And it occurred to him how the woman in the museum seemed in some ways insignificant but also crucial to his experience there. No reward exists in this world for discreet empathy.

He drove for almost a half an hour until he reached the bottom of a small bay and the public land upon it. Though a strong drizzle fell over its sands he walked out on to them. A potent wind dragged and carved jagged strokes in the salty water. His heart sunk. However he also began to feel as if anything were possible.


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