Null Pointer

JixeWriMo'20: Prompts

CWC28 Picture Prompt #17

Ben: If someone will write a story about #17, I promise to read it. That picture really speaks to me.

Nick: I really like #17. I'd like to paint that picture.

Sunset Sailboat Shilouette

Ben frowned, trying to concentrate. Nick Roberts had been giving him tips since the bikeathon, but even simple sketching wasn’t as easy as he’d hoped. Of course, the children running around, screeching, weren’t helping his focus. The parents in the area didn’t seem inclined to supervise.

Ben forced himself to ignore the noise and focus on the sailboat he was drawing. A soccer ball crashed into his side, jostling his arm, and slashing a line of ink across the middle of the boat he’d been working on so carefully. “Damn it!”

“Sorry,” one of the children said shyly, retrieving his ball.

Ben wanted to yell at the youngster, wanted to berate him, curse him out, but that wasn’t going to make his drawing any less ruined and would probably land him in trouble with the parents of the child, which would definitely land him in trouble with the Wheelers. Instead, he gave the child a tight smile and turned back to his sketchpad to see if he could salvage the drawing.

“Kids got you, hunh?” Someone asked, dropping down beside him.

Ben jumped in surprise and then scowled at Nick Roberts. “I take it you guess from experience.”

Nick nodded. “I’ve had more than a few sketches ruined that way. It’s one of the reasons I prefer sketching from images, if I care about the quality of the result. Tonight, I just wanted some fresh air and new subject matter,” Nick explained, getting out his own set of pens and his sketchpad. “Great minds think alike, I guess. I was going to skip it, seeing the crowd out here, but then I saw you and thought I’d say hello first.”

“Hello,” Ben said, only half-bitterly.

Nick laughed, knowing Ben’s mood wasn’t directed at him. “Good; your moody artist persona is coming along nicely.” Ben’s scowl deepened. “Hey,” Nick said, slightly more seriously, “Don’t be upset about the sketch. If you have a couple minutes still, I’ll teach you the fine art of silhouetting and you’ll be back in business.”

“Thanks,” Ben said, far more sincerely.

With some pointers from Nick, Ben soon had a reclaimed silhouette of the sailboat he’d been sketching.

“Hey, thanks,” Ben said as he packed up his pens.

“No problem. It’s nice to have someone to talk sketching with. Drawing isn’t the preferred medium for the other Sleepyside art students.”

Just as Ben reached for his sketchpad, a kid ran past them, tripped over her own feet, and fell, sending her open grape juice flying, some of the red liquid splattering on the drawing.

The child ran off, crying, to her parents.

“What the hell,” Ben muttered under his breath. “Twice in one hour!”

“Do you mind if I take it?” Nick asked, eyeing the ruined drawing carefully. “I have an idea.”

Ben shrugged, pulling the page free. “It’s ruined; I’m just going to scrap it. You want it, it’s yours.”

Nick tucked it into his sketchbook, packing up his own supplies. “I’ll see you Monday, Ben.”

“See you Monday, Nick.”


When Ben arrived at art class on Monday, Nick was in one corner of the classroom, gathering supplies for the assignment of the day. Ben set down his bag at his usual seat and paused, looking at the painting sitting on the table at his place, a sailboat at sunset. The stunning image couldn’t be his twice-ruined silhouette from his weekend sketching session along the Hudson River, could it? But if it wasn’t, Nick Roberts was a skilled forger, because that was Ben’s little signature mark in the corner, exactly where Ben always put it when he finished a piece. Nick’s initials were in the other bottom corner, the left upright of the N poking through the swirly loop of the R.

Ben picked up the painting, holding it up toward the windows, so the sunlight would stream through the paper. Sure enough, as Ben studied the image careful, he could see where Nick had transformed the grape juice splatters into the edges of waves and clouds. “Nick, this is amazing,” Ben said as his friend returned to the seat next to his.

Nick’s cheeks grew pink. “It’s nothing much,” he deflected.

“Nick, you took a ruined sketch and turned it into a masterpiece.”

Nick shrugged. “I’ve had some practice. As you noticed, sketching outside comes with some distractions. Mr. Crider showed me the silhouetting fix after I ruined a drawing I’d been working all period on when the bell rang.”

“And the painting?”

“That’s courtesy of Diana Lynch,” Nick informed him. “Four twins in the house? I don’t think she’s ever had a piece she worked on at home turn out the way she envisioned when she started. So, yeah, she’s the one who told me the trick about grape juice making for good sunsets. It’s harder to get the colors right with water colors, which is the medium Diana perfected the skill on, but it’s not too tough with acrylics.”

“This is still amazing, Nick. You’ll do great in art school.”

“If I get in,” Nick said with a frown.

“I know you’re a glass half-empty kind of guy,” Ben replied with a shake of his head, “but you’ll get in. How could they refuse you, with pieces like this in your portfolio?” Ben set the painting back on the table. “You should keep it, for your portfolio, in fact.”

Nick shook his head. “I couldn’t use it. It’s a collaboration. My portfolio should probably be only my work. You keep it. We’re both the kind of guy who needs a reminder that we can make a masterpiece out of a ruined plan.”

Ben nodded thoughtfully. They certainly were.


Honey had been thrilled when Ben offered to take her shopping at Crimpers. She was surprised when he met her at the exit with a bag of his own. “What’d you find?” She asked curiously.

Ben opened the bag, showing her a simple black frame. “Nick and I both ended up on the banks of the Hudson River, to sketch, this weekend. A lot of kids were around and … it was not a good environment for successful sketching. Nick and I ended up… well, he called it ‘collaborating’ on a piece. He said I could keep the final product. I was going to put it up in my room. Unless you think Uncle Matt wouldn’t be okay with me putting a nail in the wall?”

“It’s your room. As long as you don’t wreck it, you can do what you want with it, as far as decorating. Daddy will be fine with you hanging a picture.”


Author's Notes:

This is JixAnny'20 Picture Prompts Challenge. I thought I was done writing for JixAnny20, but then Ben and Nick's comments on this image got me thinking...and you know how that goes.