Cole Smoke in the Case of the Missing Piece
It was a hot summer day - just like any other. I was straightening my framed Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science from California State Polytechnic University and wondering what good it was ever gonna do me. Oh, I’d kicked around as a horseshoer for a while -- actually a long while, got pretty good at it, too -- but I needed a new line of work. But what, what? I decided I'd hit the road, go for a little drive, see what came to me. I drove along in a haze, the lines in the road blinked by like the strobe light at the disco I used to hang out in. My mind wandered -- what new venture did I want to get into...?
ZOOM! All of a sudden, she blew by me like stepping into the night air at 2 a.m. when the disco closed! I put my foot in it and we played tag for a while, ‘til we pulled over for a drink -- iced tea for her and for me, a triple, straight up, and cold -- milk!
"You're Cole Smoke aren't you?" she asked. "The Famous Smithy? Horseshoeing and English grammar -- that's your bag, right?"
"Maybe I am, maybe not. Who's askin'?”
She said she was an artist. The paint under her nails confirmed it. "You find missing pieces, don't you?" she pleaded, the urgency rising in her voice. I wondered how she'd found me, out on the road, alone, long before there was a cell phone in every pocket. Must have been Fate.
"Yea, sure, sometimes," I answered gruffly. "What kind of ‘pieces' you lookin' for?"
"That's just it. I'm not sure. LaughterPieces I think. See, I've got these paintings but I don't know what to call them. Something's missing, don't you see? You've got to help me! They tell me you're a ‘smithy' -- a word-smithy. Please, you're my only hope!" She was desperate, leaning low over the table toward me. My gaze drifted down -- I saw that her tea was almost gone. I ordered us another round.
"Ok, maybe I'll help, and maybe I won't. Gimme some background." I settled back into the booth, prepared for the long haul, figuring this gal could talk -- and she could.
"It all started when I was about five years old," she began. "The only subject in first grade I liked was Art. All the rest of my subjects.... blah, blah, blah... so I graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Art. After working at a variety of art-related jobs... blah, blah, blah...” [I must have dozed off -- again!]... “I'm now painting these canvases but something's missing. They need names, captions, something!" The pleading was coming back into her voice. "You've just got to help me!"
"Ok, OK! I'll help you! Gotta get out of this farrier gig I'm in now, anyway. But if I'm gonna come up with all the names and captions and stuff for your art, that kinda makes me an artist, too. And I'm gonna want a title... somethin' classy and dignified... a title like nobody else has. I know! I'll be the ‘Verbal Artist’! And we'll do things no one has ever done before! We'll do Wacky and Wonderful Whimsical Acrylic Paintings -- paintings that everyone will find hilarious!" I was getting excited about her proposition. And I realized I was hooked!
"I always knew you'd help," she cooed.