Earlier this week, I wrote a short story entitled “Crew”. There is an abandoned factory here in town that I wandered through a few times. I used as it as inspiration for the setting. Out of the blue, at the end of the week, a stranger called me.
He purchased the building. Folks told him my partner and I might be interested in some of the contents for our business. Random. We visited today, and did indeed take away some cool, old foundry molds. The owner also let me snap some photos of the place to illustrate “Crew”.
Scape clinched the cuff of his sleeve, and crashed his elbow through the glass. He grinned back at us from within his hoodie, and dropped his backpack through the window. The cans clanked as they hit. With a quick dive, Scape slipped into the opening.
Rox balanced on the handrail next, kicking the jagged glass with her boot. She hoisted herself up, and squatted in the windowsill. I glanced down the street. Deserted. I pointed the beam of my flashlight on her jeans, willing it to push her through.
“Hurry the fuck up, Rox.”
She wiggled her ass, flipped me the bird, then disappeared into the dark.
I mounted the window, took one last look around, then dropped onto the broken glass inside. It crunched beneath our feet as we searched the room with our lights. Old plaster walls left to chip and crack. A mosaic swan set in the floor—a symbol of the foundry that once used the building.
“Hope there aren’t any fucking hobos in here,” Rox said.
Scape sniffed the air. “No way. Doesn’t smell like piss or smoke. Just old metal and grease.”
“Nobody’s tagged the entry,” I said. “I bet this place is virgin.”
Rox unzipped her backpack, whipped out a can, and shook it. “Not anymore.” She tagged her sinewy MINX on the plaster.
“Quit dicking,” Scape said. “We’ve got work to do.”
We followed him up the stairs, taking two at a time, using the rails at the landings to whip around and keep climbing. We raced up the twisted flights, until we ran out of steps. Rox kicked open the door and we passed through.
The top floor was one massive room. An expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows covered the far wall. I imagined the space filled with clangs and sweat and steel. All that remained was a few busted worktables, scattered debris, and stagnant puddles from the leaky roof.
We all saw its beauty at the same time: a blank wall stretching out from the doorway to the far corner.
“It’s perfect,” Scape said.
Rummaging through the junk, I found three hunks of wood to chock our flashlights on the scarred wood floor. Angling them just right, their beams converged on the plaster. Dry. Grungy white. Perfect.
Rox yanked a worktable. “Help me drag it over,” she ordered me. “This bitch is heavy.”
“Better than standing on each other’s backs,” Scape said as he slipped his bandana over his nose. He scrolled a finger over his iPod and some jazzy horns blared out. He was ready.
“Where we heading?” I asked him.
“I’m feeling nature tonight,” he answered.
The rattling marbles added their own layer to the music streaming into the space. Scape saturated the plaster with large sweeping arcs. He created hints of curved hills, then feathered the edges into blocks of green. Trees sprouted with a few masterful strokes.
Rox & I added our rattling cans to the symphony. I walked to an end wall, scaling the rubble to tag my COUNT in the triangle of light by the windows. FIN was for the murals only. We kept the powerful aliases separate—just in case.
The sweet smell of aerosol and pigment filtered through my bandana. I added the pair of signature fangs dropping beneath the letters.
Scape called out, “You two are up. Which playlist, Rox?”
“Screamo Love!” she answered, thrusting her hips.
I glared at her as I stepped into the light. “Really Rox? With this sweeping landscape?”
“I got this. He’s gonna be tall and sleek. Tight pants. Silver eyes. Dark.”
“When are your characters not dark? That damn Circus Demon scared the shit out me.”
“I painted him in chains didn’t I? Just worry about walling the edges in, Border Boy. We don’t need another screw up.”
“My damn black ran out. It was too thin in one tiny spot!”
Rox ignored me, already lost in the whine of some androgynous boy wailing like a girl. She laid down the base of a figure. I sorted through my cans and set aside all the black. Plenty of it. First I sprayed the solid line of the border. Precise. Purposeful. Rox and I shared the table. When we were ready to slide it over, Scape was there to help move it. As always, we worked seamlessly, like cogs in a machine.
I embellished the border with swirls. Scape quietly joined in, adding shading to the landscape. Clouds of rainbow aerosol floated in the flashlight beams. My tongue tingled with the sharp taste. We worked over one another’s sections, dancing, adding details and highlights.
“Shit. I need a tight nozzle, Rox said. “I lost mine some fucking where.”
“There’s one in my pocket,” I said with a smile.
She sauntered to me and grabbed my hair. She faked heavy, ecstatic breaths as she fished the nozzle from my jeans. “Ohhhh, ohhhhh, unnnhhhh. Oh yeah! Oh yeaaaahhh!”
Scape peeked from beneath his hood. “You two are sick.”
Rox skipped to him. “You know you like it, baby.” She grabbed Scape’s ass, kissed him on the cheek, then finished her taunting with a playful slap.
Back to work, we navigated around one another, fluidly filling in details high and low. Scape stepped back, then dove in for some tweaking. Rox hopped off the table and silenced the iPod. We moved behind the flashlights, checking out our work.
“Damn, Scape. Look at the rhythm of those strokes,” I said.
“Our best one yet,” he answered.
“We get better each time,” Rox said. “Hold on. Shit! There’s too much shadow on his face. I can’t even see his lips.”
I whistled the Jeopardy theme song to annoy her. She flipped me off, and Scape backed her up with a punch on my arm.
“You definitely want dark, sleek boy to have a luscious pair of lips,” I teased. I expected a Fuck you, Fin, but Rox was on task.
With a few expert strokes, she added highlights to his face: nose, cheekbone, strong chin, two quick bursts for lips. Rox stepped back. Her guy looked lean and proud, but not arrogant. Like aristocracy.
“What’s his name?” Scape asked.
Rox whispered, “Craven.”
We approached the mural, and tagged our ‘real’ names: SCAPE, ROX, FIN. Scape encase them in a triangle with three straight lines. Only one more step.
“Should we do it?” I asked.
Simultaneously, we placed our palms inside the triangle. Color rippled out from center of the mural, bounced off the border, and echoed back. Wind gusted from the wall, driving the aerosol fumes across the room to hover by the windows.
Craven shivered. He blinked, then rolled his neck, sending the sound of cracking vertebrae through the old factory. He looked down at us, his creators.
His face contorted. Slowly, his feet left the painted grass as he rose into the spraypaint sky.
“Wait…Wait!” he screamed. Craven floated to the top of the mural, bracing his hands against the upper border.
Rox scrambled to the cans. “Oh, fuck!”
“We forgot to paint a shadow to anchor the dude—” Scape said.
“—again,” I finished.
Rox smiled at us. “Don’t just stand there, numbnuts. Help me pull him down.”