There's a bum that lives in our neighborhood in Queens. He used to beg for change, but started painting one day. He went to a recycle place and collected old paint cans. Most of them still have a little paint left in them, but God knows where he got the brush.
He started painting on whatever garbage he could find - cardboard, paper, whatever provided a flat surface. He was really good, too. It was weird. He did landscapes, paintings of the places in the neighborhood, dogs, some cool-looking fantasy stuff...
This guy was the damn Michelangelo of bums. He'd sell them for fifty cents or a buck, then used the money to buy some booze and drink himself into a coma. He was a typical artist.
He eventually started offering to do portraits. No one liked them and I don't know why. I talked to a neighbor about it and they didn't really seem comfortable talking about it at all. She had one done by him and said it disgusted her and didn't look a thing like her.
I asked to see it. It was beautiful. It was amazingly lifelike and I told her as much. She responded by slapping me pretty hard and telling me to get the fuck out of her house. She stopped talking to me after that.
Nevertheless, I was so impressed that I asked the bum to do one of me. He said it would be two bucks and I paid him in advance. He said it would be done the next day. I passed his usual spot the next day, anxious to see it, but he wans't there.
I was pissed for a moment and thought he ripped me off until I noticed down the side of the building was my portrait, covered, with my name and a note on it. The note said, simply, "Good luck."
I uncovered the painting and was horrified. I looked distorted, misshapen...sickly twisted in ways that made my eyes hurt. I was clearly dying in the portrait, if not already dead. Bugs and crows were feeding on me.
I hadn't noticed one of the other neighbors behind me until he said, "Hey, looks good. I ought to get one too."
He said it as he was passing and continued to walk on, but not before I got a glimpse of him. He was twisted and misshapen, walking with a distorted gait. Crows and bugs trailed him, feeding from him. I looked around.
Everyone and everything looked the way I did in the painting now. Everything I see makes my eyes water. Everything is horrible and ugly...and everyone tells me how beautiful my portrait is. No matter what I do, I can't convince them that they shouldn't get one themselves.