_Editorâ€™s Note: This is the second installment of the fiction story â€œInside the Hollow Sun,â€ which will appear every week in Verve throughout the semester. _
I stood waiting. Knock knock. I started muttering, â€œOne Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippiâ€¦â€ Knock knock. Silence filled the space around my knocking. The hallway was dimly lit, and I counted out another three seconds. Knock knock.
â€œHarrison?â€ I heard Greg call behind his apartment door.
â€œYeah,â€ I called back, â€œitâ€™s me, Greg.â€ I heard locks turn before Greg cracked open his door and poked his head out.
â€œHey, sorry about that. Never hurts to double check.â€ Greg proceeded to shut and lock the door after I walked through. His desk lamp was on, and I could see papers spread out under its light.
â€œDid you draw today?â€ I asked as I walked up to the desk.
â€œTried to,â€ said Greg. He came up and stood next to me. â€œMy hand started getting bad again.â€
I examined the drawings on top of the pile. The lines were shaky and sporadic. They looked like sketches that would come out of an elementary school classroom. I shuffled them aside and looked at the drawings underneath. Smoother lines occupied the comic strip boxes on these pages. Some even had color already, but most of the dialogue boxes were blank. Greg liked me to proofread his lines before he wrote them down.
â€œI tried writing this afternoon.â€
Greg turned toward me with raised eyebrows, â€œReally?â€
â€œYeah,â€ I said, â€œbut nothing really came out of it. I was just in the mood to see what would happen today.â€ I walked over to the couch and laid down. â€œHave you got anything to drink?â€
â€œIâ€™m not sure if we finished off that wine yesterday,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ll go check.â€ Greg went into the kitchen and started opening cabinets. The afternoon sun squeezed into the apartment through a small window. The living room had been tidied since Iâ€™d left this morning. I looked up at the dozens of â€œPeanutsâ€ comic strips hanging on the walls. A majority of them had Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and as usual, ending up on the ground. â€œSorry, Harrison,â€ called Greg, â€œlooks like weâ€™re out of luck.â€
â€œWhatever,â€ I sighed, â€œIâ€™ll grab some more on Monday when we get our checks.â€
â€œAre you already out again?â€ asked Greg from the kitchen. I usually had trouble holding onto my welfare money past Wednesdays. No one was willing to hire people like Greg and I anymore, but at least they didnâ€™t give us a hard time about registering for a disability claim. The only condition was attending therapy every weekday. Thatâ€™s what gets me into Dr. Clermontâ€™s office week after week.
â€œYeah,â€ I replied.
â€œWhat did you spend it all on this time?â€ I didnâ€™t respond. Greg walked into the living room and stared at me before sitting at the table. I started scratching the scabs on my wrists. â€œIâ€™ve still got 80 left if you want to go to the store.â€
â€œAll right,â€ I said, standing up. I felt something stream down my arm and over my hand.
â€œIs that blood?â€ I heard Greg say.
_Fiction writer Justin Goodfellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _