Name: Nate “Nickel” Thompson
Appearance: Nate has ebony hair, a large and ready smile and glittering brown eyes. He is tall and thin, in actuality emaciated. He wears dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up and loose fitting jeans. He always wears a trilby hat he calls a fedora by mistake. He has a pocket watch on a gold chain. On close inspection, the clothes are threadbare and stink.
Background: All through school Nate heard one thing, how great his art was. He could draw a picture by picking a corner and letting it flow. His work was flawless and he reveled in it. His drawings were often compared to black and white photos. He won school art contests. He made all the posters for homecoming and several class presidents.
He wasn’t one of the popular kids, but most raved over his work. The praise made him feel invincible. Only one art teacher, a sub at that, ever criticized him, telling him his work lacked true emotion. Nate laughed and brushed it off.
He received many offers for scholarships at prestigious schools for art. He knew he didn’t need them. Instead, he moved to Greenwich Village with a couple of other art students. They got a cheap studio in a run down factory. After a while, he realized it was an illegal situation. It would be a great story when he was famous.
While he didn’t think it would be for long he got a spot in a park as Nickel Portraits and painted in his spare time. As often as he could he left art at collectives and galleries. Every one told him his work lacked spark.
He couldn’t make much on his portraits, not because they were bad, but he took far too long to make them. He could make 2-3 in a week, but could only sell them for $30. Soon every penny was going to rent and supplies. He lived on Ramen and soup kitchens. He couldn’t even to buy “new” clothes at goodwill.
After 6 months he was lost. He was starving, and one of his friends was leaving. He had gotten several pieces in a gallery and was becoming popular. Nate was polite but seethed inside. His work was perfect and for some reason that wasn’t enough. His friend lacked his exactness and he spotted technical errors in every one of his $500 pieces. Added to this was panic because he would have to pay more rent he couldn’t afford.
They threw a huge party the night before his friend left, with copious beer and some hipster chicks. Nate got plastered, swore at his friends about how he was superior and every one of them were idiots. He then punched one of them, threw up and passed out.
He awoke in the hallway, his meager possessions in a bag. They had smashed his easel and commissions. Nate couldn’t remember what he had done but knew he’d screwed up. He picked up the bag and screamed a few obscenities at the door before leaving. Without his supplies, he couldn’t even make the tiny amount he had before. Desperate, he began drawing city images on napkins with a stolen ballpoint pen. He would jump in front of cars at stoplights and try to sell them. The only result was spending a night in a jail cell.
Finally, one December night he lay in the snow in an alley, shivering. There was a shelter nearby but he didn’t care. People couldn’t see his genius and he couldn’t take the humiliation anymore. He cried as he began to nod off, ready to let the cold claim him.
He was unconscious and beginning to feel warm when a loud voice woke him. “So Mr. Perfect can’t give away his perfect work.” Nate looked up and saw that one sub who told him his work was bad.
The cold took any surprise he may have had. He looked up at the man, tears in his eyes. “You came all this way to tell me you told me so?”
The man knelt down, his body throwing heat like a furnace. Nate found himself sweating despite the cold “No, kid. I came to make you famous. I can do it, I can give you the fame you know you deserve,” the man said, dead serious.
Nate looked at him and said, “How can you do that?”
“Easy as pie,” he chuckled and tossed a notebook in front of the desperate artist. Nate opened it and gaped. From beginning to end it showed the man shaking hands with the owners of the most famous galleries in New York. “That’s not all. I can give your work some soul, or someone’s soul anyway.”
“What do you mean?” Nate asked.
“It’s very simple. You start a piece and I give you a name. Make that person disappear without a trace. Your piece will be excellent and I sell it to a gallery. You become famous and I get what I need. Easy Peasy,” the man extended a hand.
Nate stared for a long time. He had nothing left to lose. Finally, he took the proffered hand. “Please, make me famous,” was all he said.
Name: Nate “Nickel” Thompson