I was sitting in the market with my sketchpad, scribbling away as I’m oft apt to do on relaxingly sunny Saturday afternoons when tribulation finds me. She just had this sketch-disrupting aura about her. The kind of aura that said “none of the four little bastards I pushed out have called to tell me that they love me today, so I’m feeling particularly needy at the moment despite operational facade of a superiority complex to which I will subject you to in approximately two minutes.” She was short and round, wearing a sweatshirt with a horse’s head ironed onto it. Her grey hair was a mullet and her face was twisted like a sphincter and I could feel my faith in humanity wilting due to her proximity alone.

She didn’t start out talking to me, of course, any more than a plague lights up Patient Zero in big neon lights. No, she perused the sketches — collectively a series on wolves, sheep and supermarkets — with inquisitional eyes, as if trying to gaze through them to see the next sketch in the stack. Or maybe telekinetically flip the sketch in front to expose the next one. Or at least draw a whimpered apology out of the front sketch for obscuring her view.

The sketches quietly refused to comply.

Eventually she broke down and reached out her hand to move the sketches in the hands-off manner of a person who is confused about why their telekinetic powers don’t work on anything that isn’t part of their own body. But having flipped the first sketch, her curiousity took over and she pawed through the rest of the stack with all of the engagment of a seven-year old that has just had an ice cream sandwich melt all over her fat little hands. I began counting down the seconds until the two minutes of silence were up. Her breathing was getting heavier and huffier in that rapidly exasperated way that short round old women who aren’t adequately appreciated by their children are categorically capable of. Finally, her majesty deigned to address what she expected was a grungy street urchin scraping by at the bottom of the social barrel. Which is to say that she didn’t know about my day job as a computer programmer.

“Do you have anything with horses?” she asked, uncomfortably puffing up her chest to accentuate the horse’s head that I’m certain would be a harbinger of doom in any man’s bed. “I’ve got this thing for horses,” she added as if trying to excuse the visible symptoms of a disease.

I have this thing for horses, too. It’s called “disdain” and it goes back to when I got kicked by one as a child. Now I know that it’s not right to disdain an entire species of animal based on the dumb and spiteful behavior of Mister Dogfood — it’s just that I never got around to figuring out why I should try to like horses in modern society. I grew up and moved to the suburbs on the edge of the city and generally hadn’t thought about horses since, except when reading tourist adverts that suggested that I should take time out of my vacation to sit upon the back of one of these kick-tacular beasts.

“No ma’am,” I replied as my hand continued to scribble away on a newly-focused tangent, “this is the wolves, sheep and supermarkets department. Equestrianism is,” and I paused wondering if any of the other vendors who actually did do this for a living might be able to handle this tribulation better but came up empty and had to end with a dismissive “… somewhere else.” But my hand kept scribbling, knowing that the dismissal wouldn’t be accepted. She was clearly too needy to be dismissed.

“Oh,” she said while the words decomposed in her ears. “Well, that’s too bad for you because if you did horses, I’d have bought them all. Because I have this thing for horses,” repeated her twisted little face as she tugged uncomfortably at her sweatshirt. “You lost a valuable customer by not having horses,” she added. “You should consider doing horses for next time.”

My hand skipped a beat in its scribbles at the ignorant audacity of her closing statements. I’d say it’s like going to a supermarket (like the ones I’ve been sketching) and self-righteously complaining about their lack of sofa selection. Except that I’m not even an art supermarket here — I’m the espresso cart of the Saturday Market art world. I mean, let me check my pockets here, but… nope, no sofas! I had to bite my lip briefly to properly formulate a reply. I glanced down at the sketch that I’d been scribbling together for the past couple of minutes. It was done enough for my purposes. I looked back up at the tribulation and smiled apologetically.

“Thank you for that advice ma’am. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet your artistic needs today. But you may be pleased to know that I’m already working to heed your advice and expand my selection. In honor of that, please take this very first in my new line of sketches; I call it Crazy Old Bat #1.”