Sheep's Clothing

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Lemon Butterbun. That was the color in the paint can swinging at Maurice's side. Samson trotted at his heel swerving deftly from side to side as the paint can swung, forward and back, mere inches from his small, attentive head. There was a word, Maurice thought, for the kind of girl who would choose Lemon Butterbun paint, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Frivolous? Not necessarily. Capricious? Closer. Cheerful? Yes, but that didn't tell the whole story. Fluffy? Fluffy. That was it – like a marshmallow chick at Easter. This fluffy Lemon Butterbun girl was moving in next week and a new tenant meant a new coat of paint.

The old Summer kitchen had long ago been turned into two small apartments; Natalie, a middle-aged artist who worked at the library during the day, lived in the larger of the two, while Maurice and Samson made their home in the smaller one on the other end. Natalie had resided at Mad Tom Farm for years and she sublet her second bedroom to help with the rent. This second bedroom was the port of call for the Butterbun Yellow paint.

Natalie, like Maurice, was quiet and private and, while Maurice and Samson went punctually to bed each night to accommodate their early rising, Natalie stayed up late drawing tiny, detailed objects which she mounted in cast concrete frames. The arrangement was amicable for all concerned. For his part, Maurice appreciated her industriousness and neighborly respect since they did, in fact, share a rather thin interior wall; Natalie appreciated being left alone.

The single disruption in this fortuitous arrangement had been the most recent resident of Natalie's second bedroom, a young man named Marcus of dubious origin with a curious smell about him that Maurice found untrustworthy. His instincts had been proven correct in short order. After a mere two months, Marcus had been unable to make ends meet and had vacated the second bedroom in the wee hours of a Thursday morning leaving nothing behind but his peculiar smell. It was Maurice's understanding that this hapless young man had used real funds to purchase pretend items in the non-existent world of an online game called Conquest Island. And he had made these purchases during the hours when the real-world health club that employed him presumed, incorrectly, that he was working for them. Maurice had read an article about Conquest Island. In the newspaper. The actual paper one that left ink on your fingers when you were finished reading it. Maurice was a firm believer in the daily news as delivered by the reliable technology of paper and ink. You couldn't just wink through the issues and questions of the day, you had to wash them off your hands.

The idea of Conquest Island was perplexing to Maurice. Apparently, intelligent young men and women were making a great deal of money buying and selling pretend objects and properties with real currency. In Maurice's day, selling a piece of property that didn't actually exist was considered foul play and the seller was dishonorable, a criminal liable to the full weight of the law. The person who had been hoodwinked was a sucker, a dupe, a fool, not intelligent at all. How, Maurice wondered, had this time-honored understanding of decent commerce been turned on its head? He supposed the answer must lie in the idea of mutual consent. If both parties agreed that non-existent property was worth actual cash, who could tell them otherwise? Certainly not Maurice. Still, the question lingered – why would someone want to spend their money on an object that didn't exist when there were plenty of beautiful, interesting and useful objects that did? There was no good answer. It didn't make sense.

Maurice sighed. The solid ground of one generation must always give way to the shifting ground of the next. Posterity chose its own suckers and Marcus was one of them. In consequence, this blighted den of virtual commerce would be painted Lemon Butterbun Yellow and inhabited by a fluffy co-ed from the local community college.

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