[ BEL-WEH-ther ]
- One that takes the lead or initiative: leader; also: an indicator of trends.
** Either a story beginning, a story ending, a piece of flash fiction, a poem, painting, dance move—inspired by the word, bellwether, where does it take me? Where does it take you? Learn more about “The Word” here.
Pierre put his chisel down and stared at the incomplete sculpture. He didn’t know why he was stopping after five years of endless creating, but it felt as right as the decision to initially start. Pierre smiled and looked at his hands. White with marble dust, callused, and hard.
He turned away from the half-finished sculpture and left his studio without a glance backward. On the sidewalk, he paused, looking around for where he’d like to go next. Perhaps something to eat?—he thought—or maybe a stroll through Central Park?
Before he could make up his mind, someone approached him, waving pen and paper.
“Can I get your autograph?” the young man said.
Pierre smiled playfully and signed the paper with a shrug. Then, a girl came over to do the same. One by one, dozens of girls and boys, men and women, came to him for his autograph.
Only after about the tenth autograph did he realize they were all dressed like him: a simple long-sleeved t-shirt under a pair of jean overalls. That’s odd—he thought. It wasn’t a choice of style for himself, but rather the best outfit for him to work in.
An hour later, he was back to exploring, and another bizarre thing occurred. On one of the streets, men and women were selling various items to tourists. The man in the middle sold miniature statues. Those statues were almost all replicas of his own work.
Next to miniatures of Michaelangelo’s Pieta sat his sculptures.
He almost didn’t recognize them at first, as he had hardly ever paused to admire his own work before moving on to the next. His manager would arrange the pickup and sale of the sculptures, and he kept working.
An idea struck him, and he walked over to the nearest ATM machine to check his bank account. He walked away, dumbfounded and exasperated. His balance read: six hundred and seventy-three million dollars.
All around he saw people in overalls, dressed like him, posters of his face with slogans like, “Innovation begins with the first cut,” and then—
“Holy crap,” he muttered, staring up at a giant billboard. The advertisement was for The Museum of Modern Art, and the central image was one of his sculptures.
Then, an even more daunting thought hit him. How will they react now that I’ve put my chisel down? For he knew, without a doubt, that he’d never lift a chisel again.
I love this idea of a trend-setter, a “bellwether,” a creator, that so many grow to admire and imitate, and for that creator to not even know of their fame. It can be a story about celebrity and about creative expression, and the battle with the pressures of fans and even crazed fans.
I wrote another story for The Word that dives into that topic a bit. Here it is.
This story is a really cool take on the “getting famous story.” Instead of following the journey of someone’s rise to fame and fortune, we’ll start here, with his discovery of his new-found status. Also, starting with him giving up everything he is famous for doing.
It becomes a character story. Dealing with the pressure to create further and yet, knowing that it was his instincts, intuition, and obsession that got him this fame in the first place. To deny what he feels now would be a huge mistake.
Instead of making that mistake (typical), I’d love to see something else. That the story isn’t about Pierre, but about everyone around him. How his confidence in his own choices affects the world around him. At first, it gains him respect and admiration. Then, probably criticism.
What do you think of Bellwether?
The big question is, are you the innovator, or the admirer? I hope I’m a little bit of both ; )
Leave your thoughts, your own story beginning/ending, flash-fiction, or whatever in the comments! Where did bellwether or my story take you?
If you liked this story, check out my podcast of short stories, More Than A Story.
Today’s word is from Merriam-Webster.
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