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There's a bum what lives in our neighborhood in Queens. He used to beg for change, but one day he started painting.

He went to a recycling center or some place like that and collected old paint cans. Most of them still had a little paint left in them. God knows where he got the brush.

He started painting on whatever garbage he could find: cardboard, paper, or whatever provided a flat surface. And he was really good, too. It was weird. He did landscapes, paintings of the places in the neighborhood, dogs, and some cool looking fantasy stuff. This guy was the damn Michelangelo of bums. He'd sell them for fifty cents or a buck. Then he'd use the money to buy some booze and drink himself into a coma. You know, a typical artist.

Then he started offering to do portraits. No one liked them. I don't know why. I talked to a neighbor about it, who didn't really seem comfortable talking about it at all. She'd had one done by him and said it disgusted her and didn't look a thing like her. I asked to see it. It was beautiful, and amazingly lifelike. When I told her as much, she responded by slapping me pretty hard and telling me to get the fuck out of her house. She stopped talking to me after that.

Nevertheless, I was so impressed that I asked him to do one of me. He said it would be two bucks. When I paid him in advance, he told me it would be done the next day.

I passed by his usual spot the next day, anxious to see it, but he wasn't there. I was pissed for a moment. I thought he had ripped me off until I noticed something. Down by the side of the building was my portrait, covered, with my name and a note on it.

The note simply said, "Good luck."

I uncovered the painting and was horrified. I looked distorted and misshapen. Sickly twisted in ways that made my eyes hurt. I was clearly dying in the portrait, if not already dead. Bugs and crows were feeding on me.

I hadn't noticed one of the other neighbors behind me until he said, "Hey, that looks good. I ought to get one done, too."

He said it as he was passing and continued to walk on, but not before I got a glimpse of him. He was twisted and misshapen. He walked with a distorted gait. Crows and bugs trailed him, feeding on him. I looked around. Everyone and everything looked the way I did in the painting now. Everything I see makes my eyes water. Everything is horrible and ugly.

Everyone tells me how beautiful my portrait is, and no matter what I do, I can't convince them that they shouldn't get one themselves.