Eddy, the starving welder

This is not fake news. This is what people used to refer to as fiction. Is that still a thing in a world where people base beliefs on “their own truth?” Woodstein Media will not always post fiction on Fridays but every time a piece of fiction get posted it will be on a Friday. It will be clearly marked as fiction. Fiction Fridays will be few and far between because I like to focus on journalism.

This story has been sitting on my computer for a few years and I thought this might be the time to put it out there for the world to see. I hope you would not mistake it for fact. I mean, it would be very strange to have people do work and expect them to pay their bills with exposure wouldn’t it? That would be strange wouldn’t it? Nobody would do that, right? I think artists and musicians can likely see the sarcasm dripping off these words.

Warning: This story has explicit language and a description of a graphic reaction to art. Please be advised and do not read if you are easily offended.


Eddy rolled over and groaned at another crappy day. He knew it was going to be another day of getting fuck all done. He needed more oxy-acetylene to work on his big gig. The one that would get enough exposure, everyone would see his talent, and he might even get signed to a real job.

His last few welding gigs had barely paid enough gas money to get to the job site and a few drink tickets for a couple of beers while he worked. Eddy hadn’t had a decent meal in days. Such is the life of a starving welder.

He knew his parents were only looking out for his best interest when they told him to apply for art school and make something of himself. They warned him not to mess around with those frivolous trades, but he’d rather be a fuck up in a rental room he could not afford rather than get a job making sculptures. He was not about to sell out his belief in a good honest day of welding.

Eddy had humanity and depth no stinking writer or painter could comprehend. He also had a big ‘fuck you’ in his heart for the people who called him a freak because he wouldn’t get a “real job creating art.”

“Who the hell wants to paint?” he angrily thought as he dragged himself out of bed. “Poetry, no fucking thanks.”

He heard his mother’s voice ringing in his head as he walked down the gloomy staircase to the shared kitchen at the back of the old Victorian house he was virtually a squatter in. He hadn’t been able to pay rent in months, but the other tradespeople in the place felt his pain. They were all in the same boat, and they had his back. Life on the street is tough for a welder, a carpenter, a plumber – they had to face the world as a collective, or they were all bound to suffer.

“Why don’t you use those welding talents of yours for art, make sculptures, something which will benefit people,” his mother’s voice seared into his head over the years. The same conversations repeatedly with him told there was no real cultural benefit to melting a couple of pieces of metal together so that you have a couple of pieces of metal held together with some structural integrity.

“Where is the cultural benefit in that?” his father used to ask him.

It had been several years since they had these conversations in person. Eddy missed his parents, but there was no way in hell he was going to give them the satisfaction of seeing him make an appearance in their million-dollar house on the hill paid for through their high-faluting artist salaries.

And there is no way his parents would lower themselves to walk into his home. Even if they did, it would just be to give him the same old lectures – give up on the trades, use that innate talent to become a respectable artist.

Respectable artist? What is there to respect in their pretentious we’re-going-to-culture-the-world ways and their I-don’t-care-who-we-have-to-make-money-off-the-sweat-and-blood-of attitude.

Even starving welders know there are more eco-friendly ways to fuel their work, but artists? The earth is just a big pallet to be raped and pillaged for their shitty paintings to artists.


At least water is still free. Well, sort of, those artists are buying up the springs, fresh mountain streams and even the glacial runoff from polar ice caps so they can have pure water to dip their brushes in. “The cleaner the bristles, the more the vision sizzles,” or some shit like that.

Eddy sucked back a glass of water and stared into his empty cupboard. No food for the man who does the actual work in this society. He looked at the glass in his hand. He knew it was made on a factory line by honest workers. Were they still on exposure salaries when that glass was crafted? Eddy did not know, but it was good quality, not some artisan hand-blown art glass. Eddy hoped that somebody had noticed the worker’s fine craftsmanship if the glass was made on exposure, and they were now signed to a real job.

There was no denying it. If Eddy wanted to purchase the oxy-acetylene he needed for his big gig, to get noticed and signed on for some serious welding jobs, he was going to have to hit the food bank and apply for welfare again.

He hated doing it. They always give the aptitude test, and he always heard the same thing. “Why do you insist on using your talent to glue metal together when it could benefit the country more if you’d just create some sculptures with it?”

Then there’s the piss test too. People just assume if you aren’t an artist, you are some drug addict or an alcoholic. It’s not unheard of for a welder to have a few drinks on the job but then again, look at how they are paid. A few dollars that might cover gas to get to the gig if they are lucky, some exposure and drink tickets that are usually only good for the cheapest grog available.

Eddy set down the glass in the sink. He couldn’t afford to smash it, but he wanted to. Fuck this world and the way it treats the trades. He left the gray kitchen and walked out the front door intending to return with oxy-acetylene, food and some idea where he’d get some money from, even if he had to degrade himself for welfare.


Eddy decided to avoid crossing the Twain River by the Renaissance Bridge. Sure, it looks fancy, and Amadeus magazine voted it the most culturally significant structure of the twentieth century, but if they had let a real believer in the trades build it, Eddy thinks it would be made to last. As it stands now, it’s a beautiful piece of shit that Eddy figures will be sucked right down the Twain any day now. He crossed the river on the Second Street Bridge. Sure, it was only put together by some unknown tradespeople in the late nineteenth century who were hoping their work would be noticed, but it stands the test of time, even if it is utilitarian. Those workers likely died poor and alone. Thinking about it makes him feel disgusted and a little choked up. The Second Street bridge is a structure Eddy trusts, not a piece of art that will eventually crumble.

“Fuck artists and their planned obsolescence,” he mumbled under his breath as he entered the social services building. He was scared some art-loving asswipe might hear his words and send him packing before he even had the chance to apply for assistance.

Inside the government building, the colours were blinding. He hoped there was enough funding for social programs after the murals were paid for. The crumbling walls were covered in one mural after another. Vibrant colours for a vibrant society are how the government sold the art programs to the public, and the people ate it up. Eddy thought society might be a little more prosperous if tradespeople’s work was valued a little bit more. “How about solid work for a solid future?” he thought. Maybe a solid frame for a building isn’t culturally significant, but it might give safe shelter to those works of art people value.

Eddy walked to the back of a long line filled with wannabe masters of the trades. People who swing hammers for free, hoping their eye for detail will get noticed, and they can stop tooling around for a few drinks and bring home a salary. Some of them, like Eddy, know they have the skill to create art and could already have a job, but that’s not what they want. They have callings, something no arrogant artist would understand.

Eddy spots the friendly worn-out face of Barbra ahead in line. Barbra is a painter. Sure, she’s probably got the skill to paint a few portraits or a landscape. Hell, she could probably do an abstract masterpiece of a Rubik’s Cube tying its shoelaces. That’s not what she wants, though. When she sleeps at night, she hears the swish-slosh of a roller dipped in white paint moving back and forth on fresh drywall. She wants to toss the finishing coats on a new wall and leave a white masterpiece. Plain and simple. No artsy-fartsy bullshit. No cultural significance. Just a bare white wall in a sturdy structure built to last.

Barbra reached the counter first, and she was handed the instructions for the dreaded social assistance aptitude test. She sat at one of the work kiosks. “The five tools of torture,” as the welfare applicants refer them, neatly harnessed on the wall in front of her. There’s a fine paintbrush, a charcoal pencil, an Exacto knife, a welding torch and paraphernalia for either knitting or crocheting.

The goal for most self-respecting applicants with a desire to make it in the trades is not to bomb the aptitude test so severely that the test scanners tell that you are screwing it up on purpose. You need your work to look average. Some people do sign up for welfare because their art skills are average. They just can’t make it in the field. They are inept. That’s the level a self-respecting tradesperson wants to be seen until they make it in the trade business. But really, most of them must face up to the fact only a tiny portion of the world is good enough at the trades to make a living, and only a tiny amount of that small portion gets noticed. That’s why they must work for exposure. So, their exceptional work eventually gets seen. But as most tradespeople say, you can’t pay the rent on exposure.

At the kiosk, applicants are instructed to use three of “the five tools of torture” to make three art pieces, which the social services department reserves the right to sell at auction. Sometimes it turns out the inept artists have been working on improving their skills, and they are no longer average. Sometimes a tradesperson does too well. If that happens, they might be denied social assistance and might be on the road to the arts. No self-respecting tradesperson wants that to happen, but at the same time, turn out work that is too subpar, and the social service department will nail you for cheating the system.

Eddy ends up in the kiosk past Barbra. As he passes, he sees she is sweating profusely. The first task she was assigned was painting a landscape, and she is fighting her innate talent and trying to force down her ability to drown the canvas in eye-pleasing colour. She is noticeably uncomfortable, and it looks like she’s trying to force down her talent, which is fighting to vomit itself onto the canvas in the most pleasing way.

Eddy wonders whether she’ll find herself on the cover of Amadeus Magazine’s emerging artists’ issue. For her sake, he hopes not.

He sits down at his kiosk and looks at “the five tools of torture” facing him. “Average,” he thinks to himself, “be average.”

There is a screen on the wall above the tools of torture. His three tasks emerge one by one on the screen. The first will be a portrait to be completed in charcoal. Not bad. Working with charcoal is not his forte, so it should be easy to stay average. His second task will be knitting a three-inch square pattern that must include at least four yarn colours. Eddy sighs almost in delight. Knitting is another skill where he is average at best.

Eddy’s throat goes raw as he sees the third task appear on the screen – create a sculpture using the welding torch and at least three metals. Eddy’s heart sank. He has the Midas touch with a welding torch and even things he believes he royally messed up most other people love. He wondered if he should aim at a level of complete shit in hopes it might be deemed average. But what if he achieves his goal and it turns out to be total shit? He’ll be risking getting charged with cheating the system.

As a social worker supplied him with the necessary supplies, Eddy felt a drop of sweat hanging from his nose. Was his anxiety showing? Could this artsy-fartsy social worker see him squirming under pressure? Did she know he was a cheat? Was this test going to be over before it started? Eddy turned his head, pretending to cough into the crook of his arm. Maybe if the social worker thought he was coming down with a cold or flu, she’d assume his sweaty forehead was from illness and give him a break.

Maybe his worries were for nothing. His social worker barely looked at him. Perhaps she didn’t care. She seemed disinterested in him. Just another shift working artist. An artistic automaton keeping the art world spinning. She was probably just putting in a shift at social services and then going home to roll naked on a canvas or whatever the hell the artists do for the big bucks. She left Eddy with his supplies and walked away.

Eddy was quickly able to produce average works for his first two tasks. He is so untalented at knitting that he could get into a groove and try to create something great. It just didn’t turn out that way. It was on the lower end of the average scale, and Eddy almost felt hurt to find out that result. When it came to the critique of his third task Eddy was terrified. He thought it was a metal turd, but he heard “ooohs” and “ahhs” from the social services workers as they passed. One even took a closer look and said, “I can see the man inside there trying to get out.” Eddy didn’t know what that meant, but he figured if it came out of the mouth of an artist, it could not be good. His sculpture was rated in the high end of average but was flagged for a review.

After he pissed in an artisanal specimen cup, he left the building. Barbra was out front, and she looked visibly distraught.

“I was flagged,” she told Eddy. “My landscape was in the high range of average. It might be excellent, and if they flip it up to excellent in the review, then I’m fucked.”

“Me too,” Eddy said. “I tried to melt my metal down to a lump of shit, and one of these artistic creeps came over and said something about a man being trapped in there. Ooh-ah, and what does that even mean?”

“Fucked if I know,” Barbra replied. “If this welfare payment is denied, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Eddy remembered his cupboards were bare. He invited Barbra to hit the food bank with him. She knew painting for exposure and drink tickets weren’t going to fill her fridge, so instead of sitting in front of the social services building hoping her application was being processed, she decided to join Eddy.


Eddy scanned the cracked sidewalks of the city for lost change as they walked. He also had to inspect the sidewalks for cracks anyways. You could fall and break your back, never mind your mothers, on all the uneven pavement in this fucking city. “Really, how hard would it be to hire a crew of tradespeople to fix the sidewalks?” Eddy asked aloud before he realized it would probably be pretty damn expensive now. The art world might appreciate sidewalk chalk, but they haven’t given much of a shit about the structure beneath it for decades. They’ve pulled in a few workers for some exposure here and there when someone tripped and broke a hip on the decrepit sidewalks of the city, but essential maintenance hasn’t happened in years.

They arrived at the Pablo Picasso Food Bank on Kahlo Boulevard and got in line with the other starving trade workers. Another crumbling government building smothered in brightly coloured murals to hide that it’s not maintained.

“What the hell is wrong with these artists?” Barbra asked Eddy. “Do they want the world to fall apart on their watch?”

“The decomposition of society must have some sort of cultural significance which is lost on the likes of you and me,” Eddy replied.

It made no sense to him the way artists squander the world, and it kind of makes him sick to think about how their plastic, culturally significant society is crumbling to the ground. Still, in all actuality, it won’t biodegrade, at least not for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

The line crawled forward as the no-talents of the art world and those who would instead humbly master a trade collected their alms.

When they finally made it to the front of the line, they saw the plain foods spread before them. There was plenty of food to go around, but it was nothing to rave about. The authentic products of the culinary arts go for big money to hoity-toity artists. Plain is the rule of the day at the food bank. Despite the name of the food bank, the flavour is not what you should expect when you pick up your hamper of food. There is nothing artistic about the collection of dietary staples you receive at the Pablo Picasso Food Bank. You’ll walk home with a supply of survival rations at best.

Despite the fact the food looked relatively unappealing, Eddy realized it had been days since he had a meal that had filled his stomach. He was looking forward to whatever culinary concoction he was able to whip up. He invited Barbra back to his house to share in his feast. Maybe fixing up some food together would keep their minds off their flagged welfare files.

Eddy still needed to figure out a way to get more oxy-acetylene to work on his big gig. His big gig, the one that could expose him to some real welding jobs. He could give up the working-for-exposure game, and his welding skills could get him signed to some real jobs. He knows he’s ready for the big time, and surely this gig is high-profile enough that his talents will be noticed and he will get signed, but first, he needs to eat and then on a full stomach, he’ll figure out how to get some more oxy-acetylene.


It looked like their bellies would be filled with some generic macaroni and cheese from the food hampers. Oh well, better than an artisanal meal crafted by the artists of the culinary world. Can’t we just fill our bellies with some food cooked by someone who understands the importance of an honest day’s work? Artist anal – that’s what people who understood the kitchen trades called that fancy overpriced dribble the art set eats.

Eddy and Barbra sat at the rickety 1950s mint green Formica kitchen table and chair set Eddy and his housemates had scavenged from an upscale art deco neighbourhood. Saved the table and chair set from the landfill/art supply pile as the trucks came to take it away. “At least these artists do their bit to recycle,” Eddy thought as he swallowed his last few elbows of macaroni. “Even if it is an endless cycle of what’s in style.” They toss out the previous season’s cool only to become a retro, vintage or collectable style next season.

Satisfied by the meal, Eddy pondered the oxy-acetylene problem a little more seriously. Unfortunately, nothing was popping into his head. He wondered, would he have to degrade himself, prostitute himself to a dealer of the art world?

Seriously, he knows the job he is going to do is high-profile enough that when he gets that metal joined perfectly, people will see his knack for structural integrity, and he’s going to get signed to a real job. He knows it in his heart of hearts; this will be his last time welding for exposure. He knows it.

“I think I’m going to have to do something I’m not comfortable with to get my next gig done,” Eddy said.

“Why don’t you wait,” Barbra replied. “We’re just flagged, and we’re not denied yet. We still might get cheques, and who knows what kind of real money might be offered to us as artists.”

“What are you saying? A few elbows of macaroni, and you are ready to toss in the towel? Flush your dream of swish-sloshing all the walls of the world white?”

“No, I’m just saying it may not be the end of the world if we have to live the artist’s life for a while,” she said. “We can save up and chase the dream on the side.”

Eddy shook his head – No! He wouldn’t give up on his dream that easily. A world where the trades are respected is all he wants, and it’s all he needs. He got up and put his plate in the sink. He’d do what he had to, even if it meant stepping foot in some aristocratic artistic den of iniquity. He knows just the neighbourhood to hit up for the kind of action he needs. He’d have his oxy-acetylene by nightfall.


Every step he took through the art school district made him regret his decision, yet that gnawing need-to-succeed pushed Eddy further. Past one student art house after another. The lawns were covered with half-finished sculptures. Bright colours splashed throughout the neighbourhood. Most houses looked on the verge of collapse, missing shingles, but they were smeared bright with paint – a brilliant disguise covering their unkempt nature.

“What is wrong with these people?” Eddy thought as he spat on some art rendered in chalk on another dangerously neglected sidewalk. Some artists had turned the cracks on the sidewalk into a collection of sunflowers. “Yeah, your mother might break her back, but she’ll lay paralyzed on a fantastic work of some artistic genius – whoop dee fucking doo,” Eddy snarled with contempt.

He continued walking, carefully navigating the deteriorated walkway. Eddy felt sick to his stomach when he thought of what he would have to do to get the money for his oxy-acetylene, but he had to do it. There was no turning back. This gig was going to be the gig. Exposure and a couple of drinks might be all the payment he would be getting now, but it was going to pay off down the line. The whole city would see the value in what he could do, and they would no longer yammer on at him about the cultural significance of melting metal into some crappy sculpture. Eddy would show them the cultural relevance of melting a couple of pieces of metal together so that you have a couple of pieces of metal held together with some structural integrity.

But before he could do that, he had to get money for supplies and to do that; Eddy had to go one place he swore he’d never go. Eddy was going to the Warhol University campus. The supreme art school. Top of the heap. The cream of the crap.

His parents tried so hard to convince him to step on this campus as a student. They pushed, pleaded and begged him to attend when he was growing up. He was resolute when he promised himself he would never set foot on the campus, and he was about to break that promise.

As Eddy was about to step off the sidewalk onto the campus, he stopped. With one foot raised in the air above the unkempt yet artistically designed walkway on the campus of Warhol U, he thought about what he was about to do and the promise he made himself in his youth. Was Eddy about to sell out the young welder he had been to become a respected welder in the future? Would he be able to live with himself knowing he had degraded himself to get his precious oxy-acetylene?


The worn threads of the robe Eddy was provided tickled his naked flesh. That was the only good feeling he could muster up. His skin looked a sickly yellow. He heard one of the students say, “sallow.” It might have been the fluorescent lights of the studio flickering overhead, or it might have been the illness many people refer to as defeat, but he did feel ill—sickly yellow.

At the professor’s request, he dropped the robe to the floor. Whatever strength he had gotten from his macaroni and cheese dinner had been drained out of his body. He was limp and listless in front of the student body. Was it worth it? His head drooped sadly. He could not even look at these art students in the face. The lower echelon of the artistic class, and he somehow felt outclassed. Not because he thought they were better than he was. He knew tradespeople like himself had an important place in society, even if these youthful arty shiteaters could not comprehend it.

“Lift your eyes so the students can see them,” said the professor.

Lifting his face felt like an impossible task. He felt like he could do it if he screamed aloud as he raised his head. Maybe he could do it if he opened his mouth and told the students to go fuck themselves. He couldn’t do that, though. He needed the money, and he needed to get through this. He needed the next generation of the artistic bourgeoisie to ogle his naked flesh, paint, draw, scribble and suck his still-life so he could get that oxy-acetylene.

Oxy-acetylene thoughts gave him the strength to raise his gaze from the floor to a spot on the wall just behind the students. The studio walls, covered with half-finished works of art, had paint peeling, cracking, warping, bubbling with neglect. Barbra could fix that. Splish-splash, the beautiful white glaze could freshen up the studio in a way none of these cold, culturally significant pieces ever could. The neglect of the university’s infrastructure made him feel sick to his stomach, and he couldn’t contain it. With a loud retching sound, he vomited onto the floor in front of the chair where he sat.

The students rose to their feet from the semi-circle of chairs that surrounded Eddy. They moved forward to examine the vomit.

“Capture it with a photo,” one of them said excitedly.

“It’s a work of art,” the professor told him as he handed Eddy his honorarium. “This specimen is so exciting, and we prefer to look at it over your flaccid penis. You are free to go.”

As he started to get dressed, he watched as the students began to sketch his barf, photograph his vomit, paint his throw up. One of them even started dipping their paintbrush into the pool of puke and wiping it into the canvas they were currently desecrating.

He could not get off the campus fast enough. Every terrifying impression he had about what art school would have been like was proven true in the 30 minutes he spent at the university.


The only place most tradespeople feel safe and secure is the Handy Homes Supply store. Each aisle is packed with items that artists try to appropriate, but honest workers know are not meant to be wasted making smug wall hangings or a larger-than-life turd sculpture. These people know that the screws, bolts, hinges, nails, saws, hammers, and welding equipment have a higher purpose than that. Eddy knew damn well that the oxy-acetylene the wage artist was filling his tank with would leave a much more critical and long-lasting mark on his city than if it ended up in the hands of some wanker who melts metal into lumps for an ewwwww and an ahhhhh and an “I can see there’s a man in there.”

“So, what are you going to make with this?” The wage artist asked.

“A future,” Eddy replied happily. As the tank filled, his spirits rose.

“I hope you’ll remember me when your sculpture is on display at the Louvre.” The wage artist said as he pulled the tank over to the checkout and rang up the sale.

After the horrible experience he had at the art school, Eddy took some time to breathe in the fresh comfort of the store. It was cathartic. He could smell sawdust wafting in from where wood was being sliced up with a high-pitched buzz of a table saw. He hoped the people buying it were carpenters with actual jobs, not gigs that would require them to nail the wood onto some asshole artist’s house for exposure.

“What a world,” he thought and sighed to himself. He paid for the tank of oxy-acetylene with the cash from the honorarium. He knew he should keep the rest of the money to buy food and pay some bills, but it felt filthy to him. Anyways, he knew this next gig was going to be different. He handed all the cash to the wage artist and told him to keep the change.

Eddy barely heard the words of gratitude as he walked out into the brisk night air. Somehow, he was sure he was on the brink of something better. He knew he’d felt that way before. That’s the way it is for trade workers, always on the verge of being the next great worker. He could feel that this was his time. He was secure in his talent, and he figured the world couldn’t deny that talent forever, could it?


Eddy rolled over, smiling at the new day. He knew he was going to get some vital work done. His oxy-acetylene tank was topped up, and he was ready to work on his big gig. He knew this was the one that would expose his talent and get him signed to a real job.

His last few welding gigs had barely paid gas to get to the job site and a few drink tickets for a couple of beers while he worked. But that was over now. He could feel it in the air. He breathed deeply and sat up to face the new day with courage. Eddy could still feel the weight of the macaroni and cheese he ate yesterday. He did not feel like a starving welder today.

He was ready to prove his parents wrong for telling him he had to get into the art school to make something of himself. He would show them that trades aren’t frivolous. He was about to prove his belief in a good honest day of welding.

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