"What do you make?"
I choked on the meal replacement drink I was sipping on and looked up in surprise. Maria was leading a new protege around the co-op and they'd come up behind me, squinting into a computer.
"Ah, sorry," I replied after a few coughs. "I'm not a creator."
"No, he is... what is the word? Ma-nip-u-la-tor, I think, yes?"
"Maria, you make it sound so dirty."
She laughed and batted her eyes sarcastically at me.
"No, sorry. I keep track of the money. It's not necessarily easier to do it in house, but it gives the artists a sense of reassurance that they can come over any time and see what I'm doing. I even mirror my display, and leave all the docs readable to everyone so they can see everything is aboveboard."
"Are you an accountant?"
"Actually, I'm an amateur writer. Not good enough for the likes of this place, they've got better people than me. But yes, I handle the accounting. Not the taxes, those we do have a service for, but I liaise with them."
"So you don't create art."
Maria and I laughed together. It was an old joke.
"What is art?"
The protege frowned.
Maria smiled. "Art is the creation of order from chaos, using a... medium, yes? medium that everybody can understand."
"That's what I do. You could call me an artist, but instead of manipulating colors or words, I use numbers. Order from chaos, indeed. For all the order the artists here create from the chaos of the world, some chaos still flows out. I distill it into further order."
"I... never thought of it that way." The protege turned away, frowning.
Maria scowled at me. "Hai rotto un altro." Another old joke.
I grinned back. "Le cose rotte si adattano meglio." My accent was terrible, but she knew what I meant.