There were a whole lot of weeks between #8 and #9, but hopefully it won’t be as drastic from here on out. When I started writing these I figured calling them short stories would suffice. But it turns out they’re called flash fiction. AKA, really short fiction, usually under 1000 words, which is pretty much the length of most of these. And here I thought I was being all clever. This week’s painting is Artist’s Table, and was done by Isabel Bishop. I was stuck on it for a while, just didn’t have any ideas popping. But I kept it in the back of my mind and when I finally sat down to write yesterday this idea came out. 540 words.
The bottles of paint sit on the table where he left them years ago. Cerulean blue. Cadmium yellow lemon. Vermillion deep. The colors he used to heave across countless empty canvasses now sit, dried and cracking and alone. He looks at his hands, sees the wrinkles in his thin skin crawl over the knobs of his bones, and sighs. It’s been so long since he was here. So long since he held the brushes and felt the scorching fire in his chest.
It had come easily to him, the art. He was drawing at an early age pictures that would impress most adults, not just his parents. Every year his birthday presents consisted of art supplies. Not once did he receive the boyhood baubles that his youthful cohorts pined for. But he didn’t mind. He found peace in his papers and his pencils, and later his watercolors and oils. The old man closes his eyes and smiles at the memory. Those days were so clear and pure. He painted because it made him happy. It was as simple as that.
Then he met her. At twelve she was two years older than him. Golden hair and emerald eyes, a smile that would melt his heart a million times. He chased her for the next five years, both in person and in paint. But her likeness eluded him just like her heart always did. There was always something just slightly off. A mislaid brush stroke, the wrong color for the rose of her cheeks. Always something. He never tired of watching her though, studying the curves of her nose and chin, the brilliance of her smile. He watched as the boys came and went, always desperate for her to look at him the same way. But her eyes simply turned to him to shed their rivers. Then they were off again clamoring after the next horizon, and he was left with a handful of tears and regret.
One day he finally stole a kiss from her. It was near the close of summer, the first whispers of Autumn slid through the trees. Green was just turning to yellow and red. Her fingers touched his face gently and he forgot how to breathe. Flames danced in her eyes while they ravaged his soul. Her lips were sweet, honey and lemon and velvet. He never forgot that taste, never forgot the hint of vanilla he caught as her hair brushed his cheek. She squeezed his hand gently before she walked away, told him she loved the painting he gave her. Told him she’d keep it for always.
It was the day before she left forever, and the fire raged.
The old man touches the bristles of a brush, feels it electric against his frail skin. He picks up a bottle of paint, the contents not quite dead and hard. He stirs the contents, his hands aching from the effort, but he ignores the pain. He pushes aside a stack of yellow papers, finds an ancient but clean one.
His hands suddenly remember something they forgot so long ago, and he raises his brush to the square of white. For the first time since that late summer day, he paints.