Sunday, February 25, 2018

Filling the Pages (flash fiction)


Once there was a young artist who suffered a terrible shyness. She spent her hours in blank pages filling the emptiness with lines and curves coaxed into graphite photos.

Lonely days inched into lonely years like growing links of a chain. Her isolation grew atop stacks of her unseen body of work. She glanced over unfinished landscapes. Portraits of forgotten strangers. City skylines only seen in books. Life explored from a room. She picked up a discarded page. It held eyes. They were small, round, and unfinished. She added a new line but immediately erased it. She then added a soft curve where a mouth might be, staring at it for a long moment. Then a touch of shading. Then another line. Then another. The outline of a face grew until a child’s bright face smiled up at her from the tip of her pencil. She covered her face to shield him from her falling tears.

A child. Her child.

Toys and games and gifts. The laughter of two heard through the voice of one. A procession of holidays and seasons spent with her boy. The days of fast, confident lines were gone. Her joints ached and twisted having become abstractions of their former shape. Some time ago she had fashioned an album of their favorite moments together. She looked through it on days when she could not grasp the pencil or hold her hand still. When this became most days, she did not recall. Their time together was coming to an end. Her and her boy. She was withering while he still sprang over puddles and stomped in mud. He still rushed to show her a new drawing of his own. He still hugged her tight when it was time to sleep. The weight of so many years alone were coming to an end.

She suddenly trembled. Her thin frame shook in the grip of a realization. So many years alone were coming to end for her, but they were about to start for him. Her little boy was inheriting her life. Worse. He’d forever be a child left alone. She wept. She wept for him and for her and at the pain they would share. What could she do? She imagined her boy trapped in the last image crafted by her ruined hands. She cringed and wept harder. What could be done? She gathered her album close. It felt small, like him. She reached out and plucked a page from a nearby stack and jammed it between her and the album. Then another. Then handfuls, frantically pulling them in tightly around the album until the bulk was almost too much to hold. She clutched the wrinkling pages close. She sat this way until her strength failed spilling the pages and the album around her. She looked at it all feeling its absence and the growing coolness on her chest. She reached out a trembling hand and pulled the album back to her. A shade warmth returned to her, but not enough. She opened the album. Her boy sat upon a tall, proud horse. His cowboy hat was too large forcing him to hold it above his eyes to wave at her. She smiled back turning the pages of his little life. What can I do?

Once there was a young artist who suffered a terrible shyness. She spent her years in blank pages filling the emptiness with a boy of lines and curves and shades. Her very last days and minutes, though, were spent on a portrait of a man with his family. He had a kind, but resolute face. Close to him stood his wife, straight and proud. The couple were flanked by two children who wore trouble in their grins. No one knew it, but they also had their grandmother’s eyes.  


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