In the spirit of Twitter’s #samplesunday, here’s an excerpt from the new short story collection STILL LIFE PAINTINGS. This specific snippet is from the story Abstract Remembrances
With an outstretched finger, Kady touches the corner of the painting to see how much it had dried overnight. Satisfied the oil paints are still tacky enough to continue working, she picks up her makeshift pallet, already filled with pasty blobs in every shade of the color wheel, and turns to the mason jar of worn brushes that sits by the window. From the jar she chooses a large fan-brush, runs her fingers over the tip to loosen the bristles, and steps to the waiting easel.
Kady swipes the brush tip over the orange-yellow paint, careful to pick up a trace amounts of the pigment before lifting a larger portion of the white paint as well. She works the fresh paint into the peachy section of the canvas with light feathering motions, creating a highlight where yesterday there wasn’t one.
She flicks the brush tip over the brown paint on her palette, working the darker pigment into the paint below the highlight, rendering a prominent cheek bone. It looks too harsh, too angular, so she chooses another brush from the cracked jar, this one a soft bristled round brush. Careful to keep a light hand, she blends the dark with light, until they flow seamlessly together.
The likeness of a young boy has already begun to take shape, but to Kady the painting is nothing more than abstract shapes and colors. No matter how many times she paints the very same picture, she can’t actually see what it is. It’s like her brain can only absorb a piece of the puzzle at a time and when she tries to connect more than one piece, the whole image falls apart, shattering.
She may be crazy, but she’s not an idiot. She’s heard the whispers about her, she’s seen the sympathetic frowns when people don’t realize she’s looking. She knows that something inside of her is broken, but she doesn’t know what or why. And she has no idea how to fix it, or if she even wants to.
So each and every day she paints until the canvas is finished. Then, careful not to touch anything more than the sides, she hangs the picture on the wall of her room with the rest of the paintings she can’t comprehend. So far, she’s got more than three dozen canvases hanging on the walls helter-skelter around the room. Skinny ones, wide ones, rectangles, squares and even an oval painting.
She doesn’t know what else to do with the finished pictures, short of throwing them away. But given the amount of time she puts into each and every one, that seems wasteful. That, and she also holds onto some small hope that one morning she’ll wake up and be able to see the pictures like everyone else does. One morning, she’ll wake up and things will be different, better. And hopefully, normal.