MicroHorror

November 14, 2012

Self-Portrait

Gale storm winds and tides had washed debris on shore–sailboat rigging and busted planks. An older woman in a blue sweater, lanky, with her stringy brown hair fluttering in gusty winds, stared at the wreckage. Her eyes, watering in the salty air, combed the flotsam, the jetsam; knobby fingers sifted sand. Sunlight pierced the clouds and illumined something partially buried in sand and seaweed–an unusual picture frame and black glass. And beneath it, the splintered trailboard with the ill-fated ship’s name.

Clutching it, she said, “I finally found something for my art studio.” Her weathered face reflecting in the glass appeared hauntingly beautiful.

Delicately, she brushed sand off the tarnished metal and ivory frame, polished the Victorian silver leaf and wiped the glass with a chamois cloth. She hung it with her artwork in her gallery-bungalow. Shipwreck pieces were also displayed.

“Perhaps this unfortunate calamity will help my sales.”

News of the long-missing sailboat brought many visitors to the gallery.

A young art student from Nigeria lingered in the studio after others had left. He pulled back his long blue and black sleeves, and as he sketched a grisaille of the salvage, she heard him hum. She studied him, dressed in vibrant red and yellow, as intently as he studied the silver and ivory frame, the black-onyx glass. She remembered that passion, once.

She dreamt of painting a sunset over the ocean. It captured the fire of the sun and mimicked the fire that was once in her breast, dissolving in the shimmer of waves. A restless sea.

The morning sun spilled into her bedroom. Still rubbing sleep from her eyes, she shuffled to the bathroom, passing the gallery. On the wall, a new painting hung, one virtually identical to the one in her dream: ebony wood–with pastel blue threads, iridescent in sunlight–framed the abstract reds and yellows, and purples and blues.

She mumbled, “Did I do this in my sleep?” She shrugged and pulled the wrap tight around her shoulders. There was a chilling air.

An art instructor from a nearby school bought the painting later that day; he wanted more. But over the next few weeks, she could not produce anything as vibrant and fresh as that painting.

The middle-aged man returned. He was smartly dressed: tweed suit, white shirt and conservative blue tie. He tipped his brown fedora.

“Do you have more paintings like before?” he asked while mesmerized by the onyx glass in the Victorian frame. For him, it shimmered as if ocean waves undulated within the glass, indigo-tinged under a midnight moon. His breathing grew faster with the enchantment. “And… is this for sale?”

“I’m sorry. No, it’s not for sale, but I’ll have something for you soon, maybe next week.” She twitched nervously and excused herself, but he continued in his trance.

Later that night, she tossed-and-turned wrestling sleep before finally falling into dreams. As before, she dreamt of painting. This time, it was a moonrise over the ocean. Surreal. A filigreed frame bordered the darkness of night, and of her soul, with swirls of eerie purple. A lone sailboat, white sails with blue stripes, floated into hopeful light of the moon. She moaned in her sleep as if she could feel the paint cry.

A tear slipped down her cheek. The cool tickle of it awakened her. She jumped out of bed and ran to the studio in her scarlet negligee. And just as she imagined in her dream, finely braided silver scalloped the edge of the picture with a sailboat. She finally understood how to paint, how to move one’s heart.

In a way she never had, she looked upon the onyx glass, and saw herself. Her blue eyes sparkled.

The next day people came to the gallery, but no one was there. Yet, the walls were filled with silver and ivory frames, each filled with black-onyx glass and painted with compelling colors–crimson sunsets, silk oceans. Horizons blazed a passion never captured before.

5 Comments »

  1. Great piece, John, beautiful use of language and details.

    Comment by Kyle Hemmings — November 14, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  2. Wonderful details, John. Thanks for a great read.

    Comment by Jim Harrington — November 14, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  3. Thank you Kyle and Jim. When I revised the story, I had to do some research on sailboats. I am not a sailor. The idea of “the splintered trailboard” came from a WoodenBoat forum–a hight traffic density site for boat affectionados who helped me eight years ago in researching Paul Revere’s row boat, the HMS Somerset, and a few other things.

    Comment by John C. Mannone — November 14, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  4. Nice work, John. Good story.

    Comment by Len Joy — November 14, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

  5. Excellent description made this story come alive. Nice work, John!

    Comment by C. F. Ciccozzi — November 16, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

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