The Artist – a short story by Keri L.

heart-1303607_1920A broken, tattered canvas stood in the corner of the large room that was filled with an innumerable number of pictures and frames, seemingly forgotten. Its cherry wood frame no longer gleamed, its reddish hue dulled to a dusty gray. The canvas itself was a sad sight to see, blotches of mismatching colors splattered across it. A dried-out palette of mixed paint and a stiff brush lay on the floor next to it, as if dropped, like the artist couldn’t bear to go on and had decided to start on a fresh canvas.

The door to the room opened, it’s un-oiled hinges angrily protesting, and a man entered, a case of paints in his hand. It was a room that no one besides him was allowed to enter, and in it, magic was known to be wrought, and whispers were heard, saying the canvases could talk.

He looked around, taking in the beautiful pictures he’d painted not too long ago, and he gave a small laugh at the scene he’d created the day before.

He strode to the windows and forced them open, and a sudden breeze made the tatters on the lonely canvas in the corner lift, and when they settled back down, it was as if they had sighed.

The man paused, turning toward the soft noise, and sadness filled his kind eyes as he gazed at the canvas, a canvas that had been determined to paint itself from the moment it’d been created. It had seemed to fight him every step of the way, demanding colors and patterns that made no sense, and finally, it had told him to go away. Years had passed, and time and its attempts to paint itself had given it holes and gouges. One day, it had finally given up and had sat quietly, never beckoning to him, though he asked it every single day.

Until now. Every morning, he came in and opened the windows, and every morning, the breeze would move through the room, but today was the first day it had stirred the tatters, and it did so again, and this time, a whisper reached the artist’s ears. “Please.”

In an instant, he was in the corner, carefully lifting the canvas, mindful not to grip it too tightly. He carried it to the center of the room where the sun shone in with a warm beam and set it on his easel.

He ran his hand over it, feeling its fragility, and his calloused fingers were gentle. He opened his case and perused his colors, his breathing slow and steady.

He decided on red, a vibrant red, one that bore the label ‘Anew.’ He squeezed some on to his clean palette and swirled it around with his feather soft brush.

“For a fresh start,” he whispered lovingly, and gently touched the brush to the canvas. Over and over he dipped the brush into the paint then put it to the canvas, and everywhere he spread the red, the canvas became a startlingly white.

A few of the small tatters and gouges he filled in, but some he left alone, and moving so quickly he almost tripped, he changed colors to a dark blue that was called ‘Love,’ and after that to a soft pink titled ‘Joy.’

Hour after hour he stood in the room, painting, creating, breathing life, and though he had thick scars in the palms of both of his hands, he had the gentlest touch. His eyes often filled with tears, but his hand never wavered, and the sun seemed to stand still.

Only once did he stop, when the canvas shuddered, and with a sigh he said, “It might hurt right now, but you need to trust me. Let me help, I can make it better.”

The canvas resisted a moment longer then finally yielded, and over the spot that caused so much pain, he painted with his finger.

He stood back to admire his work, but halted when he heard a protest. “I’m full of holes, no paint can fix that. So, tell me, why bother?”

“I’m not yet done,” he said, just a bit sternly, and went back to his case where he rummaged around. A minute later he came up with some tiny bulbs and going behind the canvas he whispered, “This is better than fixing the holes, it’s certainly much prettier. And when people see the light, they’ll realize that for all their paintings, they need to come to me.”

He gently pushed a bulb in a hole, its white light twinkling merrily. “It might hurt a bit a first,” he continued as the canvas cried out, “but in time, it will only bring splendor.”

This time when he stood to admire his work after polishing the frame, the canvas remained silent. Colors in every hue were melded together in a picture that was one of a kind. Here and there the white lights shone, and with a nod, the artist smiled.

“Now,” he said, “how do you feel?”

The canvas let out a laugh that carried a sigh. “I feel so different, completely new! How can I ever thank you?” It laughed again, and its lights glowed brighter, and while there were many murmurs of appreciation from the other paintings, from the other end of the room, the artist heard a sad sigh.

“I think I’ll put you here,” he said, lifting the newly painted canvas and carrying it to the back of the room. “Of course, I’m not done yet, but for now, you’re exactly what you need to be.”

He carefully set it down across from another canvas, which was really just a frame with black tatters around the edges. “This is just temporary,” he told his shining painting, reminding it of a dream he’d given it long ago. He moved away, his heart hopeful as he watched the black tatters of the damaged canvas begin to stretch out toward the sparkle of its new neighbor’s lights.

Thank you so much for reading my little story!! I wrote it last October, but though I’ve searched through hundreds of magazines and online forums, I can’t find a place that will accept it, so I thought I would put it on here. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did when I wrote it.

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