About the Story
I don’t usually write short-shorts, but this story was written as a “kickstarter” to break a long fallow period of not-writing. It was suggested by a line from a Barenaked Ladies song about a window washer: “A crystal clear canvas is my masterpiece.” This line led me to consider the emotions of an “unpainter” in a world in which time runs backward. Sometimes undoing the wrong work is as satisfying as doing the right work in the first place!
I can’t take my eyes off the customer’s back as he approaches my gallery. My emotions are strong and mixed: satisfaction, a sense of completion, a little sadness. I hope he is happy with the painting he is bringing me.
The bell over the door jingles as he enters, and we shake hands with big smiles. He hands me the painting, wrapped in brown paper, and with care and attention I unwrap it. It is one of mine: an abstract suggesting a bowl of fruit, pear and banana shapes in teal and turquoise. I regard it with pride and, again, a little sadness before I hang it in a blank spot on the wall.
There is some negotiation over the price, but we reach an agreement. At this point I am all business, my artistic emotions suppressed.
We discuss the painting for some time, and I point with pride to some of its more subtle visual touches. Then we shake hands again, and I leave him to wander around the gallery by himself for a time. Eventually he departs; I hear the bell as I sit reading the newspaper by the cash register.
Days pass. I find myself glancing at the abstract more and more frequently, then contemplating it for many minutes at a stretch. It is a lovely piece, yet something in it is not quite what I would wish…