Literary, Short Stories

Resilience

In response to Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press.


Yet another failure. Matt Woodifield frowned at the freshly-painted canvas held in his messy palms. Something was missing. Quite amateurish, he decided.

The dingy, one-room apartment had grown dark over the past few hours of intense work. A beam of the evening sun, having invaded through a gap in the curtains, travelled across the room and illuminated a cheap imitation of Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters” on the opposite wall. Matt took a long look at it, like countless times before, trying to understand what made it magical. Whatever it was, it was lacking in his nameless creation. He still had ways to go.

He tossed the canvas aside in an attempt to curb his increasing distaste, and looked about, trying to find something else to occupy his mind with. The small room looked even smaller under the burden of countless artworks, all prints bought from local stores, which covered every inch of the four walls, leaving spaces only for a door and a window. Drops of water trickled down periodically from a crack on the ceiling, into a strategically placed bowl, creating a sort of oppressing background music. The sight sent all the old, melancholic thoughts rushing back into his mind.

He needed a job very badly. At least he kept telling himself so. He had all the qualifications required for a decent living; an engineering degree from a prestigious college, loads of academic awards in his name, et al… but he got deviated. Salary was no good to him now. Every working/idle minute, he would feel the burning desire to sit down with a brush and colours and paint his heart out for hours and days, till he felt like throwing up at the sight of a canvas. It was only then that he felt the full blow of his growing poverty. However, a bath would wash all that away, along with the paint, and he’d be filled with the same burning desire, only to relive the cycle again and again.

Matt considered himself no good at painting. His works looked pretty, but then again, millions of people could paint pretty pictures. He had never seeked others’ opinions, neither had he allowed many people to look at his paintings. The chosen few had not commented much; precisely the reason why they were picked. Many a time, he had considered selling them at cheap rates, just to receive the amount required for some daily bread. But sympathetic friends would always drop by at crucial times, bringing along food and money, and preventing him from taking that poisonous leap. Yes, his past days of glory had earned him several friends and fans.

He stretched himself over the pile of artpapers lying on his bed, realising that they actually make the mattress more comfortable. His eyes turned towards “The Potato Eaters” again. The beam of light had left it in darkness, having moved further along the wall. The figures were hardly visible. He closed his eyes and tried to visualize. How would he have drawn them?¬† He clearly saw the five dark figures dining under a dim lantern. He compared the lone human of his last painting with each of them, and felt the difference. Who was the man he had drawn? What was he standing in front of the tree for? He did not know. But how come he never had to raise these questions about the potato eaters? This was not the first time this fact had struck him. It was as if there were paragraphs of description written on each face. But he did not feel like thinking now.

Matt Woodifield felt himself drifting off and sinking into a dream. He was in the middle of a forest under a clear, starry night. The scene that confronted him resembled the one he had just painted, but with colours… the likes of which he had never seen before. Colours of all shades dripping from every branch, oozing from every leaf, onto the umbrella of the lone man. The same tall, red-haired man, whom he had created and breathed life into. Who was he? He felt a strong desire to call out and ask, but unkown forces of the dreamworld held him back.

The man suddenly stirred, and lowered his umbrella hesitantly, as if in great dilemma. The barrier being removed, the colours painted the figure and its spotless coat in rainbow. Matt moved sidewards keeping a safe radius. As the scene rotated and the man’s face came into view, Matt realised that he was ageing by years within each passing second under the colourful downpour, as if eroding away in a sweet acid, his face distorted in some kind of wild ecstasy. One of his ears had melted away. Matt watched on, helpless, jealous, and agitated, while the man gradually dissolved into a coloured puddle at the base of the tree.

Matt Woodifield, a painter, woke up and set to work on a blank canvas. He repainted his creation, this time, with colours, and named it ‘Resilience’. In the middle, there stood his mentor.

Starry, starry night,
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds and violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.
Colours changing hue,
Morning fields of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artists’ loving hand.

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