Another short story from Zac Newnham. If you didn’t see the previous one, please read the intro from it first then enjoy another great piece from a short story writer taken from us too soon.
“Widows are very beautiful,” my father says to me.
He and I are alone in his apartment. His walking stick is nestled against the wall beside him. He’s perched by a window, almost leaning out it, easel up before him, paints out, brush in hand. There’s a cemetery across the road.
I don’t reply, and after a minute of silence he resumes his work, painting the grief that is etched on a woman’s face down below.
A gentle breeze is blowing his fine white wreath of hair about. In the absence of noise I step around the room and admire pictures of my mother; a few are of her younger years, faded around the edges, the sepia centre as strong as her gaze in the distance; others are coloured, only a few years old, her hair shiny and white and her eyes beaming with unsuspecting joy; there’s a stroke on the horizon.
It’s only when I step away, my eyes wet with tears, that I notice my fingers toying with the wad of cash in my pocket. Without a thought I throw it on the nearest linoleum-lined table.
“They loved their piece,” I call out.
My father doesn’t look up.
It was a year ago that my father began painting, but only six months ago that we began selling. Both our houses were full.
“The world loves death,” he said emphatically when I asked why he wanted to sell them, “so I will give it to them.”
I glanced at my mother’s framed pictures. “The world has enough death already,” I replied.
I blink and return to the present, to the gentle breeze and my father’s silence. Without taking his eyes from the window my father searches behind himself with his arms. He finds the binoculars I bought for his birthday then stares through them.
It’s a week later that the hospital calls. I sit by his bed for hours, clutching his limp right hand and staring at his half-drooping face.
A nurse asks me to collect some of my father’s personal belongings; clothes, pictures. I drive to his apartment. There’s a service underway across the road.
Inside, I spot his easel first; there’s a half-finished portrait sitting atop it. The woman is dark, painted in greys and blacks, with minimal white except for the eyes. She’s weeping.
In my grief I put a fist through the canvas, not because I dislike it, but because I can’t stand mirrors.