The shitty painter
a shitty painting.
As I sat on the train I noticed the people in the seat directly in front of me. She had a big white knitted hat on as protection from the bitter cold of the early Philadelphia morning. His hat was striped and didn’t look nearly as warm. Her head rested on his shoulder and I could see from my vantage point that she was dead asleep. I wondered how long they had been on the train that her slumber could be so deep. Maybe she was just a good sleeper.
I could hear the pages turning in something he read; it sounded more like a book than a newspaper. They have a much louder sound and longer page-turning time. He seemed so relaxed and content on his morning commute. I assumed they knew each other; people need a certain comfort level to rest their head on another’s shoulder. Or maybe that’s just me. Who knows.
My single-ness was a bit painful after seeing two people so comfortable with each other, so relaxed and close. It ate away at me as I looked down at my boots, toes awkwardly pointed inward just the slightest bit, my tights keeping my legs warm and the gray sweater dress that I painstakingly chose this morning in the hope of seeing that guy I have a secret crush on; I can’t help it, I have a thing for sweater vests, what can I say.
I wonder about these two people in front of me. They seem like nice, kind people, a couple I would love to hang out with. They’re about my age, maybe twenty-four or twenty-five at the oldest. While I am dressed for office work, they look like they could be on vacation or possibly going to work in some new trendy company that not only allows jeans, but expects them. I would love to work in a place like that.
The speaker crackles and someone announces Suburban Station, next stop, Suburban Station and he nudges her gently with his shoulder; she looks up. Lines from his coat mark her face and she smiles as her hand wipes the sleep from her eyes. The train hisses and slows, he smiles at her. She gets up, fixes her soft yellow coat, and kisses him on the cheek.
“See you tonight,” he says with a smile. She smiles back and nods, then turns and exits the train.
Artwork by the always lovely and talented Nadia Lavard.
The holiday season had clearly taken hold of Philadelphia, and Martha was forced to swerved between more people than she had ever seen on South Street before. She passed Repo Records and finally swerved left to get off of the main street and head down to Bainbridge for a while. The relief allowed her to slow her pace and take in the sights of a road less traveled during her usual holiday shopping routine.
She passed a junk store she’d never seen before and out of the corner of her eye spotted something that made her stop dead on the sidewalk, leading a homeless man to bump into her. He excused himself and continued around her as she turned to look in the giant window filled with vintage holiday objects. She scanned the display, past a plastic wreath that had seen better days, ignoring a small set of Rudolph salt and pepper shakers to a shelf that was eye level. There they stood, and she instantly flashed back to childhood at her grandparents’ home in the suburbs. Santa Claus, hands behind his back, leaning in for a kiss. Mrs. Claus, hands also withdrawn, leaning in for the same kiss, standing on a little pedestal that Martha knew would make Santa’s wife spin and play a cute little holiday song similar to those that came from children’s jewelry boxes. Martha turned and entered the store, opening the door a little too boisterously, causing the bell attached to the top to ring with more violence than it should.
She could practically hear her grandmother tell her to be careful as she reached for one of the statues. The man at the counter, old and frail beyond his years, looked up at her over his wire-rim reading glasses. He smiled and approached her, fixing his aged suspenders as he walked.
“Interested in the kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus, young lady?” She nodded and put a hand out to take the statue of Mrs. Claus.
“Careful now,” the elderly man warned her. “Those are hand painted and from the 1970s. Do you know the set?”
She thought back to Christmases past and could practically smell the spaghetti sauce cooking in her grandmother’s kitchen. She could see the chestnuts roasting in the fireplace, her grandfather worriedly checking them every few minutes. Even the old marble table where the two statues sat year after year came into view for Martha.
And then she remembered what happened to the set. Her little sister was playing with them, winding up Mrs. Claus, when the tragic event took place. A stumble, a fumble and Mrs. Claus’ severed head rolled up to Martha’s left foot. A frantic aunt sneaking the statue away and quickly playing doctor with quick dry rubber cement, and it was almost like it never happened. But Martha could tell; she could spot the spider web crack in the statue’s neck in an instant, maybe just because she knew it was there.
“Young lady, are you okay?” the man asked her, waking her up from the memory. She shook her head.
“I’m fine. I would love to purchase this.” As she turned the statue, examining Mrs. Claus’ white apron, her green dress and the puckered lips, she noticed a tiny crack in the neck.
Rebecca stared at the empty post card, unsure of how to apologize for missing her parents’ fiftieth anniversary party. Her cousin would surely be there, and she just couldn’t deal with seeing him again after their encounter. It would be too painful. He would get that look of excitement on his face, she would see his smile, and they would end up down the same path that she’d already put an end to more than once.
She bought a Thanksgiving post card to combine both excuses in one shot; he would be going to that as well. She thought back to the first day when they were hiking to the top of the small Mount Glade to watch the famous sunset. Time was running out because she wasn’t in as good of shape as she’d thought and they needed to rush to make it. He beat her to the top and as she climbed the final rocks saw him with myriad colors in the background, holding out his hand to her, and she accepted it. Her hand stayed in his without either of them noticing until it was too late.
Thanksgiving was a enormous loss for her. Some of her best childhood memories were those of her father giving thanks before they all dug in. He always named each of his children on that list, and the rare attention from the patriarch always made her heart skip a beat. Of course, he was always thankful for the roof over their head, meals, and baseball games, but she sat anticipating hearing her name come from his lips. And now she would miss it.
As she started to scribble the kindest words she could muster for her parents, they flowed rather smoothly. She finished and looked at it, rereading every word and wondering why her hands were shaking. It was horrible to avoid her family because of a few mistakes, but she had no choice; seeing him again would start it all back up and it was all wrong. She read the letter once more and realized that it sounded more friendly than loving, but she had to send it as is. Thanksgiving was in two days and it she didn’t have time to go out and buy another card.
This is part of my ongoing project of flash fiction typed onto vintage photographs using an antique typewriter. If you’d like to see more keep looking here or visit my Etsy.
The Boating Trip is part of my ongoing series of flash fiction stories typed onto vintage photographs using my antique typewriter. If you like it, enter the contest to win a personalized piece here. And check out my Etsy for original prints and the book collecting around fifty of my images.
So after These Moments had such a lovely giveaway with one of my original pieces, I had such a blast creating one for the winner that I’ve decided to have my own contest! Read about Esra’s winning image here.
What do you have to do? It’s so easy! All you have to do is comment on this post. Tell me why you should be the winner, or just say hi!
Here’s the image the last winner, Esra, got:
She told me she liked the beach, the city and listed a lot of her other passions, so I created one just for her! Want to get in on the fun? Comment below. And please, check out my upcoming book, Capturing a Moment, which collects many similar images. Not this one though, this one is JUST for Esra!
Capturing a Moment collects around fifty of Dennis Finocchiaro’s original pieces. Dennis is the author of The Z Word, a collection of flash fiction set during a zombie apocalypse. His collection of flash fiction that takes place in coffee shops, Confessions of a Coffee Shop Junkie, which came in third in The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton 2010 fiction writing contest, is also available on Amazon.
Capturing a Moment is available via his Etsy site. It comes signed, with a one-of-a-kind post-it flash fiction piece signed and a post card depicting two of the images. For a little bit more you can purchase the VIP version, which also comes with the original print of your choice.