The shitty painter
a shitty painting.
I’m introducing my upcoming series of flash fiction pieces titled The Melancholy Robot for a reason. I’ve written a bunch of very short stories about a sad robot and asked for volunteers in the artistic community, mostly in the Philadelphia area, but also with a little help from some friends from afar. So far I’ve gotten a good response from people, so I’m excited to tell you that coming on Monday will be the first installment of
If you are an artist who would like to get in on this, please comment here with your email and I will gladly get back to you. Otherwise, I hope everyone enjoys the new short series. Each artist volunteer is given a vss (very short story) about the robot and is given creative freedom to draw, paint, illustrate, or whatever a scene or variety of scenes from the vss. It’s been REALLY fun so far, seeing what people come up with. So obviously, each robot will look different and they could be all kinds of different mediums, but hey, that’s part of what makes it fun!
Stay tuned, readers! Should be a blast. First story is coming on Monday.
Margaret and Isabel were both quickly sketching the scene as the boy stood at the bridge staring at his reflection.
“Looks like we figured out what our drawings were missing, huh Madge?”
Margaret agreed. The water churned a bit, making her wonder what the boy was really doing since the current was making reflections difficult.
“Ready for our lunch?” Margaret asked her. She nodded and pulled the wicker picnic basket over to their little folding stools. “Mind if I look at yours while you get lunch together?”
Belle was always agreeable and nodded as she pulled out the ham and cheese sandwiches, potato salad and some fruit. The final item, a jar of pickles, proved difficult. She strained against the lid as Margaret flipped through her rough sketches.
“These are beautiful, Belle. I still don’t know why you didn’t finish art school with me.”
She gave up on the jar and handed it to Margaret, who easily opened it. “Musta loosened it for me, doll.”
Belle took the jar back and pulled out a pickle. “You know I loved Mitch. He found a job so fast and wanted to get married and all, I couldn’t say no. And who says I can’t create art without that piece of paper? An artist doesn’t need it, necessarily. Did Van Gogh have a degree? Did Rembrandt?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. Did they?”
“You’re the one who finished art school, you tell me!” Belle said with a laugh as she took a large bite of the pickle she’d been holding. “Now let me see yours, then we’ll dig into these sandwiches!”
Margaret handed over the sketchpad. “Now don’t go getting pickle juice on them!” A quick wipe of her hands on her long pleated skirt took care of the juice and she flipped through.
“These are just beautiful, Madge. A bit dark for a nice day, but lovely. Will you paint them?” Margaret nodded. “Watercolors?”
“No, I think oils, you know how I love to paint in oils.”
“Think the boys are having fun at the game?”
“Only if the Red Sox are winning, darling. Otherwise we’re going to have two grumpy gusses on the ride home.” The women giggled and ate their lunches. They both looked up at the boy, who was still standing on the wooden bridge.
“What do you think he’s doing?”
“Why looking at his reflection, silly!” Belle said.
“But look at the water, no way he could see his reflection! I’ve seen that look on a man before. That boy is deep in thought about something.”
“Probably a lovely girl he wants to ask out,” Belle said with a smile.
Margaret shook her head in disagreement. “I dunno…he doesn’t seem to happy to me.”
“Really? He seems downright amiable to me. Isn’t it funny how artists see things so differently, even from one another?” She smiled and pulled an apple out of the basket. “Apple or banana? We have one of each.”
“Apple, dear. Bananas are always bruising, and I can’t stand that.”
Belle handed her the apple and started peeling the banana back. “A few little bruises never hurt anyone, I’m fine with this banana.”
At that a loud crack could be heard coming from the ballpark, and the women turned to look in its direction. Cheering could be heard from the crowd, even from where the two artists were sitting.
“Sounds like a home run.”
“The boys will be happy then, hopefully.”
“Yes,” Margaret said as she picked up her sketchbook. She stared at the dark charcoal sketches she did of the boy.
“Well I’ll be, our subject!” Belle said, forcing Margaret to look up.
The boy had gone.
I stopped at the produce place on my way to Frank’s house to get him some apples, and they had just unloaded a truck of potted carnations. The whole little market smelled of the fresh flowers, and as I looked around, touching them, picking them up to smell them, I realized he didn’t have a single potted plant in his little apartment. I picked up a red one and paid for it at the table by the door.
When I walked into Frank’s place the first thing I did, as usual , was to kiss him, give him a hug, and hand him the potted plant.
“Um… thanks! So… does this need like, water or something?”
I smiled. “Of course it does, silly.”
“Do I feed it?”
I assumed this was a joke. “Just water and sunlight.” At that I walked over to the window and pulled up his blinds, letting sun into the room for quite possibly the first time ever. I turned and realized how dusty and messy it was. He placed the pot on his coffee table after pushing some stuff around to make room.
When I got to his place a week later, I opened the door to find a sunny, cleaner apartment. I looked around, impressed.
“Frank? Have you been cleaning?”
He popped his head out of the kitchen. “Yeah… I kinda noticed how dirty it was in here when you made it all bright. So yeah… started cleaning. I’m making you some lunch! Are you hungry?”
I was pleasantly surprised. “Sure! What are you making?”
“Well… I’m chopping some veggies, and I have hummus dip. Sit down, relax—I’ll be there in a minute!”
I sat down and noticed how empty the table looked, everything gone except for the carnation, which was wilting.
“Have you been watering this?”
“Um… yeah. Not enough I guess?” he said, entering the room with a plate covered in chopped cucumbers, carrots and celery, some crackers, and a container of hummus.
“These things need more water, and probably more sunlight, too. Maybe you should move it into the window sometimes. Wow, this looks great!” I said, digging in.
A few days later I returned yet again to Frank’s place, eager to see if he’d made more changes. I never really minded the mess, but now I felt a lot better about hanging out there. It was actually a really nice place. Today I agreed to help him paint his bedroom, where we also opened the blinds to discover the dreary off-white color of the walls, marked up from years of abuse from past tenants. He had nice brighter blue picked out, and already had the furniture moved out by the time I got there.
“You wore old clothes, right?” he asked with a sound of excitement in his voice.
“Yup!” I called as I put my coat on a newly bought coat rack. “Love this rack. Where’d you get it?”
“I love your rack!” he yelled back, then laughed. “Just kidding, I actually found that one in the trash, sanded it down and repainted it. Nice, huh?” I had to agree. That’s when I saw the potted plant I bought him. It looked refreshed, rejuvenated; alive and well.
I walked into his room, and he had one whole wall already done. “Wow, looks good!” I said. “So does the plant! I guess you figured out the right amount of water and sunlight?”
“I Googled it,” he responded. “Grab a brush and let’s start the edging!” he said with a wink and a smile.
It was a few days later, the paint was dry, and we were in bed cuddling when my stomach growled.
“Do you have any food?”
“Of course, this is the new me!” he said. “There’s some of that hummus… but that’s a bit old. Go ahead and look!”
As I passed through the living room I grabbed the carnation and put it in the window on my way to the kitchen. I looked through what was left of the vegetables, threw out the bad ones, and cut up the last good carrot and one of the cucumbers. As I passed the plant again, I noticed the flower looked a bit lighter.
“Hey hun,” I asked as I returned to bed. “What’s with the carnation? It looks a bit lighter….”
“Oh that… yeah. I left it in the window too long, I think. It faded.”
“I didn’t know that could happen!”
“Apparently, it can. I was surprised too. I thought they like, lived off of the sun.”
I nodded and we dug in.
A few days later and the carnation was dying again. “Did you forget to water it again?” I asked him as he sat down with a bowl of popcorn. He nodded. “Come on! How hard is it to water it?”
I brought it into the kitchen, ran some water over it, touched the soil, and left it in the sink. “I’ll put it on the sill in a bit when the water stops draining out.”
A few days later, the carnation was completely healthy again. “Wow, looks like that water did the trick! It even looks a bit bigger!”
He looked up from the book he was reading. “Huh?”
“The plant, it’s back again! This carnation seemingly dies and comes back again constantly! It’s a fighter!”
“Actually, I’ve taken to calling it a reincarnation,” he said with a sly smile.
I was on my way to Frank’s a few days later, yet again, but this time stopped for some fruit since he was back on his empty fridge kick. When I walked in I saw him standing in the line with a brand new potted carnation, red with white flecks. He turned and spotted me, a look of guilt on his face, as I approached.
“Um… they were out of red.”
So much for the reincarnation.