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Wikis in Plain English

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“You see,” he says into the darkness, “Every human emotion has an associated bodily fluid.” For the next few moments the only sounds are the faint whisk of paintbrush on canvas and a muffled whimpering.


The rack of postcards by the cash register includes a series of mildly pornographic ones, all reprints of paintings, none of which have been signed by the artist. They’re very popular with the long-haul truckers.


“Yes, I found it difficult to believe at first too, and my initial attempts were miserable failures. I thought it was a simple matter of mixing the appropriate fluids with the pigments I wanted to work with, and creating from that.” He gestures with his brush to several paintings stacked haphazardly against the nearby dirt wall. “I didn’t even want to display those, much less try to sell them.”

He steps back from the work in progress, crossing his arms and comparing the work to his model.

“Hmm. Did I tell you about how your husband died? It involved the use of a propane torch and a bottle of salt water.”

He puts his brush down and picks up a crystal vial and a small rubber spatula, approaching her. “It lasted for hours and the entire time…” he pauses and examines her expression, “The entire time he kept calling your name. Begging me to spare you.” He reaches into a pocket and takes out a Polaroid, showing it to her. The duct tape muzzle she wears turns her moans into something more primal. He scrapes the side of her face with the spatula, carefully collecting her tears and putting them into the vial.

“The trouble was twofold.” He adds her tears to a small pile of powdered red on his palette and mixes. “Most bodily fluids can be linked to different emotions, and it took quite some time to find which ones were true, and which were false or lesser. The colors were flat and drab, the perspective was never quite right either.”


In the men’s restroom there is a mural on the inside door of one of the stalls. It depicts a classic barbarian swordsman, all fur loincloth and straining muscles, standing in a field of bright yellow daffodils,, his blood-dripping sword raised toward a blood-red sky. A frame of masking tape and brown butcher’s paper cover the mural and an “Out of order” sign is on the outside of the door.


“And I didn’t have this place. This wonderful, magical place. When I first came here I didn’t understand; in fact I thought I’d gone mad. I have always understood that to be an artist involves pain, that the breath of life in all good art must be emotion poured into it. And that changes a work from mere gross physical components into something that touches the soul. What I didn’t understand was that I didn’t have to be the one who suffered.”


It’s the last lamppost leading from the parking lot to the interstate. Starting at the base, a thick black line spirals up to the top, ending in the gaping maw of a stylized bat’s head. A tiny man is skewered on its jagged teeth, his gossamer wings drooping toward the ground.


“The works I’ve created since I’ve come here have been the best of my life. Each one brings me closer to my masterpiece; each one teaches me something more about the art.” Her weeping has trailed off and as he looks up she falls off of the stool he had set her up on and sprawls awkwardly across the uneven dirt floor. He looks back and forth from her to the painting in progress, the corners of his mouth turning down. “Hmm. That works. Yes, that works well. Thank you.” His brush dips back into the red and he begins adding delicate cracks to the dress she wears in the picture.

During the next hour as he works, her only movement is the slow rise and fall of her chest as she breathes. He stops once to rearrange the splay of her hair on the floor and to cover the manacle that clasps her ankle with an edge of her dress. He strokes the side of her face with the back of his hand before he rises.

“Your children.” Her breathing stops for a moment and her head rises. “They’re still alive. They’re in a room, the door is behind you.” He drops the brush he’d been using into a bucket and picks up a new one, laying it on the edge of the easel. “I’m going to let them go when we’re done here.” He squats down next to her and lowers his voice as he speaks, “I’m going to let them go when we’re done here,” he repeats, “But I need them until then. And we are nearly finished.” He takes a razor from his shirt pocket and holds it in front of her face as he whispers, “Nearly finished.”


A semi idles threateningly in the furthest corner of the parking lot. On the drivers side door is painting of the Crucifixion, a single beam of sunlight caressing the upturned face. A woman whose hips slide like oil as she walks approaches the truck, pauses, then turns and walks away.


“Something is changing here in this wonderful place. I can’t tell whether or not I’m going to like the change, but I know it’s coming. I have a final work, something that I think I can only finish here, and I think that I must hurry.” He looks at the just-begun self portrait that sits on the easel made of bone near the backmost wall. “I thank you for the help you’ve given me. I’m sorry that I lied to you earlier, I’m afraid your children won’t be leaving any time soon.” It is perhaps a twisted sort of blessing that at this point he’s speaking to a corpse.

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Page last modified on April 21, 2006, at 12:26 PM by DoyceTesterman

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