The Painter And The Passer-by
Brendan Tucker, Grade 12, Macquarie College
2nd in the 'Legendary 2012' competition
The curtains catch the breeze, like the billowing sails of an old Spanish galleon. An august man sits, with the wind and the sails whipping about his face. It is raining outside. Had it been a salty rain, he would have compared it to the sea. When he squints, the cardboard skin about his eyes crinkles and almost cracks. Like the majestic galleons upon which he had once stood, the timber in this man’s frame has begun to warp.
“Sir, your tea is growing cold.”
The voice, although smoothed and polished, still holds a coarse note.
“You may leave it by the lamp, Adelina.”
The girl obeys. The steaming mug will pass from his conciseness, she knows, but that does not stop her. With delicate hands, she places the tiny china mug on the antique tabletop, and curtseys.
The man continues to stare into the drizzly mess of rain, smog, and streetlights.
“Will there be anything else, Sir?”
She stands a few paces away, patiently waiting, but he remains silent. He shifts once in his chair, but that is all. The rain has started to pour in through the window, so she moves to close it, but he stops her with a speckled hand.
“Please,” he says. “I like the rain.”
The clouds loiter about the city, casting their misery through the streets. The people stomp around in dark clothes, with dark looks upon their faces, and with black umbrellas held aloft – in venerable worship, it may seem.
Lemuel watches them all. A smirk lurks upon his lips, hiding just beneath a curled and waxed moustache. From his three-pronged stool on the cobblestone street, he paints, mashing a range of greys and yellows onto what is to become a teeming cityscape.
The streets about him are full, yet empty. The clouds are fleeing, yet growing. In that fantasy world of painted colours, the only face is that of an old and bearded man.
To the passer-by, the face is safe behind a window.
To the painter, the face is imprisoned in a world of glass.
To the maid, who slips quietly onto the street, the face is masked by a wall of black-clad citizens.
Lemuel works the paints together, creating a kaleidoscopic crowd, which fills the streets like a river bursting at its banks. One face becomes many. Dark, drab clothes give way to variegated garments. Solemn frowns become grins.
By the power of the sun, the rain dissolves. The puddles melt, and the paint solidifies upon the canvas, preserving Lemuel’s lie for all to see.
The halls are filled with the murmurs of school children. Teachers herd them frantically, like sheep, from one artwork to the next.
“And here, is the work of Lemuel Guttierrez,” the curator says.
Most of the children are not listening. A suit of armour across the room proves to be a far more interesting specimen.
One of the students, however, tentatively raises his hand.
“What’s it called?”
The curator smiles.