A little Flash Fiction about a painting...
There is a painting hanging in my room.
A greasy painting that adorns the drab-gray, water-stained walls of the State Hospital. It is of an old man with oily hair—an overly fat man--the Founder of the hospital I think, smirking with a slack-canvas face, and wearing small pig-like eyes that stare madly. Hanging just beneath his eyes is a gnarled nose, pocked and knobby like the craters of the moon. If you look close enough, you can see thick bristles of hair jutting out from its pitted surface. I have touched the painting, when I was stronger, touched it with the palm of my hand and actually felt the coarse hair growing there, felt the greasy sweat beading off.
I hate the man—hate the oily painting.
It watches me. And creeps closer.
He knows I am dying.
That’s why I’m here . . . to die.
The painting watches—waits—sweats.
He spoke to me once, with thin, paint-greased paper lips and follicles of hair moving up and down, his eyebrows dipped together into a horrid scowl. He spoke oily words, words that made the air thick and greasy.
“Any asshole knows how to die,” the old man scoffed with dead breath. “The hard part is learning how to live, how to survive.”
Before they hung the painting here, they gave me a puppy with brown spots. I guess it was supposed to make me feel better, but it didn’t. Animals get to run outside, smell the air, and feel the rain. The pup got loose and bolted out the front door, jumping and playing in the rain-soaked yard. I begged it not to go, not to tramp through the mud, begged it to return, but it wouldn’t listen. It didn’t care. Sadly, I left it, and walked back to my room, back to my sickbed, back to the life that is not life, but only death in another form.
The filthy mud-strewn pup followed me, jumped on my clean white sheets, and then peed on my sweat-stained pillow.
I drowned it in the tub and wrapped it in the Sunday paper, put it in the back of my closet that was already filled with the bodies of dead children’s toys. Toys donated by the families of other cancer victims. Toys I never play with because they feel unclean and smell like sweat, like the puppy, like the painting . . . like me.
If I were strong enough, I’d rip it from the wall. If I could but stand, I’d throw it in the tub and drown it.
But I can’t.
So, I watch it watching me, and see the man move closer. He slides toward me with his greasy face and bristled brow.
Can you see it?
He moves like the hour hand of a watch: you know it moves, but you never quite see it.
I can feel it lean over me, blocking out the light like a heavy wool blanket soaked in oil and slime, suffocating me, finally drowning me in its greasiness.