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Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 346 (January 25-31) Stories Topic: Paintings

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message 1: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments You have until the 31st of January to post a story and from the 1st to the 5th of February, we’ll vote for which one we thought was best!

Please post directly into the topic and not a link. Please don’t use a story previously used in this group. Only one submission per person is allowed.

Your story should be between 300 and 3,500 words long.

REMEMBER! A short story is not merely a scene. It must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This week’s topic is: Paintings

Thanks goes to Aria for suggesting the topic!

The rules are pretty loose. You could write a story about anything that has to do with the subject/photo but it must relate to the topic somehow.

And most of all have fun!

message 2: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9459 comments AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Weirdo Alert
GENRE: Modern Day Drama
RATING: PG-13 for swearing

In Louise Bradbury’s mind, she could have been paid a million dollars per week and it still wouldn’t have been enough for what she had to go through. Making a decent cup of coffee was the easy part. Dealing with the “loony toons” who waddled through the shopping mall was where she believed she deserved a raise. Old men who couldn’t shut up about the 1920’s, teenagers who laughed like hyenas at every minor occurrence, middle aged men who kept trying to get the baristas’ phone numbers, that kind of shit.

Louise looked absolutely miserable behind the counter of her coffee bar with a hunched over body and a dull expression on her face. Customer service protocol always dictated that she had to have a positive expression, but she just couldn’t fake it anymore. Her attempts at smiles were more see-through than a wet T-shirt. Her engagements in small talk were so boring that she almost fell asleep on the job. And to think, this minimum wage money was supposed to mean something later down the line. What it meant, Louise didn’t know.

When a powerful sneeze sounded off in the background, that was when Miss Bradbury’s “weirdo alert” went off in her head like a police siren. She tucked her head down in her palm at the embarrassing entrance of a regular customer known as Denny Smith (she knew his name from his debit card information).

With a bucket of ice cream in one hand and a tablet in the other, Denny dragged his big ass over to one of the tables closest to Louise’s counter. With ice cream stains on his Snoopy shirt and blue sweat pants, the other customers couldn’t help but stare at him for the longest time. He sneezed so hard that it sounded like he blew his whole sinus cavity out, to which some customers got up and walked away in disgust.

Louise was one of the people looking on in wide-eyed terror as Denny shoveled huge scoops of vanilla ice cream in his mouth with no regard for the sweet treat dripping down his double chin. The big man even coughed up huge wads of snot and then swallowed them again, prompting even more horrified customers to power-walk away. Denny managed to thin the herd even more when he let out the world’s largest fart, which sounded a lot like a shotgun blast.

In between bites of ice cream, Denny said to the leaving customers, “It’s a natural function! I’m an American! I can fart if I want to! What are you going to do, arrest me for farting?!”

Digging deep for a silver lining in all of this, Louise thought to herself that Denny could have been doing her a favor by not making her deal with these other obnoxious customers. But if that was her only positive, then she still had the right to shiver in disgust and gag on snot herself.

Normally, the customer was always right (at least that’s what it said in Louise’s training video). But when her “weirdo alert” was going off in her head, it sounded too much like a schizophrenic nightmare. She clutched her head and gave off a subtle “Ugh!” before racing around the counter to confront Denny.

“Excuse me, Mr. Smith,” said Louise with her hands behind her back in feigned politeness. Instead of undivided attention, Denny gave her another nuclear bomb fart, to which she plugged her nose and shivered like she was having a seizure.

Only then would Denny look up from his ice cream and his tablet and say, “What? What’s your problem? It’s a free country; I’m allowed to fart whenever I want. It’s in the constitution.”

This sense of American entitlement sent Louise into a screaming rage complete with waving hands and a shrill voice. “There’s nothing in the constitution that says you can scare off my customers with your weird ass behavior! If you have to fart so badly, go to the bathroom across the hall! If you have to sneeze so hard that your tiny brain falls out, go to the goddamn bathroom, you fucking weirdo!”

Louise covered her own mouth in shock after dropping that F-bomb, as did several customers who were just passing by. The barista held her hands up in defense and whispered an apology before the customers shook their heads and strolled away.

With her new whispery calm demeanor, Louise patted Denny on the shoulder and said, “Look, all I’m saying is that you should try to act just a little bit normal and be a decent member of society like the rest of us. That way, people won’t want to run away in horror whenever they want to come here for a cup of coffee. You might even get a girlfriend one day, I don’t know!”

“First of all, dumb-ass” said Denny while pointing his sausage finger at the barista. “I can’t help it if I have to fart or sneeze. I’ve had allergies to pretty much everything since I was five years old. You think walking all the way over to that bathroom is going to solve anything? Hell no! Besides, do you think I give two shits and a flying fuck what anyone thinks of me? I’m supposed to conform to everyone else’s system so that I can have a slightly better chance of getting laid? Look at me! This is not the body of a man who goes around stealing women! This is the body of someone who’s addicted to ice cream like it’s crack cocaine, which sugar pretty much is!”

Folding her arms, Louise said, “Look, I understand if you want to be your own person, but come on, is farting and sneezing really a part of who you are? Is that the person you want to be? Do you really enjoy driving people away and being obnoxious?”

“I don’t know, missy, do you like standing behind the counter like you’ve got a stick up your butt?” Louise’s expression softened into solemnity at Denny’s accurate statement. He licked the ice cream off of his fingers and said, “You think I just sit around here every day like a dumb-ass and not notice everything around me? I see your looks of horror. I see you guys walking away like I’m the boogeyman. I guess a simple case of allergies will do that to people. I had no idea that medical conditions were so freakish. You think I enjoy having a runny nose and a snotty throat? Go back behind your counter and do your fucking job. I’ll stay here and do mine.”

“I’m sorry, did you just say something about a job?” said Louise while placing her authoritative palms on Denny’s table. “You mean to tell me that you get paid to shovel ice cream down your throat and make disgusting bodily noises everywhere you go? Shit, if I would have known that was even a career, I would have given up making coffee a long time ago!”

Denny yelled, “You fucking bitch!” while shooting up to his feet and accidentally knocking his tablet over. “Shit, now look at what you made me do! I bet that damn thing’s cracked!”

Louise knelt down to pick it up and waved Denny off while saying, “Don’t worry, it’s not cracked. I’m sure the cover on this thing…” The barista had a wide-eyed expression as she flipped through the photos on the tablet, but for reasons other than Denny’s farts and sneezes. “These paintings are beautiful,” she said. And they were, too. Paintings of armored medieval warriors, lightning elemental dragons, shadow magic-using wizards, and fiery ninjas. This kind of skill could have easily landed Denny a job at a comic book publishing house or even an art museum.

While Louise stared at the paintings with a bright smile she hadn’t formed in years, Denny said, “That’s the job I was talking about. I paint for a living. Well, I’m not really a professional. I’m not much of a marketer. It doesn’t matter how much effort I put into these paintings, because only one or two people want to actually buy them.”

Louise placed a hand on her chest like these paintings took her breath away, but then gave a sullen expression to Denny before saying, “Look, I don’t want to give you a lecture about…”

“I know! I know, damn it!” said Denny. “I know my weird ass behavior is keeping people from buying my paintings. But you know what? Nobody gives a shit about artists anymore. Everyone wants me to be an engineer or some other kind of science nut. As long as people are going to turn their noses down at me, I might as well act as crazy as I want.”

“Denny, I’m so sorry,” said Louise in a sheepish voice with her head tucked.

“Yeah, you’re sorry now that you’ve seen these paintings! You could have been sorry long before you saw them, but no, you had to be like every one of these ignoramuses here at the mall and gag in disgust like a bunch of bitches! Maybe I’ll get over my allergies someday! Maybe I’ll also get over my sugar addiction! But until then, you can feel free to forget about me, because I don’t want to be famous in a city that doesn’t give a shit about art!”

Denny yanked the tablet from Louise’s hands and threw his bucket of ice cream in the trash before marching away. Everything the pudgy man said was right and Louise didn’t want to admit it to herself (regardless of having no choice). The barista sat down at one of the tables and held her face in her hands while sobbing quietly. She chastised this poor man over bodily functions when really he was the most beautiful person in this entire mall. Louise had no artistic talents of her own and those paintings made her jealous. She tried so many times to be as good as Denny, but everyone laughed at her and told her to get a “real job”.

Then she thought to herself, “Fuck this real job!” Louise took off her apron and threw it behind the counter before running after Denny screaming, “Hey, wait up! Wait!” She didn’t know what she would expect once she caught up to the “weirdo”. Would Denny teach her how to be an individual? Would he teach her how to be an artist as good as himself? Would he turn her away like Louise tried to do a few moments ago? No matter what the outcome, Louise Bradbury had to find out before it was too late.

message 3: by Jane (new)

Jane Jago The Woman with the White Silk Stocking

When Talisman Beckett shuffled off this mortal coil at the grand old age of one-hundred-and-two, he left his exquisite Bath stone home and all its contents to the nation, with a sufficient sum of money to pay for its upkeep for many years to come.

As soon as was decent, the National Trust sent in a team of auditors to catalogue the contents of the house. To say these most pragmatic men were surprised by what they found would be an understatement. The house contained one of the finest collections of portraiture the team had ever seen, and at the outset they simply wandered from room to room enchanted by what they saw. When they had pulled themselves together a bit, the senior auditor called HQ while the others started work, only to be interrupted by a cry from the head of the stairs.
"Come up here. See what I have found."

The rest of the team charged up the stairs and followed their colleague into the master bedroom.
"Go stand by the bed...."
Still dazed by the sheer quality of the artworks in the house they obeyed, finding themselves looking at a curtained panel above the mantel. Their excited friend pulled a tasselled cord beside the curtains and they drew apart. There was a collective intake of breath.

The picture beneath the curtains depicted a woman of startling beauty, seated on the edge of a bed in her underwear, carefully rolling a white silk stocking onto one elegant leg. Her face was turned so that she looked directly out of the canvas at whoever was looking at her, and she seemed amused to be the object of so much attention.

"The Woman with the White Silk Stocking" one man breathed. "I've read about this picture, but I never thought to see it."
The rest of the team looked puzzled.
"This is, if I am not very much mistaken, a famously lost masterpiece. Nobody knows who painted it or who the sitter is, but the picture hung in the salon of one of Paris' most famous courtesans until 1938 when both woman and picture disappeared. The woman was believed to have gone to America with her wealthiest gentleman friend and it was always assumed the picture went with her. Evidently mistakenly."
The senior auditor found his voice.
"This will be a copy."
"I don't think so. It's too good. Let me find something a moment." The original speaker fiddled with his phone for a moment, then read aloud.
"Each man that looks into her eyes believes they share a joke and that she is communicating uniquely with him..."
"Oh well. Maybe. Take a picture of it and send it to the bosses. See what they make of it. In the meantime. Cover it up and let's get some work done." The senior figure strode from the room, obviously shaken by his extreme reaction to a picture of a beautiful woman, and the guy with the iPhone took half a dozen shots before pulling the cord that curtained off the image. The rest of the team shook themselves collectively, as if coming awake from a trance, and went to their allotted duties in unusual quiet.

Within days, the National Trust announced that it was now in possession of one of the most notorious missing pictures in history, and the media went into a feeding frenzy. Images of the picture went viral worldwide and the Trust realised it had a global superstar on its hands. In order to capitalise on its newest asset, it had all Beckett's pictures removed to a Palladian mansion in the next county, which just happened to boast an almost empty portrait gallery. This was a stroke of genius, allowing an optimum number of visitors to see the picture and gaining footfall at one of the Trust's least visited properties.

It soon became apparent that the picture merited special precautions to ensure its safety, as it seemed to be a magnet for obsessive hatred as much as it attracted obsessive love. An electronic barrier, and overnight guards, satisfied both the trustees and their insurer, and things went pretty smoothly from then on. The postcards, and bookmarks, and mouse mats, and mugs, and tee-shirts, and anything else a portrait could be printed on, were the biggest money earners in every one of the Trust shops, and there were so many erudite articles and sensationalist theories that there wasn't a day when the woman with the white silk stocking was not in the news somewhere.

The security team tasked with guarding the portrait gallery included an earnest young man, who was working a gap year before taking up a place at university. This lad seemed to be particularly interested in the painting, and spent a lot of his free time researching its history as far as it was known.
"It's as if" he said one morning at breakfast "the picture came out of nowhere. Where was it painted? Who painted it? Who is the woman? I mean. Nobody ever heard anything about it until it arrived in Paris at some time in the nineteen-twenties. Then it's very well documented until 1938, when it disappears again. So how did it get to Bath?"
One of the other men looked up from his sausage sandwich. "I reckon the old guy bought it from the whore. Why don't you try to find out if he was ever in Paris?"
"I might just do that..."

He did, managing to discover that Talisman Beckett was indeed in Paris at the time in question, working as a junior attaché at the British Embassy. This little gem seemed to him to be of sufficient importance to pass on to the painting's current owners. The Trust was interested enough to make enquiries in the diplomatic service, where it was able to learn that the young Talisman was an admirer of all things artistic and a frequenter of brothels and the homes of courtesans, so it was entirely possible that he had obtained the picture during his sojourn at the embassy. All of which was interesting if not provable, and that's where it might have stalled had not one of the army of volunteers working at the Bath house found a volume of letters and diaries, in which Beckett noted that he had paid the sum of one thousand guineas for the painting and detailed the method by which he had smuggled it into England. The trustees chose not to make this information public, but were wise enough to pass their findings to the security guard who had first postulated the notion.

That young man passed many an evening and night sitting in front of the painting in silent communication with the woman whose ironically smiling eyes regarded the world from the canvas. His workmates weren't the sort of men to notice any changes in anyone's behaviour, so the young man's increasing abstraction went completely unremarked, and nobody gave any thought to his infatuation with the woman with the white silk stocking.

August came, and the young man's gap year contract was about to run out. His last night on duty was one of those steamy evenings, when even the grass in the garden seems to be panting gently in the heat. Two guards made the late rounds at midnight, and at that time the young man was in the office at the end of the portrait gallery keeping an eye on the CCTV feeds from around the house. He wished them goodnight and went back to his sandwich.

In the early morning, his relief ambled into the office to find it empty. He cast a jaundiced eye over the CCTV, and what he saw had him grunting with displeasure.
"Flaming kids" he grumbled as he traversed the length of the gallery to where his young colleague was sitting on a chair drawn up in front of the woman with the white silk stocking. He put a hand on the young man's shoulder and gave him a shake.
"Wake up sleeping beauty."
Then he dropped his hand as the young man slumped lifeless against him. He pushed the panic button on his radio and those who came running found him looking down on a body at his feet. He pointed with a shaking hand and spoke in a rusty voice.
"Look at the picture" he whispered horribly "look at the bloody picture."

They looked, and the most impressionable one swallowed a lump of bile in his throat. The white silk stocking was still in the frame, as were the bed and the rest of the furniture. But the woman was gone...

message 4: by Edward (new)

Edward Davies | 1727 comments Part ten, yes, TEN of Karsten Pasternack And The Quicksilver Caduceus! Almost didn't get this done this week - horrible stuff going on at work.
Title : Pablo
Author : Edward Davies
Word Count : 1127
Rating : PG

Karsten tried to get a look at who or what was in the cupboard, but from his tied up position on Matilda’s cart he could see very little. The gasps from the others, however, were enough for him to know that it wasn’t another Tatzelwurm.

Isador, who was partially blocking Karsten’s view, cried out in surprise.

“Pablo?” he cried, “What are you doing here?”

Karsten could hear a voice respond to Isador. It was a little muffled, almost like when someone talks to the side of their mouth, and was a little higher than you’d expect in someone called Pablo.

“I was summoned back to the 300,” he told the group, “I was on my way to the citadel, as instructed, when I was jumped and dragged here by someone.”

“What do you mean, someone?” Eve asked.

“I mean I didn’t see their face,” Pablo confirmed.

“Oh,” Eve said, relaxing a little.

“I wonder why they brought you here?” Matilda asked.

“I guess it was because of the Tatzelwurms,” Pablo said, “no sooner was I dumped through the door than the worms attacked and bundled me into that cupboard.”

“Do you think you might have done something to antagonise them?” Simon asked.

“No, Simon, I didn’t do anything to antagonise them,” Karsten heard Pablo sigh, “I never do.”

Karsten stretched to try and see what Pablo looked like, but couldn’t quite manage it. He was just giving up on even attempting to get a peak when the others pulled Pablo out of the cupboard and he finally stood before him.

Pablo looked weird – that’s all there was to it. His mouth was, as Karsten had suspected, twisted to the side of his face, and so was his nose. Both of his eyes hovered near the centre right of his face, and his arms stuck out at a bizarre angle on his left hand side. He looked like something out of a Picasso painting...

Wait a minute.

Karsten couldn’t help chuckling, seeing that Pablo had taken on the looks of a painting by Pablo Picasso. It was kind of funny when he thought about it.

“What’s so funny?” Pablo suddenly asked, directing his anger at Karsten, “and who the hell are you?”

“I’m Karsten,” Karsten said, “and I’m sorry, but I just...”

“You just what?” Pablo asked, “Just thought I looked funny? Is that what you just?”

“No, no,” Karsten tried to backtrack, “I didn’t mean to...”

“Well, then don’t!” Pablo spat, “Who are you anyway? You’re not one of us.”

“Winfrith sent him,” Isador explained, “we think he might have been in danger from Mr Fox and Mr Wolf.”

“Them again?’ Pablo huffed, “It was probably one of them that put me in that cupboard.”

“That makes sense,” Eve said.

“So why did he send you?” Pablo asked, “What exactly can you do to help us?”

Karsten paused, then shrugged, “I’m not sure,” he admitted.

“Brilliant!” Pablo cried, “Another liability.”

“I’m not a liability,” Karsten protested.

“Then why are you tied up?” Pablo asked.

“We’re not sure if we can trust him,” Eve said, “so we thought it best to restrain him until her can prove he can be trusted.”

“How’s he going to do that if he’s tied up?” Pablo asked.

Eve opened her mouth to speak, then closed it silently.

“Maybe we should untie the boy,” Pablo suggested, “If nothing else we can use him to check ahead for us. That way if there is any danger, it will get him first.”

“That’s not very nice,” Karsten growled, “I’m not a canary, you know.”

“Then what are you?” Pablo asked, “You look like a normal everyday boy – why didn’t you change into something odd when you came to the 300?”

“I don’t know,” Karsten said, “I just do.”

“You know, there was a story about someone, a long time ago, who came to the 300 looking just as they did in the real world.”

The group glared at Pablo, as if to tell him to shut up, but Karsten didn’t want that to happen, “What happened to them?” he asked.

The group gave Pablo a look that indicated that they didn’t want him to go on, but Pablo did anyway.

“It was a long time ago, before any of us here were ever followers of Hermes, and things were a lot bleaker in the world. The followers of that time were summoned to the 300, just as we have been, to go to the citadel where there was some sort of problem.”

“What was the problem?” Karsten asked.

Pablo smiled, “There wasn’t one – well, there was, but it wasn’t why they were summoned there. It was a trap. The enemies of Hermes had discovered a back way into the citadel and had lured the followers of Hermes there so they could destroy them.”

“And did they?” Karsten asked eagerly.

“Very nearly,” Pablo said, “but thankfully they were able to overcome the enemy.”

“Who were the enemy?” Karsten asked.

“We haven’t got time to be going over old news,” Eve interrupted, “we need to start making a move to the citadel before it gets any later.”

“How are you travelling there?” Pablo asked, choosing not to continue his discussion with Karsten following his rude interruption from Eve, “Do you have a vehicle of some kind?”

“Not really,” Isador said.

“I’ve got my cart,” Matilda said.

“That doesn’t really help the rest of us,” Pablo said, “hold on.”

As Karsten looked on in disbelief, he watched Pablo scratching at the underside of one of his arms. As he scratched, the ulna bone began to poke through his skin, until it was easily accessible for Pablo to grab hold of and pull free.

“What’s he doing?” Karsten asked Simon.

“It’s one of his talents when he’s in the 300,” Simon said, “just watch – it’s pretty awesome.”

Karsten continued to watch as Pablo shook the ulna bone, and a number of feathery bristles appeared at the end he wasn’t holding.

It was a paintbrush.

Pablo proceeded to start painting something in thin air, each brush stroke creating something solid and stable that looked as if you could reach out and touch it. After a few minutes of sweeping gestures and mysterious paint flicks, there stood on the ground before them the most bizarre vehicle that Karsten had ever seen.

“Hop on board, people,” Pablo smiled, climbing eagerly into the driver’s seat, “we’ve got no time to lose.”

“Um, just one question,” Matilda said from where she was sitting on her cart.

“If it’s how do we get your cart on board,” Pablo grinned, “there’s plenty of room in the back.”

“No, it wasn’t that,” Matilda bit her frozen lip, “how do we get this vehicle out of the building?

message 5: by C. J., Cool yet firm like ice (new)

C. J. Scurria (goodreadscomcj_scurria) | 4263 comments Edward wrote: "Part ten, yes, TEN of Karsten Pasternack And The Quicksilver Caduceus! Almost didn't get this done this week - horrible stuff going on at work...."

Oh no! Hope things worked out though.

And glad to see you made it this week. No surprise. I'm proud of you that you keep up with the entries each time! :)

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