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How to Paint a Picture (XIII)

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How to Paint a Picture (XIII)

Sit in the chum…

Start with all the lies you tell yourself to keep the sea weedy darkness at bay. Mix them with a little time—not enough to muddy them—just enough to blur them a bit at the edges. Lay them on fast and thick in broad strokes. Don't think too much about little details, either, a good falsehood's more David Hockney than Andrew Wyeth. Make sure to gloss them with enough repetition to make them stick, for while the truth changes every time we touch it, a well-made lie can last for centuries.

I should know.

After finishing that last piece at Duma, I burned my canvases, my brushes–everything. I knew the locals would say that freak barrage from the Gulf was "just another Alice," but I called, and still call her, by another name.

Painting: You will want to, but you mustn't. Why? Because art is not a diversion, not for dabblers, and not for the faint of heart, because what art really is, is creation, the act of creation itself. Not reinterpreting a likeness or an image, but actually rendering something from nothing, willing form from formlessness, order from chaos. Turning water into wine. Playing God.

Even now, the gift is hungry, though I wish I could will time's brush to soak up every stroke of the past. To render nothing and through the act of erasure, create absolution.

But hunger gets what hunger wants. Water always turns to blood before it turns to wine.

I always knew she would find a way back.

Pick one…

Late afternoon. August. I remember the light changing from burnished orange to muted crimson on Lake Phalen's near-placid surface, because water always turns to blood before it turns to wine, and the shush-shush of the waves as they lapped the shore. The fingers of my right hand—my ghost hand—turned hot and started prickling, like I'd just grabbed a fistful of nettles. Then—

Orange says no, but apple says, vamonos!

I want to fight it, but I can't.

When I finally resurfaced, my watch flared three o'clock in Indiglo. When I turned on the porch light and saw what I had created on a canvas I had not purchased with paints and brushes I no longer owned—

I knew I could never refuse my baby, my favorite, my If-So-Girl...

She'd grown more solid since I last saw her on the beach and though she was made of a million little pieces, she was still substantial. Her smile was coolly feral and her reach exaggerated, as though I'd painted a 3-D movie still of her instead of a picture. Reaching, almost comically intruding into the foreground, except for that brittle bright glitter in the hollows of her eyes, she held something polished, dark, and heavy in her hand…

It was RED.