Hailed as the year’s premiere painter, Fausto vaulted down the art museum steps singing “ai, ai, ai, ai!” He jumped from the last step to the sidewalk and strutted down the street, his silhouette passing beneath the gas lamps. Benito hid in the alley between the museum and the parking garage. He whispered, “Now, the day has come” through frosty breath as Fausto passed.
Benito swallowed hard, his heart pounded in his throat, and his neck tensed in anticipation. He fell in behind Fausto and followed him for a few blocks as the twilight shadows gave way to night. Benito wiped his nose with his sleeve and his nostrils smelled his hidden barbiturates. _Yes, it is time!_ he thought. He removed a rag from his pocket and wrapped it around Fausto’s head, smothering his face.
“You stole my ideas, you dog!” Benito whispered into Fausto’s ear.
Fausto’s deep, frightened gasp of breath rendered him unconscious. Benito dragged him to the curb where he had parked the car and dumped him in the back. He looked at the lifeless body and thought what a tragedy their friendship had become. Artists were born to create, not destroy.
Back at his studio, Benito plunged a brush into a palette and stroked the final canvas with vengeance. Garish reds and burning oranges striped in black surrounded the scene. The penultimate scene depicted Benito veiled in shadows while Fausto strutted with a devilish grin. The preceding paintings showed a relationship gone sour. The paintings began with two friends, arms wrapped around each other, hoisting victorious paintbrushes in the air. He named a later painting “Betrayal.” In it, Fausto faces a painting of the Mexican Revolution and a lifeless rooster dangles from his hand, a pot of gold in his other.
Benito’s current painting was titled “Revenge.”
His aggressive strokes created two men in an operating room. One was fastened to a surgical table; the other hovered over him with a scalpel. He made a deep, probing incision in his captive’s brain and revealed meager creative powers. He was not surprised.
In one corner of the frontal lobe, he discovered a prison cell. Benito’s epic painting of the Mexican Revolution was there. The surgeon left limp, sticky matter on the row of mangled bars. He had placed his stolen idea on the table and signed his name near the bottom, but opportunity for public recognition had passed. Instead, he would return the idea to the thief’s mind, this time forever imprinted with the true creator’s signature. He altered a fallen soldier’s face to look like his own. From then on, whenever the fraud thought about the stolen idea, he would see the true artist’s identity.
Fausto lay strapped to a table and watched over Benito’s shoulder as the painting came to be. Benito lay down the paintbrush and selected his next tool: a silver scalpel speckled with paints. He initiated Fausto to true inspiration as he held his forehead still and brought the bitter, cold metal to his flesh.
John is a Los Angeles, California native whose non-fiction work has appeared in The Chiron Review, and fiction in Edifice Wrecked, Flashquake, FlashShot, Hapa Nui, Laughter Loaf, LitBits, Lunarosity, Mytholog, The Pedestal Magazine, Shine, Stories for Children, Susurrus, and Versal Fiction.
He writes the featured market column for the Pam Casto’s e-newsletter, Flash Fiction Flash. Read more about John at his web site: http://mysite.verizon.net/john.young1/