Richard Milact had set his easel up in the center of the room. His canvas had been gessoed and his pigments were prepared. His pallet today would consist primarily of deep blues and verdant greens.
Missy was in the room, watching him. Richard hated painting with an audience. Today she had begged to be in his studio and he had finally relented.
He was beginning to regret his decision.
Richard preferred soft jazz playing while he worked. Missy liked hip-hop and had changed the station on his radio. She was also talking incessantly today. It was almost like she was nervous, edgy about something.
It stroked his ego that she was here. She was so much younger than he. At first he thought she had been attracted to him for his money but that didn’t seem to be the case. He was beginning to believe that she might actually love him. He knew he didn’t love her, but he liked her, and could probably grow to love her with time. The sex was good and the companionship was better. He had grown tired of living alone and she had brought a sense of vitality with her when she moved into the house. The energy of youth.
Richard liked to work every day. He would let his subjects, or the sunlight that streamed through his studio windows, and the weather dictate the time of day that he worked but once he began – he continued until he had either completed a canvas or collapsed from exhaustion.
She had set up the still life on the stool, across the room and he was ready to begin but the music bothered him and Missy just wouldn’t shut up. He wasn’t listening to her really but the constant chatter interrupted his creative process and he was having difficulty beginning.
Finally, he heard what she was saying.
“Let me pose for you Richard. Let me be your subject today. If you don’t like what I’m wearing, I’ll change my clothes. Or take them off. I would love to pose nude for you. I’d look better on that stool than that fruit bowl. If you really want the fruit I’ll hold the grapes while I’m posing.”
That was it then. He understood why she was here. She didn’t love him. She wanted to be immortalized on his canvas. Why not? He thought, I care for her and she’s not asking for much… But if I do this and give her the painting she’ll leave. I’d miss her incessant talking, I’d miss her annoying habits, and the little messes she makes in the kitchen. I’d miss the new life that she has breathed into my home. Our home.
“Go put on that green Victorian dress, you’ll look good in it and it is the best fit for the colors I’ve already chosen for today, and pin your hair up, but be sure to leave a few wisps loose.”
She smiled, turned and ran back to the house to change. She was happy. He was going to miss her.
The petroglyphs told the story of an unusual event.
They told of a time long before we declared war on the white man,
the war that we lost.
The petroglyphs depict the arrival of the goat head men from the sky and show how they taught our ancestors the mysteries of the universe.
The goat head men spoke to us of spirals, and staircases; even spiral staircases;
they taught us how to hunt house cats with butter knives,
and they revealed the shape of Illinois.
Most importantly they taught us how to skewer a hot dog with a stick allowing even the simplest of us to cook over a campfire without burning our fingers.
Or perhaps, Grandson, perhaps – the petroglyphs depict none of this.
Perhaps they simply offer a glimpse into the mind of a sleepy sentry.
A guard, standing watch on a warm summer night,
writing poems with pictures,
trying to stay awake.
Rocky stared into the light, unblinking, he hoped he looked innocent but had a feeling that he had overlooked something.
“Honestly officers, I don’t know what you’re on about. I was at home, alone, asleep, nowhere near the chicken house. I didn’t take any eggs. You got the wrong guy.”
Detective Simmons sat behind the light, “Let’s see,” he said, “known offender, known MO, no alibi,” he paused to let Rocky sweat before he continued. Pointing he said, “You’re still wearing the mask, Rock. We got you red handed!”
“No, no, no,” Rocky protested.
Simmons went on, talking over his suspect, “We got a eyeball witness Rocky.
“Benny, what’s that chick’s name, the vic, what’s her name again?” he asked the uniformed officer who was standing by the door.
“Noodle, Detective. Her name’s Noodle.” The uniform reported.
“That’s right, Noodle,” he said almost to himself. Then turning his attention back to Rocky Racoon he continued, “Chicken Noodle picked you out of the lineup Rocky. She fingered you for stealing her eggs. You’re going back to the big house.”
Rocky sneered then. The only weapon he had left seemed to be defiance.
The rear portal opened and Roger, Andeluvian Spider Prince and heir to the throne, shuffled his eight legs from the cloud of pixilated space dust into the throne room. He placed his blaster and a collection of silken sacs on the gredunza, opened the food storage locker and removed a container of E-317.
“Hello, Mother,” he said to the queen who was seated on her throne, surrounded by her attendants.
“Don’t drink directly from the container,” Queen Kirkland admonished, “get a glass.
“How was your day, Roger?”
“It kinda sucked, Mother. It seems that a certain professor, named Marron, from the Algenian School is attempting to extort us. It seems that she came across documentation of our trip to the planet Mehico. She is threatening to publicly question our immigration status. I believe she intends to demand we make public our birth certificates as well.”
“What? That’s ridiculous? What documentation could she possibly have?” The queen fired the questions at him as he tilted up the container of E-317, took a drink and sat it back in the food storage locker.
“Roger! Get a glass.”
“It was the journal that I wrote. The one you suggested I write about that trip to Mehico.”
“I read that journal, Roger. There is nothing incriminating in it. What does she think she has? That trip was a long time ago and is a matter of public record! No one can tie us to the massacre in Hachipipi. We were at a state dinner with the Ambassador.”
“Yes, I know, Mother. I think that Ms. Marron is simply trying to stir up a tempest of public sentiment and doubt. It’s not clear to me what her ultimate motives are though. There must be a reason that she wants to start an uproar. Or perhaps there’s not, perhaps she’s just a loony.”
The queen repositioned her eight legs tucking them underneath her. “That’s just crazy Rog. If your father, the Spider King, were still alive he would simply execute her.” The queen tilted her head and three of her eight eyes glazed over, “I miss him so. I miss the way the web would shake when he came home. I miss the simple delight he would get out of eating the children.” Her eyes refocused and she stared at him, “I’m not sure how you managed to escape his mandibles, Roger. But I’m glad that you did.
“What are we going to do about this troublesome Professor Marron? Do you need me to summon her here? Shall we invite her into our parlor, as it were?”
“It’s OK Mother, I’ve taken care of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve killed her mother. I’ve killed her and dismembered her. The pieces are in these bags.” He waved one of his eight legs at the silk sacs on the gredunza next to his blaster. “I ate her head but you can have the rest of her, if you’d like. There’s enough for a couple of meals, I think.”
Madeline Kirkland, aka Spider Queen of the Andeluvian System held her arms out wide and then wrapped them around her son. He hugged her back and they stood motionless for awhile, embracing, savoring the moment. After an appropriate amount of time she twisted his head off and began to feast.
Suddenly she remembered her attendants, “You guys can have the professor, if you’d like,” she indicated the sacs Roger had left by the portal.
I’m going to ramble a bit here. Please forgive the disjointed nature of this post.
I was a good reader when I was a boy. I was a voracious reader when I was a boy.
I think it would be nice to be remembered as a reader and a writer but it’s too late for me to claim that legacy now (more on this later – first I want to address the word ‘begat’ which is what this prompt is all about).
My mother and father used to take my sisters and me to Sunday Bible School meetings regularly. There was no getting out of it. You might be too sick for regular school but you better be in the hospital if you were going to use illness as a means to avoid Sunday School.
There was really only one thing that put me off of Bible School: because I was a good reader it always came up where the “adult” who supervised us would say, “TN, would you like to share with us a scripture that is near to your heart?” or words to that effect.
The first time this happened, I was surprised but I was willing to go for it. I opened up the bible on the lectern to the book of Genesis and announced, “I would like to share with you today from Genesis chapter 11, verse 10. Ahem, ‘These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah. And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.’ ”
As I read this to all the scrubbed, shiny faced kids seated at the low tables in front of me I knew that this was not quite what our instructor had had in mind when she asked me to share. I was a little unclear on the actual meaning of ‘begat’ but I knew that I was just reading a list of unpronounceable names and that it wasn’t very inspirational or near to my heart.
“OK then,” said the teacher, “that was certainly an interesting selection, TN. Maybe for next week you can prepare something and we can try again. I apologize for springing this on you.”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied, “I’ll be ready next week.”
I promptly forgot all about it and when the next week came and I had to share a scripture I thought that Genesis was probably not the way to go so I zoomed ahead to First Chronicles and read, “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be mighty upon the earth. And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Canaan begat Zidon his firstborn, and Heth, and Arphaxad begat Shelah, and Shelah begat Eber.”
I died inside a little bit with each word and there was that guy Arphaxad again. Why did he keep turning up?
Week three and the teacher prodded me again, “TN? Would you like to share a beloved scripture with us today?”
“No ma’am, I don’t think so. Maybe you should ask Doug or Rosemary instead.” I stood up from my place at the table and left the room. Then I left the church and went across the street to the park. I met some older kids there and it was on that day that I learned to smoke Lucky Strikes. I never went back to Bible School again, but I smoked Lucky Strikes for decades.
I promised to tell you why I won’t be remembered as a literary prodigy. It’s quite simple really; my older sister is the chronicler of the family history. Next to my name is the name of my wife and below that are our children’s names. Beside each name in the tree is a short blurb about that person. Next to my name is typed, “Rough, Tough, and Damn Good Lookin’ too.” See, no mention of reading or writing at all. This will be my legacy. I’m stuck with it.