Monday, April 24, 2017

Stories from Paradise - Fern's Portrait
Fern and I are doing a little storytelling for fun. 

Every day we'll load lines into this post and build an ongoing tale and we'll uhhh toot? No, chirp but it's a bird symbol webbie thing. Anyway. We'll add a bit of the story there at that website thing with the bird and here and people can click on it and come see the whole thing as it unfolds here. Does that sound like fun? You know it. So fun! So come back every single day. 

So first we will start with Fern. 

We will call it. 

Fern's Portrait

A fog of Brut announced Delbert's arrival a full minute before Fern heard the scritch-scratch of his shoes sliding across the linoleum. The tension in her shoulders ratcheted righty-tighty. She couldn't stop a sigh. Not that he'd hear it. As bad as that sounded, the thought really wasn't an unkind one about a shuffling elderly man, half deaf because of infirmary. Instead it was just the dad-blamed truth about a man as stubborn and clueless as any could be. And she had a bounty of experience with stubborn and clueless in her 67 years. 

"Ferny. How's it going today?" 

Following a snort-laugh, Delbert's unwelcome words destroyed her peace as she set her paintbrush down on her palette and turned to face him. 

"Great, Delbert. I hope you won't be offended if I continue to work on my project."  

She turned sideways, back to the canvas, hoping and wishing that today he wouldn't take the conversation to the bad place. But he always did.

"Makes no difference to me. I like any view." He hacked and spit into her sink.

She fought a gag.

"So." He chuckled slightly. Here it came. It was coming. 
Maybe she didn't need to hear the words again. With a quick flick of the wrist she tipped her water over and it sloshed onto the linoleum. "Oh, goodness. How clumsy.You better stay back, you don't want to slip."

Welcome silence reigned for a moment while she bent to sop up the liquid, then came the wheezy chortle. "This might be my favorite view."

A small, white-hot flame of indignation burned in her gut as she wiped up the water.
In not wanting to hear his disgusting request, she was subjected again to his disrespect. How did one turn the other cheek in this type of situation? Or was it time to once and for all put the absolute fear of God into this pompous and offensive man with some of her well practiced Tai Chi moves that would be more than fast enough to disable him?

But he hadn't acted out physically. Instead he was trying to subdue her emotionally, wasn't he? Power, control, diminishing her. This battle was psychological.

How many times had men taken this approach and left behind broken women?

Men who were not real men at all, but men who hid their snaky souls behind backward "compliments" and demeaning sweet-nothings. She stood. "Delbert. It's time for you to leave. You are not welcome here."

He straightened then and thrust out his chin. His eyes glinted with something dangerous. There was a little bit of wolf left in the old man. Just enough of a stance to convince her once and for all that he wasn't an innocent fool. But a predator. 

"That's mighty unfriendly of you, Little Lady. I was just showing my respect for the great artist, Fern Hopkins. Offering my modeling services. And I was considering offering other parts of my life." 

Fern grew a bit taller than her 5 foot 4 inches in that moment. "Delbert. Your attention is not flattering. It's creepy.
You do not look at me as if I am a human being to be valued and respected. You treat me like I am nothing but a diversion, someone to toy with, a challenge of some sort. I will not be disrespected." With every word her self-respect grew, as did the volume of her voice and the passion in her words.

Her southern nice lady, sweet little senior citizen "should lists" burst into flames and she let them burn brightly.

"I am not interested in painting you as a nude subject. I am not interested in any other part of your life. I do not find you to be a kind man, nor gentle. I am respectfully asking you to leave me alone. And I'm warning you that if you ever offer to pose nude for me again, that I will at best slap you across your arrogant face. And at worst become a woman of fury unleashed to teach you that I am a human being worthy of respect. Now! Leave!" 

At some point in the middle of her tirade, Delbert's mouth had dropped open.

By the time she finished he was simply a flawed, broken human being again. This time with no hint of danger. Fern's compassion began to bank in the coals of her rage. Oh, the wretchedness of humanity. The choices made for others. The imposition of others wills on weaker souls.
Times of victimization and times of brutality against self and others.

She took in a deep breath. This time the Brut was merely an afterthought instead of a tidal wave on her senses. The smell of the wet paint was stronger. "Delbert. I think it is high time for you to choose to become a better human being.
It is time for all of us, no matter where we are in life, to choose to become better human beings. I hope for you to be able to respect yourself and that will pour out as respect for others. I also hope you choose to live out your final days with a dignity that a man who has lived well deserves."

Delbert nodded his head. "Thank you, Fern.
I hope you have a good night." And he turned and walked a out of the room. Just like that.
The final click of the outer door signaled that he had gone.

Fern picked up her paintbrush. She cleaned it and washed the paint off her plastic palette. The canvas she'd been working on went on its side and she picked different colors.
Tonight she was going to paint a different picture. A very different picture because she was quite certain something in her heart had just changed and she was excited to see what was going to end up on the canvas.
     ...the end


  1. Thanks, Jubilee. And I have a feeling Fern would love you back. You seem like a nice, sensible person after all!