Worn out. The picture was faint, the paint chipped. The picture was dusty, holding a long, old story in the etched marks of color.
Run, run, run. Thump, thud, thump, thud. My sneakers hit the concrete over and over again. I ran down the road, down the fields of golden wheat. The rolling hills, the rustic look of wheat that never ceased. It was like an ocean, overcoming the horizon with its power and beauty. The stalks of wheat were stock still, there was no breeze. The only sound was the panting that came from my chest.
Thump, thud, thump, thud. Over and over, arms and legs in such a rhythm… A rhythm I would never have to stop. I didn’t want to stop running. I just wanted to feel and see the concrete blur beneath me. See the golden acres stay the exact same. See the few white puffy clouds slowly roll over the blue sky. Run under the blaring sun, forever, and ever.
Sweat trickled down my back, down my neck, from my temples. I raced on, huffing, but in rhythm. Nothing in site except the road and the golden sea, and me.
The picture waits. And waits. And it does not softly whisper its story. It is far too wise and old to murmur such tales with no one to care. So the paint chips. The frame gains cob webs, and the picture gets fainter.
My sneakers were worn from my constant running. The bottom soles were nearly coming undone from the rest of the sneaker. The design had already been worn thin. And still, they held together. As if they knew I needed to run on and on, and gave me mercy, keeping themselves sewn together just for me.
Just for me.
Thump, thud, thump, thud! I ran faster. Almost there. Almost there.
For a moment, I wished I wasn’t going anywhere. No destination. Get whatever the world throws at me. And no matter what it did throw, I could keep running. On and on. No place to be, no place I had to be. I could run anywhere. And I would never change my shoes, because these two shoes had kept me together.
Just for me.
I slowed, against my will, panting and gasping for air. I loved the feeling. I loved panting and how my lungs and heart felt when air came in, out, in, out…
I studied my surroundings. A path, a small dirt path, cut through the yellow wheat. It was narrow, and the wheat towered over it. I smiled softly, and darted down it. Dust kicked under from my feet. I left a trail of dust above the ground. But that was all I left. And even that would settle down once more. I wouldn’t kick it up again.
I ran on, for a good while. A steady thump, thud, thump, thud was the only noise.
I ran on, until something stopped me in my tracks.
How it yearned to share its story, however. How it wanted to change someone, to give them something. How long had it been! How long since it had given a gift to someone! A small kiss to the heart, a small nudge to the soul. Very long, the picture could hardly stand it. It was getting harder to breathe here. The dust covered the painting colors. It could barely see.
The painting wished very hard to give someone something again. But here it was, alone. Trapped in the long road of being forgotten. Perhaps some fates are worse. But being alone is the worst fate in existence and forever in the future and past.
A small cabin. The planks of wood separated from each other. Simple hammered nails held the wood slabs to a frame. It was a faint, worn gray color. A simple shed. All alone in the field of wheat. Surrounded by the golden sea, no traces of the surrounding crop having beaten down or anything.
I stared at it long and hard. It seemed so old. So soul-stricken. As if it was an old man, with a long, weary story it held. But, I reminded myself, it was just an abandoned shed. No one owned it, I was for sure.
I stepped forward, standing in front of the door. It didn’t bare a lock, only a slide of wood holding the door together. I swallowed, pulling the piece of wood up. I didn’t hear any animals, and only prayed that something wasn’t inside ready to pounce.
The doors creaked open. I blinked. Inside, the light from the sun shown through the large cracks. Dust erupted, I could see it float from the sun rays. I pushed the doors farther open. Peering inside, I found boxes.
Boxes, and trunks. The trunks looked very much foreign. The boxes made of wood, which was dried and falling apart. The trunks had pictures on the worn and beaten outside skins. I moved in, scanning for any snakes or coons. Nothing, so I wiped dust off a near trunk.
I clicked open the two snap locks. Inside, I found only papers. I frowned, digging deeper. Letters? I pushed a hand in. Yes, letters. All of them, it was all letters. The entire trunk was full of handwritten letters. Cursive, mostly, a few print. The paper was old and yellowed, making weary noises as I opened them.
Love letters? I frowned, closing it. They must be all love letters. The first lines always read;
And after that, some letters went on for pages, I found. They always ended with the same two words.
I closed the trunk, studying the other things. The boxes were mostly full with old things; hats that looked like military hats and caps, badges, a few bullets or old rusty guns. A few daggers. I studied these items with intent, then turned to the last trunk.
I pushed it open. A painting. It was about the size of my arm, slightly shorter. A perfect, short, fat rectangle. I picked it out of the trunk where it lay to rest. I stared at it, then blew over the surface. Dust went everywhere, blowing away. I smoothed over the cobwebs with my hands.
At last, at last! The love the painting felt from those two, tough hands! They were so calloused, and yet, the gentleness and interest they showed as they tenderly ran over the paint. This is what it felt like, the painting burst into life. To change someone. To give someone a gift. How the painting had missed it. It felt it’s colors slowly, come back.
The painting was beautiful. The colors, the soft ones, the bold ones, the vibrant ones… All masterfully mixed into the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. After I had wiped the dust off, the paint seemed to suddenly stop chipping and fading. The colors seemed to light up the entire room. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t move. I could only stare at the picture. It felt as if it had grabbed me by my heart, and all I could do was look. And feel.
I felt love. I felt pain. I felt the bittersweet melody the painting so beautiful carved into my soul.
I wondered who had painted this. It seemed that this surely had just been there, forever, since the beginning. That surely no human being could have made this. No, it was a miracle. And yet, a miracle a human had labored over with every piece of vigor and love and life inside. It overflowed with things that could never be said.
I wondered what the Painter had felt. I wondered if He had felt pain, and sadness, and love, and beauty, and miraculous, and pure, and divine, and bold, and faint- I wondered. And I stared, as the picture filled my eyes and my soul and my mind.
And the painting had been here? In this shed, alone, forgotten? Such beauty and power could never be ignored or forgotten, surely! I touched the painting, running my fingers over it.
All I could say, all I could suddenly feel and think, was that I knew one thing among this lonely world. This lonely, sea of things I could never run from completely, or understand, or keep sewn together- I knew that I loved this One Painter.
– by Angela R. Watts