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Every Little Hurts © Keith Waller

“The Sea of Curiosity” stories from the exhibition of paintings by Keith Waller

Artist Keith Waller recently appealed for writers to respond to a series of his paintings by writing a short narrative. He was overwhelmed with responses. This is the first short story, by a writer simply known as Spike.

How they saw things

Cities by the sea always have stories; they encourage conjectures.  Some say it is because of the light, or the fishing.  Others say it has to do with too much clubbing, too much drinking. In this particular city they wondered uneasily about Paula.

She had been a dancer, a shellfish lover, a collector of accents and flowers. She seemed to have been there forever, among the candles and brightly coloured fabrics in her shop.   She smoked all day, scratching an ample leg with dark fingernails while customers asked the same thing: of the green and yellow dresses, did she make them herself. Of the oil paintings she’d hung on the walls, how much.

They all knew it was her, alright.  At night, when they went to the little theatre and pretended to be bored.  While she danced and messed about and changed costumes and masks in the blink of an eye, they all let on they knew it was her; the men and the women who suddenly wanted her, or wanted to be her, or loathed her.  They knew, too, that the blue orb that was part of the act and which followed her around the stage, floating above her head or hovering near her feet, was just clever lighting.  They talked about her on the quiet: ‘You’d think she’d find something better to do.’  Ashamed of her.

Only then someone thought they saw her between the boats one evening. That metallic quality to the light, quicksilver, made it impossible to be certain.  But it was mumbled in the cinema and in the pub that she’d been seen riding the blue ball.  Not riding it like a child might ride a space hopper, but salaciously. That was Paula all over, of course, at least at night.  They laughed, unhappily.  The worst of it was she’d managed to make it look like the ball really was taking off, taking her up into the air with it , and stuff coming off it. Like fish scales, or little creatures, or more likely her own waters.  It was the drink talking, of course.  Probably just saw the moon, right.  Hallucinating.

Blue Eyes © Keith Waller

Did you know the moon is slowly drifting away from the earth, someone clever said.

One night at the show, she changed it.  Someone in the audience stood up and shot the blue ball, bursting it to nothing on her shoulder. They shrieked.  Paula fell backwards stagily, self-consciously, her arms spread out, her red and green dress billowing.  They sniggered. Crimson bloomed across her face.  The curtains jerked together, earlier than usual.

Did she set it up herself, they wanted to know. Who had the gun? In the shop in broad daylight they asked her. That gunshot, it wasn’t real, was it.  Another trick.

Paula looked up from her scratching, and they noticed her eyes were blue like the blue in the paintings and she had a wounded look. They had seen, too, the Tesco carrier bag at her feet, and felt somehow offended.  Not like Paula to have a plastic bag. She moved it to one side with her foot, still looking at them.  She was a bit crazed, of course.  One of them pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes. The others shifted, turning away as if nothing had been said.

Nobody could quite remember the day, but the shop was shut up.  Now that all the stuff had gone they could see through the windows.  She had left behind the paintings.  Some on the floor, some still on the walls, as though she was coming back.

And they wondered uneasily, and mentioned it from time to time: wonder what happened to that Paula. They felt a little aged, a little weary, as though they had burnt a butterfly.

Short story by Spike

You can find out more about the project on Keith Waller’s website.
The exhibition starts in the middle of July (covid cover) at Funky Stuff, Market Square, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 0DG.

The Curious Visitors © Keith Waller

Posted 22:38 Monday, Jun 8, 2020 In: Arts News

Also in: Arts News

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