Painting

Fiction

It was the divine. He knew none of it made sense. Really, he hated it. But here and now, it was fucking gorgeous. 

Fiction by Benjamin Blay

“Jesus is a Taoist,” said the telepathic cat. 

From Tug’s loft window the sun swung to the west, cresting on the rooftop bar of the Geyser Building, marking each and every patron as they drank and laughed with little crowns of light.

“The world doesn’t know your name”, Tug replied to the cat and kept on painting.

His hands were sweating under the clunky optical machinery of the color gauntlets. They were the oldest model he could find. Second generation. Antiques. Ugly because they were so tangible. 

Skit would laugh at him. All she had to do was blink and the colors would appear. She’d swirl her tongue and in response to her wetness they’d dance across the glass canvas, forming shapes, sights, sounds riding on waves only dogs could hear. 

“This is art,” she’d say, then point to his work on the other side of the loft. “That is neanderthalish.”

“Same thing,” he’d retort.

It was at that point that she’d fade out, having become bored with him, deciding it was time to dial another one of her Heads.

Truth be told, how he painted wasn’t that much different than how she painted. It was all optical light work. There were no real oil based paints anymore. Hadn’t been since his parents were in Kindergarten. 

It’s just that he wore armor and she wore lust.

He smiled, picturing Skit’s forked tongue. There had always been something reptilian about her appearance so it was no surprise when she decided to get the surgery.

Being a feline, naturally, the cat thought this was all too damn funny.

“Epiphanies are bananas best kept in their peels,” the cat purred.

“Enough already,” he said, shedding the color gauntlets like a second skin. 

He slouched in the chair, eyes kept low, square on the floor, away from the canvas, away from the chortling people sketched across the skyline.

“Is there a day you don’t ponder the floor?” the cat asked.

“It’s my favorite spot,” he said.

“You sound like a cat,” the cat replied.

“And I should have never bought a telepathic cat,” he said.

“Touché.”

When Skit got bored she liked to make rain. Nothing too fancy. No big gestures. No thunderstorms. Just a gentle spring shower. Maybe an earnest mountain mist. Something romantic and melancholy. 

Sometimes, she would dial him up and they’d walk through the rain together; their respected lofts fading until there was nothing left but a dewy dusk-lit glen or hiking path lined with drooping ferns. 

They’d hold hands. He often wished they could really hold hands. But he didn’t know where she was. Her address marked her in Switzerland, which was a tell-tale sign of data-dodging and displacement services. 

He wondered what she had to hide. 

“Can I get some nosh?” the cat asked, now sitting by its dish, a proud, entitled aura shimmering over its questioning.

He sighed. “Sure. Coming right up.”

While he could have easily sprung for a cat with cyber-guts he wanted the sense of having a real living thing in his home. 

The cat refused to be called Skit, of course. Had said so from day one. 

“Uncles know best,” the cat had cooed off and on for a week. He didn’t know what the cat was going on about. He didn’t have any uncles. It was only after reading up on cat speak did he get that he didn’t have to get it.

He dumped the fishheads into the dish and walked over to the window.

The sun had all but set, leaving the patrons of the rooftop bar elemental in their blackness. How many of them were really there? Standing with the soles of their actual shoes on actual poolside concrete. How many were mere holographic projections? Piped in from all corners of the globe.  

His eye twitched. Skit was calling. He smiled.

The room’s light dimmed as the girl with the forked tongue came into focus. 

He was feeling romantic. Hokey, even. 

He was thinking the sun may have set but that the sun hadn’t set.

The cat rolled its eyes. “Drag,” was all it said.

“Hush”, he said.

“Pardon?” Skit turned her head to the side.

“Nothing. I was just talking to the cat.”

“You still have that old thing?” she asked.

“Yeah. It keeps me on my toes.”

She laughed. He was glad she laughed.

“I thought we could go to a party tonight,” she said. Her white skirt and tunic blurred, becoming an emerald colored evening gown. She raised an eyebrow.

“Where?”

“The Red Room.”

He rubbed his left wrist, then his right and his overalls disappeared, replaced by a classically cut tuxedo. His salt and peppered cheeks became baby pink smooth.

“Come on,” she said, holding out her arm. He took it in his and they walked towards a door, simple in its design, nothing ornate, nothing that would suggest what was on the other side.

She opened the door. They walked through.

What was there was typical of Saturday evenings spent in the Cradle. 

Beautiful people in beautiful wares, drinking and laughing. No one spoke. There were no jokes to laugh at. 

A waiter gave each of them a glass;  bottomless in its merriment. 

They drank. They drank some more. 

They stepped further into the room. And soon enough a swell of laughter was building in both of them. Something effervescent and flowing, lilting, lovely, lovely, lovely, and so funny for no reason at all. 

It was the divine. He knew none of it made sense. Really, he hated it. But here and now, it was fucking gorgeous. 

Skit kept drinking. Kept laughing. 

The room throbbed a bright red. Some of the men opened their pants and let their labia ripen, their clits and balls glistening in the frothy light. 

Some of the women unzipped their dresses, revealing a penis in the front and a penis in the back, erect and ready for mounting both east and westward. 

A sinewy Turkish man laughed with Skit. He held out his palms, vaginal canals running deep into his arms, chasms of pleasure. She brought her hands up and began fisting the Turkish man’s own hands in earnest. 

He watched them, then took to his knees and kept laughing. What would the cat make of all this? 

Two women with great pelted abdomens approached him. He bowed to their wishes. He opened his mouth.  

Everyone glowed.

Skit held his hand. They lay under the green canopy of a tree whose species he didn’t know the name on account of it having died long ago.

“When I held up all my canvases to the old man he just about had a fit,” she went on and squeezed a bit tighter.

“I swear he was gonna fall right outta his skin.” 

She laughed. Really laughed. 

A faint echo of the Red Room flashed before his eyes.

“Did he say anything?” he asked, warming to the sensation of her touch.

“He wanted to buy them,” she snickered. “He said they would have been worth millions back in the day.”

“It sounds like he was delirious.”

She nodded, kissing his neck.

“In a way, he was sweet,” she said between kisses.

A light rain began to fall.

She wrapped herself around him.

He let out a breath.

From the corner of his eye he saw the cat by its dish, a glint of disapproval in its gaze.

The tree’s bough shook at the sudden rumble of thunder.

“Can we stay here? Just right here?” she asked.

Something flashed. 

He looked up.    


As a creative development specialist, script consultant and filmmaker, Ben works with artists outside the Hollywood norm, striving for a new freedom in cinematic storytelling. His films include the award-winning female veteran drama “Three Fingers,” the dark parable “Tormenting the Hen,” and black comedy “Homewrecker.” For the past ten years, Ben has worked as a film critic and editor for ScreenAnarchy.com. Additionally, he programs for the Slamdance Film Festival. Ben is a nomad.


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