Friday, 27 March 2020
The Devil's Paintbox - Flash Fiction
The easel’s trinity of legs stood planted in the soil. The artist with scarecrow smock and hayseed hat stood appointed at it, as the farmer approached brandishing his three-pronged pitchfork towards him. “What in Lucifer’s name are you doing on my land?”
“Representing God’s beauteous creation” the artist said, holding his brush up to match the perpendicularity of a tree marking the boundary of the field.
“Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any likeness that in Heaven above, or-“ the bucolic blustered, red fire pointilling his cheeks.
“In his creation of Nature my good man. There is no depiction of any being here”. The painter with careful deliberation, brought the tip of his brush to kiss the surface of the canvas and held it in place, echoing Michelangelo’s God Created Adam on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, which he had seen and paid sublunary homage to, with secular reverence and human awe.
“Yet your trestle thing there, has the three appendages of Satan himself, so I say your crafting is for diabolic purposes”. He waved his horned staff in the air as if, in his imagination, he was slashing the canvas perched some yards ahead of him.
“And so does your pitchfork does it not?”
“My pitchfork is aimed at the Heavens, doing godly work tilling the Lord’s soil for the bounty He provides. Your trident is inverted, pointing straight down to Hell’s abyss”. The farmer caught himself from dabbing at the ground and besmirching his trusty implement.
“And yet I stand here in your field, not only for the vista, but for the divine light afforded here. You invoked the curse of Lucifer before, which of course you know means the bringer of light”.
“Blasphemer!” emphasised and punctuated by two thrusts of the barbs, six bolts of angel lightning, though lacking any illuminating fire.
“You are a harvester of the soil are you not? Well then we are brothers in arms, though my modest paintbrush be my godly instrument”. He dabbed at the paint on his palette, loading up on pigment before plunging it into another hued gobbet and swirling the bristles in a zealous eddy to blend them.
“How so, when it is doubtless made of the same material as any besom ridden to a witches sabbat?”
The artist ceased his motions and tilted the plane of his palette to demonstrate for his inquisitor. “Because all my tinctures come out of the earth just like your crops. Red cinnabar, yellow orpiment(*), orange ochre, green malachite and brown umber are all drawn from the soil itself, while glorious lapis lazuli, veritably the mirror of the sky, is like a stone sown in the earth. Gypsum white, the very same substance you use to fertilise the fruits of the earth. The stained glass in the cathedral, the altar frescos, each rendered with these outputs yielded beneath your mattock. We should all be giving thanks for such bounteous gifts; you do yours on your knees in church; I stood here at my easel, but we are both making our invocations”.
* orpiment (arsenic) and cinnabar (mercury) are both sulphide ores, sulphur of course being the constituent of brimstone, the supposed pertinent odour of Hell.