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by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 06 January 2019
Word Count: 957
Summary: This is for the most recent challenge - 694 (I Think!)

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The moon hung motionless in a cloudless sky, its steely light illuminating every frozen blade of grass and Thomas was grateful for the clarity of its light as he crunched his way to the bottom of the garden.  It would make his task much easier. Opening the shed door, he rasped his hands, like a miser surveying his hoard, gloating over the tumble of cans heaped in a corner.  Whoever would have thought that such ugliness contained such beauty?  Licking his lips, he advanced towards them.
                His mother would be delighted.  He recalled the look on her face when she’d walked into his bedroom just after he ‘d finished its redecoration.  She was overcome, so much so she had to sit down.  He remembered with fondness, the stunned expression on her face.  His work did that to people.  Overawed by his skill, they were rendered speechless.   He understood. Sometimes mere words were not enough.  And she was right in begging him not to tell his father.  He was still in convalescence after his heart attack and needed to take things quietly. Too much joy would drain him.
                But now his dad had recovered, and his parent’s wedding anniversary loomed.  Sixty glorious years and not a cross word.  To mark the occasion, they deserved a special gift and Thomas had lit upon the perfect idea.  The dull sparrow- brown brickwork of the house they’d lived in all their married life, would have a make-over. Thomas would transform   the house’s exterior into a glorious tour de force of colour.  His homage to their love.
 Thomas levered open the first tin and stood drooling over the luscious colour.  He picked up his brush and as he did, the image of a Disney cartoon floated before his eyes.  A dreary monochrome converted, by the sweep of an artist’s brush, into a colourful scene fizzing with life and vitality.
                His arms ached, his back ached, he was covered in paint, but he was finished.  All done before the street erupted into its usual non-stop action. He stepped back to survey his handiwork and felt a burst of pride.  It was all that he had envisaged, and more.  At the last moment he’d added a special glaze to the paint to render it luminous so that the richness of the colours would endure both night and day.  Covering the formerly boring walls was a vibrant pastiche bursting with colour.  Against a matt black background, Hooker’s green snakes, writhed towards the bedroom windows, while vermilion monkeys swung from the guttering.   The grotesque goblins and gremlins of his imagination were there, together with a huge purple devil with a twisted and forked tail. But, to his mind, his masterpiece was a massive scarlet steam engine which appeared to be bursting through the walls.  His father would love it.  Steam trains were his passion.
                A sparrow spat out its first chirp of the day, it was time to get cleaned up, his parents were early risers. Just then, he heard the squeal of brakes and a squeaky voice.
‘Blimey mate.  What the ‘ell’s that?’
 Thomas frowned.  It was that cheeky erk of a paperboy.  He didn’t reply.  ‘Pearls before swine’, he’ thought as he let himself into the house.
                When, at last, he ‘d separated his parents from their breakfast and was shepherding them outside, he noticed that a crowd had gathered.   All were staring at his masterpiece, some wearing sunglasses.  He felt a glow of gratification.  ‘You the artist?’ one yelled and there was a whinny of laughter.  Modestly, Thomas smiled and nodded. He could have done without any attention at this stage, but acclaim was something he’d have to get used to. But it was his parent’s reaction he was interested in, and they didn’t disappoint.  It never ceased to amaze him how closely emotion and colour were linked.  His mother turned a perfect shade of Vanilla white, while is father’s face  veered more towards Tyrian purple.  That was just before he collapsed, of course.
                Looking back on it, Thomas thought that perhaps it had been a mistake to start at the front of the house. It was too public. Obviously, the folk around here were so starved of culture that it was just too much for them.  Each day they gathered in droves, mobile phones held aloft and cameras clicking. It also attracted swarms of Japanese tourists, so many that he thought Buckingham Palace must have been feeling the draught.  And, of course, there was trouble with the traffic, the road was almost continuously jammed and eventually had to be cordoned off completely because of the number of fender benders.  That was particularly unfortunate as even his father’s hearse had to make a detour.
                The Council didn’t like it and there was trouble with the neighbours.  Thomas had never liked them.  In his opinion, they deserved to live in caves. Unfortunately, their vitriolic remarks, catcalls and hisses had a bad effect on his mother who retreated to her bedroom and refused to come out. In a way, it was a merciful release when she joined Thomas’s father a few weeks later.  At least she didn’t have to endure the drama of the fire  that had  roared through the building. As he surveyed its blackened shell, Thomas blamed the neighbours, but nothing could be proved. 
 When the insurance paid out, Thomas bought a new house, way out in the country where there were no neighbours.   It was being sold at a knockdown price on account of being  an eyesore. The entire building was coated with grimy, white plaster but, to Thomas, that was no problem. The day after he moved in, he motored to the local town to buy paint. Brightly coloured paint.

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Comments by other Members

Cliff Hanger at 14:58 on 06 January 2019  Report this post
I absolutely love this edgy, interesting story Janet. Especially this line

too much joy would drain him

You capture the sense of danger that lurks in every truely artistic soul.


euclid at 15:12 on 06 January 2019  Report this post
Nice one, Janet.

Where I live they do it with lights at Christmas!



FelixBenson at 16:29 on 07 January 2019  Report this post
ha ha, love this too Janet. Great tone of voice throughout in the sparky lines

A dreary monochrome converted, by the sweep of an artist’s brush, into a colourful scene fizzing with life and vitality.

A sparrow spat out its first chirp of the day

It really brings out the very distinct voice of the main character and his particular delusion about how others feel about his art.

Great stuff.

michwo at 16:14 on 23 January 2019  Report this post
You have a real gift for writing, Janet, and I'm always pleased to read something you've written.
One thing I wasn't quite sure what to make of was 'Hooker's green snakes'.  Is Thomas's full name Thomas Hooker or is this an allusion to someone who gave his name to this particular species of snake?
Maybe the 'hero' of this story should shake hands with Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) who started out as a graffitti artist in Manhattan's Lower East Side before graduating to colourful and posthumously much praised and valuable canvases.  He was over the top too!  Andy Warhol bought stuff off him when he was just starting out.

Chestersmummy at 17:56 on 23 January 2019  Report this post
Hi Michwo

Hooker's Green is a shade of green invented by a botanical artist by the name of William Hooker (1779-1832).  I myself didn't know that. I came to hear of it from the first verse of the John Betjeman poem 'Christmas'..

'The bells of waiting Advent ring
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.

BW Janet


Mickey at 14:01 on 31 January 2019  Report this post
You know what.  I might just join this group.  This is absolutely brilliant (how apt!)  I particularly liked

     “even his father’s hearse had to make a detour”

and he still doesn’t make the connection.  Fantastic.  Love it.

Pleased to see you're a fellow Betjeman fan.  Funnily enough,
I once introduced 'Hookers Green' into one of my poems

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