Short Fiction ~ Michael Pettifer
Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 17
It was a sunny day in Venice. The elegant venetian cityscape, those fabled buildings, followed the gentle curve of the Grand Canal. A water taxi stopped at Accademia. James alighted from the taxi and headed for the eponymous gallery . Over the years he had been to the gallery several times, the gallery was small, displaying interesting pieces and attracting fewer visitors. He paid his entrance fee and went in.
The gallery's monastic ambiance visited a mystic effect on most of that days visitors who, with cloistered whispers, gazed at the large canvasses and sculptures.
A group of teenager's collective attention drifted between the enthusiastic and animated gallery guide and their smartphones - time and history touching lightly on their conscience.
James took the stairs to the first floor. The canvasses on this floor were smaller but no less impressive. He languidly walked the corridor at the top of the stairs pausing at a small room on his left. Inside this small space hung several paintings. But one image drew him in. The composition, the painting, oil on canvas, was of a woman looking into a mirror. The background to the painting revealed a bathroom , or a changing room, with bottles and paraphernalia required for making one beautiful. The mirror was the viewer. Her fixed wide eyed stare looked directly at him. Her face was drawn and lined and the smoothness of her skin and the clean lines of her chin had gone.
He stood looking at the portrait for some minutes. Taking two steps back he took one last look at the woman immortalised in paint. He turned and left.
In a cafe nearby he sat drinking a glass of red wine. Swirling the wine in the glass the tell-tale tear drops of liquid clung to the sides of the glass gently returning to the well of red sitting in the bottom. It was a good wine, gentle on the palate.
He looked at the back of his hands and with his forefinger pushed against his skin. Ripples of flesh, like small waves rose and slowly vanished as his finger was removed. For a moment he stared at both hands held flat against the table.
He left the cafe and returned to his hotel. He walked into the bathroom. There, he stood looking in the mirror. In the silence of his room - looking back at him, he could see what the woman had seen of herself.
He and she both knew that their youth and beauty had gone.
Michael Pettifer has an MA in screenwriting and an Honours degree in Chemistry. He writes flash fiction and short stories and is successful in International flash fiction competitions. Michael was raised near Stratford upon Avon and has a passion for the actors art and live theatre. He enjoys writing short plays for friends. When not writing he is using his word craft as a professionally qualified development specialist advising and supporting others reliant on written documentation and effective communication skills to further their career opportunities.