Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jacques Masterpiece, Part Three

After hours of painting, with only two stops to get a new color (at the cost of an arm and another leg), Jacques strode across his chamber, setting his brushes in the basin to soak for the night; he’d meticulously pick the wax and flesh from them in the morning. Gathering small sealable jars, Jacques filled each on with his four colors, before screwing the cap on tight. Taking them to an alcove with rickety shelves that served as his closet, he arranged the jars carefully.

“Much better,” he mused as he slid the last jar into place. Looking back to his piece of work, the garden scene depicting rose bushes and floral vines, “but something’s missing. What could I add to it to make the piece complete?”
Twisting his bony neck and scowling at the incomplete work, Jacques splayed his fingers wide as he stalked up to the painted alcove. “What does it need? Tell me mother!”
Oh so now you want my advice? She whispered in his ear, bringing a deeper scowl to his hideous features. You were happy as could be not listening to me a while ago, what’s changed?
“I need your advice! I’ve always needed your advice! What can I add to make my garden scene… complete.” Jacques whispered, creeping closer to stare at the glistening paint as it dried.
Stupid boy, you’ve always needed my help. Your silly little painting isn’t important, you filling your true potential is what is important! His mother whispered dryly into his ear. If you must accept being a destitute painter, you should make art worthy of the world! You should make something that will spread your name across the country!
“But the papers are already talking about me…” Jacques whined, stooping low enough to run his bony fingers on the uneven floor.
They only named you Jacque the Ripper because of that couple you took care of, you stupid boy!
“But I needed kidneys! They make the best red paint, thick and spreadable!” Jacques muttered, scraping along the floor pitifully.
What you did was bring attention to yourself, you idiot! Just as your little stunts are doing.
“But I need the flesh before it gets weighed down with sin! You were the one that taught me that babies and children are sinless, and that the rest of us can only be saved through His name.”
Do not lecture me about the Lord boy! Jacques whimpered at the harshness of his mother’s words. He is the only reason I’m with you, to guide you right yet.
“Yes mother, I know. Praise Him for being so merciful…” Jacques muttered, stooping down to his knees and folding his hands together in prayer. Muttering praises to the Lord, Jacques knelt on the limestone floor for close to twenty minutes before he pushed himself up from the ground.
“I know what’ll be perfect for my garden…” Jacques muttered as he walked over to his rag covered bed. Reaching beneath his cot for a bottle of Chloroform, he tucked it onto his coat pocket before grabbing a torn wallet, filled with cash. “Time for a visit to the world of the living.”
Walking through the darkened halls of the limestone catacombs, Jacques moved through the bone laden halls through twists and turns, doubling back and moving forward once again to keep anyone from finding his gallery. As he made his way to the fresher tunnels, filled with the homeless, Jacques took a moment to dust off his jacket. A few errant bums took notice of him, though they did little to gather his attention.
They didn’t know what he was, or what he did, but they knew better than to cross him.
The company of the homeless and social parasites! This is what our family has been reduced to… your father would be ashamed.
“Father would be proud of me and my work!” Jacques grumbled as he grabbed at a tattered hoodie from a homeless man’s shopping cart, earning a disgruntled yell of indignation. Jacques ignored it.
Your father was a fool boy, a man who slaved away all his life, and for what? Just a grave, with none to mourn him.
“Can we not talk about this, please?” Jacques pleaded as he climbed the last steps out of the lower levels and into the popular tourist attraction, the tunnels that had guides, pulling on the hoodie that, he idly noted, had a grinning skull on it.
Just like your father… Mother whispered, her voice pulling away like the oceans tide, leaving Jacques with delicious silence.
Moving up to the Parisian streets was simple enough for Jacques, who sidestepped tourists, deft hands lifting wallets from passing Americans as he went. He stopped outside of a burger joint, tossing the wallets away as he emptied them of cash, adding the considerable amount of money to his own tattered wallet.
Signaling for a cab, Jacques climbed into the back of one as it pulled up to the curb, the dour smell of the old car doing little to lift Jacques’s spirits.
“Jardin du Luxembourg, if you please,” Jacques muttered, passing forty folded francs up through the slanted glass. “Take the scenic route.”
The Jardin du Luxembourg was perhaps Jacques favorite garden in all of Paris, palatial grounds with a beautiful fountain, and plenty of tourists to study. An art store close by allowed him to purchase canvases and… conventional paints for him to use, painting portraits of the gardens and then selling them to whichever tourist struck his fancy.
It wasn’t like he needed the money as he hardly bought anything. Money was for those that lived in the Land of the Living; no, Jacques belonged in the Underground, in the never-ending catacombs that were home to the long dead. Vast swathes of limestone walls that allowed him to paint endlessly, to create vast frescos and grand images, fit only for the eyes of the damned.
Like Jacques.
“Here we are Mister,” the cabbie announce, his accent atrocious. “You want change or…?”
“Keep it,” Jacques said dispassionately as he opened his door and stepped out onto the busy sidewalk, mere feet away from the art shop of his dreams.
Over a hundred francs later, Jacques was crossing the street with two canvases and an easel in hand, a satchel full of oil paints and brushes hanging over his shoulder as he weaved through traffic. Finding a spot near the fountain, he deposited his newly purchased gear and waited, pulling out tubes of oil paint and brushes in the meantime.
It didn’t take long.
“Honey, look! An artist!” A man’s voice cried, gathering Jacques attention.
“Oh my, do you think he’s any good?” A woman’s voice joined in, causing Jacques to turn and stare at the two individuals, who backed away in shock at Jacques appearance. “Oh my god!”
“Don’t be alarmed,” Jacques said, raising two bony hands to try and placate the couple. “I know I’m a tad… unnerving to look upon, but I am a talented artist.”
“How talented?” The woman asked, a fluttering violet dress hugging her generous curves.
Jacques bowed at the waist, his head reaching his locked knees as he moved. “Allow me to paint your portrait and I shall show you. If you like it, perhaps you will honor me by purchasing it?”
“How much?” The man, a thicker gentleman in glasses, asked.
“Oh, I will collect what I deem necessary should you wish to own the painting,” Jacques replied ambiguously.
The man turned to the woman, an eyebrow raised. “What do you think? Want a portrait?”
The woman clasped her hands together, squealing in glee. “It would look perfect over the mantle, assuming the artist is any good.”
Jacques’s face twitched at that. “The artist is right here, and I assure you I’m quite talented. I plan on using my own materials, so if you don’t like it, I’ll have a painting for my gallery.”
“That sounds fair,” the man says, moving to the edge of the grand fountain, Olympian gods framed behind him as he patted a spot for his wife. “How long should this take?
“Only a few moments, when the time is right…” Jacques mutters as he sets up his easel, kicking the legs apart and setting a canvas on it. Looking up and clearing his throat, he smiled back at the couple. “Oh, perhaps an hour. I tend to sketch first and then paint afterwards, so you’ll be able to see what you will look like, roughly, before any color is added.”
The two look at each other making stressed faces, the wife looks to Jacques, sucking in air between her teeth. “An hour is kind of a long time…”
Jacques held his hands up, a wide smile splitting his face. “Art cannot be rushed m’dear, should you want quality.”
Cut them, slice them, drain them… gut them! Mother insisted, shaking Jacques by the shoulders. Impudent wench and a whore’s son, talking to you that way! Slit their throats!
“No Mother,” Jacques whispered as he gathered his paints and began tracing out the lines for which he would follow, “not yet.”

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