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Flash Fiction

The Rainbow Man

The most inspiring art jumps from canvases thick with new beginnings. That’s what I tell myself as I survey a flat littered with evidence of my failures. Each unrealized attempt to convey the contents of my mind is entombed within clumpy coats of nearly concealing paint. I see specks of orange and blue peeking through splashed on layers of suppressive gray and white to see where they betrayed their creator. Good God! The unventilated poisons wafting from these abominations are finally addling my brain.

In my eagerness to escape, I hardly take time to don a cravat. White gloves cover any speckled pigment remaining on poorly washed hands, and my unkempt hair is confined within a top hat. Cane and coat complete my costume: no need to advertise my distress.


Parisian spring taunts the senses en route to the Louvre. It is nauseating. Beauty is available for purchase along the bustling Champs Elysees; however, one must endure the odor and clamor generated by the relentless stream of prancing horses and their carriages. Irrepressible life flits tree-to-tree along avenues of the Jardin des Tuileries. Love lounges within easy reach of couples that litter its lawns. Bah!

A silent vender spreads a slimy coat of strawberry jam over a crepe with a flourish, but the whole spectacle has become so repugnant I throw it away in disgust without taking a bite.


I do not find asylum within the shrine to my mentors. Some still labor on rickety scaffolds to complete another masterpiece before they die. I cannot suppress a suspicion that these geniuses, waving their wands in flawless arcs, are naive to the bitterness of the blemish.

Their towering creations, each scarcely contained within gilded frames, fail to revitalize me. While I aspire to have my own work displayed on these hallowed walls, I must accept that it is providence rather than merit that has delivered the patronage necessary to afford a presentable costume.

My habit, duty, is to dispense a bit of wisdom to the amiable students floundering behind easels on my way out, but today I fear they will breach my facade. Fortunately, most have clustered around an unfamiliar man offering to paint portraits for a single franc. I, like the students and more than a few passers-by, am inexplicably drawn to him.

Hunched on a three-legged stool, he smears red and blue in haphazard dollops with each forefinger, green and yellow with dabs from middle fingers, and blends with rainbowed palms. Pulsating plumes from his gnarled pipe keeps time for his rasping fingertips.

Pausing, Painting, Pausing.


He delivers a completed canvas. The recipient’s fingers float adoringly above oily crests and troughs. Formerly flawed strokes form the perfectly raised foundation of a portrait that would otherwise be impossible to create. This saint of the stain takes no notice of the transcendence in his beneficiary as deft hands move a new canvas into place, but a careless observer might mistake the practiced shift of his pipe as a smile.