…Sfumato memories… of the way it might have been (*sfumato means misty watercolor)
A DAYDREAM IN THE LIFE OF A WRITER OF PARANORMAL HISTORY
Leonardo’s experimental painting was missing a special something. He flexed his long slender fingers and stared at his hands as if they were strangers. Am I losing my touch?
“No,” a piggy voice squeaked. “You’re just getting old.”
A strange calm came over him in the form of a whizbang idea. He put his thumbs in his ears and waggled his fingers at his sister, Lisabetta.
She didn’t smile. She looked puzzled. “Are you quite well?” she said. “Do you need to take a break or something? By the way, there’s a flying pig on your shoulder.”
It was Leo’s turn to frown. “Have you been sniffing my paints again?”
“Maybe a little varnish… but the pig…”
“Okay okay, there IS a clockwork pig with wings on my shoulder. I made him to amuse you.”
“Brother dear, you’re losing your mind,” Lisabetta said to herself.
“Nobody appreciates an alchemist,” Leonardo muttered to the pig. “That took skill, that did, and not a little skullduggery.”
Leonardo held out his arm and the pig fluttered there as gracefully as a flying pig could. “Yes, master,” it said.
Leonardo inclined his head towards Lisabetta and whispered. “Go over there. Say something to make her smile.”
The pig grunted back sarcastically. “Should I tell her a joke?”
Leonardo chuckled to himself. “Perhaps a small Joconde would do the trick.”
Piggy groaned. “I can’t believe you said that. You may need a new writer.”
“Hey,” I shouted from my computer. “I’m doing the best I can. Writing a blog post isn’t as easy as people think.”
“Go,” Leonardo instructed his creature. “Go quickly before we lose the light. This is the hour before dusk when the light is perfect.” He looked up and to his right where future memories collect. He smiled a ‘Mona Lisa smile’ at no-one in particular that charmed me. “In 500 years, photographers will call it the magic hour,” he said. “Charm her, little pig. We haven’t much time. Ask her a riddle. She likes those.”
And the little pig flew, and he did. “ Mirror mirror on the wall,” he intoned dreamily in Lisabetta’s ear. “Who has the most famous face of all?”
Lisabetta’s face went red from keeping a straight face. “Are you kidding?” she mumbled out the corner of her mouth. “People will call me the Gioconda… the smiling woman in 500 years.”
Piggy couldn’t resist gently nibbling Lisabetta’s earlobe. “Then, have you heard the one about a face that launched a thousand ships?” he whispered. Nothing.
Leonardo coughed from across the room. He nodded slightly. “Plan B, I think,” he said. “As rehearsed, please.”
The pig flapped his wings, flew in circles around Lisabetta’s head, and gave a tiny fart of surprise when he deliberately spun out and crash-landed in her lap.
His prat fall amused her. She smiled inwardly, checking herself. Leonardo wouldn’t appreciate her laughing out loud at such a critical juncture of his experiment to paint a human landscape.
He’d made it clear that the eyes in this new kind of portrait must capture the soul just as the mouth must capture the spirit. Two different things,” he’d said when she questioned him with raised eyebrows.
He looked at her intently. “And you won’t be doing that soon.”
“You won’t have any eyebrows to raise.”
“Grazzi. You’re far too thoughtful.”
“Eyebrows give away the emotions,” Leonardo said. “You will remain a mystery. No clues. Just tricks of the light and a pair of unnerving eyes that track anyone who has the courage to look into your soul.”
Lisabetta shifted uncomfortably. “I’m not sure I want strangers doing that.”
Leonardo explained as he painted, the way he always did. “Your skin and clothing will be camouflaged by a palette of woodland browns, warm summer flesh-tones, and greens from the olive groves where we played as children.
He tapped on the finished background of mountains and disappearing trails either side of Lisabetta’s seated figure, first the left side, then the right. “I’ve given you twin horizons that represent the past and future.” He tapped some more, pointing out a few trails and a bridge he’d especially created to lead her home, front and center. “Think of yourself as Mother Nature, hiding her best dreams in plain sight,” he instructed.
Lisabetta was not going to argue with a genius painting her life-force. She kept her cool and didn’t move her hands. Little did she know she would be trapped in her portrait for 500 years until I, an author with a name translated from the Latin anagram, ‘veritas icona’, that means ‘true face’, would write her face a decidedly artful way out.
“Far out,” Leonardo echoed, squinting at his painting, concentrating so hard he captured his sister’s soul right there on the wooden panel. He looked up at me, satisfied. “And while you’re at it, could you write me a happy ending?” he said. He gestured to the finished masterpiece. “I think I deserve a reward for this. Perhaps a nice long rest in my dotage.”
“Done,” I said. “I’ve written you a very nice retirement home in the south of France.”
He looked over to where I was scribbling in the shadows. His eyes stared past me at the clock on the wall that had no hands. “Far out,” he repeated in a daze.
“Very,” I said. “It’s in the Loire Valley, deep in the countryside.”
Leonardo’s eyes focused and met mine. He sent me a knowing wink followed by a dazzling grin. “It was all countryside back then,” he said. “But what occurred to me is that there’s no time between a writer and their imagination.”
“Maybe you do need a new writer,” I said.
“You’ll be fine if you’re patient,” he said. “Rome wasn’t built in ten years.”
“So, you’re one of those funny artists,” I replied.
“Cara Mia,” he said, “if you’re intent on being a writer you’d better generate a sense of humor.”
“Take a look at my fridge sometime,” I countered.
And he did, and it made him smile, and he pinched my cheek and patted me on the head like a worldly grandfather. “You’ll do just fine,” he said. He paused and scratched the top of his head. His brow was knitted. “I know it’s against the rules of writing fiction…” He hesitated again, and rested a hand gently on my shoulder. “But please don’t be too hard on my sister.”
— ONLY THE BEGINNING —
PLAY-FULL STORIES ARE FOUND IN THE STRANGEST PLAYGROUNDS.
EVEN FRIDGE MAGNETS CAN TELL AN ARTFUL TALE