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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #21

Mary Martin. Oil on canvas tablet.

Composition, in Process

He steps out of the shadows in near-dawn winter light, into a plaza, in the shadow of a great cathedral. He has something to sell. A secret worthy of compensation. His wine-stained lips could tell of long nights with friends and ladies. But he will keep them sealed until he meets the one who will pay. He overheard the gentlemen’s plotting. Their plan to trick a king, set in motion a real narrative that will alter lives, send soldiers to war, seal the fates of fall guys, leave women without husbands, mothers without sons, daughters without their brothers. End of story.

Start again. New beginning. She is an actress on a stage without the finished backdrop. The muralist only having painted cloudy sky. She is rehearsing the role of trickster, troubadour, the role meant for a man. She flattened and disguised her roundest places, covered soft un-sun-touched skin, spoke in a voice both masculine and feminine. It didn’t matter in the end to the playwright. When she sang the Medieval ballad about courtly love, it held everyone, even the janitor sweeping the back of the theater-house, at attention. The role was hers. No more to that story. Or any other.

Narratives sometimes refuse to comply, wish to remain indefinitely works-in-progress. Like us, spinning lifelong yarns until we die. Other stories remain inside to be revised and reimagined. Maybe meant for just the one who writes them, who cannot bare to share with the world, or any single other, the finer details, full picture.

He smirks, remembering moments, nights of debauchery. The bag of coins he will receive will buy him many more.

She paints her lips and plays the part, holds back what is not in the script and hopes her lips will never betray her.

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