Repurposed art.

For my repurposed art project, I chose to translate a piece of artwork I did in high school into a piece of flash fiction. This piece, which can also be seen on my artwork page, is made entirely of white charcoal pencil on black paper. So the process of creating this was completely opposite to that of a normal charcoal; instead of shading and adding pigment, I had to work by taking away darkness. In writing this short piece of fiction, I simply used the room from my drawing as inspiration for part of the setting and let my creativity run wild. It is meant to be a portion of the room Mirabelle – and eventually Elijah – occupies.
The actual content of the drawing doesn’t so much have to do with the story I’ve come up with, but it was my source of inspiration. Also, if this is of any interest to anyone, I listened to Evanescence while I wrote (i.e. the dark melodies of the piano).

The Gardener and the Pianist

Elijah leaned against the wrought iron gate to the garden, panting, having just sprinted the mile and a half from his own home to this vacated Victorian house. He had never gone inside, nor did he ever plan to. He was content with hiding away in the overgrown garden, which seemed to bloom even more colorful each summer. He perched on the edge of the cracked stone fountain, breathing heavily and brushing his sun-bleached hair from his forehead.

Mirabelle sat down at the old grand piano in the aged parlor, regarding with particular interest the way the incoming sunlight accentuated the swirls of dust in the air. She pulled her thick, dark curls away from her freckled face and into an elastic band. Carefully lifting the fallboard, she inhaled deeply and exhaled methodically through pursed lips. She hadn’t visited the old house in years, and it felt strange to be back.

Elijah tried to listen to the bird songs and the cicada calls, but the memory of his morning, so fresh in his mind, would not subside: the shattered dish, the belligerent shouting, the tightening grip on his throat. His pulse raced, not from exhaustion, but from anger. No one lived this far down the winding dirt road; surely he could scream his frustration without anyone hearing. But no, he didn’t want to disturb this place, his otherworldly sanctuary.

Mirabelle let her fingers lightly trace their way across the yellowing keys, not yet making a sound, for she was not quite ready to break the silence encompassing her. She hadn’t played since the car accident left her brother deaf; he had devotedly supported her from the day she discovered her musical interest, contributing his hauntingly dulcet voice for the purpose of song. Why should she still play, when he would no longer sing a single note?

Elijah, looking around at the unkempt weeds, decided he would groom the garden into the display of splendor he knew it had once been. He gladly took on the task, as overwhelming as it seemed, needing a good distraction, a lengthy project that could occupy hours of his time. He removed his shoes and socks and started by the window at the edge of the house, kneeling in the dirt and yanking out the more prosperous weeds. He didn’t care that the soil stained his white t-shirt or made a home under his fingernails and between his toes.

Mirabelle took on a mindset of determination. She would not allow her guilt to stop her from doing what she loved, what her brother treasured and wanted her to do. He hadn’t explicitly told her this, but she was well aware of the pained look in his eyes when she’d coldly pass their piano, refusing to touch it or even glance at it. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, and her hands began to weave a melody from memory. Dark and poignant notes slowly danced their way around the room.

Elijah almost didn’t hear the song seeping its way through the deteriorating walls of the house, his focused mind instead blending it with the sounds of summer. Each time he clutched a handful of rough grasses, the protruding green veins on the back of his hand reminded him of those bulging in his father’s furious face that morning. He paused to mop the sweat from his forehead with his shirt, and a clear, mellifluous voice resonated from inside the old house. He rose to his feet.

Mirabelle sang, unembarrassed, for no one would hear her here. Her inner critic, who often sparked thoughts of self-consciousness and doubt, took a break to listen and enjoy the performance for once. Moisture sprang to her eyes, squeezing its way through her closed, dark lashes. Not once had she sang for her brother, preferring his talented voice to her own unsure sounds. She was just as gifted, but preferred to fall into her brother’s shadow. Now she could never sing for him.

Elijah furtively peered around the corner, keeping to the dark shadow the partial wall cast on him. He had snuck in the paint-chipped door to the parlor, and now he watched the girl, conscious that he was spying on a private moment. Loose strands of dark hair fell around her face, and her brows were knitted with emotion. He had never seen nor heard anything as beautiful as her. He was reluctant to leave, but she would surely be startled, and perhaps even angry, if she opened her eyes to a peeping stranger. He stayed for another moment or so then retreated outside.

Mirabelle finished the song, the song her brother had helped her compose. She opened her eyes and returned to the world without music, the silence of the abandoned house. She desperately wished that she could share this with her brother, that she would have when she’d had the chance. She wiped her face and composed herself. One song was all she could handle for today, but she had done it. She finally played again, and she felt a small moment of peace.

Elijah, at the cessation of the girl’s melody, quickly returned to where he had been weeding moments before. He hastily unraveled his headphones from his pocket, placing the buds in his ears and the jack into his phone. She couldn’t know he’d heard her; something so emotional was not meant to be shared with a stranger. At the flash of her white sundress just barely in his line of vision, he had the impulse to turn and look, but he did not. He pretended to be completely absorbed in his garden work, though his thoughts were of nothing but the girl.

Mirabelle pushed open the heavy door and stepped out into the sunlight, but jumped back when she noticed she was not alone. How lovely that a young man was tending to the wild remains of the garden. He did not seem to notice her, his headphones surely blaring some unknown tune for him alone to enjoy. She thought of how serene he looked and that she must not disturb him. She tiptoed over to the gate and glanced back at him, imagining the transformation the garden would undergo at his hands. She hurried away on the dusty dirt road.

Elijah took out his headphones, which had never been playing music at all, when he was sure the girl had gone. He no longer had the urge to take out his problems on the plants, though he would still work on the garden. He stood up and rubbed his hands together, brushing off the loose soil. He would come back tomorrow. He would come back and finish making the garden magnificent, for the girl.


5 responses to “Repurposed art.

  1. Since I’m not a great writer like you are, I can’t come up with the words to describe just how great you really are, so I’ll just say “wow” or “good job”. :p

  2. There’s a really interesting potential theme in your description of the artwork: “I had to work by taking away darkness.” Very cool. I’d hang on to that idea and see if you can exploit it in some future writing, perhaps a poem or a story in which a character uses white charcoal in a way that complements or speaks to an external conflict.

    You’ve done a nice job of establishing a quiet tone in this story. I’d describe the overall mood as “soft” and “open.” I do have some questions about how these two characters end up at this vacated house, but the way you let their actions unfold is handled very effectively. Elijah’s respect and Mirabelle’s sadness work well together. The basic goal as a writer is to anticipate the questions a reader might have and provide enough information so the reader questions nothing. And, yes, that’s extremely difficult. Still, you’re well on your way, and this story is further proof of your strong skills.

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