The last painting of Harold.

Harold was finally used to the noises now.  His heart monitor’s steady beeping, the motorized pistons of his bed moving every few minutes to protect him from sores, the shuffling of the flowers as the breeze from the open window hit them.  These were all comforting sounds he expected.  It was the sights he could never grasp.  Since he was a young boy his imagination would take the best of him creating elaborate fantasies or what were later defined as delusions by his doctors, something he began taking medicines for as a young adult but now in his old age they had returned.

He opened his eyes to gauge his surroundings.  The room hadn’t changed since he’d fallen asleep, at least if his memory served him right.  The curtains were billowing in the open window but he dared not gaze outside, he knew to keep it familiar. His eyes darted across the wall to the door, it was closed, thankfully, and then returned their gaze to the empty chair across from him.  He breathed a sigh of relief to not have to explain his paranoia again, his doctor was a stubborn man. He layed motionless for a moment drinking in the sounds of his room once more. The serene stillness was broken as the knob of the door began to shake.  Harold clutched the front left pocket of his hospital gown as the handle turned, narrowing his eyes towards the doorway.

His doctor entered with a clipboard, casually walking around Harold and up to the machines.  “How are you this morning?” the young physician asked.  Harold always noticed how chipper the doctor seemed, even on the worst days. “It’s worse today.” Harold replied. “That’s no good my friend, that’s no good at all.” Harold cringed at friend.  He didn’t like being in a hospital or having anything to do with the people that worked there.  To be a friend to a doctor means he belongs here, something Harold couldn’t believe to be true. “Your vitals are up, you seem better today.  Is there anything I can get you?” “A canvas.” Harold answered without hesitation. “You know I can’t get you that, is there anything else?” “No. No, there’s nothing else.” The doctor went to leave and Harold told him to close the door.

As the doctor exited, Harold’s hand had just stopped grasping his front pocket. He looked down and within his palm was a pool of purple liquid, so dark he could see his reflection in it.  His face withered by the years so much so he couldn’t recognize the ancient eyes peering back at him. He closed them in shock and opened them again to see his hand perfectly clean, the liquid had vanished. He breathed a sigh of relief, and rested his head back on the pillow closing his eyes again in hopes for dreamless sleep.

Harold was not so lucky. He dreamed of her.  She was the only woman he had ever loved. They were happily married but she had passed away a few years before in an accident and he never got to say goodbye.  When he could remember them, Harold’s dreams were often a reflection of that.  She was always there, but she could never hear him, see him or touch him. He would yell and scream for her but she would never look his way. She would look so lonely and afraid but he never saw her eyes. If it weren’t for the pictures he kept next to his bed he’d have trouble making out her face.  

The door opened and with it his eyes.  They made their routine of checking the room to finally reach the face of the nurse. His hand instinctively clutched his front pocket. She didn’t say a word, just dropped a plate of food on the wheeled table, slid out his fluid bags and replaced them with new ones, and glanced over at him. Harold somberly shook his head and she left his room.  Unlike the doctor, the nurse never had a happy disposition but Harold preferred it this way. He glanced at his food, they always made sure he ate most of it.  Today was salisbury steak. He removed his hand from its sheath, not looking at it this time and grabbed a fork.  He took a few bites and then slid the plate away, the food wasn’t bad but he could never find an appetite anymore. He groaned as he shifted away from it, out of sight out of mind. 

Harold knew he couldn’t find rest now.  He glanced up at the television hanging above him, the cords haphazardly dangling from the back of it like the entrails of a dead animal.  He had fancied turning it on before, hoping to melt his mind in its dull glow, but he’d never gotten the courage.  Much like the window, the television was a gateway for his imagination. When he was a young man he had no problem seperating fact from fiction but now just thinking about those days made him envious. The television was a constant reminder of the power of illusion, the grandeur of make believe, something Harold knew about all too well.  He’d asked the doctor to move it once before but the doctor was still young and didn’t understand.  Harold realized it would sound foolish and dropped the notion, it donned on him that if he was a young man he wouldn’t understand either.  So there the television hung in all its splendor just above his feet, taunting him incessantly.

There was only one truly safe place in the room for Harold’s eyes to wander anymore, the ceiling.  Not much ever changes up there and most days he found himself staring at it endlessly. It comforted him that there is at least one haven for his mind when he can’t stand the dreams. It was there that he finally felt safe enough to pull the delicate handkerchief from his front pocket and hold it directly in his palm. He brushed his fingers against the soft fabric, gently spreading the silk apart he grasped what it had hidden, a small piece of purple colored wax. 

Harold saw her again. This time she was staring right at him her eyes a soothing amethyst, her features as fine as the pictures he kept.  She walked right through him towards the door. He cried for her to stop, he begged as loud as he could but she did not hear him, she did not turn around. She opened the door and with it the air from the room ripped out, his lungs were emptied. He got up to follow her to try to grab her but his balance faltered and he collapsed to the floor. Harold looked up from the ground, his chest heaving against the floor he struggled to yell but couldn’t find the air. She walked into the street. He winced.

A violent explosion of red and blue shifting together erupted from her then. The colors that emerged from her form were hideously beautiful. Lilac, lavender, magenta, plum and orchid all collided as the cars struck her. She fell to the street in a violet onslaught. Tears ran down Harold’s face as he tried to scream for her but all he could do was watch and when he had enough, he closed his eyes in anger.  He heard nothing but the honking of car horns. There was nothing he could do for her, nothing anyone could do for her. The horns slowly became unison, almost in harmony and he was confused. They began to honk faster and he was forced to open his eyes once more.

Harold awoke in a cold sweat, his heart monitor beeping faster than usual.  His hand was sore and he looked down at it to see he’d clutched the crayon so hard in his sleep that it had drawn blood.  The crimson and purple mixed to make a dark violet smear in his hand. He took the napkin from his dinner plate and cleaned off the bit of wax, then returned it to its handkerchief in his front pocket.   Harold held his hand in a fist, clutching the napkin and then released it placing it with his dinner. His bed shifted, and with it his view, and he saw her again.

The picture he kept next to his hospital bed, she looked exactly like she had in the dream. Her piercing eyes staring right through him, Harold couldn’t stand it but still he couldn’t look away. He grabbed the frame and held it closer, his other hand moved back to the safety of his front pocket. He clutched the frame and pulled it to his chest where he held the crayon.  He looked down at his ragged fingers and began to weep. Through watered eyes, he glanced the television and then the open window, and Harold finally realized something.


He didn’t care about reality anymore…


Harold took the wax from his pocket uncovered it from its silk and grasped it in his ancient hand.  He took the photo away from his chest and eyed it one last time, then set it back down on its perch. He bent his knees off the side of the bed and sat up. The bed shifted with his weight and let out a groan with him. He didn’t take his eyes off the wax he clutched between his thumb and index finger. He heard the beeping of his monitor rising even faster as if to warn him, but he didn’t care all he could hear now was the whispers of the purple crayon.  He stood and his old bones shook and popped as he hobbled to the edge of his bed. The crayon was leading him as if it were a young child, pulling his hand towards the wall. “Finally a canvas.” Harold murmured in awe.

The crayon slid against the white hospital wall with such fluid percision that even Harold was amazed. His hands found their old positions as did his eyes, narrowed at the work in front of them. He felt like a child again, for the first time in a very long while he was unburdened and carefree. Harold wielded the crayon like a conductors baton, creating his very own symphony. He drew first her eyes, the piercing amethyst pupils and curled lashes. He drew her nose and mouth next careful to highlight her delicate features. He finished off her face and began to draw her ears and hair, long violet locks that lay unkempt on her forehead. He drew her neck and shoulders then arms and body, in a sitting position exactly how she had been in the portrait. He finished with her lips as the last of his crayon crumbled to dust within his hand. He collapsed to the floor with a smile as the beeping became louder and louder.




1 Response to “The last painting of Harold.”

  1. May 5, 2009 at 7:09 am

    I really enjoyed reading this story. Your wording is powerful and vivid, and I could see it all transpire almost like watching a movie – I especially liked the transitions you made, like the car honking turning into the monitor beeping. You gave my imagination all the directions needed to piece everything together – really well done. 🙂

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