Twenty Paintings

William walked about the factory expressionless, glancing here and glancing there. Occasionally he’d stop for a moment in front of a painting hanging on a wall and stare. Albert would notice this and move close behind him, peering over his shoulder, waiting for a word. But William would just sigh and move on again, spinning a watch chain around his finger until it tightened and spun back outward, not saying a thing.

Finally William spoke, but only to Albert’s frustration.

“So this is where you’ve made your fortune, eh? What is it again you make here?”

Albert squinted at his friend, “An antiseptic... for infants... Say, William, enough about that. What about my collection?”

William, still spinning his watch, looked his old classmate in the eyes. He’d heard that Albert had become a stubborn and proud man since they’d been children, slow to forgive or forget. And knowing full well that Albert had put himself through medical school on earnings hard-fought-for in the boxing ring, he hesitantly said, “Would the word dilettante offend you?”

Albert flushed a little and pushed his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. “Only if it came from someone other than you, William. Teach me what I need to know.”

William responded without hesitation, “I’ll need to go to Paris...”

The twenty paintings that William Glackens returned to Philadelphia with at first produced no emotion in Albert. But the more and more he studied them and the more and more he read about them, a little spark began to burn.

When Albert Barnes rolled through a stop sign and was broadsided by a truck on July 24, 1951, his private collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Early Modern artwork was unparalleled.

Though historically priceless, the collection today is estimated to be worth thirty billion dollars.


Once Upon a Time

“...that’s how all the good ones begin.”

Jacob laughed, “Is that right? Then please, continue...”

“Once upon a time,” Henriette began again, and Jacob sat enthralled as she relayed a tale filled with wicked stepmothers and princes and magical beasts. She’d just finished with the accustomed “and they lived the rest of their days in peace” when the pharmacist returned from the back of the shop with a small bag.

“Here you are, Jacob, I hope my daughter hasn’t been trying your patience with her stories.”

“Quite the contrary, sir,” Jacob replied with a hint of excitement, “Where on earth does she learn all these tales?”

“This is the only pharmacy around. Every peasant with a hole in his pocket eventually finds his way in here, and as you can tell, little Henriette is anything but shy. Now be sure your mama gets this and I pray she gets back on her feet soon. Just... just pay me when you can, Jacob, I know you and your brother have a lot on your plate since your papa died.”

As Jacob departed, he swung the door open wide, revealing his brother Wilhelm waiting quietly outside. He glanced in at Henriette as the door began its arc and took a second longer look before it closed again.

“Sorry to take so long,” Jacob explained, “but the girl in there told me a most fabulous story...”

The orphans were to make success stories of their own lives and become well-known among their countrymen, as linguists and for the massive dictionary they produced. And before Jacob died on September 20, 1863, he paid the pharamacist his debt. Wilhelm, on the other hand, married young Henriette Wild, who grew to be the greatest source of what truly made the pair world-famous, as the Brothers Grimm.


Thanks for another "follow"

...to Richard, glad to have you here!


The Peacock Angel

The cloud on the horizon could have been mistaken for nothing more than an approaching squall. Jalil focused absently up on it as he chanted his morning hymns.

"How often two executioners came upon me as the morning sun arose. O poor man, stand up and bear witness...

The cloud grew wilder and Jalil could tell that indeed a storm was coming but not one that would bring rain. He hurried the last of his song.

“... unto the grave of time, and the Last Day."

Jalil ran barefooted through the little village of white-clay houses and up the rocky slope towards the shrine where the Sheik lived. He found him praying before an exquisite peacock engraved onto an ancient stone. Panting, he slowed when he saw him and approached with his head lowered.

The Sheik didn’t move, nor open his eyes, but spoke with softness in his voice that was natural to his position, “Why so excited, young man?”

“The invaders are here,” Jalil whispered.

The Sheik didn’t react. Jalil anxiously rocked back and forth on his heels, making several unsuccessful attempts at speaking. He arched his neck out the door towards the rising sun. The dust cloud was palpable now and he could hear the murmured voices of his villagers below.

“Why do you worry?”

Jalil jumped.

“We’ve weathered invaders for six thousand years; do you think that now that we live under the age of Melek Taus we will be forsaken? Go, welcome them...”

The 101st Airborne Division made its way west of Mosul on April 17, 2003, several weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom. One soldier could be heard yelling among the din of the transports, pointing out a lone figure approaching from the slope of a small hillside village, “Yazidis... them’s the devil-worshippers in these parts.”


Estropeado Español

Rarely do letters of recommendation carry the purpose of destiny that the two held by the young private did on September 26, 1575. Folded neatly into fours and bound with a thin silk strand, he kept them tucked into his doublet covering the two thimble-sized pink scars on his breast. His left hand, irreparably maimed, reached up and patted them reflexively every few minutes to make sure that they were still there. The few paragraphs of flourished script marked upon those papers, he knew, would determine the course of the rest of his life.

One was signed by Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the Duque de Sessa, and the second by none other than the hero of Lepanto, Don Juan de Austria. With them, King Philip of Spain would grant him the merced so necessary for his promotion to a Captaincy in the Spanish army. An illustrious past behind him, a long and likely distinguished career now lay before.

The letters were never to reach their destination. This fact however did not hinder their purpose; they were still indeed to alter the life of the holder, just not in the way that he had expected.

Only a few miles from the Spanish coast, the ship carrying the letter-bearer was surprised by a small fleet of Turks. Those few Christian soldiers who survived the short battle were bound to be galley-slaves for the remainder of their short tortured lives, lost to the memory of Europe forever. But when the royal letters of recommendation were found on one prisoner, the pirates knew they had a special prize worthy of a hefty ransom.

The letters not only spared his life, they set him on a new path. In the five years that Miguel de Cervantes spent as prisoner awaiting ransom, he began to write.


And Thanks Yet Again X 3...

...to the several new "followers" here, megds, lana, and "anonymous." There's been more welcomes recently than stories - shall be remedied soon!


Welcome Alana :)

...from A Big Bowl of Life, thanks for "following." On a little vacation right now, will be back writing next weekend!


Welcome to Jan!

Happy New Year and thanks for following!!!