Sueanne Pacheco | Calm Within The Storm
Sueanne Pacheco is the author of Mrs. Langlois' House. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario. She finds herself inspired by the time she spends with her family and friends, and by her observations of the experiences of women
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Calm Within The Storm

Calm Within The Storm

Flash fiction


Gnashing wind. Silence. Rain pounds the roof of the art supply store. I stand in the aisle alarmed the roof may come down on my head. I lean over to place paint brushes into my shopping cart and hesitate as lights flicker, goes out then comes back on again. The chitter chatter of other shoppers stops cold. The store lights flicker once again. Then all goes dark. Frazzled voices travel about the aisles.  I push my cart to the front of the store. I peek out the window to see wraths of water punch anything in its path. Wind pulverizes trees and poles. I envision my rusted, work horse sedan car sucked up into the dark ominous sky.

I feel an uncanny stir within me. Calm within storm. I bend my head left, right, front and back. I stare at the blank canvas. After a deep breath, I look down at my paint collage of many faces. Who will my palette paint today? The dry paint layers so thick I have grown tiresome of the spectacle of my own theatre. Yet, I paint. I know nothing else. Paint, I tell myself. I swiftly take small tubes – one by one – blob blue, green, violet, yellow, burnt ochre, white haphazard onto the gesso canvas that leans precarious on the easel. I take a large paint brush and smear the oil colours all around. I let my hand take over with swirls, circles, dabs feeling the calm ever so slowly move towards a feeling I’m afraid to feel. Art is truth in vivid chaos of what my mind thinks is real but is unreal. I drop the large paint brush into a glass jar of water and grab a medium size brush. I keep pushing the paint. Straight, curved, angles.

What is it you want me to know?  I feel the pressure building in my chest – the void. Always comes from the void. I have a love hate with this void. It speaks. Then goes quiet for days. It wants to speak today. I know because the feeling drums loud in my chest. I know because I’m not painting. The void is painting.  My hand keeps moving. After an hour, I turn my back to the canvas. I observe my hand covered in paint. I drop the brush into the jar of water. I roll my shoulders and stretch my back. This is the interminable part the void relishes. The slow drum gong to one’s exaltation or exasperation.  I escape from the corner of my living room in my one thousand square foot condo (pseudo art studio) to piss.

I rub my aching knees as I sit on the toilet. My business done; I wash the paint grime from my hands. The water runs murky brown down the sink hole. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror. Do I truly need to see what I look like every day?

I leave the bathroom. I charge towards my pseudo art studio and pull up short. I pace back and forth in my tiny hallway.

I suck it up and stand in front of the canvas. I stare. A caged soul dies when it’s unable to be true to itself. This is what the void paints today. The abstract image glares back, almost screams at me a transparent yellow budgie perched behind bars. “I am kind. I am funny. I am generous.”

This is enough, isn’t it?

I hold a paint brush. Remember when I said interminable, well, my eardrums drum loud.

“Fix the sharp line. There’s isn’t any depth. It meanders.”

The abstract does not lie. I’m a budgie. I’m bait meat eaten up by deceit of this world.

“It’s a cage.” I bark at the canvas.

I grab a tube and squirt black paint all over the void’s painting. I feel it’s devastation. I’m ashamed of myself.

I feel a soft tap on my shoulder. I turn to the familiar forty-something store clerk. Her name badge says ‘Rose’.  She sees my teary eyes. She smiles with compassion at me.

“Are you afraid of storms?”

“Not as a kid. Now I am. Strange, huh?” I reply.

“That’s quite a bit of paint supplies you got there.”

“Yeah. I made a mess earlier.”

“What happened?”

“I painted for the first time in five years. Not sure why. I needed to paint.”

“That’s amazing,” replies Rose. “Why did you stop?”

“I worked at this company. I designed concepts for their brand. The manager took the credit for my ideas. Didn’t acknowledge me. Gave me bad reviews. Questioned everything I did. Blood, stress and sweat. After a while, I started to doubt my ability.”

“What did you do?” pressed Rose.

“I left.” I shake my head. “Crazy thing. She got fired a month later. I drifted in and out of jobs. Lost my motivation. Didn’t see the point in anything.” I pause. “Out of the blue, I let my void paint.” I point to my chest. “I let it express what I’m unable to say in words.”

“What did you paint?”

“Abstract bird in a cage.”

“Send us a picture. We love our customers artwork.” Rose beams.

“I can’t.” I rub my watery eyes. “I squirted paint and punched a hole through the canvas.”

“You know. The greatest challenges give you strength to grow,” she responds.

Odd, I let her take my cold hand. I feel her warmth as she gives it a soft, reassuring squeeze.

“Storms over, now. You paint for you. Got it.” Rose nods and releases my hand.

I watch her walk away to the next aisle.

I turn and glance out the window. The sky is translucent blue.

I look at the checkout desk.  The bored cashier calls me forward. I place my art supplies on the counter.

“Um. Can I leave a note for Rose?”

“No one named Rose works here,” replies the cashier.


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