THE PAINTING
By Scott Warner


In the 1918, she married a merchant marine sailor and quickly gave birth to two daughters. Their income was meager and they lived in a ramshackle house on an unpaved dirt road. Then the stock market crashed and the Depression began. Her husband became an abusive drunk, so she threw him out. She was left to support the family but was lucky enough to land a good job with the Navy Department. Every Friday night after work, she and her two daughters made the long exhausting drive up Route 40 to her hometown of Pittsburgh to visit with her family. Somehow she managed to weather these hardships . . . because it was necessary.

But that was the past. By the mid-Fifties, she had remarried and moved into a new house next door to her former residence. Her daughters were grown with families of their own. Like most grandmothers, she loved babysitting the grandchildren. The older ones napped on a daybed in the spare room but the youngest were laid down to rest on her own bed. A curious painting hung on the sky blue wall facing the bed. The blue and white painting portrayed a recumbent raven-haired ballerina dressed in a white leotard and tutu. The figure was facing to the left and her left knee was bent under her while her right leg was fully extended, her arms draped over the shin. Her head was bowed very low, touching the right knee and she wore a white feathery tiara. Her black hair created a void in the white form while a swan coiled its serpentine neck behind her.

The very youngest of the grandchildren was perplexed by the painting, he couldn?t understand why anyone would hang such a strange picture on the wall. Why had such a pretty ballerina been beheaded and for goodness sakes, why was that silly goose trying to stick its beak down the hole where her neck had been? During a Thanksgiving Day feast at her home ten years later, he happened to wander into her bedroom and finally ascertained the answer. He was abashed to realize that he had misinterpreted the painting. Now it hangs on his bedroom wall, a reminder of her lifelong devotion.


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