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We got a literary meme, and a fact with the short story today.
This one is about a famous artist dealing with an enemy during war.
This piece is purely fiction, so please read it as such.
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The largest book ever published in a conventional manner is a Brazilian copy of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (who also happens to be a pioneer of the aviation world).
The Painting Of Peace and Destruction – Short Story
A renowned artist, a man of many disciplines of the craft, looked outside of his studio at the world that is nothing more than a battlefield. The plazas that were once filled with poets speaking of rhymes and artists drawing of the town’s life are gone. No more are families in the city roaming around enjoying the shops with their deals and various items on sale, enjoying their days in each other’s company as much as anything that the stores can give them. Peace was no more here. It left. It went with the last of the citizens. Now all that roam are soldiers ready to take whatever they can from whoever gets in their way. These machine men are not even of this nation either, but of a foreign one that has been bent on world domination for the past few years. And the scary thing is, they may be close.
Alone in an art studio, we find the middle-aged artist sitting in the chair in the corner. He knew that his home would be ransacked soon. It was only a matter of time.
He spoke to his paintings, the only living things left in the town beside himself. “When they come, they will destroy all of my work, all of my art. What monsters see the enemies as less than themselves? It is as if I am nothing more than cattle to these people. For when they come knocking down that door, I will be left to surrender, and all of this.” He looked around at his small art studio, with its sketches, paper, and brushes. “They will destroy all that I make. They can destroy me and the art that I have, but can they destroy what some wish this world to be?” Bombs went on outside of the room.
“I draw for peace, but they fight for destruction. Art shall always live on. No pen is needed for the poet to live. No paper is needed for the artist to draw. No piano is needed for a musician to play. For the art is inside.” He said to the empty room and filled canvas. “Men try to conquer the world, but no man can ever conquer art. It belongs to all men.”
He heard footsteps outside of his door. They were here. He knew this was it. His life and art would die here.
“Every room! Every room is to be searched!” He heard a voice holler.
He sat waiting for his enemies, those of the world without art and knew they would knock down the door at any minute. Would he run? Would he hide like he heard some do? No, for when you see evil, you do not hide from it, but confront it and say that you are not afraid of the evil or darkness before you. No matter how much that the fear is there, you cannot allow the fear of evil to creep into your heart.
That is why the painter sat in his chair in the corner of his empty yet full room. He wanted his enemies to know that he was not afraid of them and their ability for catastrophe. He can’t defend himself. He has no guns, but he also has no fear of them.
“Every room!” He heard called out.
His end will come, and for a moment, he wondered what would become of his body when they killed him. Surely these monsters would not give him a chance to live, and they may burn his works. Will they even give his art life to live in them? For a moment, he worried that perhaps he was wrong in all of this.
What if they do win? What if the bad guy actually comes out on top? I am assuming that somehow, my side that shared my views will come out on top. What if that doesn’t happen? There is a distinct possibility that I have picked the losing side in this conflict.
Then the shouting stopped, and the artist remained sitting, hearing nothing but the pounding of his heart. Sure, he can try not to be afraid; in his mind, he is as tough as ever and ready for all they throw at him, but his heart, the core of his physical body, was pounding faster than ever, for he knew these were his last breaths and last moments of life.
They would intrude on his studio at any minute. All he could hope for was that they would shoot him right away, for he would never allow them to take him, prisoner. He heard rumors that this enemy is so cruel to their captives that many are afraid of them not for their firepower but for the torture they will give any who oppose them. Their fear is as powerful as any weapon they hold.
Yet no slamming came at his door. No one burst into his room. He remained alone in his full art studio.
Had they not found him? Did they somehow miss his studio? Was he really going to be free in this warzone he found himself in? Was there some confusion in the lines? Is his studio somehow being blocked from the enemy’s vantage point? Is there a force he doesn’t know that is fighting the enemy? What was actually going on since they should have knocked down his door by now?
For a brief moment, the artist sat confused on what was happening, for if these enemies were as thorough as rumored, they would have found him out and quite possibly have killed him on the spot. He knows of a few that have met a horrific fate.
Then a Nazi solder, no older than a recruit, with no dirt on his uniform and a helmet too small for his head, slowly opened the door to the room of the painter, who remained silent as the man approached.
The soldier spoke up, in a high-pitched nervous tone, “Hello, civilian.” He cleared his throat as to sound more formal. “Hello, civilian. We, the soldiers of the Fuhrer, are doing checks on any in the buildings on this block. This is a war zone now, soon to be the property of the Third Reich, the Fuhrer, and all that is Germany.” He didn’t look directly at the artist whose nerves resided a little when he saw the age of the kid. This was not a soldier he dealt with, not a seasoned veteran, not a man of culture, but a boy with as much experience goofing around with his friends and drinking as he does holding a gun and standing in formation. The youth continued more nervous than the artist whose property he broke into. “You, civilian, are at the risk of being under attack by the barrage of gun powder and other weapons that are to be made in this area soon.”
The artist said nothing of the irony he had witnessed. His creative life was under attack when this Germanic nation rose and used fear to force capture most of Europe. He can’t risk being under attack when he is already under attack.
Neither spoke to the other. And after a few moments of standing completely still, the naïve soldier broke form and walked around the room of paintbrushes and sketches when he stopped at the largest painting in the room, intrigued by its large size that filled the entire wall, and the black and white coloring that gave it a dire, yet realistic tone.
“Who made this?” The young soldier asked the man.
“You did.” The artist said sternly to the soldier, still not looking right at him.
“No way.” The aloof infantryman walked up closer to the painting. “I feel like I would remember painting this.” The newly formed soldier of the Blitzkrieg stared at the painting, trying to recall a time when he would have painted the masterpiece. When in all his training did he ever learn to paint? “This is pretty good, eh?” He motioned at the artist who sat there angry for the intrusion of evil into his home and for the man’s lack of awareness of his art. “I actually remember making this.” The soldier pointed at the painting as he spoke. “See, these eyes are looking at these eyes, and then there are these eyes that are staring at you. The whole thing is about eyes looking at each other from different angles. That is why I made this, to talk about eyes. Cause when you think about it, what are you without your eyes? Nothing really.”
The artist said nothing as he hid the true meaning behind his painting.
The soldier’s superior, a man of much older age, entered the room. You could tell that this man was older in his composure and his general way about him. He knew of the strategy and horrors of war. He knew of the grimness of death. The war had become a part of him. He had killed many men in this conflict, the first being his former self, that once knew of art and culture instead of ammunition and machine guns. “What are you doing? We are expected back to base.”
“Hey, look at this. I made this painting.” The younger soldier stood right in front of it.
The older soldier had gone to school for art before the Nazi regime took over his life, and he knew of the significance of the artist and the art, and most importantly, that his bonehead comrade didn’t have anything to do with its production. “That’s a Picasso, you jackass.”
“But this guy said I made it.”
“It is an anti-war masterpiece. You and me are soldiers fighting a war. That is what he meant.”
The artist stayed silent, bitter that the two have not left his house yet, but also worried that they would take him captive after their back and forth.
“Oh…. Right… I knew that.” The uninformed soldier headed for the door. “Hey, but doesn’t that mean that this guy is Picasso? Doesn’t the Fuhrer want him dead?”
The superior soldier knew of the man’s identity, and before evil took over his country, he respected the artist. Before the famine, before the war, it was Picasso that he wanted to be. But not anymore, for his life is now with the army. Never does he utter his past fascination with art to any of his fellow soldiers, for that will get him in trouble. He was on assignment to pick up all his soldiers, doing a check on the area, and head to the base. The location of Picasso was still unknown to the leaders.
I can’t tell you how he kept that artistic part in him, if he even kept it at all, after all the training, all the war, and all the death. How does anyone keep sane when they live among insanity? How can you keep a part of your identity that you know not of? If enough time goes by, do you not lose that essential part of you since you never use it? I thought that you forget words of a foreign language if you don’t repeat them on a consistent basis. I could be wrong here. Regardless this soldier, kept his fire for creativity in him, even though he lived in a dark, gloomy world, where originality was seen as taboo. He kept it enough to still be able to identify the artist, at least.
“No. This man is not Picasso.”
“But you said….”
“Are you arguing with me, major?”
“Good. Now head out.”
The two men of different worlds were left in the room together. One room, two men, and two different ways of their life. Picasso, in his plain bare clothes, with nothing more than his paintbrush and mind to speak of the actions around him. The Nazi soldier, with his stylish uniform, and a man that has become a cog in a machine bent on world domination, no matter how brutal or harsh it may be. One man represented creativity and hope for what art could be. The other was a harsh reality of where the efforts have gone in this world; to firepower and young men’s boots. One expresses himself is through the peaceful stroke of a brush. The other follows an order by the march of their feet and the reloading of their gun.
“Mister, I advise you or anyone you know that is in close contact with this Picasso man to leave this quarter as soon as possible for military involvement is to happen soon.” He leaned in closer to the artist and whispered, “There is a caravan of people a few blocks away from him. Midnight at the north tower, a man named Germel will lead them for America; if you still wish to see the end of this war, go there.”
“America?” Picasso said aloud.
“What about America?” The soldier stood up firmly and addressed the artist. “The North American country is the land of supposed freedom, but we all know that it is full of sub-humans and capitalists. A lifestyle that the Third Reich will not stand for from their allies, their enemies, or the world.”
Picasso understood what he was to do. The soldier started to leave and took a second to see the Guernica that his peer has mistakenly thought was his own. He had heard of the piece before, and he couldn’t imagine ever seeing the masterpiece in real life. The artist, seeing that the soldier preoccupied, spoke up, “I drew this painting for you.”
He put his head down. “I know. I’m sorry we didn’t listen.”
“Don’t be sorry to me. Be sorry to those you never warned.”
Picasso left for America later that night and continued to make works of a genius that still inspires those around the globe. His art is a reminder of what human ingenuity and greatness can give so many of us. The older Nazi soldier died later that week while in battle, and according to his eulogy written by the Nazi army, he died for the greatness of the Fuhrer and the regime. No mention of the art studio was ever discussed by any.
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Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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