Magnolia Smile

The following is a prompt challenge presented to me by the uber talented Karen Craven over at Table for One.  (Click here for Karen’s challenge post.) The word for this prompt is magnolia, and there is no word count. I’m not sure if Frank from A Frank Angle will take part in this one, seeing as how it’s a single word and he seems to prefer bigger challenges. I do know that Dale from A Dalectable Life will be taking part, so stay tuned for that. 

Magnolia Smile 

Her laugh was an unrelenting sugar rush.

It shook him to his bones, it thieved away his darkest moments. It was her spirit that lit his fuse, that thrilled him to a time when the world seemed an everlasting fairy tale. He ruminated on the melody that happened every time she walked in a room.

It was in that magnolia smile where he would find his masterpiece.

His art had become the abject destination of curious trawlers and time travelers whose interest in the arts was little more than a promiscuous undertaking. The epicurean bachelors about town reeled in his artwork as if a prized marlin.  Trust fund kids dug his pieces just fine, because they’d been grandfathered into high art by boomer parents who relegated passion to their investment portfolios. The theater crowd loved his magnum sized expressions, if only for the conversations they engendered. The outer boroughs feasted on his works in a vain attempt to appear more cultured and less like dilettante impostors.

His compromised relevance was the proverbial bitter pill; to be swallowed for its financial properties but whose lasting effects were a scowling impropriety to the very soul of a true artist. His soul.

His road had been paved with suffering and loss, until one day in the middle of being strangled into obscurity, he was discovered. And it was the result of a piece he’d had little use for. A nude portrait of a woman dining at an outdoor cafe on the Champs-Elysees. His medium had been oil, his time spent meager and his feelings for the work very much acrimonious. It was a fortnight’s worth of painting and drinking and fucking his model- a bored housewife waiting for Godot out in the suburbs. It had been met with a collective shrug upon its opening. His fates were rewritten weeks later when this particular piece caught the eye of a world famous director who gobbled it up, after which he commissioned several more pieces from the artist.

His would become the overnight success story for the requisite fifteen minutes of that famed Warhol premonition. After which he retired to a secluded universe of pain pills, bourbon and the occasional interview with Charlie Rose or a big deal blogger.

He saw himself as a character out of a Horatio Alger novel. He’d lived most of his live like a modern day Van Gogh and gotten drunk on the excesses of fame before fixing on a plateau that would provide him with a comfortable afterglow. His life would become planted to this existence, as if a star in the deepest recesses of the universe; content with having shined for a moment. And then she came along and changed the rules.

They met in a book store and from there it was as if the sun spoke to them in marvelous riddles and the moon in fabulous rhyme. And to this ethereal consequence of a chance meeting, they forged a unified spirit whose ferocity was a religion; whose hopes watered the fertile soil and whose wishes grew them in abundance.

Their romance would never be defined by marriage talk; they were not political animals of all that cliched hubris and its endless paperwork. They would live together as two planets aligned inside their own orbit. With no children to call their own, with no place to call their home, they would abide by a manifest of dreamers . . and they would simply roam.

And then one day in the middle of a deep and not insignificant conversation about Kurt Vonnegut, she told him to paint her. When she suggested such a thing, he fell into the kind of deep and endless love he’d only dreamed about in his previous life. It was an exquisitely painful emotion, love. It was compelling and severe, all encompassing and completely unfair. And to all of this, he was able to tap into its mercurial qualities.

He painted like a fiend preparing for one final heist, for days on end with with little sleep and copious amounts of Prosecco. It was her favorite, and so it would become his lifeblood . . his sugar water reasoning in a world whose soul had collapsed into a Bosch like inferno.

His brushstrokes were pain staking trespasses whose flow was constantly interrupted by the most brilliant awakening of his life. Her long, flowing brunette locks ran scoundrel inside the most lurid parts of his imagination. Her dimples made him feel like a shy little schoolboy. Her cranberry lips and ivory legs were a provocative rapture that made him grateful to be a man. Her hips were borne out of a rock and roll lullaby by Bowie. Her voice was opera on a summer night. Her words, every single one of them, was full of purpose and might. It was in her being that he understood the proverbs. It was in her soul that he understood the rest.

And to this love, never ending, he would paint . . maniacally so. And this would be his final work, because it had to be. Because he had nothing left of himself to give, but this. It was his gift to her, from the here and now to the spindles of that mysterious forever. He would never pick up a paint brush again because to do so would be to give his heart to something other than the one thing that made him true.

Her magnolia smile.


46 thoughts on “Magnolia Smile

  1. You had me laughing at the pre-start intro – yep – this isn’t my type of challenge. Too hard for me!

    I like the way you used magnolia was bookends to the story. The line with Charlie Rose made me laugh. Meanwhile, he (the painter) was obviously taken by this woman – and the final nude painting would his pinnacle with the brush and with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cincy,

      First of all . . . how about them Yankees! I was thrilled that they took two of three from their nemesis, the Astros. While this means little to nothing as far as October is concerned, at least the Yanks might gain some confidence from this.

      As for the post, yes . . you’re not interested in the long game. You are the Usain Bolt of prompt challenges.

      Charlie Rose, haha! Yep . . I’ve been introduced to many an interesting personality that I might not otherwise have ever learned of if not for that show.

      The artist is putting it all out there in one last flourish. The way he sees it, there is nothing more for him to paint after this. If it is not well received, his work would suffer as a result of his bitterness. Since he believes this to be his finest work. And if the art community loves it, he’s got himself the ultimate walk off.

      I wrote this after posing the question to myself, do those who create ever just stop?

      Liked by 2 people

      • oh yes … your Yanks took it to the Astros. Did you see the Astros pitcher punch himself in the face?

        I like your question that served as the foundation of this post. That could be one of the reasons why some bloggers stop. That’s where I see focusing on a wide variety of non-fiction keeps my version of creativity going. As for your artist, I can see how he and others would quit after achieving the ultimate.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I saw it. And I loved it. Much.
          The foundation for this post was all about that. And yes, perhaps that’s why most people who create anything stop. And it’s too bad, really.
          But for love. That may just change everything. It’s why we marvel at the cosmos, I’m guessing.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Marco,

    This made me smile and smile again. As an artist myself, this story gave me chills of delight right down to my toes. I’ve been told by a friend that you have a way with words and she doesn’t lie. There aren’t enough adjectives to tell you how much I love this.



    Liked by 3 people

  3. B,

    I’m struggling to leave you a comment because this post is so bloody brilliant. Again.

    I cannot help but wonder how many artists – successful ones during their lifetimes – feel the way your guy does. That their art is basically meaningless to them once it becomes “famous”. That they feel the wrong people enjoy it for the wrong reasons. And yet, isn’t that what art is? Artists are a funny sort, anyway…

    I love that a woman appears in his life and changes his whole raison d’être. Love can do that, can’t it? Would she really be the reason he did one last painting?

    Peace, Van Gogh, tortured artists,


    Liked by 1 person

    • Q,

      Your struggle is always so lovely!
      I think there is such a fine line for many artists, and I use a WIDE net in using that term because I mean to say writers, musicians . . anyone who creates.
      There is a part of us that simply wants to create. Turning our imaginations into a three dimensional evidence of the infinite possibilities. It’s heavy stuff, and I think that critiques and even sometimes acclaim does not matter as much as the work does. It’s a relationship. Its like that old saying, what is the use of gaining the whole world if I lose my soul in the doing. Call it corny, cliched, but seeing how this is a relationship, it really can get that personal.
      And that “final work” thing? It was borne of a question I had. Would someone who creates ever really just stop? And if so, why? What would be the impetus for such a thing?
      Love, the kind he has experienced, THAT was his masterpiece. Because he never believed he would find it.

      Peace and the lessons you always seem to impart on me, so wonderfully

      Liked by 2 people

      • B,

        I think it is too. I have an artist friend who is very successful. She doesn’t seem to have any of that angst. And she changes her style regularly so she keeps herself motivated all the while. I say kudos to her for being able to.

        I truly believe it depends on the nature of the creator (yes, I agree, artist of every genre). Though, I would think that most writers would like their words read (acknowledging some don’t really care).

        Think of various writers who wrote that one book and either never succeeded in writing another or just didn’t want to…

        And how lucky for him to have found it.

        You mean, peace and the lessons YOU always seem to impart upon me…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved this Marc. Your description of his love interest was the stuff of genius. (Well I’ve always thought of you in that term.) Well done. My cynical side says someone will buy the painting and he will be off again in another round of self-importance.)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well I am sorry I am so late to the party. I love the question you asked yourself. What would make you stop? What would complete you? Love and the ultimate expression = bliss. The presence of mind to make that decision is something we call crave, to want no more. I loved every moment. Thank you for using a flower to communicate joy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • KC,

      Welcome! There is no early or late around here. Everything and everyone is delivered right on time. I know . . it sounds SO Zen like, but it happens to be the vibe around here.
      As for the question, yes. Creating something, anything, is a bit of a compulsion. How might such a thing be stanched? And why? And would he ever really stop creating? If only on a personal level, it seems unlikely.
      But to find something that stirs you equally if not even more so, that IS bliss.

      Thank you for the how do! Hope you are well.


      Liked by 1 person

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