Canvas, Excavate, Term

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Stretched out before him was a blank canvas. Lemuel dipped his fishbone quill, into the inkwell fashioned to look like an octopus fanning out its legs, its bulbous head removed and shaped into a bowl. He hovered the pen over the paper, thinking hard of what he should daub. Looking over at the rest of his shiplings who were already daubing the familiar shapes of fish, boats, mermaids and lemons. He looked back down at his canvas and found that ink had dropped in a small crown on the page.

The instructor came by and shook her head. “Lemuel, you must look around you and put down to the canvas what you see. Remember, we are what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Don’t think so hard, it needn’t come from within you.”

Half paying attention, Lemuel dipped the quill again, this time down to the fingertips holding onto the bone. More drips appeared all over the canvas. He whipped his hand away, sending a line of paint streaking down one side of the canvas. The sight of it excited him. The line curved upwards to a point, reminding him of the crest of a wave. He looked over at the instructor, smiling and nodding at the illustration of fish and boats.

Lemuel dipped his pen again, this time intentionally getting his fingers and half the pen dripping in ink. He whipped his hand in the opposite direction, sending lines and splatters down the right side of the canvas. Something inside him was waking up, something that had been buried deep below everything he was told but something that he felt was right and true to the patterns of ink appearing before him.

Again, he dipped the ink and again he whipped his hand over the canvas until before him was the rough shape of a choppy sea. The dots, he thought reminded him of the spray that splashed off the crest of two waves coming together or from the bow of a ship crashing through the water.

He hadn’t noticed that his fellow shiplings had ceased their daubing and began huddling around him, watching him furiously swish and splash paint onto the canvas. Lemuel felt as if he were the very creator, whipping up the ocean and providing it with movement, light and life. These lines did not resemble anything created by daubers before him, but he wasn’t thinking of that. Right now, he was only following something inside him that told him this was right and true.

“Lemuel!” shouted the instructor. “What are you doing?”

Lemuel was shaken out of his daze. He looked up to see all of his peers staring. Some snickered, some looked horrified and the instructor stomped over yanking the canvas from table.

“These are not the lines of a lemonmouth. This is blasphemy. Perhaps you do not know what you have done but in creating such chaos you have also created an imbalance in the sea. This does not bode well. I will show your grandfather.”

The instructor rolled up the canvas, smearing the wet paint and ruining what Lemuel had thought was something he had never seen before. His excitement turned to disappointment and quickly into fear. His hand was covered in ink and his pantaloons had black splatters. Then he looked at the table, it was covered in wild lines turbulent drops, resembling the waves he was creating on his canvas.

Lemuel couldn’t quite put into words what he had felt while painting but he knew that he needed to feel it again.

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