The poet and the painter by Jonathan O'Brien

She stops to talk to him on Barrack Street. Dan’s hands are covered in sticky red paint. He stops and puts the brush down on the edge of the can.

‘I’m a poet,’ she says.

‘That’s nice,’ he says.

She has long dark hair and dark circles under her eyes. She keeps talking, mumbling about her poetry, about her husband, about Iceland, about short days and long nights.

‘I’ve been published you know. I’ve been reviewed in the Times. My husband Olaf, the filthy pig, took the house. Now I’m stuck in this god-forsaken place.’

Dan feels trapped. A prisoner of the path. He wants to tell her to fuck off, that he has work to do, but he can’t. She is a woman.

He has nowhere to hide out here on the path. He tries to continue painting the door but she keeps at him with her offloading, verbal attack. The paint is drying on the brush. The boss will flip when he gets back.

She smells of drink. Not beer now, but strong drink, whiskey maybe. Some spirit anyway. She wears a long purple skirt that drags the ground and the dirt with it. Everything about her disgusts him.

‘You’re young, you can’t understand,’ she tells him. There are tears in her eyes now. She leans in close and touches his shoulder. Her breath smells like the floor of a pub on a Sunday morning.

‘If I were young again, I’d do it all differently. Look at me now. I’m old. I’ve wasted my beautiful years. What have I to show? Here I am talking to a painter on the street. A tradesman. I’m a fucking poet.’

People are staring now. It’s a scene: The crazy poet and the painter. He can take no more.

‘Look.’ he says, ‘I have to go to the hardware to get some paint. See you now.’ He leaves the brush and paint on the ground outside the Red Dragon and walks uptown to the hardware.

He can breathe now. Dan kicks some yellow autumn leaves along the path. They remind him of a poem from school about leaves and a path in the woods but he can’t really remember it.

When he gets back from the hardware she is gone.

Jonathan O'Brien writes flash fiction, short stories and is currently working on a novella for young adults. He has been published in What Champagne was Like, the 2013 anthology of the Carlow Writer's Co-operative (see for more details). He has also been published as part of flash-fiction day 2013 here You can read more from Jonathan here

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