The Painting: A Short Story.

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

He seemed to recall that the shop had an unsavoury past, something to do with the death of not one but two owners in a short space of time.


Written in March 2020, at the height of COVID 19, when I was recovering from the virus. This tale of optimism after a chance meeting is still my favourite, and is almost coming true.

In three parts.

Part One

The high street had transformed since the discovery of not one but three vaccines, banishing the evil virus into history. Just as well too, thought Lachlan as he dodged through the throng of shoppers crowding the narrow pavements of his small seaside town. The country and possibly the world had been on the verge of financial collapse when the second wave hit six months after the first case.

That was then, this was now. No more social distancing, none of those horrible, garish face masks and thankfully no restrictions on travel. Lachlan was desperate to get away from this place and continue his cultural exploration of the world. As he negotiated the crowded thoroughfare, he passed one shop which was conspicuous by its lack of patronage. It was the old toy shop that had stood empty for a couple years even before the virus struck, closing many of its neighbours so that the street once resembled a scene from an old western movie.

He seemed to recall that the shop had an unsavoury past, something to do with the death of not one but two owners in a short space of time. Since then it had remained empty, a silent memorial to the two tragic incidents. The windows had been covered with large strips of white lining-paper. Posters had been pasted to and removed from the outside advertising such delights as the local slimming club and at least three visits by the annual circus. Dirty grey strips of horizontal and vertical paper the remnants of previous flyers, decorated the glass like grim abstract art.

Today, however, the outside of the glass was shining, pristine having been carefully cleaned and polished. The privacy had been maintained, though, not by the wallpaper, but by carefully placed pages from a newspaper, stuck to the inside of the glass. There wasn’t a single gap in the arrangement and not one page overlapped. What caught Lachlan’s attention was the text that appeared on the paper.

It was beautiful; swirling letters, lines and dots covered the pages interspersed with photographs. The pictures showed images of immaculately dressed men with dusky skin, thick dark hair and exotically dressed women with piercing brown eyes. In several places he noticed the familiar red, white and black of the Egyptian flag with its golden eagle of Saladin.

Lachlan was obsessed with the language and culture of the region, so much so that he had planned a trip there before the dreaded virus had curtailed all of that. Instead, he had thrown himself into learning the language, both online and with his many friends from places like Tunisia, Lebanon and, of course, Egypt. He longed to walk the streets of Cairo, Tunis and Beirut and drink strong coffee with his friends. There was a desperation about him to converse face to face in his newly discovered tongue.

As he stared in awe at the neatly arranged pages, picking out words and even sentences, the door of the shop opened and a short, stocky man stepped out into the street, sporting a thick black moustache. Instinctively, Lachlan turned to the man, bowed his head slightly and said “Salam Alaikum.”

A huge beaming smile appeared on the leathery features of the man and he immediately replied with, “Wa Alaykum as-salam,” grabbing Lachlan’s hand from by his side, and shaking it enthusiastically.

“Good morning sir, your Arabic is very good. I am from Cairo, have you been to Egypt?” the man seamlessly reverted to English while vigorously tugging on Lachlan’s hand like an old fashioned water pump. Lachlan’s voice vibrated as his whole body shook with the man’s vigour.

“No, I’m afraid I have only been to Hammamet in Tunisia on holiday, hardly a cultural enlightenment.”

“Ah Tunisia, a beautiful little country with a big heart, the Arab spring started there you know,” he enthused, finally giving Lachlan’s arm a rest. “Unfortunately, it ended in my country. My name is Masuda, I am pleased to make your acquaintance, err.” The man hesitated waiting for a response.

1 Comment

  1. kenchildse3dc1bd91f

    Is this new. I’m pretty sure I have read something similar before but without the references to Covid Lockdown?


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