The Painting: Part Two.

by | Jul 6, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

All that had been painted of the girl was the side of her face, a hint of her jet-black hair, and a tiny taste of ruby red lip.

Lachlan gathered his composure with a shake of the head and re-took the man’s hand in both of his own. “Lachlan, pleased to meet you sir,” he said, shaking his hand warmly before letting go.

“Would you like coffee? I am about to put some on the hob, ” Masuda enquired politely.

Instantly the vision of thick black liquid boiling in a tiny pan appeared in Lachlan’s head and he accepted the invitation without hesitation. Before long the two strangers were deep in conversation. Masuda explained that he had moved to the UK, after Al-Sisi had gained control, and brought his wife and in-laws with him. He was an accomplished artist in Cairo with a successful shop and frequent exhibitions. However, his political and cultural views differed to that of the diminutive former General. The inside of the shop had been turned into a gallery and studio.

Lachlan noticed that the old shop window contained a large canvas on an easel with an accompanying stool and a table covered with tubes of paint and brushes. Masuda, aware of his new friend’s interest in the window, set about explaining his plan.

“I bought this shop for a song, no one seemed interested,” he continued, obviously ignorant of the shop’s chequered past, “I have no outside space here so I am making the window my showcase. I shall sit there and paint just like I did in the old country. In Cairo, people used to gather around and watch, at the same time looking at my other creations. It was a very successful marketing ploy.” Masuda explained to Lachlan who was riveted by the old Egyptian’s recollection of his past life, “sadly, my mother in law and wife succumbed to the virus and my father in law died of a broken heart on losing his wife and daughter, so now I am alone,” he continued with a far away look in his dark intelligent eyes. “I had already bought the shop with the last of my savings so decided to carry on”. He added, shaking himself out of his morose state.

“I am very sorry for your loss. May their souls rest in peace,” Lachlan said reverently. Turning to the canvas he questioned the old man. “What are you painting?” then leaned into the recess of the window to inspect the canvass. With a wave of his arms the old man ushered Lachlan into the space behind the easel. The sight that met his eyes was spectacular. The artist had completed a scene around Tahrir Square with the imposing Mogamma Building in the background and the statue of Umar Makram on its red plinth. What grabbed his attention though, was the space in the middle of the canvass. This was obviously reserved for the head and shoulders of a portrait. Masuda detected the gaze of the other man and noticed his slight puzzled look at the gap in the centre of the painting.

“My neighbour’s daughter, ” he said in a low melancholic sigh, “the most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on.” With that he drew a large brightly coloured handkerchief from the pocket of his paint-splattered dungarees and blew his nose with a loud trumpeting sound. All that had been painted of the girl was the side of her face, a hint of her jet-black hair, and a tiny taste of ruby red lip. She wore a black round necked sweater into which the lines of her graceful neck flowed.

Lachlan was in love instantly. As if by magic, he had already seen what no one else could yet see. Taking a sip of the bitter, black liquid, he savoured the tingling sensation it left on his tongue and throat. Closing his eyes, the vision came to him like it had so many times before.

“What will you do when she is finished?” he enquired, shaking himself from the trance the painting had placed him in.

“I shall sell it to the highest bidder, they will come from far and wide but not until she is complete. You have heard the expression ‘The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships’? Well, she has the eyes that would sink those vessels with one look,” Masuda enthused, his chest puffed out with pride.

“It certainly is a beautiful piece of art,” the young Scotsman was compelled to agree, “may I watch you complete it?” He added, trying not to sound pushy.

“Of course. my friend. You and the whole town for I plan to open on Monday and I shall be sitting where you are, summoning my beauty,” the old man boasted slapping his friend on the back. Their intimacy was palpable for such relative strangers. Looking at his watch, Lachlan realised that he was thirty minutes late for work.


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