Inheritance

by D.K. Jones

 

          She had been full of stories, once upon a time. Each one a fresh drop of paint on a generational canvas, adding, defining, creating a legacy.

          Now in the twilight of her life, those stories dwindle. Every day her palette shrinks, she has fewer colors to choose from, and the brush shakes in her hand. She smears the paint across the canvas in fierce splashes and exhausted strokes, muddying the hues together, puncturing and ripping the fabric, obscuring what was once clear.

          This is her art. This is her story. This is your history in compliments and contrasts, in oils and pigment, in your hand steadying hers when the tremors become too much.

          You hold the unease this inspires in your chest, the only space big enough to fit it, as you wash her hands, clean the brushes, and mend the portrait wherever possible. 

          Most days she allows this, but there are moments when the image angers her, or she resents your involvement, or she can’t find a missing tint—it was right there a moment ago, where did you put it? Are you keeping it from her–and suddenly the person you knew is gone. Worse, not only is she replaced, but who are you to her? 

          You are no one. 

          Where did you come from? 

          How did you get here?

          Why are you trying to hurt her?

          Stop it, you’re making her cry!

          Leave her alone! 

          Please, just leave her alone. She just wants to go home. Her tears may be warm, but she is cold; she is frightened; she is tired.

          You calm her down, though your heart is racing. You put her to bed, though your heart is aching. You pray for a peaceful rest, though your heart is breaking. 

          In the end, you sit outside her room with her out of your reach behind a door, a wall, and an irreparable chasm. You fight your own tears as you thread together all disparate emotions swirling inside you. The stories that made you, the paint that stains fingerprints and scars alike, the canvas you try to salvage, and the legacy that will be yours in time.

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D.K. Jones
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