MIGUEL ÁNGEL MENDARO JOHNSON
WWW.MENDARO-ES.COM This Story is published in Spanish. This English version it’s just for online reading. Copyright, 2010.
Ink, poppies and daisies. The painter summoned up courage. The moment deserved it. Further, it demanded it. He counted to ten, took a breath and ... ... plunged into the lake of light. His pupils contracted: he was a magician and had to do magic. It was now evening, his favorite time. Abracadabra! The sun fell harder than usual over the horizon sprinkling light on the poppies he was painting, the daisies and his dog Ink, who shook herself dry. He nearly fell from his ladder at such a fuss. Then he grabbed his brush and soaking in those last rays, weak as a fine thread, got his palette of lights... He painted and modeled that millisecond so elegantly! “Did you see it?” he yelled to Ink who was jumping among the light dripping poppies splashed by the sun. “The night is my window.” said the painter hugging his pillow. He liked to imagine the stars as he tried to fall asleep and envied the ease of Ink to curl up at his feet and sleep. “But that light is not readily available. I wish I could travel to those planets. I imagine fields full of poppies in a perpetual spring soaked in that light. Yes, that’s the way it should be: another unimaginable light palette. But those are just silly fantasies that aren’t possible to me. Right, Ink?” Sighing while he day-dreamed he fell into the abyss of sleep. On his hands and his forehead he had splashes of light remaining. And Ink’s blunt nose was still glowing.
It was 6:37 AM. He got up before his usual time. “Ink, wake up!” But the dog, sleeping belly up, would not get up until there was light. “I'm so excited. Today I will finally finish my painting of poppies and daisies!” he said as he shaved in front of the mirror. “What will I name this painting? ‘Ink with poppies and daisies’ or would it be better ‘Ink’s poppies and daisies? Do you like that? You are such a lazy little dog but I love you anyway!” It was a canvas over three hundred and thirty feet long by ninety-eight and a half high. It has been ten years, seven months and nine days that he has been working on it. He began it the morning of April twenty two, at 6:59 AM, after a terrible night of migraines and nightmares. “It's not that I’m a lazy or poorly disciplined painter, you know?” he constantly said, justifying himself to Ink. “I have to tell you: a poppy painted at 7:58 in the morning it is not the same poppy painted at 2:21 PM. They would be two completely different flowers. So would I: I'm not the same at 7:58 AM as I am at 2:21 PM. The light is so different. It’s never the same. But what would you know, Ink, what would you know...” He checked his watch. At 8:31 AM the sun should have cleared the sky and it had not. Everything was black, dark and cold. The minutes passed, they added up but the dawn still didn’t wake up. Ink slept and slept. The painter cut himself shaving as a result of his nervousness and confusion. The blood fell in the sink and mingled with his tears. Something terrible must have happened! He felt as though his soul was breaking into a thousand little pieces. The painter understood that without sun there would be no light. And without
light, there would be no color palette, or poppies, or... daisies. Ink finally awoke. He looked in her eyes and said that it was 6:44 PM and there was no sun for the sunset.
It was more than evident that they were both very confused. The painter looked at Ink and she, in return, looked at her master. Neither one of them could find comfort in the others eyes. Neither one of them could find an answer. In Ink’s eyes there always lay a large range of them, but not this time. They were lost! They huddled under the ladder and looked at the canvas. They could sense it was there but they couldn’t see it. “This is awful!” the painter said quietly in a broken voice, “What a delay! What an unfortunate setback! I had so little left to finish…” Then a terrible idea swept through his mind. “Ink ... What if we never see a sunrise or a sunset again? What would we do? How could we live a life that way?” Ink watched the stars and moved her tail. “What?” She barked. “What, Ink, what?” She continued barking. “The… stars? Are you saying I could use star light? They barely wet my brush!” Ink disappeared into the darkness of the field of poppies and daisies, his field, his painting. “Ink, no! Come back here or you will get lost!”
“That dog of mine is very disobedient. Hmm!” he growled as he crossed his arms and shook his head. In complete solitude and under the light of the stars, he thought that perhaps this was a good moment to learn how to manipulate the art of the night. It was a tricky magic that would be complex, but not impossible, to handle. But the idea of starting over again to paint a new canvas and have a set goal for the next ten years, made him feel confused and despondent. The painter heard Ink barking somewhere in the poppy and daisy fields while he studied the problem and looked for solutions. He couldn’t concentrate so he climbed up the ladder and looked off into the distance where, during the day, lay a vast field of flowers, a small knoll and three trees. He rubbed his eyes. “Heavens!” he shouted, “I can see the fields!” The poppies weren’t red. They were purple and shone timid shades of white around the edges of their petals. So it was true that you could use star light to wet your brush but in a much more elegant and subtle manner, like a kiss from the wind, the water in a drop of dew. “I can see it! I can see it!” In between the tall grass and the flowers Ink’s tail could be seen. She was soaking in light. She looked like a huge lightening bug jumping around in the plants that, little by little, were getting easier to distinguish. “Ink, come here!” Seeing that she didn’t obey, the painter ran toward her through the fields. Once he caught up with her he couldn’t refuse Ink’s offer. The two of them played running between the flowers, dripping light and shining like stars.
Exhausted, breathless and belly up, Ink and the painter lay bursting with happiness… “How you shine!” he exclaimed to his dog. Then he looked at his hands and saw light dripping between his fingers, the light that had never rested on his palette or been used for painting. He didn’t have to wait for the nighttime now because he lived in it. He would spend the next ten years doing the same, it didn’t matter. He would paint the biggest nocturnal canvas ever created.
He didn’t need ten years to paint it. The new canvas was half the size of the other that he temporarily named it “Light unfinished”. Plus he could paint as many hours as his body and sanity would permit him. In that way, in one month and two days, he had finished the painting. He named it: Ink dripping in the night light of poppies “It’s beautiful! Don’t you think so Ink?” Nevertheless, the painter, that had dedicated so many years painting sunrise and sunset light, missed bathing in that kind of palette. “Yes, Ink, yes…The night is new for me, incredible, magical, but I miss the light that I was born in as a painter.” It was the first time he cried. He curled up in his bed, pulled the sheets up to his neck and decided to stay there until his suffering and sadness went away because everything, even the nostalgia for the sun, sooner or later goes away…
The days, in total blackness, just happened without ever knowing when they began and when they ended. Ink went out for a few hours to run in the fields and to play alone. She didn’t notice how her master’s room was shining intensely. Inside, flopped out on the bed, the painter said, “12:45” and splashed the wall with drops of light. “14:33”. He splashed again. “How boring!” He stayed like that for hours until he finally came outside. “Oh Ink. I almost blinded myself in my own room. I’ll have to wait until the light dries…what a mess I’ve made…but I get so bored!” The sight was sinister. From the window came intense rays of light as though they were from a lighthouse on a cliff. The light bathed part of the landscape and seeing (or imagining seeing) during a fraction of a second red poppies, the painter got an idea.
In a years time he had built a launching system that was very rudimentary but at the same time very effective: a giant catapult. The ammunition was on the inside of a huge barrel that was brimming over with all of the light he had managed to harvest, with the help of Ink, during all of that time. It was 7:00 o’clock in the afternoon, the time that should be (at that time of year) the sunset. Using his old pick up truck he pulled back on the lower arm of the catapult tensing the rubber and the load, an enormous ball of light, shot out of the barrel, drawing an arc in the sky, just like a falling star. Instead of getting smaller, it grew and grew in size, meeting with stars on its path that melted into it, just like drops of water do. Little by little, it fell out of sight behind the horizon without a sound. “That’s it Ink. That’s it. Do you think it will work?” Thee exhaustion made them both fall surrendering on the ground in the field of poppies and daisies. They had accumulated so many nights together. That night he dreamed of Ink. A few poppies, daisies pansies and a great variety of other flowers he didn’t know by sight but could smell. It was a smell that could wet a paintbrush.
Ink licked his face. The painter rolled over between the poppies but couldn’t open his eyes. “Let me sleep a little bit more Ink, I don’t want to wake up yet…” Ink had a feeling to share, but first he had to open his eyes. Once she managed to wake him, the painter didn’t look at her but instead scolded her. “Ink, you know perfectly well that if you wake me I can never get back to sleep!” He stood up. He stretched. He looked at his painting Light Unfinished and at the other: Ink dripping in the Night Light of Poppies. As he prayed, he looked at the catapult and heard once again the sound of it launching. “And the big ball of light?” he asked, looking at the horizon. He looked at his watch and immediately looked at the sky. He looked into Ink’s eyes and saw there the question that made his chest tremble. “Me too, Ink, me too!” Do you see that? It can’t be…look at the sky! Look! We did it!” The sun, kneaded and harvested and catapulted into the sky by him the night before, was rising far off on the horizon. Now it rose in the West! Ink was very excited feeling the arrival of a new day. The first ray of light, as thin as a golden thread, penetrated his interior with sublime delicacy. He closed his eyes, allowing it to warm his heart. From his chest exploded a rainbow that could be seen from the highest peak in the North to the lowest valley in the South, splashing everything. He opened his eyes and dismayed. Green. Magenta. The blue, the red poppies…he ran toward the ladder. “Come on Ink, there’s no time to lose!” Once again he summoned up his courage. He counted to ten, took a breath and held it and… He dove into a universe of light.