Still Life with Neglected Bottle


Still Life with Neglected Bottle


 Tova ground her bristles into the shallow turpentine, sediment swirling. She stamped down an urge to snarl. Caged by easels and the rapt attention of hobby painters who never bothered to learn color theory, who leaned into the instructor’s demo, she forced a tight swallow. Where? Her water bottle wasn’t on the palette table, but she remembered taking it from the car. 


Tova bent to peer through the lead glass of the barn. There the white thermal bottle waited, glowing atop the filthy blue roof of her Honda, just across the drive. A ray of sunlight was shouting through the sparse shade to make it obvious.


Primaries, secondaries, tertiaries: the instructor, who was patiently explaining, was a good painter. Tova had once been a good-enough painter. She wiped sticky oil from her hands with a dish towel and squinted at the imbalances in her composition. 


Still a stronger rendering than others. Earnestly nice, her classmates aspired to imitated prettiness. She should go, because a noxious fume needs air and the stillness stoked her thirst. The bottle was out there, seeming to sway with the wavy, old window. Right there, reflecting heat. 


Imagining the rudeness of wrestling herself from the quiet studio of solemn students just to get her drink felt devastating. Years of relinquished skill tore at her parched throat. The cells of the color chart filled with placid swatches. 

Chewing her lips, Tova considered the aluminum crow’s legs of her easel, wondering how she might lift them noiselessly to create an escape route. But, but. Voices and bodies began percolating with beginner questions of tone versus value. 


Tova scanned the room, then scraped her easel aside. She leapt and dodged with the grace and fury of a famished tiger, lusting past days of rotten, incompetent kills on canvas. She smiled an apology to the disabled woman at the edge of class as she contorted around her walker and exploded out the door, panting with regret.



Debrah Malater


Debrah Malater is an artist and video maker who’s been disillusioned by most things yet is thrilled to still be here. This is (might be?) her first published work of fiction. 

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