The House on the Hill – Matthew Twigg [Fiction]

He holds the picture aloft and studies it against the rest. Man and girl in park – clean linear details, evocative of his felt-tip art deco phase. Bunny at the barnyard – almost nouveau in the Crayola’s undulating flow. My space rocket – neatly blocked colours reminiscent of early Warhol. Each one telling a story. Each one signed the same: Daddy

“I know you’ve tried your best, but this …” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but there’s no way this is good enough for the wall.”

She cranes her neck, stares up at him out of those splintered pools of eyes.

“For starters,” he says, “the proportions. Wrong wrong wrong!

The foofy hem of her baby-pink teenie-queenie-ballerinie dress swings back and forth through one-hundred-eighty degrees. “What’s a propulsion?” Swish swish.

“I mean, just look at the chimney. It’s half as tall as the entire house again.” He trombones the picture away from his face and back again. “Abstraction is all well and good, but it has to be in the service of something bigger. A narrative, a statement!”

Swish swish.

“They say art is anything done well, that culture is nought but society in conversation with itself.”

Swish swish.

“Insipid fools, all of them.” He turns to the wall with a flourish. “Here! See the touch of my brown Crayola in the pussycat’s tail? Featherlight. The raw, unfettered ennui in the donkey’s eyes; all in the hatching. My secret? Gel pens, sweetheart. Gel pens. And just look at my space rocket! The stars, you ask? Glitter glue; such an underappreciated medium.”

He heaves a sigh of post-coital proportions. “That’s art, that’s culture.”

Swish swish.

“But this?” He turns back. “This sky … I’m sure there’s a point buried beneath this chaos of shading, but for the life of me!” He hangs his mouth and eyes open at her for a second, lets out a pffft of incredulity. “And the proportions! Do you know, architecturally speaking, what would happen if you built a house on a peak that … narrow? That … tapering? Where would the foundations even go?”

Swish – her face falls into her cheeks – swish.

“A surrealist take on notions of structural integrity, perhaps? Designed to subvert traditional concepts of political hierarchy? The fragility of social constructivism? The phallocentrism of our institutions? I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I’m just not seeing it.”

He hands her the picture, shepherds her over to the fireplace where the flames lick the line-ruled paper, blacken the crude green zigs of hill, the brown zags of house, swallow the smiling figures – first her, then him.

“Now, come sit down and try again,” he says. “Something more … ephemeral, but intransigent too. Really pare it back. Demystify the object.”

She clambers into the chair and drags a fresh sheet of paper up under her chin, grips a crayon tight.

“Yellow for the sand,” she says, already scribbling away at the foreground.

He clasps the bridge of his nose between finger and thumb. “So derivative.”


By Matthew Twigg

  • Matthew lives in Oxford (UK) where he works as an editor for an academic publisher. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Fiction Pool, Penny Shorts, Gold Dust, decomP, Scarlet Leaf Review, formercactus, The Phoenix, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, The Hungry Chimera, and The Big Jewel. He is working on his first novel.


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