Painted sunset

Painted backdrop for diorama in the Los Angeles County Museum 2008 © Tanya Clarke

Painted backdrop for diorama in the Los Angeles County Museum 2008 © Tanya Clarke

Writing Prompt No. 59

Seven days.

He’d been given seven days to paint the background. Christ, it was almost biblical. Dale surveyed the enormous white space in front of him.

-We want a sunset. Washes of orange, pink, yellow that sort of thing. Some grass in the foreground would be good too. Maybe a couple of birds.

There were two more painters. Maggie who was good but slow and Luke who wasn’t slow but wasn’t very good either.

Dale levered the lids off the paint pots. Maggie and Luke had already painted a white iridescent base on the canvas, to reflect the light back through the layers of colour. Just like the Renaissance painters. Except they weren’t Renaissance painters. They were painting the backdrop to some romantic scene for a cheap made-for-tv movie. How did I get here? Dale thought this often.

-Masks on. he said to his co-workers. Not like the old days. All those paint fumes filling young lungs.

Dale pulled his mask down over his nose and mouth. He hated his hot breath filling the tiny space. He hated even more how his breath became moist after a while.

For six days the three of them painted the most wonderful sunset complete with sharp lines of long grass piercing the bottom edge of the frame.

On the seventh day they all stepped back once more to admire their work.

-Not bad, not bad. said Dale, nodding.

He walked forwards a couple of steps. The light reflected onto his face warming his skin with an orangey glow. His eyes twinkled with delight. He stepped forward. Then again. And again. He kept going until he reached the canvas and disappeared into the painted horizon.

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