by Joseph Walters
Timmy never noticed this painting before. He always just played with his toys beneath but never looked up. Now, its canvas scrapes his hand like a cat’s tongue.
He steps away and looks up at it.
The man in the painting’s bowl cap pools raindrops from the tree, and Timmy rubs his head, wondering if it is raining. The man looks tall and he wears a long black suit, like adults do, and he is turned to a woman under an umbrella walking beside him.
The woman stares at the man, smiling, her gaze to where his face should be.
“Dinner!” Mom yells, stepping into the room.
Timmy glances at her and then back at the painting. He was right: she is Mom; Mom is her. Her eyes.
“What are you looking at that for?” Mom walks closer.
Timmy touches her arm. She is there, too. “Why doesn’t my Daddy have a face, Mom?”
“What?” she asks.
Timmy points at the man. “Why doesn’t my Daddy have a face?”
She looks, laughs, and says, “That’s not your Daddy, hun. And he—”
Mom shakes her head. “No, honey. He’s not real.”
Timmy turns to the painting.
The man is there. He can see him, touch him. Mom is lying again. Daddy is real, he knows it.
She wraps her arm around his shoulders. “He’s just a painting, honey,” and she steers him toward the kitchen, saying, “Come on. I made your favorite.”
Timmy looks back over his shoulder on their way, over Mom’s gripping hand, and he hears thunder. He looks left at Mom’s face, dry and untouched beside falling rain, and then he tilts his head upward. The ceiling has grown dark gray branches. It has begun to drip rain into the hole where his face should be.
Twenty-three year old Joseph Walters is a writer first and an unemployed English Teacher second. When not reading for The Indianola Review, he writes fiction in his sister’s bright pink bedroom and drools over his stories in Dali’s Lovechild and Down in the Dirt. He tweets @joewalters13. Say hi, unless you’re mean.