The Great Farm Painter

California author Tantra Bensko returns to The Fabulist with this surrealist vignette, showcasing her vivid prose and loopy, dreamlike plot constructions. Image source: The Tucson Daily Photo.

The Kurdsenway Farm sells cheese by the roadside, but should reconsider their spokeperson’s tall pointed hat.

And the fact that he is six. No one trusts kids any more. They are always using guns. No one would feel safe enough to stop and buy his cheese. What might he be hiding in that big wicker basket?

When he opens it, butterflies flit out. They fight for the top of his hat. It tastes like nectar. It tastes like bees. Like lightning drips of glee.

He decides maybe they should stick to selling eggs. He paints them all before putting them in the cartons. He colors them with egg tempera. Detailed replicas, scenes of the Last Supper. Soylent Green. Mr. Rogers.

His mother has told him he is uninsurable, and always will be. Because anyone can see he is strange. She tells him he should be painting on the eggs: Moonlight Sonata, Dick Cavett, Ring Around the Rosy.

He finds solace with the mottled goats. They like to eat his funny hat, and so he makes another. And another and another, and still, they eat. Their eyes smiling, their jaws moving sideways, their ears expectant, their chins level and unwavering.

He tells the customers that Heaven is not a concept. It is real. He has evidence. He takes off his hat to show them a stack of cards he keeps in there that teach them about God. He makes them guess what God is. What if you died, and found out you were wrong about it all? And God was really dying. And needed you to save him. But you were dead. Wouldn’t you feel silly?

How much are the eggs, the customers ask. They don’t come back. They never come back.

No one ever asked the eggs. But one day, they rebel. When he is painting Rasputin on one of them, it can’t take it any more. It breaks its shells with impulsivity. It is virginal. The chick has a sunny disposition.

We are dead to our eggs, now, say the chicks, and they to us. Oh, they are quite erudite.

The little boy grows jaded. He begins to paint the entire farm. Every inch of grass and dirt and gravel and puddle is one large masterpiece just as good as a post-Raphaelite birthery scene. His mother figures prominently in the egg-tempera painting galore.

Out of her painted mouth comes an opalescent apricot-colored scroll waving and coiling in the breeze. She is covered in iridescent fish scales. She is naked, with gills and flippers. She is giving birth to the sea.

Muffin!, she calls him from the kitchen, time to come in and clean the toilet. I see someone missed it a wee bit with his wee wee didn’t he he?

He puts down his brush. His thoughts redefine themselves, like Scrabble.

After he cleans the toilet, she rewards him with a very short lock of her hair. He doesn’t know where to set it. It gets everywhere. It chases him around in the breeze.

He runs outside. He plays with the sheep in the ways he knows best. He asks them questions about mathematics. About clouds that look like one thing one minute, and something else the next. Are they one thing, or two?

Tantra Bensko

Tantra Bensko ("A Roadful of Ducks," "Tales of the Natural," "Stop, Before It's Too Late!") publishes her writing widely, magazines such as The Journal of Experimental Fiction, Fiction International, Evergreen Review, Mad Hatters Review, Bewildering Stories, Rose and Thorn, Cezanne’s Carrot, and many more

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