Simon Jacobs had an idea for a recurring series: flash fiction pieces in which the characters reenact famous works of art. Being a home for art and lit to meet and clash and mix, Paper Darts couldn't say no.
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Reading time: 3 minutes
Recommended for: Revolutionaries
The next time you find me, I'm lying in a claw-foot bathtub and reenacting a famous French Revolution painting of a radical journalist who’s just been stabbed to death by an Enemy of the Cause.
This isn't the first time you've walked in on me doing something embarrassingly private in the tub. You say as much, standing over me: "Well. I can't say that this is exactly new."
I splash around trying to cover my bobbing genitals, because this isn't that kind of portrait—in the original, you only see his top half (dead) and, of course, he's all classically-rendered muscle where I am a bit more generous and altogether much too hairy—and in the scramble I drop my Booklet of Revolutionary Ideas into the tepid water.
"Shit!" I fish it out from between my legs, but the ink is already bleeding down the pages like a liberal's heart, and I can't remember a single poetic thought I've had since I started sitting in here. I throw the soggy thing across the bathroom.
You stare judgmentally down at me: "Are you listening to Oasis?"
I am. It's the only incongruous part of my recreation. I maintain scrupulous eye contact, mostly because I'm praying that you don't notice the kitchen knife on the floor. It's just a prop—I haven't done anything untoward with a knife in years—but it's the one you use to chop vegetables (the biggest), and I can't imagine you'd be happy that I've taken it. In the history, after she'd stabbed him, the murderess Charlotte Corday didn't even try to escape her victim's house, but waited right in the room to be found (in the painting, you can sense her lurking just outside the frame).
You make an unpleasant face and sniff the fragrant bathroom air—the David-esque chiaroscuro created by the candlelight is out of control. "Whatever it is you're doing in here," you say, "keep your fucking paws off my scented candles. For God's sake, you never mix more than three flavors at once."
You turn tail and stomp out, letting a beam of hall light harsh my ambience as the door closes. I have to stand and step out to reclaim my waterlogged Booklet of Revolutionary Ideas and adjust the mood music, but soon enough I'm back in the tub. I listen to you thumping down the hallway, back to your own solitary projects: lately, it's been reclining tropical nudes, your excuse to invest in expensive furniture and exotic fauna; mine is as good a reason as any to take a very long bath.
I slump down in the tub, adjust the towel wrapped around my head, drape my arm dramatically over the edge, and resume playing the martyr. In my Booklet I write, I don't really want to now how her garden grows, knowing full well that everything is just a sloppy imitation of something else.