An offering of flash fiction where visions of life are omnipresent and a dying man’s hope for his children comes spectacularly into being…

by: Michael H. Brownstein

He saw faces everywhere. While mopping the old linoleum floor in the kitchen, two blackened eyes stared up at him exposing an ancient face, wrinkled and faded. Outside the window when the wind grew fallow, three branches formed a perfect mouth and in two spaces within the cluster of leaves he saw the eyes of a thinker. Later, as he read in his study, he looked up at a freshly laundered blanket and saw an intricate profile of a Greek god and beyond that in the shadow of a lamp, a silhouette of a woman replete with long cascading curls of thick hair. He wondered every now and then if others saw faces the way he did, but he never asked and as time went by, he no longer felt the need. Throughout his life he had one great desire; he wanted to paint a realistic face with smiling green eyes and whispers of aging and other marks of individuality. But he never purchased pastels or oils, canvas, or art paper. He never bought a simple sketch book and a pencil dedicated to fill its pages. He often wondered how an artist would portray him if he commissioned a portrait of himself and though he had the resources to hire a dozen or more to do the job, this too he let fall by the wayside. One thing never changed, everywhere he saw faces. In the shadow of a forest, in the brickwork of an old building, in the geometry of clutter, the strength of order, and in the pattern of bark in a tree. On his deathbed, he held his youngest daughter’s hand and gazed out the large picture window at a storms of clouds forming. “Look,” he said, “there’s the eyes of God and below them the kindest mouth you might ever see.”

“I see it too,” his youngest answered. “And what do you think of those bushy eyebrows joined together at the nose? And the goatee. What a simple goatee.”
“May I?” asked the nurse as she walked around the bed to the window. “If we wait a minute or two and let the clouds merge, he’ll be wearing a full beard and I believe his cheeks will take on more character.”
“Yes,” said his middle child, “I can see where you are coming from. Look, it’s already changing the entire portrait.”
His eyes stuttered, his face relaxed. He was smiling.
Michael H. Brownstein’s latest volumes of poetry, A Slipknot to Somewhere Else (2018) and How Do We Create Love (2019) were both published by Cholla Needles Press.
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