Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about beauty by David Joseph.
David Joseph is the award-winning author of the short story collection The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories. His writing has been published in The London Magazine, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, DoubleTake Magazine and Rattle. A recipient of the John Henry Hobart Fellowship for Ethics and Social Justice, he has taught at Harvard University and Pepperdine University. He lives in Andalucía, Spain with his wife Karen and their sons Jackson and Cassius.
‘Why Don’t You Paint Me?’ follows a conversation between two people about art and love.
‘Why don’t you paint me?’ she asked.
‘I don’t paint anyone,’ I replied. ‘Actually, I don’t paint at all.’
‘But you could,’ she remarked.
‘In theory, I suppose. But I’m not any good.’
‘Do you have to be good?’ she asked. ‘In order to paint someone.’
‘Well, I’m not sure you have to be good,’ I said. ‘Only if you want to impress them.’
‘Is that what you want to do?’ she asked. ‘Impress me?’
‘Always,’ I said confidently.
‘Is that right?’ she mulled.
‘That is right,’ I repeated.
‘That’s good to know.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘It lets me know I’ve got you working,’ she answered. ‘Women always want their men to be working, at least for them.’
‘Really?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Really. That never changes.’
‘This is good information.’
‘You said you wanted to impress,’ she repeated.
‘That’s right,’ I confirmed. ‘I did.’
‘Well, then, this will help.’
‘That’s what I love about you,’ I said. ‘You’re always trying to help.’
‘Don’t be a smart ass,’ she snapped.
‘Was that meant to be helpful too?’ I asked.
‘Always. Just like you said.’
We sat there, facing one another, sitting at the tables of the outdoor café along the river. It wasn’t a fancy café. It had nothing special. No fine tablecloths or folded napkins. No stylish decor. No decorative fonts. But it was along the river.