• Casey Dunn

Portrait Writing: View Seen Through a Balcony

A short story inspired by the painting View Seen Through a Balcony by Gustave Caillebotte

KC stepped down the long Wyoming road. It went on and on into the darkness of the night. KC wasn’t sure when he had started walking or when he would stop. Blood seeped from the wound and down his ribs. The bullet hadn’t left. It was still within him. He swore he could feel it grating against bone fragments.

He needed to rest. He leaned against the wooden fence and slid to the ground. I guess this is where I’ll stop, he thought to himself. Seemed as good a place as any. He noticed that the moon wasn’t out. Just a sea of stars. One flickered, he couldn’t remember if that meant it was a planet. It didn’t have a red hue, so it wasn’t Mars. Footsteps proceeded the shadowy figure to his left. He watched it come into view. It was Heather. Her face and arms were splintered by cuts and abrasions. Sludge oozed down her cheeks like black tears.

“The fuck dude?” she asked as she stood over him.

Had that been the last thing she said to him? Must of been. He just shrugged as she sat on the ground beside him. He hadn’t said anything then, why would now be any different?

“Because you can’t just dip this time,” she muttered. She pulled a cigarette from her pocket and struck it with a match.

“I’m good,” he responded when she offered it to him. She frowned. “I quit,” he said.

“Since when?”

“Thirty years ago.” Now that he thought about it, he didn’t really look as old as he should. His hands seemed younger. And there were a couple scars missing.

“You still look like shit.” She growled.

“Should look worse.”

“What happened?” She nodded at the bullet hole.

“I don’t know. Hard to remember. What’s up with your face? Looks worse than I remember.”

“It’s hard to keep looking great when you’re stuck in a wooden box. The thing caved in after a couple years. Guess mom didn’t spring for the expensive shit.

A flicker of light caught KC’s eye. He peered through. It was the cabinet. He had been hiding from Heather. She was supposed to find him, but she’d been looking for a long time. Hadn’t even come in the kitchen yet. KC was growing bored and he hated the dark. So he had started to open the door. Suddenly it flung open. His mother was looking at him.

“May I help you?” She said. She had always had a cat’s eyes. Helplessly confused, but you couldn’t be sure if the uncertainty was just a ruse.

“Shut the door!” KC screamed at her in the high pitched whine of a child.

“You’re in my cupboard.”

“You’re going to get me caught!” KC tried to slam the door shut, but she held it firmly. She wouldn’t always be this strong, he remembered.

“If you want to whine, you can go to your room. Be polite or leave me alone.”

KC grumbled, but there wasn’t any arguing with her. Not then, not when he was a peasant within her kingdom. Besides, he did want lunch, so he had better be nice.

“Fine. Please shut the door.”

“Tell me you love me.”

“MOM” KC said, turning a one syllable word into about fifteen.

“I think I hear your sister coming. Better hurry.”

KC glared at her. She loved to torture him, he was sure of it. “I love you” he mumbled.

“I love you so so much. As you were my liege.”

The door shut and KC was back in the darkness of Wyoming.

“She misses you.” Heather said as she leaned against his shoulder. “She’s still around here. You should talk to her.”

“I don’t have much to say.”

“That’s a lie.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Not around.”

“Where are we.”

“Sort of a middle place, I think. Somewhere to say your goodbyes.”

KC looked at his sister with sadness. He knew they were dead, he had been her pallbearer when he was sixteen. But even still, the thought sort of lingered. Maybe they weren’t dead. Maybe they were actually just injured on the side of the road. Stranger things have probably happened.

“Were you waiting for me?”

“Shit no, I’m waiting for the Pope. Have a lot to complain to him about.”

The two siblings shared a smile and they knocked their heads together. It felt good to be near her. Weirdly, she still smelled like the house.

“Supposedly, Mac is going to be coming up here pretty soon.” Mac had been the boy driving that night. “It wasn’t really his fault, just need to give him a little shit and call it good. Wouldn’t feel right to ditch out on him. Besides, someone’s gotta tell him to keep his hands at ten and two.” Heather’s eyes burned with the fire of life. KC didn’t figure his eyes held the same resilience. He looked down at his hand. It was stained red from the blood loss. Didn’t seem like he would be staying around very long.