The Artist's Apprentice
1134 words long
"Alas, alas, if your old art teacher knew..."
Notes from the author:
The fairy tale “The Goose Girl” gets a whole lot of stink-eye from me. Underneath its reassurance that virtue will shine through and usurpers will be defeated, it’s got an unmistakable whiff of “Good help is hard to find.” Like, of course the maid would abuse her princess! That’s the servant class all over: Deceitful. Envious. Disrespectful. Ambitions above their rightful place. Oh, and lazy? Look how lazy. Why, that little wretch refused to stir herself even enough to bring her mistress water...
That’s another issue I have with the story. Why does the princess first wail, “Oh, what will become of me?” Because her maid refused to fetch her a drink. Seriously. We go from riding along, perfectly content, to “Your mother’s heart would break in two” because Her Highness had to walk down to the stream on her own two royal feet. It makes me wonder what the maid’s side of the story was. You can say anything you like about someone after you’ve thrown them to their death in a barrel studded with nails.
(And stupid! She just gave the order for her own execution, how stupid is that? Anyone with half a brain could see where the King was going with that “Name a fitting punishment for an imposter” business. But that’s servants for you. Stupid. And cunning, too, have you noticed how cunning and manipulative...?)
Anyway, I wanted to try writing a version of the story without all the classist cheerleading.
Tonight was Frankie’s triumph. Wine in hand, he strolled through the crowd, accepting congratulations with a wide smile. His work glowed from the gallery walls, each canvas accompanied by its title and his name engraved on a wafer of matte-finished bronze. The sign out front said, Exhibition Opening Tonight: F. Neil Gosling, Travels and Travails.
Kingdom Galleries was one of the most prestigious galleries in the city. To be shown there had been Frankie’s dream for years. But he’d failed time and time again to win Rachel King’s approval. “You’re really coming along,” she’d say, “but you’re just not there yet.” That had changed when he showed her “Where Streams Diverge.” It hung now in the center of the long east wall, the star of the show. The other paintings orbited it as lesser heavenly bodies do the sun.
“Frankie!” Rachel herself was hailing him from across the room. Attendees made way as she strode toward him. She was not a large woman in any sense of the word, but she had the theatrical knack of filling all available space with her voice. “Frankie, I can’t emphasize enough what an absolute leap forward this piece represents for you. The rest—may I be candid?—is of interest only in that it points toward your breakthrough. What made the difference, dearest?”
“I really haven’t the first clue,” Frankie murmured humbly. “Something just clicked, I guess.” He took a sip of his wine, which he’d begun twirling absently. “Say, have you seen Faraj? This is his big night, too. He should be enjoying it.”
Faraj Al-Hamin was Frankie’s student. A small collection of Faraj’s recent work clustered in the rearmost corner of the gallery. Attendees who made it that far back had an alarming tendency to look at it closely, comparing it with the more prominently displayed works by F. Neil Gosling. Their scrutiny was making Frankie nervous....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for January 15, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1134 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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