At the harbour, where island boys gather to trade cigarettes and obscenities, where trawler-men unload, the slow ferry docks and I come home.
I climb the lane past stubborn cottages shouldered against the sea, to her house, my house now. The door moans and the fire, long dead, is slow to answer. That first night, I sleep downstairs among her cups and cushions, my feet in her thin-soled slippers, my arms in her cardigan sleeves, too wide and too long like her love.
In morning fog, I trace a wet slate path to her garden room and unhook the latch. She has her easel set to south, with hot colours on her palette. She has a chair, a flask, a kerosene lamp and by a misted window, she has propped my photograph; a girl with dyed green hair and the sneer of dreams unlived who never wrote. But here she paints my mouth soft and open. She paints me brown on beaches she’s never seen. A fly caught on a gash of red has turned in the paint and drowned. One wing escapes.
I dip her brush and write. ‘Local Artist – Sale Today 5.30’ and wait for the neighbours to come with silent accusations and tight smiles. I take ninety-five pounds for her work. I keep her cardigan and pull the moaning door. At the harbour, I am helped into the belly of the boat with my fly picture and watch her island grow small and disappear.
“I Am The Painter’s Daughter” first appeared in Bare Fiction, 2014, as the Second Prize Winner in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction.
IMAGE: Georges Braque, “Port en Normandie” (1909) oil on canvas, 81.1 x 80.5 cm (32 x 31.7 in), The Art Institute of Chicago
Kit de Waal
Kit de Waal, born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Her debut novel My Name Is Leon was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017. Her second novel, The Trick to Time, was longlisted for the Women's Prize and her young adult novel Becoming Dinah was shortlisted for the Carnegie CLIP Award 2020. She also crowdfunded and edited an anthology of working-class memoir, Common People, which was published in 2018. Kit founded the Big Book Weekend, a free digital literary festival and was named the FutureBook Person of the Year in 2019. Her latest publication, Supporting Cast, is a collection of short stories.