My husband once told me that Vincent van Gogh did not kill himself, that he was in fact shot accidentally by a schoolboy. The cause of Van Gogh’s death seems to be disputed to some degree, but I won’t try to unpack that mystery here (although, I don’t think he committed suicide). I simply drew inspiration from this historical mystery to write this bit of flash fiction. Van Gogh’s story is not the same.
The Death of a Painter
Death surprised the painter. A bullet appeared in his chest, hot and slicing. He clasped his hand over the wound. It was spring.
Newly opened flowers swirled into the dead winter grass and fresh greens of the field. Bright, wild splotches of purples and golds swam as far as he could see. Deep cadmium yellow and dioxazine purple, he thought. And from his own chest, a rich alizarin crimson.
Deeper in the field, he saw a boy holding the gun. The boy and the painter did not move for some time. They only looked at each other with the same surprised expression. The painter saw the boy’s youth, his foolishness. The boy wore a cowboy outfit, leather fringe and all.
The boy saw the painter’s blood and smelled the gunpowder. The painter looked small against the wide, blue sky and knee-deep field. He had not expected the gun to go off. The sound still ran in his ears, and he felt as if it always would.
“Go!” the painter shouted to the boy.
The boy flung the gun into the flowers and bolted. The artist remembered the lead in his chest. It felt heavy and pulled him down, closer to the rich-smelling earth.
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