A Conversation Between Artists

“Hey, honey? Do you know where my skull is?” Hazel asked.

“Your skull? No, but I know where your severed head is.” Chance pulled back the hairs of his paintbrush and released it. Paint splattered across his canvas. “It’s in the back of my car.”

“Ah, perfect! I have a visitor coming today who wants to use it.” 

Hazel wiped her hands on the towel hanging by the sink. Gray clay smeared across the fabric. Soon, it would need to be washed seeing as little of the cloth was still exposed.

“I was worried it ended up in the trash.” 

Hazel removed her apron and hung it on the hook. Grabbing the keys she exited. The warm air touched her skin and she sighed. Pausing, she lifted her face to the sky and closed her eyes. The studio had been so cold today and the feel of the sun against her skin was heaven. Soon, spring would be in full swing and the garden she passed through would be filled with flowers. Then they’d open the windows or work outside. She couldn’t wait.

The car beeped, the back door opening on command. Hazel found what she searched for exactly where Chance said. Removing it from the bag, she ran a finger over the forehead and down the nose. She was happy to find no damage had been done to the face. The white foam was smooth, the facial features still intact. Awesome! She shoved back in the bag and closed the trunk.

“Morning neighbor!” Mrs. Mathews called. 

Hazel smiled at the old woman. In her late sixties, she was one of the nicest people they’d ever met. Her short gray hair was curled and she wore a yellow dress that fell to her knees. The watering can in her hand was a bright blue. She was adorable.

“Working on something exciting this week?”

“Yes,” Hazel said. “I was out here to get something I needed. My severed head.” 

Hazel held the bag up for her to see. Mrs. Mathews went pale and she took an involuntary step back. When her hand rose to her throat. 

At the panic in her eyes, Hazel asked. “Are you okay?” 

Mrs. Mathews didn’t respond. She just stood frozen, the watering can dangling from her fingertips. Confused, Hazel glanced at what she held. By the shape, it did look like a head in a bag. Okay, no big deal. But then she noticed the significant amount of red and brown paint which covered the bottom half. Realization hit her like a mack truck. 

“Oh… No!” Hazel said, her eyes going wide. She swallowed, then continued, “It’s not what you think, it’s…”

But Mrs. Mathews was already gone. During the time she’d glanced away, her elderly neighbor had high-tailed it back into her house. Damn, she had some speed. Hazel dropped her arm, the cloth dangling from her fingers. With a heavy sigh, she headed back to the studio.

As the door creaked open, Chance asked, “Did you find it?”

“So… I expect that we’ll have the cops showing up on our door within the hour. There’s also a chance that we’ll need to move when the neighbors talk to Mrs. Mathews.”

Chance’s eyebrows shot up. He rested his palette against his thigh while his brush hovered in the air. 


“Well, let’s just say I may have inadvertently told her that I was getting my severed head out of the car.” She lifted her arm. “With the bag looking like this.”

For a long moment, Chance stared. Then he burst into hysterical laughter. He even set the palette down to wipe his eyes. 

“Oh my God. Sometimes I forget how strange our conversations are. Could you imagine if she’d overheard us as well?” he asked. His head shook back and forth in disbelief. “Even better, do you remember the conversation we had last week about the nude models and the lesson they played in history?”

Hazel was laughing now, her green eyes sparkled. She joined him next to the easel and he snaked an arm around her. She grinned at the light kiss he planted on her temple while her eyes raked over the painting. It was beautiful. It was a galaxy never seen before, a giant ship of mythical proportions approaching from the right. Large fins of orange and gray spread from its back.

“Talk about a rumor to spread. She’d think we were swingers with a harem of women – and men – at our beck and call.” Hazel ran a hand through his messy hair. “Now that’s a rumor I can get behind.”

He snorted. Smacking her butt he said, “I’m sure. Now get back to work. If you’re gonna start rumors about severed heads and harems, I need to finish this.”

She giggled. “Fine, but maybe we should go talk to her later.”

“Naw, this will be so much more fun.”

Hazel placed the head on her work table and prepped the afternoon project. Faces and expressions were hard to master when dealing with clay. The moment you thought you’d gotten it, the pressure of your finger would change and the entire face would shift. Having the form helped, but didn’t lessen the complexity. Human expression was complicated.

Hazel thought back to Mrs. Mathews and the look of horror then panic on her face and began shuffling through her expression printouts. Finding the three she was looking for, she grinned. Laughter, horror, and shock were all so similar and yet completely different. They were perfect for today’s lesson. The minute changes in the shape of the eyes, eyebrow, and lips were the perfect challenge. Perhaps she might also teach her student how the conversations of artists should only be had where no wandering ears are present. Because let’s be honest, that was nowhere near the weirdest thing she and Chance had talked about during their marriage.

  Published on OBW Blog March 19, 2021 © Tracey Canole

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