A journal of narrative writing.
The Sailboat/Hatchet Painting

Yesterday I phoned up Sloan, which is a rare occurrence. And it’s not that we dislike each other—far from it, in fact—it’s just that, being two of the laziest and most self-centered people we know, we simply have other things to do. (Not necessarily better, more important things, just—you know—things.) Regardless. I called, she answered, and we made the best of it.

“Have you spoken to Mom?” I asked.

“No,” said Sloan. “You?”


“How is she?”



I asked how her fetish modeling gig was going.

“Need to lose ten pounds,” she said. “Other than that, same.”


“How’s the latest pot-boiler?”

“Need to lose about fifty pages,” I said. “Besides that, same.”

Then it was on to relationships.

“How’s your girlfriend?”

I hadn’t had a girlfriend in years. “She’s fine,” I said.

“Glad to hear.”

Then I asked about Gerard.

Sloan, I should mention, has been married three times. She’s also been divorced three times. And Gerard, the second husband/ex-husband—the monkey of the marriages, I call him—is the one I ask about most.

Gerard, to bring you up to snuff, is a painter; a strange and fascinating fellow who goes by a French name—Gerard Levesque—though I believe he is actually from the rural Midwest.

Out of a short-term generosity I had invited Gerard to stay with me, in a one-room apartment no bigger than a modest storage unit. (He simply had nowhere else to go. And neither did I, really; but at least I had a room with a floor.) In doing so, my living space, small as it was, had become Gerard’s studio, which of course led to hundreds of brushes and canvases and assorted bottles of paint (of every damn color) covering nearly everything I owned. (This was before Gerard had even met my sister, mind you.)

“He finally sold a painting,” said Sloan. “Heard it through a reliable source.”

“The only painting I remember,” I said, “was that one.”

“Which? They were all pretty bad.”

“You know which one.”


No surprise, I sensed a hint of annoyance in her tone. A hint of regret.

The painting in question, out of the hundreds, had once taken the place of my stereo. It pictured an orange sailboat with a hatchet slicing through it. The sailboat/hatchet painting (as I took to calling it) stood out not because it had been propped against my stereo, no, but because of these luminous rust-colored stains encrusted into its surface.

I remember asking Gerard—he had just returned from his daily ventures of panhandling and park bench loafing—how he’d gotten the pigment to look the way it did. (It really did look odd, unlike any color of paint I’d ever seen.)

At first, he didn’t understand what I was talking about. So I pointed. “Those reddish gold dabs of shit right there,” I said.

“Oh, that,” he said. “That’s blood. Mine. I thought it needed something—some life.”

I guess it was true. I mean, now that I thought about it, the painting of the hatchet going through the orange sailboat really wasn’t much—sans the much-needed “life” Gerard had given it—but why criticize?

Then I noticed that in the left-hand corner of the painting were these strange splashes of off-white. “Tell me about those crusty dabs of shit”—I tapped the canvas with my foot—“right there.”

“That? That’s cum,” he said. “One night, while you were out, I got inspired and… Well, you know…”

I gave him a look.

“Nectar of the Gods,” he said.

I said, “You get off on your paintings that much, don’t you?”

Gerard just shrugged, called it “Art.”

I asked Sloan if she thought Gerard might have gotten fat.

“God, I sure hope so,” she said.

The reason I had asked Sloan whether she thought Gerard had gotten fat was because, in addition to being a painter of hatchet and sailboat, he had the ghastly build of a twirler’s baton.

I never saw him eat; he only took sips from a jug of warm water. These none-eating habits, I assume, attributed to his ability of tying himself up like a pretzel, which he did while working on whatever he was working on at the time (one of the hundreds), bobbing to and fro, always singing this ridiculous hick song:

I’ll be goin’ down to Flagstaff

I’ll be goin’ down to Flagstaff

I’ll be goin’ down to Flagstaff

Gonna finds me a ye ol’ girl!

Whenever questioned about the song Gerard would give this snooty, just-smelled-shit-for-the-first-time look, and say, “You mean you don’t know?

I always left it at that.