The windows were left open last night. He sighs when he realizes because there was a light shower last night so all of his sketches from the day before are peppered with the spray. Tiny bubbles have formed and dried on the thick parchment, blurring the beautiful drawings.
“Unrecognizable,” he mutters, holding one picture in his hand. Now he’ll have to start his work without a sketch to reference.
First, he takes a new piece of parchment, one larger than the last, and stretches it taut over a hard board. Then he begins mixing his paints; adding water, more color, a little powder to thicken. It takes him another twenty minutes to pick a color to start with; a dark deep blue. Then he picks a thick brush to begin setting the background. It isn’t until he’s hunched over the easel, brush a mere breath from the parchment, that his assistant enters, the door creaking as he crosses the threshold. It smells like rain outside; the painter catches a whiff of the salty scent as the door swings shut and frowns. “This color is too dull to start with,” he says, pulling the brush away and staring down at his paints.
“Still haven’t picked a color?” his assistant asks from across the room. He laughs to himself as he hears his father mumble a complaint about the rain in response. It’s his young assistant who left the window open the night before, though he’ll never admit it now as he peers at the ruined sketches. He did it to give Spirit, their pet dove, a taste of the night air. “He likes the breeze,” he says quietly, offering a dried cranberry to the onlooking bird.
“Give me a hand,” the painter calls from across the room.
The assistant knows his father’s pickiness better than anyone and quickly crosses the floor to help.
“I want something brighter,” his father says, hand reaching up to rub at the stubble on his chin. He skipped a shave the last few days, enjoying the faint beginnings of a salt and pepper beard.
“Something easier on the eyes?” his son asks.
“Something to let the rest of the colors seem dull against it.”
His son nods. “Something to let everything fade behind it.”
His father snaps his fingers, mouthing ‘ahh’ as he dips a fresh brush into a different color. “Something to … let there be light.”
A burst of color erupts on the parchment, a light so beautiful both father and son seem inclined to squint as they watch the paint dance across the white plain.
“It’s good,” the painter says, a focused look on his face.
“What will you call it?”
Without hesitation he answers: “Day,” then grabs a second brush and begins stroking on the deep blue he’d picked earlier. “And this one will be Night.”
He continues painting with his son at his side, stroking on an array of colors and describing the image to his assistant. His voice is quiet but firm, every word as deliberate as the stroke of his brush.
“A vault between the waters … I’ll call that Sky. And this here,” his hand moves swiftly to stroke on a bright green color. “This will be Land.”
“You should add …” his son begins but trails off as he watches his father continue to paint. The brush moves in exactly the way he was going to suggest, as if the painter had read his mind. He’s been working with his father since before he could remember, it’s no surprise they’re one in the same.
“Seas,” his father says, switching to a different color. “And these little things,” he paints small leafy creatures that seem to burst forth from the land, “these will be called Vegetation.”
“Vegetation,” his son repeats, watching intently.
“Yes. Vegetation will be a source of food.”
His son turns, shifting his vision to stare at the side of his father’s face. The look of concentration is clear; large round eyes reduce to slits in his face as he squints at the painting, mumbling while his hands form his creation. Long lashes flicker up and down as he blinks, fanning at the tiny motes of dust floating in the sunlight. It feels as if the room itself has brightened because of the glowing light from the colors his father calls ‘Day’.
The assistant settles on a stool nearby, content with watching his father work. There are times where the painter begins a work his son knows will become a masterpiece, from the very first stroke of the brush. There are times where pure silence is the best assistance he can offer his talented father. There are times where he enjoys the look on his father’s face as he stares at the parchment before him, displaying a sort of concentration so hard he wonders if the painter is aware of anything besides the colors before him.
“This will be his best one yet,” the assistant whispers, watching his father work. He sits for hours, witnessing the creation come together. Watching pointed pieces of land rise to kiss the sky—those his father called mountains—and swirling blue veins flow through the land; rivers, his father had explained.
When the sixth hour passes, his son stands and pats his father on the shoulder. He comes back to him, blinking to focus. “What is it, son?”
“You’ve been at this for six hours. Nonstop.”
For a moment, he’s going to argue; stress the beauty of this new piece and the necessity to finish it now. But then he glances at the painting and he can’t help but smile.
“It is good.”
“It is,” his son says.
“Six hours of work, eh?”
“Let’s rest for the seventh hour. We can grab lunch.”
His son smiles eagerly. “How does fish and fresh baked loaves sound?”
The painter moves to set his brushes in water while his son feeds another cranberry to Spirit. As they’re closing the shop for lunch his assistant asks, “What will you add to it when we return?”
The Father smiles. “Man.”
This was written for Jesus Christ, my very best friend and biggest fan.