by Ivan Faute

The summer Picasso stayed at our house the mosquitoes were awful. It rained for two weeks before he arrived, but, with his easels and trunks, he brought the southern sun to us. My mother had taken to collecting paintings that summer. It didn’t matter what kind or who painted them; good, bad, hasty, oils, they were stacked up three and four thick on the floor in every room, leaning against the walls. She told us to stay out of Picasso’s way, while she watched his every move, constantly scratching the mosquito bites on her ankles. They caused long, red welts up and down her legs.

My sister and I would wake as early as possible to catch the bus to the beach. One morning, a few days before he left for good, I woke before sunrise and, eager to claim the best spot on the sand, went to get my sister. Suddenly, in the dusky hallway, there stood Picasso in front of me. He was wearing square, white swimming trunks and had a thick, cotton robe draped over his arm. Even as an old man, his shoulders were square, his muscles looked firm, and his skin looked warm. He stood an inch shorter than me, so I looked down at his feet. He wore flat-soled sandals with complicated leather straps that wrapped about his calves, ankles and toes. I remember that he smelled of soap and coffee, and that his toenails were long, thick and sharp.

Ivan Faute has stories in various journals and anthologies and dramatic work produced in New York, London, Chicago and elsewhere. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and named a finalist for the Calvino Prize and the ATHE Excellence in Playwriting Award. He teaches creative writing at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. ivanfaute.org.

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