Impression, soleil levant

Submitted into Contest #131 in response to: Set your story in a drawing room.... view prompt

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Fiction Historical Fiction Speculative

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Wallpaper, it’s moldy green was shrieking against Claude’s eyes like nails scratching a blackboard. All around him he could only see that wallpaper encasing the rich drawing room, overshadowing the satin sofa and armchairs, the ornate desk and the piano in the corner.

“Claude, mon ami, what brings you here?” Louis’s smile brimmed with cunning malice as he entered the room, while his butler hold the door open. “Bring us a fine bottle from the cellar, and two chalices” he muttered to the servant below his mustache trimmed to the utmost perfection.

The smile in response from Claude was a lion’s grin waiting for an opening to the jugular, on the throat of his host. “Louis. Indeed, what does bring me here to your lovely parlor. Many speak highly of your fine taste, and I hoped to steal some of it for myself” Claude was finely dressed, but his beard run freely in all directions as if dancing to the beat of an electric shock.

“I see you brought with you a newspaper” commented Louis, curling the end of his mustache between his fingers,

“Oh yes, Le Charivari, it just came out a couple of days ago. There’s one of its articles that amuses me so much I can’t stop reading it. I keep it always with me”

“Does it now? It is hard to find good reads in this times. Let’s sit and we shall talk”.

The wine came shortly after, with the two sitting on the soft pillows of the chairs, facing each other in a deadly standoff to the most mellifluous compliment.

“I have to say, I’m impressed by your choice of chinoiserie” Claude’s eyes darting to the wallpaper while his fingers gently rolled the wine in the chalice “I believed you to be more of a traditionalist though, isn’t it a bit daring for your taste?”

Louis responded after a sip “Oh I don’t mistake decor for art: a good sitting room needs to leave an impression, art must show Truth, through form” a new honeyed smile.

“What a lovely concept you have here, I believe I might have heard something similar… maybe someone stole your idea… who was it? Oh yes some ‘John Keats’, just an English writer, fifty or so years ago, maybe his work has not yet reached Paris, but I suppose you may try to denounce his felony of intellectual theft.” this time it was Claude drinking a mouthful of wine “delicious.”

Louis flinched at the jab, but readily retaliated “It’s a well aged wine, coming directly from Bordeaux, you can taste the touch of the classic techniques. If I’m not mistaken, on the newspaper that you hold with you, there is a very nice article on that same winery”

“I agree, I found the article somewhat entertaining… Have you ever heard of the ‘monkey with a typewriter’ idea? If you have infinite monkeys typing random letters on a page, sooner or later one will even write the Odyssey itself!” another sip from Claude is followed by a gloating smirk “Maybe Le Chirivari employs a very active crew of baboons, and pays them in ripe bananas, instead of spending money in skilled and intelligent writers, the result might be the same, am I right?”

Purple in his face, and trembling like a teapot on the stove, Louis’s voice turns into a low buzz “You come to my house to mock me and insult me? Claude, you are treading dangerous roads” his knuckles white with the fingers clutching the armrests of the chair.

“No, you, insulted me Louis.” unfolding the paper Claude started reading, his voice booming with spite and anger “‘Claude Manet’s ‘Impression, soleil levant’ leaves NOTHING but an impression. What is it a paint of? Hard to tell, but I can tell you this: Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than this landscape!’ Louis Leroy, April 1874” in the pause taken between the two small sparks of electrical energy were flowing madly, bouncing between the wild beard of the artist and the elegant mustache of the journalist.

“It’s just an opinio-”

“You disgust me. At the very least I was hoping to see you had some taste in wallpaper. This” and he gestures towards the walls “looks like the pissing wall behind a dive bar, and your damn wine tastes like it”

“This is too much!” Jolting to his feet Louis points his finger to the door “Out. You are not welcome in my house. I might have accepted a wannabe artist, but an arrogant boor is too much”

Monet rose from his seat, slowly. A deep breath “Mon ami, I’m not finished with my essay” he hissed, advancing towards his host “because even a baboon would understand art better than a bigot like you. Your head is so full of self importance that doesn’t leave space for a mind. You are so stuck in your conceited absolutism, that you miss the immensity of accepting ambiguity. ‘Truth is beauty and beauty is Truth’ the quote was right, but you never understood its meaning. Truth is a terrible shape-shifter, an hydra of a thousand heads, and art MUST bow her head to the chaos and run free of preconception and vain respectability”

One step forward from Claude was a step behind for Louis, that receded until his back was against the desk.

With a last lunge Louis attacked with a strangled voice “You are a fraud, you talk high and mighty but your children drawings will be dust in ten years! I'll make sure they will!” his eyes out and his face purple and breathless.

The first punch came with no forewarning. Then one, and one, and another. Claude eyes flaming, his left hand clutching Louis’s collar, the right fist raining on his face, the glued mustache bobbing to the rhythm of the beating.

The face bloodied by a running nose, Louis rose his hands, trying to cover the swollen face, but merciless other hits followed, before Claude finally dropped him to the ground.

Looking down on the journalist, Claude Monet adjusted his suit and the reddened collar of his shirt. He ripped the page L’Exposition des Impressionistes form Le Charivari, April 1974 and dropped it on Louis Leroy’s chest.

“Hope that this, now, left you a worthy impression.” 

February 03, 2022 04:26

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