Stump
by Skinner Box
Email: BurrhusFrederic@worldnet.att.net
Summary: Krycekian woolgathering. A Leedsville story.
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Spender/Krycek
Spoilers: none to speak of
Disclaimer: The X-Files and these characters belong to Chris Carter and Fox Broadcasting. I play with them out of love and for no profit.
Note: Thank you to Starfish and Wildy for fine beta. All remaining infelicities are, of course, my own. The Matisse story is true. The print in the kitchen is "Lemons and Saxifrages."
Archive: please ask first


Stump
by Skinner Box

Sweet smelling spring Shabbat. Afternoon and Sashele's tucked into Papa's side, lazy under a tree in Druid Hill Park.

Papa has an arm around him. Sweater's faintly scratchy against Sasha's cheek and smelling of sweet pipe tobacco. With the other hand Papa points out bits of the landscape below them.

"See that girl with the red sweater, Sashele? Look at the color. Now look at your shoe."

Sasha obediently ducks his head, examining the scuffed toes of his cherry red sneakers.

"Now look back at the girl again, milok. See how much brighter the red of your shoe was? That's because the girl in the sweater is far away. If she were right here beside us her sweater would be as red as your tennies, maybe redder. But we see all the air between her and us, and that makes her sweater look greyer than it is. Can you see how that would be, Sashele, moy syn?"

He doesn't, quite. But he's sleepy and cozy and Papa's voice did that wonderful singsong storytelling thing, so he nods his drowsy contentment if nothing else.

"I have no overtime tomorrow, miliy. Perhaps we will get out from under your mother's hair and come back here with the paint box for the afternoon..."

Sashele shifts a little, snuggling down so his head rests on Papa's leg. "Story, Papa?"

Papa smiles down at him, his white moustache going all bristly with it. "What story shall we have then, my son?"

Sasha thinks a minute. Important question, that. But he knows which one he wants. "About the little girl and the stump, Papale."

Papa's face goes solemn, but something is dancing in his eyes. "And what what do we say when we ask for something?"

The smile is creeping back into Papa's mouth despite his stern tone and Sashele feels his face mirroring it. "Please, Papa."

"Very well. Since you ask so nicely, child, it would be a pleasure." Papa leans back into the tree and gives Sasha's shoulder a squeeze.

"Not so many years ago, Henri Matisse was an old man, living in Nice in the south of France. And who is Monsieur Matisse, moy syn?"

Sasha knows this. "He painted the painting with lemons we have in the kitchen."

"Very good." Papa smiles down at him and pets his hair. "He painted the painting we have a print of in the kitchen. The painting itself is in New York at the Museum of Modern Art where someday, God willing, we will go on a trip, Mama and you and I, to see the painting Monsieur Matisse made with his very hands.

"But for now, the painter Matisse was an old man and living in Nice where the air blows sweet over the Mediterranean, when a young couple moved into the villa next door to him. They were young and a little silly and did not know who this great painter was, only that he was an old man who painted, and that he lived next door.

"Now this young couple had a little girl, not so very much older than you, moy Sashele. And she was very curious at to what this painting business was all about. And when she asked her Mama and her Papa they told her to ask the old man next door, and perhaps he would teach her what painting was. And do you know what she did?"

Sasha nods solemnly. "She went next door and asked Monsieur Matisse to teach her to paint."

"And what did this very old, very great, very famous painter say to the little girl?"

Papa is smiling his big smile where all the crinkles in his face crinkle up even more around his eyes and his mouth so it's like Papa is all smile and nothing else. They say the answer together.

"He picked up his paint box, and picked up a canvas, and said 'come, child, let us paint."

"And so," Papa goes on, "the great Monsieur Matisse and the little girl went outside and found a pretty spot and the little girl began to paint what was there before her." Papa pauses expectantly.

"A landscape," Sashele says.

"Precisely!" Papa says and his eyes go crinkly again. "The little girl began to paint a landscape, with Monsieur Matisse there to help her and guide her and answer her questions. And it all went very well for a while . . . until . . . "

"Until . . . " Sasha says. "Until . . . until she got to the tree stump."

"Until she got to the tree stump, my child. The grass and the flowers and the sky the little girl painted with no trouble, but then came the tree stump. And she tried . . ."

"And tried," Sasha adds.

"And tried," Papa continues. "But she could not paint the tree stump no matter how she tried, and the little girl began to cry." And Papa's face goes all sad at the thought of the poor little girl, and they wait a minute, just being sad with the little girl who could not paint the tree stump.

"And the great Monsieur Matisse said," Sashele can't help but prompt.

"And the great Monsieur Matisse said," Papa goes on at last. "'My friend, do not cry. I will tell you a very great secret of painting. One that I learned long ago and has made me very happy ever since.' And the great painter Matisse bent down and whispered in the little girl's ear . . ."

And Papa and Sashele finish together, whispering the words like always: "my little friend, when you paint, you are the artist," and then, right out loud, nearly whooping with the joy of it, "AND YOU MAY LEAVE OUT THE STUMP!" And Papale's sweater-clad arms are scratchy-warm in the hug.

"Where'd you go there, babe?" Jeff's finger idly traces the line of Alex's smile, wool of his cuff rasping against Alex's face like stubble. Returns to the pages of his book. Rachel Carson. Not "Silent Spring." The other one, with the blue cover- "Edge of the Sea."

Alex turns on his side so he can see the fire wavering in the space behind the grille of the grate.

"Woolgathering?" Jeff asks.

Alex slips his one hand down to give Jeff a squeeze on the knee.

"Yeah, buddy."

Woolgathering.

The End


Archived: August 27, 2001