Monday, June 20, 2011

"A Painting of a Woman On a Motorcycle": A story based on "Shimmering Rain" by Gideon Smith & the Dixie Damned, as suggested by Gideon Smith (34/100)

A Painting of a Woman on a Motorcycle

After three days of non-stop rain, a man showed up at my door trying to sell me a painting of a woman on a motorcycle. The painting was wrapped in a thick piece of clear plastic like an oversized sandwich bag. I could just make out the blues of the sky and the grays of the road.

The man himself stood no taller than five feet. His face was swollen to bursting, like a glove filled with turkey and dressing. He was balding, his head like an egg in a hula skirt, and for the first few minutes I was distracted by it, the way the rain sat there as if his skin had recently been sealed with wax. When I invited him in, he removed his jacket and gave it a shake above the rug he was standing on.

He was nervous and said little. After he finally rubbed the water from the top of his head, he repeated the act several more times as a matter of habit, looking around my sparsely decorated living room as if he were considering renting the place. I could understand why he felt sheepish and was unable to conceal it. There was only a couch and a folding chair to sit on. In the corner were two broken televisions stacked on top of one another. I unwrapped the painting and examined it in the light before propping it up against the televisions. I know nothing of art but everything of looking at something slowly. The woman’s eyes were slightly crossed and there was a lake in the background, far enough off that it was almost lost, a single swipe of the brush. I owned no other art at the time and hadn’t even really hung up anything on my walls since the centerfolds of my youth.

I paid a meager sum for the painting and sent the man on his way, both of us content. My head was burning, but not in any way I could help with medicine or rest. The woman on the motorcycle had never felt frustration. I could tell. It wasn’t the freedom of the road, the biker clichés. It was the way her knuckles, white at their centers, wrapped around the handles with the satisfaction of revenge. But her eyes! There was not the silence of precision. One eye refused to follow the other directly and the resulting clash made her face a mass of harsh, beautiful noise. I fell asleep in the folding chair that night wondering how heavy her love could be.

The man showed up again a few days later. It was still raining and we went through the same procedure as last time, he acted no less awkward and embarrassed for my living situation. By then I had started recreating the painting on the longest wall of my living room. If he noticed, he didn’t say anything. He needed the painting back. Apparently, there had been a misunderstanding. I made it clear that I didn’t comprehend, but that was all he said. Surely he didn’t work for a company selling individual paintings door to door. I was sure he’d sold the painting in haste, a painting that belonged to either him or someone he was momentarily upset with, and he was then trying to undo what he had done out of dissatisfaction.

I told him no. He didn’t beg or attempt to explain his situation. But he didn’t leave. I asked him if he’d like to help me finish the painting on the wall. At first he declined and said he’d watch me paint instead, but eventually he made his way over and began painting a tree in the far off corner. “I watched Bob Ross,” he said. “When I was younger.” I nodded and told him that he was doing good but that he must keep consulting the original. We painted through the night, the rhythms of the rain against the windows lulling our brushes into a sort of fluidity. In the morning we were finished and as I stood back to look at the finished product, I noticed that I had made her mouth open, not in a smile, but in a laugh. In the original it was closed. I looked at the pudgy salesman and told him to mix up white and blue with a drop of black. “Like this,” I said, dipping my pinky finger into the mixture and setting it down lightly on the wall, lifting up into a wisp on top of the dot. The rain came down on her like a marching band. Oh, how little she cared.


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Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned is a band from North Carolina, also known as "Horsemen Country" in the world of professional wrestling. Somewhere between the Allman Brothers and mid-period Corrosion of Conformity is Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned, vocals and riffs both grizzled and authentic, unable to be spoken about without using the word "swagger."

Gideon Smith is the leading force behind Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned. Not only is he a musician, but he's a writer, too, having released the book Way of the Outlaw Spirit. He's also done spoken word and poetry in the vein of a shamanistic southern gothic troubadour (so basically, he's badass across all mediums). From my personal dealings with him to everything I've read about him, Gideon is the coolest, most positive dude in the world. Rock and roll need more guys like him. Everything needs more guys like him. If he's ever in Southwest Wisconsin, I'll buy him a burger and let him crash on my couch. Buy his music through Small Stone Records here.

(I'd like to extend a special thanks to Scott from Small Stone Recordings for hooking Gideon up with this project. He runs a great label with some of the best heavy rock there's ever been. Without a lot of the bands on Small Stone, I wouldn't play the music I play or listen to the music I listen to. Thanks for everything, Scott.)

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