The Woman and Her Steed
2010 Flash Fiction Contest First Place
By Traci Schatz
He came every day.
Mr. Yakimoto sat on the same stone bench, elbows on his knees, hands folded together under his chin. He sat for exactly 35 minutes. Museum employees smiled at him with a quick upturn of their lips, but pity showed in their eyes. As was museum policy, they passed behind him, trying never to block his view of the painting.
It was one of the museum’s most popular exhibits—the exquisite chocolate and tans of the mountainside, greens and yellows mixed together so expertly that the grass seemed to emit a fresh scent. It was almost impossible for people to pass by without stopping for a long look. But the best part of the painting was the beautiful woman gazing longingly into the distance, one hand lightly touching her horse’s honey colored mane. Guests whispered to each other that the women’s black eyes stared at them with such intensity they felt as if they were peeking into the window of a stranger’s bedroom.
The guard most often on duty during Mr. Yakimoto’s visits loved the painting as much as the guests. His duties and museum rules didn’t allow time to stand and admire the black haired beauty and her golden steed, but during rotations he paused momentarily to admire her. He also admired Mr. Yakimoto, his dedication, his love of art, his obvious good taste.
One day, well into Mr. Yakimoto’s second year of daily visits, the guard decided to ask Mr. Yakimoto about his fascination and apparent adoration of the painting. Maybe he is an artist himself, admiring a contemporary painter with skills greater than his own? Maybe the woman reminds him of an old lover? Maybe he misses the horses of his youth?
Spotting his opportunity the guard sat down beside Mr. Yakimoto, “Excuse me Sir, but I have to know. Why do you come here everyday to stare at this masterpiece? Are you in love with the painting or the woman atop her steed?”
Mr. Yakimoto, removed his folded hands from beneath his chin, placed them on the cool bench next to his legs, turned and motioned with a nod of his head for the guard to lean closer. Excited to finally find out the secret, the guard had visions of what it would be like telling the coveted news to his co-workers. Gone were fears of broken museum policy.
Mr. Yakimoto quickly licked his thin lips and spoke in a whisper, “This raven-haired temptress is my wife. I sent her into this painting during one of our many fights. Sitting one minute for each year of our marriage is enough to ensure she never escapes.”