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Gifts of Red and Green

On the eighth Daze of Christmas, 

'Tis the season to look back, and regret.

Gifts of Red and Green by J.J. Sinisi


I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be. A forest landscape or a tulip, maybe? She asked if I liked it. Of course, I said. I always did. How could I say otherwise? She was the only woman I ever loved.

I wondered aloud if she was attempting abstractionism. I received a creased eyebrow in response. If she smelled the alcohol when I spoke, she didn’t mention it.

The painting hung askew on the wall, long intermingling pigmented streaks, joined as they were by the interminable will of randomness, robbed its beauty save for one spot at the bottom, where white and red and green joined to create a wonderful spiral of color in an otherwise confusing mess of shit.

“It’s your gift,” she said. A heavy sigh from her pert nose belied her smile, hid smoldering tears. “I paint them; then I leave them outside to weather.”

“To weather?”

“Yes, Munch used to do it. Let the elements do their worst. He even let his dog trample on one.”

“Munch? The guy who did Scream?”

She laughed at the fact that I knew this piece of trivia or because I thought it worth mentioning. She wiped a stray tear which had snaked around the large purple welt pinching her eye shut.

The bright Christmas tree crystallized white shapes across her face and I imagined it shattering, her lips going here, nose there, her cheeks flying away, all her beauty ruined in one cataclysm. The rage still hadn’t left me.

“You didn’t have to do it,” she whispered. “It wasn’t your responsibility anymore.”

A familiar ball gathered in my gut, grew limbs, climbed through my throat. My eyes wandered back to the painting, away from her splintered visage. I saw it then, the painting, what she had intended: the weather and the wear, I watched the boiling red streaks until it was all I could see.

“There was nothing left but blood,” I said.

“What?”

“When I was done hitting him, no eyes, no nose. Just blood. On my fist, punching where his face used to be. Just so much red.”

“Christ, Jamar.”

“But I look at you now,” I touched her lumpy cheek. “I know I went too easy on him.”
The forecast was initially six inches, but lake effect had pumped it up to a foot, and now all that swirling white mixed in the darkness with the blinking Christmas lights. It was the first year I hadn’t hung them for her and I felt that if the course of the storm didn’t blow them down, I’d go out there myself and tear them away. I wanted to destroy anything that had to do with him, obliterate the entire world because he had lived upon it.

Moments later, the spinning light of a police car added its own colors. It was time.

I looked out the window beside the door; saw the sheriff getting out. “I left you a gift,” I said quickly.

“For Christmas?” she asked, crying now.

It climbed out of my mouth then fully formed: regret. I felt I could see it, this thing that had always been between us, had now taken shape, and would never go away. Neither her abusive boyfriend nor my addiction could annihilate it. “Yes, for Christmas. It was in his apartment. He won’t be missing it. I hid it in the shed, on top of my old desk. The one I used to write at.”

The sheriff knocked and the wind howled.

“I miss your writing.” She glanced at the painting again. “I miss creating art with you. I think that’s when it all died. When we stopped creating.”

More knocks. He could see me through the door.

“It’s worth ten grand.” I chuckled.

“What?”

“It’s a Lichtenstein. Honestly, I was just glad I didn’t see any of your pieces there.”

“We never painted together.” She paused. “So you just took it?”

“I always was a good thief.”

“You were a better writer.”

“Open up. It’s Sheriff Johnston. C’mon, Cynthia. I know he’s in there.”

I opened the door to Johnston’s well-weathered mustache, white from both time and the storm. His green eyes evaded the saggy crags of his wrinkles.

“Time to go, Jamar.”

I know, I told him, because I was never any good at running away.



J. J. Sinisi is a husband, father, and professional out of New York and spends what little free time he has strolling dark alleyways creating crime fiction. His work has appeared at Crime Factory, Spelk Fiction, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Dead Guns Press, All Due Respect, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, and Heater among others. Check out his noir themed website www.thisdesperatecity.com.