House of the Long Brush-Stroke
The painter worked slowly, and carefully, the thin bristles of his paint-brush gliding over the textured wall and turning, deftly, to come back down in a long, slow, carefully parallel line.
The brush-strokes were deliberate, and patiently applied, by one who had covered his canvas a thousand times before. Every rough bump in the wallpaper, every thin crack in the plaster behind, every wispery cobweb trail left tickling the corners of his wall, the painter knew. Learnt to move his brush accordingly.
To stroke the wall correctly. To make it reveal its true, new colour.
Every day the painter sat and painted these four walls, these rough and textured four walls. Every time the colour shifted, gently, gradually. Edging towards something new, something green.
The Chaplaincy, as the strange backwards room was called, was all but forgotten by the painter's school-mates. The inhabitants - old men with old beards and old clothes and old ideas - taught what they knew and the few lonely pupils that came learnt what they could.
Of the Bible, and of Jesus. Old ideas. Bad ideas. Needed repainting. Verses lost in a coat of fresh, clean paint.
The walls of the Chaplaincy had been white. Not pristine, and not yellowing. A dusty, musky white that spoke of cracked and ancient pages.
The painter had been bored. Listless. Had found the door unlocked, one night, and set to work for the first time.
Clumsy thing. Beginner's scrawl. Great lines of overlapped strokes made dimples in the textured walls, made amateurish streaks that screamed guilty of the painter's work.
They had not been seen. The painter had been safe. Redeemed to carry on his piece. To carve out his masterpiece in long, smooth strokes.
The colours changed, gradually, ever gradually. From the off-white of the Chaplaincy's wallpaper the painter had edged towards grey, each coat of paint becoming a shade greyer every night.
It had been expensive. And the hours were long.
But he cut them down. Worked. Practised until every stroke was as Picasso's, every movement as deliberate and precise as Michelangelo's.
The painter learnt nothing in school, now. He simply painted. Painted every night, edging shade after shade after shade.
He had reached grey without notice of the teachers. Those old men with old beards and old clothes and old ideas. As dusty and as rusty as the heavy tome they toted.
What if the painter were to be a writer? To change a word a time, a verse a week? To change the Word itself.
He painted on. Grey began to edge to green. A lilac green, a sun-kissed, powder green.
The painter had begun his work a year ago. Standing back, he smiled, faintly.
The next day he heard a fragment, a snatched line that made him laugh aloud.
"The Chaplaincy? Green. Always has been."
Things could be changed.