Portrait of a Daughter

by Dean Lawson

A match light flash. Lucinda starts a new cigarette. Pale tobacco smoke hangs in the air, in a room lit by two candles, one near a man, the other on a table beside a woman. The man, the Artist, makes feverish inspired lines. His charcoal fingers rubbing out every unsuccessful attempt. He's having trouble finding the curve of the cheekbone. 

There, at last! Now the eyes.

The woman's left arm is positioned under her breasts. Her right arm resting on the hand of the other. 

“The arm is a White Birch,” he tells her, “leaning out over a cliff.” 

She squints, then nods her head through more exhaled smoke.

He remembered then, as the smoke directed straight towards him, the eyes. Shared a taxi with her about a month ago out on Bowery, gave her his card and asked if she was interested in a little work.

"Any trouble finding the place?" he says.

Lucinda puts the cigarette in her mouth, grabs a blanket from off the floor, gets up and wraps it around her.

"How about some coffee?" 

The Artist stands up and walks to the other side of the loft. In the kitchen there's a small fluorescent light above the sink, he pulls the white cord and the mercury vapor comes to life. 

Lucinda walks around looking at sketches on the walls, there are dozens of them.

"You draw lots of women, huh? I mean lots come through here I bet," she says.

"Yeah, I guess..." he says, "hope black is alright."

Lucinda hears the sound of water running, squeaky fingers on clean porcelain, then liquid being poured into vessels.

He comes back and hands her the mug of coffee.

"You did my Mom once," she says.

"Well, like you said," he says, "lots come through." Then goes back to his chair like he wants to get back to work.

She's behind him now in the darkest part of the loft. The room just a vacuum of silence now. Then the strike of a match. He turns around and can just make out the portrait she's looking at. 

He sees her eyes again, this time on a portrait. 

"She always talked about you," she says, "probably drove my father away, that and cause she was a drunk." 

The flame of the match now almost touching the portrait. She finally blows it out, just before it touches.

Lucinda walks over to the chair where he's sitting, drops the blanket on the floor in front of him, leans in real cool and says, "You got any children that you know of mister?"