By Patricia Gallagher
The red slick fanned out slowly across the floorboards. Mesmerizingly terrible.
This was not meant to happen. I thought everyone was occupied and it should have been easy to slip in and take what I wanted. But the figure in the shadows startled me and I had leapt in panic. With catastrophic results.
I soon saw that there had been no real threat from the old man, but it was too late. The damage was done. I'd always known I was bad, I'd been told often enough. Now I knew I was really wicked I had nothing to lose. I could dive headlong and immerse myself in my true, awful nature.
Kneeling, putting thought aside, I dipped trembling fingers into the warm stickiness. Traced a bold stripe across my brow, then my nose, my cheeks, my chin. Then the desire to put my fingers to my lips became difficult to ignore - that would be a step too far wouldn't it? I did it anyway, and added disgust to the teeming sensations. I moved on to the walls, becoming daring and wild. Intoxicated, I knew one thing for certain. I would do this again.
Utterly absorbed, I was jolted to my senses only when I heard a shriek from the doorway. My poor mother had her hand to her mouth as she surveyed her studio. “God in heaven Mary, what have you done now!”
Upturned tub of paint on the floor, crimson daubs everywhere, and my four year old self, a defiant warrior among the carnage.
I got off lightly considering how long the clean up took and how expensive the jumbo tin of acrylic had been. Miraculously, the full sized, recently completed portrait of my grandfather lurking in the corner survived unscathed. His accusing eyes continued to bore into me from above the fireplace throughout my childhood.
But I did do it again. Many times. First with brush on paper and later palette knife on canvas. And crimson would always find its way in there, never failing to transport me back to my first glorious experience of artistic abandon.