The people in charge seat me under some bright lights and put my painting on an easel. I meet Sebastian, an art expert, and my heart starts knocking. I’m thrilled to be chosen, to have something so special. That is, until Sebastian grins and asks if I’ve ever noticed the peacock feather.
Well, of course. I tell him the minute people walk in our front door they’re drawn to the painting, to the two men facing one another. The shine of their top hats and the delicate feather in the one man’s hand. There’s a blue dot at the tip of the feather that looks like an eye and it follows me, even when I vacuum the rug.
He explains the feather means they’re lovers, that it was common during that era for artists to embed symbols into their work. Says the painting is quite valuable.
The auditorium is jammed with people clutching cuckoo clocks, signed baseballs, Tiffany lamps. I tell him that can’t be right, that the painting hangs in our living room where Bruce holds his Bible study. Sebastian breaks into a high-pitched laugh like a woman. Everyone turns to look at us and the room begins to swim.
I close my eyes and hear Bruce saying the Bible tells us there’s no room in the heavenly Kingdom for homosexuals.
Then I see our son, David, sitting at the dinner table as a teenager, biting his fingernails down to the quick. Bruce asking him when he’s going to grow a set and try out for football.
David chewing his nails and licking away the dots of bright red blood that pop up. He’s almost thirty now and manages a kiosk at Disney World selling warm churros and blue cotton candy. Who in their right mind wants to live in God-forsaken Orlando hawking junk food, Bruce says.
David. Who never comes home anymore, not even at Christmas. When he calls and Bruce isn’t around I tell him I’m proud of him. His kiosk is the number one producer on the entire property. Including Epcot.
The expert asks if I’ve ever wondered how much the painting is worth. Says at auction it would fetch $7,000 and we should insure it for $10,000. The eye stares at me.
A woman standing near us grabs her husband’s arm. That lady’s painting is worth $10,000, she tells him.
I stand up, lift it from the easel, and hand it to her. I tell her I don’t want it staring at me anymore. She studies the painting, then me. But the men are looking at each other, not you, she says.
I could tell her she’s wrong, that they’ve never really looked at each other. Instead, I grab my pocketbook and push through the crowd toward the exit. Sebastian yells at me, tells me to stop. I keep going because he couldn’t possibly understand, none of them could understand.
How hard it is to have that eye in your house.
Kim Bundy works at an academic medical center in Nashville, Tennessee. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Louisville Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Village Square, Heartland Society of Women Writers, and Reckoning: Tennessee Writers on 2020. One of her flash fiction stories was recently named runner-up in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Contest.