August 1, 2010
posted and written by Heather McShane
Below is the first chapter of Four Corners, a short book I wrote in the fall.
At first, I proceeded cautiously with a story about a harlequin—
Lucera rounded the corner at dusk. What looked to be a box sat propped against a trashcan. As she walked closer, the brown of the box became the back of the box, the delicately papered back of a picture frame.
She noticed dirty cobwebs, around the edges, mostly in the corners. She brushed them off, flicking then shaking her fingers to get them unstuck. The webbed mess floated down onto grasses that sprung through the cracks of the alley. Without really thinking, Lucera used both hands to bring the top of the picture frame to rest against her thighs.
In the dimming light, her eyes searched for a pattern in the picture; she could tell immediately that it wasn’t abstract. She saw the outline of a human figure, a face.
She thought of her sister who had slept on the top bunk in their childhood home. Lucera remembered the first time she saw her sister’s face speaking upside down from the top bunk. It had scared her so much that she laughed.
This memory incited Lucera to turn the painting around in an effort to examine it upright. It was ungainly. After setting it down, she lost her balance a little as she took a step back. She saw the painted figure’s clothing of diamonds connected to diamonds and recognized it as the costume of a harlequin.
Lucera’s thoughts flashed to illustrations of harlequins and sketches of spaces between apartment buildings and to the words “bound and gagged,” which caused her stomach to turn. She wondered, could this be a clue?
Lucera thought about her luck—was it good or bad?—and about how, had she found the picture in the days previous, she might have dismissed it as of a clown or a jester. However, she reasoned, the picture wasn’t then discarded. It still might have hung on someone’s wall, perhaps almost invisible, because it had become so much a part of the surroundings. It was just there, in that space. Lucera asked herself, Why wasn’t it there now? Did that person’s eyes now stop on the brightness in color of the wall where the picture was formerly displayed?
In her limited view of the sky, Lucera noticed the increasing darkness. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and stood transfixed as the phone’s ringing tone filled her head.