Ariel M. Goldenthal

A Life in a Day

from Archaeology of Solitude, a series by Bernard Mattox

Cheap paintbrushes splash muddy water across the canvas but you say, “It’s okay, you’re learning how to be an artist.” Some colors aren’t meant to mix together.

My favorite sister, our Portuguese Water Dog, pulls you up the hill from the beach. Charcoal covers your fingertips and dried salt, mine. Grandma yells at you for borrowing the dog but it’s the only way you can make the trek to the water. 

Golden hour
Ignorance becomes impossible when you tell my sister to lose weight. “Move your fat ass,” you tell her. After half the family leaves, I hear my parents whisper-listing a litany of offenses I’d never thought to notice. 

Retirement, even at 84, does not suit you. Grandma hates when you sit on the porch and smoke your pipe, and your new sailboat paintings grow more abstract as your vision fades. After I run to my mother in tears, she tells me not to sit alone with you in case your anger flares.

I count breaths with you. In for three—one, two, three. Out for three—one, two three. It’s the only way to remind you that your pulse oximeter is accurate, that you can breathe, that you’re no more dying today than you were fifty years ago. You smile and nod back to sleep.


About the writer:
Ariel M. Goldenthal is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. Her work has appeared in Emerge Literary Journal, MoonPark Review, and Fiction Southeast.

Image: Archaeology of Solitude, series by Bernard Mattox (1954- ). (Cropped to remove extraneous background). No medium specified. 48 x 54 inches. No completion date specified. By free license via Scott Harbison.