Dots Like Seurat

As a child Louise loved that little moment between after dinner and bedtime. She would spend it at her bay window because she loved to watch the tide coming right up to the wall, she imagined it as a dirty towel rough drying the sweat off of the beaches blonde brows. An artist’s child, her mind encouraged her to think of the waves as a life, perhaps as a man, a very punctual Pied Piper.
Mummy said that I can play at Prawle Point on Sundays. I have to wave at her when she is cooking dinner, and wear shoes in the sea. I have to hurry back just in time to wash before she is ready to serve. If I go off out of sight she will make me play in the garden on Sundays. (She will have to make me). Mummy repeated these conditions a lot, in fact she always used the same words when she spoke, and the same tired brush when she painted. “Louise poppet the garden is lovely, oh go! Just be safe, one strong wave could knock you down”. I hate that my mum is so scared of her surroundings sometimes. I mean, she did choose to live at the seaside.
I decided that if I was a grown up I would choose Prawle Point Bay to build my house on, because I would get bored of painting nice still life gardens like Mummy and Daddy. Mrs. Jasper said that ‘nice’ is the most insulting word in the Art world. I drew Daddy a sketch of what my beach house will look like. He said I was dotty for wanting to paint it like the ocean; loads of really tiny indigo ink specks a bit like Seurat. Daddy said that because the ocean is always cruel and selfish Mother Nature will never let him have his own color, he only has blue skin because he sky bathes all day. He said the ocean is “a thief and a bully like that boy Tom at school disobedient, deceitful, and always in detention a bloody bad influence”. I think Tom is just fed up of having no friends.
Daddy said that if I built a house on the beach that within four hours of moving in the ocean will shout at me over and over, basically throw a tantrum. In a selfish rage he will kick and shove me, and all on purpose. He will clench his salt sweating fists and drag me and my little house away and down.
I never agree with Daddy. All the while he was speaking, As an Artist, I was painting in my mind a dancing and breathing Surrealist scene, the Ocean my background. The foreground a petite house with gorgeous kelp hair tied in a bun on the top of her roof, like mine for Ballet. The house had no neighbor’s, but that didn’t matter because it had a flow of driftwood visitors like Mummy’s coffee mornings. Always an ocean full of company but not one friend, not one person to echo with. Mummy’s watercolor Ballerina’s: the same color as sour milk, ill, silent shy.
“Louise! Pay attention when I’m talking to you, are you this vacant at Ballet?” Daddy insisted that the ocean was like the strangers I mustn’t talk to, and that I would be really scared if I got abducted like the sandcastles at 5pm. The Pied Piper is a real life painting perhaps. I would like to be one too. Daddy hummed like I do in class when I know the answer but I’m scared in case the other kids mock me. I often wait a minute and so did he. I’m brave and eventually explain my answer, he just said “We’re not building such a house poppet”. Suddenly I got hay fever again. I put on my jelly shoes, and took my sketch book to the beach because I know she doesn’t like people seeing her cry.
When I got there I ripped out a page and wiped my tears. Then I thought I saw the tide bullying and shoving like Daddy said. I clenched the soggy page tight to let the tears drip dry. Feet soldered to the sand I turned and looked up the hilltop, I could see Daddy painting in the garden. When I turned back around I saw a huge Grandfather clock wedged between the foliage and rocks. He looked like he’d been beaten up. Covered, in moldy bite marks. I think he came from a shipwreck, brought here by the Pied Piper. Mummy and Daddy out of sight, I decided to draw again whilst it was safe. Brown Beauty, he once lived on a cruise ship, he had an argument about constantly feeling pressured to adhere to schedules. For the eyes red, like giving answers in mental math. For the toes, blue, like performing the wrong steps in Ballet. He jumped ship, just threw himself from the lido, no wave, no speech. When he came to Prawle Point Saturday the Pied Piper wasn’t a Daddy, he didn’t warn him about sleeping on strange tides. He just lay, sulking, in the foliage. I was going to ask him if he was alright but I mustn’t talk to strangers, besides I really wanted to tease the tide. Tickle the balls of his feet whilst he was sky bathing backwards and his big sweaty hands were hours out of my reach.
“Louise Poppet dinner’s ready” Mummy’s voice woke the tide. “Quickly please! I don’t fancy my little girl getting swept to sea on a school night”. I put my shoes back on, grabbed my sketch book, and waved Grandfather clock goodbye leaving behind my two sketches (for distraction, comfort) in case he got abducted again.
At bedtime I told Daddy I don’t want my house on the beach anymore because although the ocean isn’t a bully he has a really aggressive friend called Pied Piper, and they’re inseparable. After Daddy kissed my forehead and said that my imagination is ‘adorable’ I did what I always do before sleep, I sat in my bay window. Tonight hoping for a sighting of this ‘Pied Piper’. Five minutes passed, then giant indigo freckled hands starting grooming the sands forehead. To the left I saw the shipwrecked Grandfather clock standing up, no longer bruised. He was a lead dancer, in harmony with the tide. In his partner I saw the Pied Piper; the tides identical twin. Daddy was wrong. The Ocean really isn’t a bully, his family just dance and paint differently to him. Freestyle, Pointillism, Salsa – the hyperactivity Daddy despises.
Daddy and Mummy only like Ballet. They only wear plain t-shirts and hate my polka dot shirts and tie dye skirts. They really hate the circled wallpaper I chose for my room, and disapprove of anything I paint that resembles dots like Seurat. When I dance they only watch if I ‘Dance to the Reed Pipes’. Every dinner time they like set menus. Their ‘adorable’ little girl only gets her chair pulled out when she has showered the sea salt from her hair, and gracefully prances down the stairs, well dressed and well versed in tomorrows’ precision.
As an adult Louise found herself often alone, and sitting in noise. In her small house on the Bay of Biscay she paints for an hour, then puts her paint brushes to sleep. For like any relationship, time apart is crucial to make contact craved. An Artist, inside a thick frame much like that of a large bay window, her mind imitates a jarred camera lens manically snapping the same photograph. Every second tormented with a still life of her childhood home.
Today her brushes didn’t get enough sleep, they collapsed on the job, creating a large smudge in the middle of her work. Putting on her large tie dye kimono, barefoot she ran down to the beach, no, cried, wailed down there. At Biscay wind was abusive and perfection was impossible, barefoot preferable, and timetables utterly insignificant. At this beach any dancer could dance and any painter could paint, for the Ocean and his Pied Piper protected the brave.
Tonight a Sunday night storm angers the tide. Louise and ‘Poppet’ scream in synchronised song as the sand thrusts needles into their open wounds, their ten year old battered Ballet feet. Memory in memory they decide they enjoy the pain, that it’s almost comical. Their feet are like mini canvases with pointillist tattoos that Mother and Father would despise if they were alive.
Louise sits at her bay window every night in that space between after dinner and bedtime. No longer looking for the tied as he walks up the shore, but listening to his songs. She lets her mind reel through childhood memories, a bit like a weird, messed up bedtime story. Hanging out of her window she lets the Pied Piper’s bad breath slash her face with tiny tears, little saltwater dots that stain. That make her cheek his canvas and Louise a real life painting.


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