I’d always liked the painting Aunt Josephine had on her dining room wall. I don’t know why I liked it, but I did. It was simply a portrait of an unnamed woman. It was painted in oils, waist up. Her eyes stared out directly into the room. I was delighted when I was left the painting in Aunt Josephine’s will.
I too hung it on my dining room wall. It was on a side wall behind where the head of the table would sit – not that we followed such a custom. We sat where we liked. On one of the longer walls was the fire place, and on the wall opposite the fireplace was an expansive window. The lady of the painting overlooked the table; the fireplace to her right; the window to her left. It was as if the portrait had been painted especially for the room.
Not long after I had hung the painting, my sister visited. She knew I had been given the painting. Where is it?
“It’s in the dining room,” I said. “She overlooks the table.”
We went there, and the lady’s eyes were no longer looking straight ahead. She was looking out the window. It was creepy.
I soon took the painting down. I didn’t like to store it in the attic for who knows if it would go bump in the night. It was possessed. I burnt it in the fire. Bit by bit. I remember especially burning the piece with the eyes.
That evening, when we sat down to eat, the picture was back up. Entire. Complete. The eyes were staring steadfast and cold at the fireplace. And her lips had a smile that wasn’t there before.