“Pablo” – a short story by Joe DiBuduo

January 18th, 2023

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“Pablo,” a short story by Joe DiBuduo, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 61st Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author.

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photo cropped/Argentina. Revista Vea y Lea, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pablo Picasso, 1962

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Pablo

by Joe DiBuduo

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…..My birthday had arrived, it was 1903, and I reached the magic age of thirty-three. Thirty-three years of my bringing joy wherever I go.

…..The day I was born the mayor declared, “He’s the prettiest baby ever born in our village,”

…..“Get out the barrels of my best wine, my son is going to make our village famous with his beauty and fine demeanor,” my father said,” my birth brought joy to the whole village.

…..The day I went to school I saw the light of joy in the teacher’s eye as she gazed upon me. The students too were awe struck by my beauty. I knew beauty was a strong word for a man, but as I grew older, even I could see as I passed a mirror, the reason people often gazed and admired me. I was tall and lithely built with a face that would make an angel proud.  I wore a halo of light blond hair that shone like gold.

…..     When I walked the streets, traffic slowed and many stopped to stare and admire me. I in turn flexed my muscles, and tightened my gluteus maximi to make an even better scene. The women would swoon, and the men would wish they could look just like me.

…..      When at eighteen one of my many admirers gave me a guitar, “Legato, would you sing a song for me?” she asked.

…..I surprised myself, as the singing voice I possessed perfectly matched my appearance. My admirer proclaimed, “You sing like an angel.”

…..I thought so too, as my melodious voice produced sounds never before heard. My voice went to any heights, and to the lowest notes. I could sing opera or ballads. I was in demand all over the land, and had many wealthy admirers who filled my every need.

…..      I traveled village-to-village, town-to-town and wrote about all my admirers so whenever I sang I’d have songs aplenty about how everyone in the land loved me.

…..   I stopped at a local inn where I intended to sing for my supper. I entered a roomful of men and women who were watching an artist as he finished painting a beautiful young nude. I knew they came to see the nude and not the artist, because her beauty took me too. They turned at the closing of the door as I entered, and a hush overcame the room.

…..      The waitress hurried to my side.

…..“Would you like to sit here?” she asked, and guided me to a comfortable seat close to the bar. I knew she sat me there so she could stay close to me.

…..The nude model was dressing and I was almost overcome with her beauty. “We’d make a fine couple,” I whispered to her as she passed my table. She looked at me askance, and continued out the door.  The artist was packing his paints when he looked my way. I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist painting an image of me. My image of course, would sell well. He walked to me and carried his newly painted nude canvas under one arm, his paints in another.

…..“My name is Pablo, and I’d like to paint you,” he said.

…..“I knew you’d ask. Can I see the painting you’ve just finished?” he showed me, and the image took my breath away. The clarity, the colors, the lifelike image, the nude girl was more alive, more beautiful in the painting than she was when I admired her beauty as she walked by me.

…..“If you can capture my likeness as well as you did hers, then yes, you can paint my image.”

…..   I removed my guitar from its case while he set up his easel and paints. “Is there a song you’d like to hear?” I asked, and sang many requested ballads. The women gathered round and gazed into my eyes as always, and the men sat there wishing to be me. The ballads I sang were all about me, and how wherever I traveled, I was met with love and respect. While I drank many pints of ale provided by my admirers, I started to sing some of my private ballads telling about what fools they were, I sang of my many conquests and of things I did that I shouldn’t have done.

…..  Pablo was painting quickly and I attempted to look at his work. He viciously told me, “Sit down. You’ll see the painting when it’s finished.”

…..   I continued singing, and told how I bested many a man in games of chance with just a smile. Who would believe someone as angelic looking as me would ever cheat? Of course I knew, true or not, these simple folks would take it as merely a song. I sang of how famous Pablo would be because he painted me.

…..   Pablo finished and said, “You can see yourself now.”

…..I eagerly stepped behind him to see my image and stopped dead in my tracks, so shocked I couldn’t move or speak. What I saw was a picture of a corpse, someone colored gray and blue that looked as though the grim reaper had visited weeks ago.

…..Finally I found my voice, and shouted, “You blind fool. How can you paint a horrendous image such as that and say it’s me?”

…..   “I paint what I see within,” Pablo said, and gave me the painting before he left. I held it up and asked. “Does anyone here see me in this grotesque piece of artwork?” Not one eye met mine and, not one voice was raised to disagree. I threw it to the barmaid and told her it was hers to keep. She instantly hung it above the bar.

…..“I see what Pablo saw,” she said.

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Click here to view the painting this story refers to, Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” (c. 1903/04)

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Joe DiBuduo has had his work widely published in print and in online anthologies.  Jaded Ibis Productions published his memoir, A Crime A Day.  His books Cryonic Man  and  The Contest were published by Tootie Doo Press.  The Mountain Will Cover You and Karaoke Time @ The Chicagoua Café are self-published.  He has also published short story collections and a poetry book, Out of this World: Sci-Fi Poetry.

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Click here  to read “Equal,” Chris Simpson’s winning story in the 61st  Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  for details about the upcoming 62nd  Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  to subscribe to the  Jerry Jazz Musician  quarterly newsletter

Click here  to help support the continuing publication of  Jerry Jazz Musician

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