Thursday, May 12, 2011


Our challenge this week was to construct a story around this picture, any genre and a limit of 1234 words. I always enjoy pictures as prompts, since if one really looks, it's amazing what one can see. Please enjoy.


“Thanks, you senile old bastard, for a worthless house and an even more worthless painting. ‘You always look, but never see.’ You and your mindless sayings and asinine riddles.”

Daniel Vander, Jr. had torn the house up from top to bottom looking for some hint as to where to find the bulk of his father’s fortune. Even as his son was threatening to inject the morphine into his IV line, the old man just kept telling him to look at the painting he had done of his ‘treasure’ and to really see it. Daniel had learned that the ‘treasure’ he was referring to was Marta. God. The help. He beds that slut, paints a dirty picture and wants his son to look at it. He really enjoyed watching the old man gasp for breath when the morphine hit home. Maybe the whore knew where the money was kept. He’d deal with her later.

“Marta? Marta?”

Junior was shouting again. His father not in the ground even a week and already he was disrupting the household and completely disrespecting his father’s memory. He had learned by way of some underground grapevine that his father was dying and had appeared out of nowhere.

Marta Wilbur had been Mr. Vander, Sr.’s housekeeper since long before the boy was born. She had been hired right after he had married that woman. That weak and simple-minded creature that barely survived the birth of her child, only to take her own life not even a month later. Doctors had said she had been depressed. Life is depressing, Marta thought, but we all have work to do and others to care for. Selfish bitch, that one was. Leaving the mister alone with a newborn baby. Thank God Marta had been there to save them both.

“Marta, where the fuck are you? I’m hungry.” Daniel’s voice echoed through the house.

“Coming, sir,” Marta announced from the kitchen. “Just finishing placing your lunch on the cart. Sir.” The vile little beast is hungry. Well, enjoy this fine meal I’ve prepared for you. Once you’ve finished, hunger will trouble you no more.

Marta already had Daniel’s ‘suicide’ note typed and ready to place on the desk in the den. Consumed with guilt over murdering his father, the boy just couldn’t go on. A hefty dose of cyanide in his cooler was his chosen remedy to alleviate his suffering. She had included his confession, stating how he had increased the mister’s morphine dose to a lethal level, with no one suspecting foul play since his father’s illness had been terminal and his time was short. She had vowed her beloved employer’s murder would be avenged.

After the police had finished their inquiries and the ambulance had taken the dead boy away, Marta sat down with a glass of wine and admired her painting. No one would ever know the painting Mr. Vander, Sr., had done was of her. He had loved her in his own dignified way, but for fear of scandal damaging the reputation of his business and of the potential damage to her reputation as well, he could not allow their affair to be known so soon after his wife’s untimely death. As time passed, it somehow seemed less and less advisable to reveal their union to outsiders, so she remained his housekeeper and nanny to his son.

He promised to make sure she was cared for in the event of his death, but his son did come first. He did, however, make his son’s inheriting his millions conditional on the boy being able to figure out how to access the accounts. An important and valuable lesson he wanted to teach the young man. The boy was distant, vulgar and full of hatred for all around him. His father wanted him to take the time to see and appreciate the world around him and listen to and follow the counsel given him. He had hope for his child, but Marta knew better. The boy would never decipher the code. He was too consumed by love of self to even attempt to see any sign of beauty and grace elsewhere.

They had both delighted at the prospect of leaving such intriguing clues that he had placed in the painting on the bedcover beneath her. The letters ‘I’ and ‘N’--not subtle to be sure, but that had been part of their lovers’ joke. Then, going across further, the numbers ‘1’ and ‘5’, that signified the 15th step on the way to their home’s entry. The mister had taken the boy out often, to museums and galleries to try to help him to form a bond with others, but to no avail. Daniel would create a scene and necessitate the return home. Still, each time, his father would count the steps with his son, particularly noting the 15th step, hoping in the future on seeing the clues provided in the painting, the boy would make the connection.

Of course, Daniel had refused to look and therefore, had failed to see. Marta knew the key beneath the stone that was the 15th step was now hers to use to access the box at the local bank. With the boy out of the way, as secondary beneficiary, once she retrieved the account numbers, locations, and passwords, she could begin amassing her new fortune. She decided the first thing she would do with her new-found wealth would be to have her painting re-framed in honor of its painter. It had been his tribute to his love for her and she would hang it in a prominent place in the new home his will provided for her. Then, she decided she would hire a housekeeper. The place could really use a good cleaning.


  1. Wow... what mystery... a great use of the prompt. Such a satisfying story, Joyce! So when is your conspiracy story coming out?? :-)

  2. Inheritance is a good motive and Joyce you have carried this off brilliantly. You have taken a cold scapel to the themes and carried away vein and tendon, great dialogue great story.

  3. Thank God Blogger is back up and running! Excellent story Joyce and believe it or not I have seen something similar in real life.

    My grandfather had a friend with a child like Daniel, totally vain with a disgust for anyone who did not serve him. When the father died he left his money to charities except a property in Montana. The boy had no choice but went up there thinking it was some ranch. Word got back that all it was a shack on a hillside with running water of electricity. The boy was killed months later in a bar fight.

  4. "Life is depressing, Marta thought, but we all have work to do and others to care for."

    Wow! Marta certainly does "cut through the layers"... great insight into her character.

    You painted a perfect picture of the often impetuous, rash, impudent nature of youth. Very saddening to see the father trying to imbue a sense of responsibility and patience in the boy... to impart some wisdom and show him some of the beauty and wonder of the world, only to have his words tossed aside like a paper cup, his feelings crushed like an ant under the heel of a boot.

    And so, in the end... the boy reaps what he has sown... a cautionary tale for youth, yes?

    Joyce... your writing is first class. I find myself looking forward to each week... your stories never disappoint.

    Thank you.

  5. The place could really use a good cleaning. So, she had been doing a half-job all this time! LOL Well written as usual.

    L Turner

  6. Beach, So glad you liked this. Wow. That child you mentioned, you couldn't make up some of the stuff that happens in real life. Ended up with a shack? What a dose of reality that must have been. Killed in a bar fight? Doesn't surprise me he was in a bar, but I'm sure he shot his mouth off to someone who wouldn't let it go. People like that either forget or really are not aware that the world doesn't overlook like family sometimes does. It holds you responsible.

  7. Veronica, I so appreciate your comments. Dad did try but some children, sadly, are unreachable, and at some point, we all do reap what we've sown. Glad you enjoyed it.

  8. L, We all know what she was doing in between mopping and dusting! Thanks so much for your comments. Glad you enjoyed this.

  9. What a great story! I love the direction you took with this one. In a short space you managed to elicit sympathy for Marta, despite her murderous tendencies. She's a great character.

  10. Barbara, Thanks so much for your comments. Glad you enjoyed this. I had a lot of fun with this trying to create some type of mystery. Marta was from the old school, but she did love Senior and was loyal to the end. I'm happy she made such an impression--she did on me as well.

  11. Joyce where you are excellent is inhabiting your characters. The dialogue and wry humour, trademarks of your style, are at their best here.

  12. Richard, Thanks so much for your comments. I love to get inside the heads of my characters and imagine how they feel. Nutty maybe, but it helps to generate what I think is believable dialogue. I'm happy that it seems to work.