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The Lady in the Yellow Dress
The following flash fiction and accompanying water color were done by me (fiction) and my wife (watercolor) at the Arles arena in France. This is the same town that Van Gogh used to inspire some of his most famous paintings. She sweated her way up the stairs, the lady in the yellow dress, the heat of the noon sun pushing her down, baking her bare arms and the dark hair hanging down her back. Each uneven step forced her eyes downward. The stone – worn and pitted by the steps of men and the wash of rain over the centuries – rose up and up and up. Narrow, twisting, haphazard stairs led her to the tower, the pinnacle of the ancient wall. For her it became another task in the long list of tasks. From here to there without rest or reason. She felt a drop of sweat slide down between her shoulder blades seeking a shaded refuge from the heat. Step by step she hauled herself up – unaware of the sounds, the birds singing for joy and freedom, the subtle guitar music wafting up from a busker on the street below, the multilingual chorus singing of Babel and home. Then she saw it. With three steps still remaining she chanced to look up and saw the whole world. Sun and sky ceded their territory to river and land, meeting at the dim, distant mountains. The still air of the baking stadium fled before the breeze off the sea in the distance. Words failed, language ceased, sweat and spirit sublimated in a sudden indrawn breath. The wind tugged at her yellow dress, pressing the loose cotton against her legs and back. Her hair stole the view for a moment before she could tame it with a grasping hand. Three more steps disappeared, they took no effort, thought, or will – she was at the top and the city at her feet. Ancient and modern frolicked together heedless of the propriety. They scandalously cavorted, entwined in love and necessity creating new life. Tile roofs over walls of stone, concrete, wood, and centuries of paint mixed with matronly churches, garish hotels, and – in the distance – homely, modern office buildings made of concrete, glass, and boredom. Slashing through it all the blue Rhone united through bisection, bringing people to this wide, lazy bend since time immemorial. Down below her people sat at cafes sipping wine and espresso, eating crepes and salad. Stone and sweat, heat and dust, work and lists were forgotten as she loosed her hair to stream out in the wind, inhaled deeply the cool air in the shade of the tower, and gazed out at the French town of Arles.