The neighbors are always peeking across each others lawns, comparing shades of green and looking for new gossip to fill their day with. Some of them just cant find anything better to preoccupy themselves with. Especially that airhead Mariah next door who’s always pretending she can’t see me from her kitchen while she’s waiting for her muffins to bake. She paces back and forth poking her hair with that rolling pin, and watches me sitting there on my lazy tweed couch, alone and quiet and barely moving a muscle, and is probably convinced I’ve gone mad to spend all my evenings in that state of nothingness. I’m sure she’s come up with a handful of exciting scenarios to entertain her Saturday brunch guests with, and they’ll swallow it up right along with those muffins.
But I don’t mind anymore. In fact I’ve been pulling away the curtains lately to give them all a better view. And either way, they’d never listen to a word I say if they heard I’d discovered something in the painting.
At first I didn’t think there was anything special about the old canvas hanging on the wall, it was worn at the edges, and there were patches of paint that were barely hovering over the canvas, like a dry scab waiting to shed. If there ever was a signature, all that was left of it now was a faint black scratch across the lower right corner.
But then, one warm evening after a load of chores, I sat under the painting with the window open, and began to close my eyes as the cool breeze gently ruffled my already frizzy hair, and I realized without as much surprise as you would expect, that I could vividly hear the leaves rustling. Not the leaves outside, I already knew before I opened my eyes again that it was the leaves in the painting, falling off a big oak and landing around a little fox pup sitting in its shade.
I can’t explain what exactly happened after that, even if I tried. It wouldn’t be accurate to say I have been inside the painting, I have barely even dared to lift a finger and touch the canvas. In fact these days I’m afraid that if I did I would break it somehow, and it’s too precious to me now, you see. And I know I’m not falling asleep and dreaming it, or even daydreaming it, because there have been a few times when Henry the milkman has knocked at the door while I was there, and I got right up to give him the jar of marmalade I make for his aunt with the broken foot, then gone right back to where I was before the interruption. Anyway, once I realized I could hear the leaves, feel the warmth of the sun weaving through the branches, I knew there was more to explore. That I had to explore.
These days, I like to step in for a long walk down the path, twigs crunching under my feet, across a little brook to a field of dandelions. Sometimes I spend an hour or two there, twisting garlands into my hair, or lying in the grass to watch the squirrels play. The fox is older now too, and doesn’t seem to mind sharing the oak’s shade with me. It started raining the last time I was there, and yesterday when I looked at the painting, I noticed all the patches of crackled paint had swelled up brightly with dew, and the black scratch of a signature looked a little more like the first few letters of a name. I don’t know if it’s greener now, on the other side, but I can’t wait to find out tomorrow.