“Sloppy,” the old man announced, shaking his head.

Mara’s brush hesitated, her brow furrowed. “Sloppy? I’ve hardly even begun.”

A flippant wave at the canvas. “And you paint as though how you begin does not matter.”

She examined her scant progress, suddenly hyper-aware of its imperfection “But I can just paint over all this anyway, can’t I?”

Thick white eyebrows arched in exaggerated shock. “You think you can cover over your inadequacies so easily? I teach artists, not house painters or politicians. Every brush stroke matters. To make a masterpiece, every drop of paint must serve the whole.”

The words stung, and they confirmed her own suspicions. “So, I’m just doomed then. Anything that’s not perfect from the start should just be thrown out, right?”

“No, no,” he began bellowing, then paused. With an artist’s eye, he observed her downward glance, closed posture, inward agony. “No, child,” he resumed more softly. “What I mean to say is that if you try to hide your mistakes, then the whole painting will revolve around them. You must move forward from the failing, acting because of what is before you, not because of what could have been. Only then can you achieve wholeness.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox