flash fiction

On Art, Authority, and Crows: A Modern Fable by Adam Graham

On Art, Authority, and Crows: A Modern Fable | Adam Graham

     Not long after painting his last portrait at Longview Castle, Harold Heckling moved to London, installing himself in a wee-swank neighborhood named for a stale aristocratic game of leisure where he began frequenting Canaletto’s Lashing Stick Booksellers.  Pondering away his afternoons in the backrooms of the old man’s dusty shop, Heckling eventually hit upon the inspiration for his Metapsychological Thrones, a revolutionary break from his previous painterly works into a variety of performance art, namely the construction of intricate tableau vivants utilizing the bodies of criminals who had been hanged for treason. 

     Thousands of naked, rotting corpses were established about the streets of London, induced to stand in various poses by an elaborate system of hidden metal frames and clamps inserted into the decomposing forms themselves, acting as their very bones and sinews.  The exposed cadavers were presented in the quotidian humdrum of everyday life: a decomposing woman chastising her rotting husband, a decaying man reading the evening edition in the shadows of an English Oak.  The resulting public exhibit was both grotesque and wonderful and, while a fascination with the exotic and bizarre was certainly widespread amongst the wealthy of the kingdom, Heckling’s work flustered the feathers and gall of the educated critics who branded it disgusting, unnecessary, and an unjustified and tangible attack upon the King and the People themselves.  

     The King was in concurrence with this opinion, and a swift justice was invoked.  Heckling was arrested on a dismal, though poetically rendered, rainy morning.  Tried that same wet afternoon, he was hung in the palace court at sunset.  

     Upon awakening the following morning, the King took breakfast in bed and read the morning edition, wherein a marvelous and intriguing opinion piece regarding Metapsychological Thrones cast the whole work in a completely different light than the educated critics had established.  Canaletto’s writing thoroughly convinced the King.  He jettisoned his breakfasting accoutrements across his room, bounded out of bed, dressed in a finely tailored modern suit and, without a jot of hyperbole, sprinted to the Royal Decree Room in the West Library breathlessly dictating Proclamation Number 24,758 to his royal scribes. The proclamation was subsequently read aloud at City Square and declared that Heckling was a National Hero and Friend of the Crown and, in honor of the great artist, the body of Heckling would join his last and pinnacle masterwork, Metapsychological Thrones.     And thus the corpse of Heckling stands, naked, celebrated, privileged outside the Hall of Derby, his left hand shielding his dead eyes, his right hand extended out pointing to the Great Imperial West as the King’s best marksman stand about with raised and aimed rifles picking off the rapacious crows, ravenous for the decaying flesh of the thousands and thousands of dead.  

About the Author:

Adam Graham is a writer and artist based in Asheville, North Carolina. His work is rooted in the complexities and dynamics of relationships, exploring issues of social class, identity, and the role language plays as both a force of connectivity and a force of disintegration.