Your Brother’s Medium by Gail Anderson
Encaustic: hot wax tinted with pigment, and each week as you step through the door of his studio, breathing bees, balancing your basket of cleaning things and trying not to see the dark stain on the wooden floor, you understand a little more. His energy, working the warm, buttery layers over canvas with stiff bristle brushes. His patience, letting it cool. Hard yet fragile. Carving away curls, stippling with pins, scraping back. Revealing an ebbing tide, a sun receding, the coming down of clouds. How had you not seen all this, seen him, years ago? But you’re here now, taking care. You’ll not move anything. He won’t know you’ve been, no more than he’ll hear next door’s mumbling prayers through the wall – though prayers might be as well, given the floor stain, despite being atheist. The barely open window, teared with rain, brings a beckoning of bells. Changes rung. Brings a glimpse of the neighbor woman hurrying along the pavement. And was it she, or perhaps her husband, who told you? A stranger’s words, your heart scraped back. Told you on an evening just like this one, so full of dimming light and prayer and promise. Told of the sad young man who painted, of the brother you’d never really known, and whose blood, received by the floorboards, you understand as the stain, the uncleanable stain, deep under layers of wax, encaustic.
Gail Anderson started her storytelling career as a stop-motion animator, before moving to graphic design, and finally to writing. Her work has taken first prize in the Edinburgh Award for Flash Fiction, the Scottish Arts Trust Story Awards, Reflex Fiction, the Writers’ Bureau and the Winchester Writers’ Festival, has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and published in The Southampton Review, Mslexia, Popshot and elsewhere. She lives in Scotland, and sails a little boat in the Firth of Clyde.