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Annie Gleisner

Isobelle Carmody Award

for Creative Writing

Highly Commended

Arles, France 1888

My life is plagued by colour. Colour rains down on me like a storm,

immersing everything around me in passionate reds, soothing blues,

jealous greens and effervescent pinks. They all seem tomelt together,

like paint on a canvas, each of them crying louder than the other,

begging me to paint them.

The cacophony of noise drags me out of yet another daydream,

bringing me back into the present in the café. Le Forum was busy

during all hours of the day and night, housing patrons of different

statuses and wealth all under the one roof. The orange glow from

inside the café beckoned weary wayfarers in from the night like a

beacon guiding ships into the bay. I run my paint-stained hands over

the delicate stem of the wine glass, drinking deeply from a bottle of

wine bought with the last of my francs. The burden of this tough

week was finally taking its toll with the dull ache in my feet growing

more and more. I had been wandering from galleries to strangers,

trying to persuade anyone I could find to buy anything from my

motley collection of oil paintings. ‘Too strange,’ ‘Too different,’ they

would all say. The people of Arles didn’t like anything different. If

only selling was as easy as drinking.

Suddenly my gaze is drawn towards a particular newcomer to the

café. He stands in the doorway with his back to the cold night, a

hand running erratically through his ginger hair and in his other

hand, clutched tightly to his chest was a worn out, old straw hat. His

eyes scan around the already full café, looking for an empty seat.

Moments later, the bar stool next to me is pulled out with a dull

scrape and the stranger takes his seat. ‘One glass of red, s’il vous

plait,’ he says to the bar tender in a thick accent that I can’t quite

pick. I glance over at him, taking in his dishevelled beard and aged

face, long ago creased with worry. He catches my glance and raises

his glass. ‘Salut,’ he gestures at me before raising it to his lips. I

attempt a half-hearted smile. His gaze drifts down towards the stack

of paintings by my feet. ‘You’re an artist?’ he asks.

‘I was,’ I reply, scoffing at my own work.

‘Was?’ he stares at me incredulously.

‘No one ever seems to appreciate anything I’ve ever created. All I

see around me is a world full of colour, bleeding out through life and

all I can do is soak it up through the strokes of a paint brush and

disperse it onto a canvas. Why can’t people understand what I’m