You saw the painting in a gallery window every day on your walk to work and wanted it, so you smashed the store front with an elbow and grabbed the frame. The painting was the real genuine article—a Magritte oil of two green apples. One wore a mask, the other was au natural.
A mask on a piece of fruit? What could be more ridiculous.
You lost yourself for hours contemplating masks. Became obsessed with Carnival, Mardi Gras, those masquerade balls in period art films. Of course people wear masks, but why an apple?
What does an apple have to conceal?
You scoured the library in search of a key to the mystery of Magritte’s apples. Every image search revealed pairs of masked green apples.
Why only one apple with trappings?
You were no closer to solving the riddle. You thought about apples. Stolen apples of youth. The Garden of Eden. Apple picking in Washington state one timeless summer.
Could the second apple wear a mask as well? Was its back turned to disguise the fact?
Two weeks and the mask mocks you. You throw a drink at the painting and smash the glass. Lose control and break the frame across the back of a chair. Magritte’s folly a messy pile at your feet. In the debris you see the cursed mask. That catalyst. You gather the scattered pieces and throw them in the fireplace. You set fire to the priceless canvas and watch it burn. For an instant the masked apple seems to mirror you. And as you watch, the apple curls in the center and turns to ash, concealing nothing.
Richard Peabody is a French toast addict and native Washingtonian. He has two new books due out this fall–a book of poetry ‘Speed Enforced by Aircraft’ (Broadkill River Press), and a book of short stories ‘Blue Suburban Skies’ (Main Street Rag Press).