The Work of an Artist

By Emily Beam, Guest Writer

“Peter, what do you think Teacher and that lady were talking about?” I asked my older brother. No reply. “Peter? Peter!”


“I said, what do you think Teacher and that lady were talking about?”

“Uhhh…I don’t know. Stuff.” He was too busy running along the edge of the trail, tossing stones into the

wild flower fields to chase out mice, to even be concerned with what I was asking him.

“Well, I know they were talking about stuff, but what kind of stuff? Teacher seemed very troubled.”

“It was probably just some dumb teacher stuff, you know like… I don’t even know. Just stuff.” He was now swinging his metal lunch tin back and forth, thrashing any golden rod that stood in his way. But, I knew it wasn’t just dumb teacher stuff. Something was seriously wrong. I never remember seeing Teacher like that before. She seemed so scared. It frightens me every time I think of that concerned, crazy look that was in her eye, as she stood there in the wooden frame of the door, telling us each, one by one, not to talk to anyone on our way home. “Then why did she seem so alarmed? And why would she tell everyone to be very careful on their way home?” I questioned. But, Peter was too busy skipping up the big hill, kicking up rocks and dry dirt, to hear me.

“Come on slow poke, hurry up!” he yelled at me from behind the big old willow tree on top of the hill.

“Oh, hush up,” I said. “It’s hard to get up this hill carrying these books. Remember Peter, I’m carrying your books too. You said I only had to hold them while you chased that bug, but you never took them back. Remember Peter, remember?”

“Oh yeah.” He swung from the sturdy tree branch he was hanging on and took the books from my hands. I sighed with relief. Those things were heavy. I was tired and stopped to lean against the tree.

“What’s that?” Peter called, as he began to sprint down the hill. I took off after him.

“Peter wait!” I called. “Wait Peter! Wait! Remember what Father said, we’re supposed to stick together!”

By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, my legs were sore and I was panting like a dog. “Peter, Peter wait,” I gasped. I bumped into him and almost fell backwards.

“Look,” he said with a smile. “He’s back.” Peter pointed to a small wooden table. Next to the table, hooked between tall wooden posts, was a laundry line. Along the line were wooden clips that held sheets of paper. Peter ran closer. “He’s very good,” Peter remarked. “Look how good he is.”

“Who’s good? Good at what Peter? I can’t see!” Peter pulled the line down and revealed the sketches on the thick art paper. “Wow,” I sighed. “That’s good!” The sketches were of faces-all different types of faces, men, women, children. Fat faces, skinny faces, faces with long hair, short hair, no hair-all different types. The eyes of the people were beautiful. The lines and shading were perfectly blended together. They were so realistic, they seemed as though they would pop right off of the page. They were perfect. Almost perfect. There was only one thing wrong with them – the necks. All of the necks were wrong. They were all thick masculine necks, even on the women and children, all of them. How strange.

“Why, hello children.” Suddenly, a tall scrawny man emerged from beyond the desk. He walked towards us. I took a step behind Peter and grabbed his wrist.

“Sorry to have disturbed you sir. It won’t happen again. Lovely drawings. Have a very nice day sir.” I said quickly. I tugged on Peter and tried to pull him forward towards home. Just down this hill and into the woods a bit and we’d be there. “Come on Peter, we must go!” I mumbled. But Peter wouldn’t budge. He stood still, in a trance, staring up at the peculiar man.

“Well, how are you young lad?” The Artist asked my brother. His lead covered hands flew wildly as he spoke. “Long time no see. Ah and you brought your little sister with you this time, how nice.” Long time no see? This time…? What was that supposed to mean?

“You… you remember… me?” My brother asked, surprised.

“Why would he remember you Peter? Peter?” Peter was still in his trance.

“Why, my boy of course I remember you. I always remember the faces of the people I draw. Forever and always.” My brother gasped and smiled with the thought of being so important.

“Excuse me. What..? You were..? He drew …? Oh, never mind. Peter, we must get home now!”

“Oh now, hush! We will get home and….”

“But we need to be home before the sun goes down, and look,” I pointed. “It’s already started!”


The sun was slowly, but surely sinking behind the mountain tops, leaving the sky behind glazed in brilliant yellows and pinks. What was left of daylight, threw a magnificent shadow from the wildflower fields onto the dusty, worn trail lying in-between, leaving the rest of the valley golden. The small, puffy clouds floated towards the rim of the bowl made of mountains and there was a peaceful silence disturbed only by the birds and of course, the voice of the strange artist. “Well, please come look at my art. If only for a minute…” He begged. “Not many people take enough time to truly appreciate my work.” He gave us a gentle smile.

“No, I’m sorry. We mustn’t…”

“Oh, come on,” groaned Peter.

“Peter, remember what Teacher said!”

“Forget about it. It was nothing. I know this man. He drew my portrait for me. He is great! Now come on, I’m your big brother and I’ll take care of you.” I stared into his blue eyes. He was being sincere. I could tell he would make sure we got home on time. I’d never seen my brother be so serious.

“Well, I suppose a minute couldn’t hurt.”

“Excellent!” The artist clapped his hands. He set his thick, messy hands on each of our shoulders and led us to the laundry line. Once again, I was captivated by his masterpieces. They were beautiful. Just beautiful. But the necks… Oh the necks…..

“So what do you think? Are they worth a nickel? Do you approve?” I stayed silent but, when I looked up, I was shocked to see that the questions were being directed at me.

”Uhh… well, yes Mister, they’re…they’re… great. But … uh, the necks sir… the necks…”

“They’re great!” Peter cut in. “Better than that sir, they’re fan-tas-tic!” He really made sure to drag out that last word.

“Why, thank you my boy, but I do believe I was asking this young lady here,” explained The Artist. “Now, my dear… what are your thoughts?” Now, he was really dragging out his words.

“Well…uh…well they’re great.” By now, almost half the sun was gone. “Really great Mister, but …uh…” The question was burning a hole in my throat. I just had to know. “What is wrong with the necks? The women, the children, the babies…. They all have necks like a man,” I blurted out. “Why?”

“A very good question, my dear … a very good question.” Can’t he speak any faster! I want to go home! Father will be worried. He placed his hands behind his back and walked behind the small desk that was covered in pencils and charcoal. He stared out into the valley. He then said, “An artist draws as he sees things. The way things really are. He picks up on things that you don’t know.” He turned abruptly and a stared at us with his beady eyes. “Just because you don’t see things that way, doesn’t mean they aren’t that way, or that they won’t ever be that way.” An unnerving smile spread across his face. “Someday you will understand, someday you will see.” Shivers went down my spine .What was that supposed to mean? Someday women would have man necks? This man wasn’t just creepy, he was crazy. Before I could grab Peter and try to leave, the artist was right there – towering over me. He grabbed my chin with his big, rough, clammy hand and turned my face sideways – the way father did to Peter to see if he had actually washed up for dinner. “Such smooth childish features. I must draw you. I don’t have such features in my collection! Have a seat and I will draw you.” He pulled a small wooden chair out from beneath the desk, set our school books on it and patted. “Have a seat now. I’ll be able to see you over the desk.”

“No, we must get home!”

“Yes!” Peter grabbed me. “Come on, just let him draw you. It will be great. I told you he drew me. Hey, you know what; if you get a drawing done we can both give our portraits to father as a gift.

“Oh no, Peter. We can’t. We’ve already disobeyed Teacher. We stopped and spoke to him. We must get home!”

“But, this is the perfect gift for Father!” Peter was now very irritated with me. He grabbed me and threw me into the chair. I tried to break free, but he took the leather strap from around his books and used it to tie me to the chair. “There,” he said. Now Mister Artist, you may draw her. Peter turned to me, “You will see, Father will love his gift. You will see, don’t worry.”

“Oh Peter, let me go! I don’t want to be drawn. Father will not be happy. He will be very upset!” Oh, Peter ….”

“Your father?” said the artist. He stared at me with his beady eyes. “Would your father happen to be the tall man, with soft blue eyes and strong features that comes over this hill every evening?”

“Uh… yes. How did you know?”

“What a coincidence.” The Artist grinned. “Why, just the other day, your father came past and looked at my art, just as the two of you did today, and you see, he asked me if I would do a portrait of him. He said his two children would love to see it.”

“Father’s been here?” I questioned, excitedly. “You drew our father?”

“Well, yes.” He smiled. “Now, may I finish your portrait?” he asked. Suddenly his eyes became soft blue and his face was calming, just like my father’s.

“Yes. If Father got his portrait done, than it must be alright”. The Artist’s pencil began to fly across the paper. Peter untied me and I sat there on our books on the chair, in front of The Artist, swinging my feet. Everything was going to be fine. Father would love his portrait.

“Well, there” said The Artist, as he scratched a final line on my portrait. He handed it over the desk to me.

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” I said.

“Wow!” Peter said, from over my shoulder.

“Father will love it,” I said. I looked up at the sky. “It’s getting late; we have to hurry home.” I hopped off of the chair. “Thank you Mister Artist. Our father will love it.” And I knew he would. It was so good, I felt like I was looking in a mirror. It was perfect. Almost perfect. All except for the neck, which was thick and looked like the neck of a man. But, it didn’t worry me much anymore. As strange as it was, it was just the way the artist saw things. It was his own style.

“Thank you,” we chirped, as we skipped down the hill.

“No. Thank you.” The Artist waved to us with an amused smile.

When we got to the woods, it was just starting to get dark. We walked swiftly down the trail. “Oh, Father will be so happy and we can make frames and hang them all and it will be great! Our tiny cottage was coming into view. Suddenly, there was a rustling in the woods. I turned to my right and saw something running through the woods. Peter and I grabbed each other. We both froze. “What was that? It looked like a person. Oh, Peter let’s go.”

We sprinted to the house. We opened the door and the smell of warm stew drifted to our noses. “Father!” He stood facing the stove. I began to run towards him with my arms open. “Now…,” he said, without even turning his head. “I know you’re coming to give me a hug but, how about you go and wash up first?”

I giggled. “Oh Father, you know me very well.

“Peter, you go wash up too!

“But father …”

“No buts. You’re home awful late and I’m sure it wouldn’t have anything to do with someone catching bugs and climbing trees, now would it? Now, go wash up,” Father teased. I went to set the drawing in my room. I smiled. He didn’t suspect a thing.

Through my door, I could barely hear the murmur of Father’s voice. “Now Peter, I heard about some awful strange people wandering through the woods and I want you to be extremely careful and take good care of your little sister.” I stood with my ear against the door, straining to hear his words. “There has been a strange man going around…an artist. Please don’t talk to anyone, especially this artist.” I began to shake like a leaf. “Never let him draw you. It’s very dangerous. If he draws you, he will memorize your face and steal it. They call him the Face Snatcher….” I couldn’t take it anymore. I burst out the door and wrapped my arms around my father’s leg. “Oh Father, we stopped,” I sobbed. “We stopped… he drew Peter. He drew me …. We thought it would be a nice gift…. Oh Father, we can leave and go hide in the mountains so he can’t find us and take our faces…, we will be safe there… I’m sorry Father …. I’m sorry!”

As tears rolled down my cheeks, I saw his head turn toward me. I waited to see his calm blue eyes tell me everything would be ok, but to my horror, they were not there. He had no eyes, just indents filled with slime. Taking the place of his mouth was a thin slit oozing with slime. Where his face had once been, was dead, lumpy, slime covered flesh. The hand of the faceless body held up a portrait of what my father used to look like. The Artist had drawn him. It was too late. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t. I ran to Peter. I grabbed him and looked up terrified. My brother’s face was gone! In its place was the same dead, lumpy flesh that I had seen on my father. I became dizzy. What was happening? How could someone do this? I sunk down onto the kitchen floor. Something wet and sticky began to ooze down my face. I reached up to wipe it off. My hand was covered in thick green slime. The front door flung open and through the darkness I saw the body of The Artist. It took a step forward into the light, and there on its thick masculine neck… was my face.