By Michael Kilderry

    It was morning in a cosy Footscray abode where a woman named Pidge was sitting in her lounge armchair while her housemate Foparella was in the kitchen making hot chocolates. Pidge’s best friend, Foparella was a strange and talented woman. A far cry from Pidge’s other housemate Beatrice, sitting in the armchair opposite her making Christmas embroidery – in mid-May of all times! Both Beatrice and Pidge were interrupted from their tasks by a loud “Ow!” coming from the kitchen.

    Pidge sighed and got up out of her chair. “Silly Foparella, she’s probably burnt herself again”, she said before sauntering into the kitchen.

    Pidge found Foparella rocking in a foetal position on the floor with spilt hot chocolate milk all around her. It was quite a sight – seeing such a tall, lanky looking woman acting like a young child. Pidge just smiled, crouching down at her friend’s level, and joked “now Foparella, there’s no need to cry over spilt milk, let alone have a nervous breakdown over it.”

    “It’s my art class”, groaned Foparella.

    “Wait, is this about your art teacher again, the one on crutches?”, said Pidge. Foparella nodded. “Yes, Sigmund. He wants my classmates and I to critique each other’s art.”

    “Is that all?” Pidge answered with a puzzled expression on her face.

    “What do you mean ‘is that all’ Pidge?” Foparella whined, prompting Pidge to make an offer.

    “You know what? Maybe all you need some moral support. I’ll come with you!” Pidge beamed. “I’ve always wanted to see what goes on in an art class anyway. It’ll be fun!”

    “Would you Pidge?” Foparella whimpered pleadingly as she lifted herself off the floor.

    “Of course! When’s next class?” Asked Pidge.

    Foparella replied hesistantly. “In an hour or so?”

    “Great, I’ll get ready now. You just get yourself cleaned up and we’ll go straight there!” Exclaimed Pidge before going off to get properly dressed.

    “Super… I guess.” Foparella said to herself anxiously as she went to do the same.

    In a half hour Foparella and Pidge were racing for the front door. Beatrice, still sitting in her armchair, was curious about where they were off to.

    “And just where are you two going?” Beatrice called to them, only to receive a silent reply from the distracted women who hurriedly slammed the door behind them and shut Beatrice in the house, alone.

    “Oh bother.” Muttered Beatrice to herself, slumping in her seat.

    Foparella and Pidge arrived at the art class early. They sat outside with Foparella’s folio and waited for a while. Foparella’s nerves were already starting to show, she was shaking like a feather. Pidge decided to calm her by starting a discussion about her classmates, surely there was someone she liked in that studio.

    “They’re not too bad I suppose, there are only four other people.” Foparella answered in reply to Pidge’s questioning.

    Two other women were arriving to the studio while Foparella and Pidge spoke. They had thick, dark hair which they appeared to hide behind as they whispered and laughed to each other about something. Pidge wondered if Foparella was friends with them.

    “Those two? They’re Daphne and Madisha, they mainly just talk amongst themselves.” Foparella said with a shrug.

    A third person was trailing behind Daphne and Madisha. He had anime-style hair and big green eyes. Pidge enquired about him also.

    “That’s Reggie,” Replied Foparella. “He’s a genius, I don’t know how my art will ever compete with his.”

    Foparella was sitting in a tense state of introversion and didn’t make much more conversation for Pidge, as she tore a piece of paper up until it was just tiny shreds scattered all over the floor. Pidge felt bored by this so she decided to go introduce herself to Daphne and Madisha and find out if they knew what might be troubling Foparella.

    “We’ve just been painting and stuff. Today we were meant to be showcasing a piece that tells a narrative. Foparella should have no trouble, she’s very creative.” Daphne said in response to Pidge, still a tad perplexed by her friend’s behaviour.

    “Good to hear then.” Replied Pidge to the women before Sigmund came and opened the door to the art studio.

    Pidge was surprised by his appearance, he wasn’t scary like Foparella made out. Sure he was on crutches from what appeared to be a sporting injury, but he was quite attractive, with bright blue eyes, shaved blond hair and tanned skin. He was probably in his late 20s in terms of age.

    As class began, everyone prepared their paintings for the judgement of their fellow classmates. Sigmund was very big on having class discussion where students could give points to each other on how to improve their work. Daphne and Madisha had worked as a team on their artwork which had a theme of friendship. Foparella and Reggie had worked by themselves, both of them coming up with rather outlandish pieces.

    Daphne, Madisha and Reggie were first up to critique each other’s works, the reviews being favourable on both sides. It would’ve seemed Foparella had no-one but Pidge and Sigmund himself to comment on her work, but then the fourth student of the class made an appearance.

    Sigmund greeted her. “Mary, how nice of you to join us. Have you brought your painting with you?”

    “No, sorry.” Said Mary quietly. She was a shy girl with long dark hair and grey blue eyes. The clothes she wore were entirely black, a contrast to her pale skin and the silver cross pendant she wore as a necklace.

    “Never mind, you’re just in time to give your opinion of Foparella’s work to the class.” Sigmund said as he pointed towards Foparella’s canvas, nearly wobbling off his crutches in the process.

    Foparella’s nerves seemed to have calmed as she stood up to introduce her artwork. She appeared proud now, verging on arrogant as it was time to showcase her piece.

    “Feeling better now?” Asked Pidge with a smile.

    “Never better,” Replied Foparella smugly, “Mary’s a lamb, she’ll never say anything nasty about my piece.” Pidge just rolled her eyes in response and looked away while Foparella began.

    “Well what I’ve done here is a kind of impressionist piece, you see. It tells the story of a woman named Piddle who was created by God to live on a mountain made out of candy. Unfortunately the candy was all she had to eat and she ended up with diabetes, so God made the sky rain insulin needles which kept Piddle alive by stabbing her and injecting their fluid.

    Piddle could see the Garden of Eden from her home and she became jealous of Eve for having Adam to care for her. God tried to solve this issue by giving Piddle her own boyfriend, but when he came to greet her, he looked up in the sky and got stabbed through the eye socket with a long insulin needle that jabbed into his frontal lobe and lobotomised him. Piddle’s heart broke as she saw her boyfriend twitching on the ground and frothing at the mouth with a needle sticking out of his eye, this heart break turning to rage as God laughed mockingly at her state of misery.

    Piddle was so angry at God for all the shit she had to put up with that she pulled a human-sized candy cane out of the ground and threw it like a spear directly at God. Piddle aimed well and God exploded into an endless stream of water from the sky upon being hit by the candy cane. Piddle is seen in my painting looking pissed off and floating on a giant Aero brand chocolate bar in the great ocean created by God’s demise. She has become the world’s first atheist and hopes to find a scientific cure for her diabetes. Oh and she goes by the name Delilah now cause she likes that name better than the one God gave her.”

    Foparella held her head high and awaited applause. The reception however, was unexpected.

    “That’s offensive.” Said Mary sternly.

    Foparella was incredulous, “What?” she asked.

    “I said it was offensive, I know people in my bible studies group that wouldn’t appreciate that painting at all, at least not with that ridiculous story behind it.” Mary asserted.

    Foparella was losing her sanity. Who was this wretched girl to criticise her fantastic painting and backstory that she had worked so hard on? The room swirled and morphed in her mind. Mary went a human girl to a hideous monster, her skin sallow and her eyes devoid of colour and life. The once modest cross pendant that she wore had turned into a crucified silver, screaming Jesus wrapped around Mary’s wicked throat. Not even Christ himself could deter Mary’s evil voice as it shouted its heinous mantra towards Foparella and her precious creation.

    “Offensive. Offensive. Offensive. Ridiculous.”

    Sigmund looked particularly scary now in Foparella’s mind. His menacing eyes peered into Foparella’s soul as he tapped one of his crutches in beat to Mary’s mantra. He was the one who brought this upon Foparella, evoking Mary’s wrath with his demand for cruel taunts in the name of so-called constructive criticism.

    The rest of the class was damned to Foparella as well. She could see the snakes go through Madisha’s woolly black hair as she whispered behind her hand to Daphne. She may as well have been called Medusa, the comments she was making under her breath were definitely something bitchy and spiteful towards Foparella’s work, probably nasty enough to turn an innocent person to stone.

    Then there was Reggie, he always had to outdo Foparella with his wild ideas and plans. She was onto him the whole time, he wasn’t straight edge like her – those wild green eyes told the story of a million substance abuses; LSD, Marijuana, Crack Cocaine and whatever else he could snort, all so he could have a hope of outdoing Foparella’s natural creative talent. That cheat, how could he?

    Foparella looked at Pidge also. She didn’t seem to care that Foparella was scared to come to class and face criticism for her work. In fact, she had patronised Foparella when she was at her most vulnerable – on the kitchen floor, covered in chocolate milk, hopeless. To think Pidge would brush off Foparella’s pain with a spilt milk joke when she was meant to be her best friend.

    Foparella turned to her painting now. It had become animated and alive, Piddle sitting on the Aero bar with a pleading look on her face, “Foparella help, Mary is scaring me…” Piddle whimpered out to her creator, Foparella blowing her final fuse.

    Still in Foparella’s mind, the sinister head of Mary developed warts and went rotten, blowing up into a giant, grey, monstrous pumpkin that spat bile and insults against her art. Foparella started making real life steps towards Mary, the pumpkin headed monster cackling viciously at her approach. Foparella held up her hands and tensed them, as if she were about to strangle an invisible neck, Mary’s neck. Her face was seething with rage and she gritted her teeth, the voice of young man coming unexpectedly from her right.

    “Uh, are you alright? You seem to be having some kind of bad trip.” It was Reggie. Foparella’s fantasy broke and she found herself standing in the middle of a classroom in front of a shy, scared girl. A few seconds of silence passed before the majority of the class burst into laughter at Foparella’s strange behaviour. A tear ran down Foparella’s face before she ran out of the classroom bawling loudly.

    Only one person refrained from laughter when Foparella ran out. Madisha had kept a straight face, she looked towards Pidge who was snorting quite happily at her own friend’s misfortune.

    “Pidge!” Madisha hissed.

    Pidge looked up at Madisha and calmed down. Madisha held an accusing glare, “Don’t laugh, go after her!” she snapped.

    Pidge eventually did run after Foparella, missing the bus back home and thus not seeing her friend again until she got home, where she was greeted by an unusually serious Beatrice, sitting in her armchair sewing embroidery once more.

    “Hi Pidge.” Beatrice said with lacking enthusiasm before quickly sewing some more stitches.

    Pidge seemed puzzled by Beatrice’s passive animosity towards her. She moved closer to Beatrice and observed what she was making.

    “What you got there, Christmas embroidery again at this time of year?” Pidge questioned.

    “What’s wrong with it? I’ll do as I please.” Beatrice replied assertively.

    “Well, it’s a little boring, isn’t it?” Pidge replied foolishly causing Beatrice to have an uncharacteristic loss of temper as she threw her embroidery down on the coffee table.

    Beatrice shouted at Pidge, “That’s really what you fucking think of me isn’t it? I’m just some boring, old, middle-aged frump to be taken for granted! You were so disrespectful to me this morning, leaving without a simple goodbye! Now look at Foparella – she says you laughed at her along with her whole class. How can you be so cold and unsupportive?” Pidge stared in shock at Beatrice’s rage.

    Beatrice continued. “You really do deserve your nickname Pidge, you’re just like a little pigeon – always curiously observant from your perch, never thinking deeply enough to feel for anyone else.”

    Pidge felt sad and angry at herself as Beatrice’s words sank in, “I’m sorry Beatrice, I need to go talk to Foparella now.” she said ashamedly.

    “You do that then.” Beatrice answered somewhat more forgivingly before Pidge walked off solemnly.

    Pidge knocked on the door of Foparella’s bedroom, receiving the signal to come in by a muffled grumble. She found Foparella lying on her bed, face smothered in pillows. Pidge knew what she needed to say.

    “Foparella, I know you’re upset about Mary’s comments and the whole class laughing at you. I’m really sorry I joined in with them, I was really immature for doing that. I was there to help you and I failed. You’re probably not in much of a mood to forgive me but I hope you don’t give up your painting or your art class. If you’re willing to trust me again we can always go next week and bring Beatrice along with us. Poor Beatrice, I think we’ve been neglecting her a bit.”

    Foparella remained silent while Pidge expressed her guilt. She shot out of bed quickly however, upon hearing another familiar voice coming from behind her. Standing at the door behind Pidge was a young woman with a silver cross hanging from her necklace and Foparella’s painting in hand.

    “I probably should have knocked but Pidge left the front door wide open.” Mary said. “I think I should apologise too. I was far too critical and had no idea how much your art meant to you. I just wanted to give you a heads up that not everyone might like your work as much as you do. You seemed very boastful when you were explaining Piddle’s story and I didn’t want you to get a nasty shock if someone felt you were mocking their beliefs with your painting and got angry. I did try to point out that I actually found your story really funny but then you came towards me all tensed up, I felt too scared to keep talking. I didn’t know if you were even listening to me at that point.”

    Foparella sat on the bed surprised at Pidge and Mary’s kind words before Mary handed Foparella her artwork back, “I wanted to give this back to you also.” Mary said before blushing and running out of Foparella’s bedroom and home. “Well I guess she’s not so bad after all.” Said Foparella to herself, realising that Mary was just a shy girl like she had originally suspected.

    Foparella gasped upon looking at the back of her artwork.

    “What is it?” Asked Pidge.

    “I got an A+ for my work, Sigmund loved it!” Foparella shouted euphorically as she jumped up and down on her bed before running down the hall to show Beatrice, the sudden good news giving her a large burst of energy.

    Pidge ran after her into the lounge. “So, no hard feelings against Mary or the rest of the class?” Pidge asked, “…Or me?” she continued quietly.

    “Storm in a teacup Pidge!” Replied Foparella joyously. Beatrice gave Pidge a smile from her armchair knowing that she had worked everything out. Pidge smiled back sheepishly.

    The next week Beatrice, Foparella and Pidge all went to the art class together and had a much better time. Beatrice’s embroidery was complemented by Sigmund for its fine stitching, prompting her to enrol as a permanent member of the class. Foparella and Mary became great friends as Foparella continued to make more paintings about Piddle, Mary giving much friendlier criticism and even helping Foparella with naming choices.

    “Piddle is a strange name, Delilah doesn’t really fit either.” Thought Mary out loud. “I think it makes sense that if Piddle wants to accuse God of something, like ruining her life or allowing her boyfriend to be harmed, that she be named Lucifer instead. Lucifer was the character in the Bible who accused God of being imperfect after all, I reckon it would be perfect if Piddle was named after him.”

    “What a marvellous idea!” replied Foparella cheerfully. “Lucifer. I could even name my own child that”, Mary chuckled in response to Foparella’s strange taste in names.

    Pidge stuck by her friends as they progressed. She was still somewhat like a pigeon, sitting and watching everyone curiously, but she had learned to be more caring of others instead of merely being a spectator, ending up a much better friend to Beatrice and Foparella. They all had a great time together from that moment on, continuing to attend the art class every week.




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