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UKArchive ID: 36425The Portrait of John Blank by harry
Originally published on April 11, 2016 in Fiction

Some people mature at a very early age.



The Portrait of John Blank

Harry Buschman


Marcel Comeau is a superb portrait painter. He has the uncanny ability to capture the most fleeting of expressions, the subtlest of smiles and the evanescent qualities that reveal a man’s personality.

He is painting a portrait of Mr. John Blank. Mr. Blank is president of a company that manufactures kitchen appliances that no one thinks of buying until their old ones get lost or wear out. Cheese graters. Apple corers. Colanders. There is little competition in such items; so little in fact, that Mr. Blank’s company is unchallenged in the sale of kitchen appliances. These items are manufactured in Rhodesia by uneducated and undernourished children working in 12 hour shifts for 8 cents an hour.

But, as to the portrait.

Mr. Blank wants this portrait to hang on the wall of his board room just behind his leather swivel chair at the head of the table. He wants to establish the fact that he is CEO and President of the company.

You see, Mr. Blank has difficulty establishing the fact that he is of any importance whatsoever. He is devoid of any visible significance of authority––always has been. As you can see the reason is obvious. He is a nowhere man, and Marcel is having the devil of a job painting his portrait. There is nothing outstanding about Mr. Blank. His empty eyes, hidden behind steel bifocals, are a colorless combination of green, gray and brown. His hair is thin and getting thinner, a sad mixture of gray and what might have once been pale brown. He wears a double-breasted gray suit with both buttons buttoned, a white shirt and a gray tie. He is literally invisible.

Marcel is painting what he sees and as he works, he is fully aware that his canvas is a void––just as void as the person in front of him.

This is not the first time Marcel has painted Mr. Blank’s portrait. Many years ago, when Mr. Blank was a child he painted Mr. Blank in a blue sailor suit holding a model sailboat in his left hand and a balloon in his right. It was a charming portrait and now hangs at the foot of the stairs leading to the upstairs bedrooms in Mr. Blank’s home in Westchester, New York.

Marcel is about to make a suggestion. He considers the possibility of persuading Mr. Blank to hang that picture on the wall of the board room behind his leather swivel chair instead of this one.

© harry (harry on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 36425
Archived comments for The Portrait of John Blank
sweetwater on 15-04-2016
The Portrait of John Blank
I don't normally read prose, but I was intrigued by the title. I found it very interesting, I did feel sorry for the sad grey man, and wondered why he had become so non-existant. The description of him as a child was lovely.
I wondered how old Marcel Comeau was if he first painted Mr Blank as a child, and he is now obviously an older man. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Glad you liked it. Yes, Marcel is a much older man now and you can imagine his disappointment when he sees his subject has deteriorated to the extent that he has disappeared entirely. There was nothing left of the little boy with the sailboat. It's a sort of capsule story of "Citizen Kane."