Saturday 22 October 2022

Drawing the Line - Short Story by Marka Rifat


Drawing the Line

Short Story 

by Marka Rifat 

Edwige la Constante placed thin, cold, but comforting fingers on the slender wrist of Edmunde, Knight of the Briar Wood.

“Really, this is simply the limit. Rotten luck for poor Gizzy, but really, what can one expect?” she asked.

Gizzy, or Guismonde le Gallant, lay stiff on the ground. He would ride forth no more, on those ill-proportioned horses, through dense, monochrome woods and tiresomely thorny thickets.

They blamed Brummie Ned and mutiny was growing in their small, intensely illustrated world. The only one who had ever spoken up for the pen-wielder, and called him in gushing tones, “the Master” and “dear Edward Burne-Jones”, was the former Guismonde.  And look how the Master repaid loyalty.

“Munds, how long do you think it will be before you end up like Gizzy? It’s so undignified. And fatal.” Edwige stamped her bare foot for emphasis and to get the blood circulating. Frankly, Ned’s notion of mediaeval clothing was all very well for summer, but this was an autumn tableau and no boots, sleeves, gloves or scarves, and a far from cosy dress made for a very bad temper.

Edmunde gazed at her pinched face, the sunken eyes, wonky nose, gloomy mouth and long chin. The same face he saw when he looked in a moonlit pool, indeed when he looked at everyone here. Why did Ned never vary the phizog, this composite of his wife Georgie and his Greek object of mad desire, or was it mad object of Greek desire, Maria Zambuco? Heavens, surely Ned saw people every day, all shapes and sizes, with really interesting faces, sensible necks and plenty of meat on their bones. Edmunde despised the weedy frame Ned had drawn for him and would have loved a dashing beard, like King Cophetua.  He had also endured many a moan from Edwige about the curves Ned lavished on the Beggar Maid, and the bevy of girls on “The Golden Stairs” and so many, many others. Enough moping and petulance.

“Dearest.” He gripped her willowy arm. “Gizzy was daydreaming, sat on his nag too long and lost all sensation in his limbs. Keeling over was inevitable.” 

She drooped and sighed.

He clasped her bony shoulders and declared: “But there is hope. I was drawn a hero, albeit black and white, and I, that is we, deserve better than this dismal rectangle!”

With that, he pulled her to the left edge of the illustration. “See that thin bit? Ned ran out of ink and forgot to fill it in – if you pull the end and I use my sword...”

In the airy studio of the esteemed Pre-Raphaelite artist, two tiny, pale figures, wrapped in mauve pen wipers, sat on a nib box, feasted on a crumb of yellow cheese and animatedly discussed their next and colourful adventure.


“I mean by a picture,” Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898, Birmingham-born painter, designer and illustrator) said, “a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any light that ever shone – in a land no-one can define or remember, only desire – and the forms divinely beautiful.”

Marka Rifat writes poems, short stories, essays, and reviews, as well as producing  illustrations and photography. About to feature in the Poetry Scotland anthology, she also won the 'DoversmART' Jubilee art competition, was commended in the Saki, Toulmin and Janet Coats Memorial prizes and selected in the John Byrne Award, her work appears in UK, North American, Australian and Indian anthologies. She is a member of Mearns Writers in north-east Scotland and performs her poetry and fiction.


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