by Sara Junkins '23 on December 6, 2022
Portfolio Staff


photo creds: pixabay

Most of the statues in Riz’s Museum were everyday folk. Artwork unknown to the world, with titles substituted for numbers on the description plaques, but I knew them all, and so did my father.

Ruth the Beggar on her knees looking up with imploring eyes. The emaciated children in tattered vestments. Marcus the Musician who plays on street corners with an open violin case full of passersby’s pennies. All of them homeless sojourners we took in. All with stories that must not be forgotten.

But they are not always in this timeless stance. They are just as animated as you and I, but only at night, after all the visitors are gone, after they have given all that they can.

All elements, statues, sculptures, and paintings function as one system, one forest interconnected by the roots.

The museum sustains. Fulfills souls with spiritual oxygen. So in exchange for participating in gifting life, life is given.

Transformed to stone through cloudy mist by morning light and back to flesh in a billow of fire by night.

My father, the caretaker, brought them here. To this magical place. In exchange for home. It’s much easier to paint a picture of a house than to construct one…

At twilight, the sunset’s flames illuminate through stained glass and set aglow the fire of life in the midst of darkness’s onslaught. Doors open. Paintings become transparent. A world awaits within the walls, beyond the frames. True home, only once accessible through imagination, becomes manifest.

Basically, we ran a mystical form of Habitat for Humanity. I was given the task of painting some of the houses. Not because I’m the best artist, but because I wanted to help. I wanted these people to have exactly what they wanted after a life of hardship. This was my service work.

I was tasked with creating Ruth’s house. She was the newest addition to our collection, our family. I was nearly done with all the rooms, but the garden was taking some time. She requested a swing and an array of flowers, some of which I had never heard of before. It still astounded me that blotches of blue I called primroses and dabs of pink that would be dahlias would soon be someone’s reality.

My brother was working on a playground for the children, but this one had slides made of rainbows and clouds instead of sandboxes.

Everything was well, until one day it was not. A new group came in with my father. He always saw the potential, saw the goodness in people, but something felt off to me. A gaggle of guys from the city sauntered around as he explained the magic of this mountain museum. They paid him no attention, and never met his gaze.

“Troublemakers,” I thought, but my conscience instantly rebuked me. Of course, it’s not wise to judge a book by its cover.

Yet the following evenings, my initial instincts proved right. Fight after fight with the other inhabitants. Disturbance after disturbance. Disruption of our peaceful haven.

A bug in the system, toxin in the roots, a poison in the museum. The museum’s pure balance did not react well with incendiary hearts.

As the orange flames streamed in through the stained glass, they missed the marks, everywhere catching fire.

Hearts ablaze with fright, the protocol seared into our minds…one minute before all oxygen is cut off…

Breathless, we scramble to the closest exit and watch our precious mountain museum alight with unwanted luminescence. Then, the light dies and the silent night overtakes us. A death and sudden revival. All will be preserved and intact.

Ruth and the children shake, and the band of villains disappear into the mountain mist. The museum would spit them out again if they dared to come back, unless they had a change of heart, of course.

Tonight, we decide to sleep beneath the caress of starlight, on our Hushabye Mountain as our haven restores itself. The ballad resonates in the whispers of the trees, “the winds of night so softly are sighing, soon they will fly your troubles to sea.”

We slept with hope in our hearts.