The Yellow Jacket

Vincent van Gogh. Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888. 81x65cm (32x26"). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

"Why do you want to paint me?" Armand asked.

"Paint a whole family is what I want. Complete. Your father has a sturdy Russian look. He's a common man who shouts like a revolutionary when he's drunk, but looks like a saint from the old time when he's not. And you..." The man thrust his head forward, studying him with such intensity that Armand squirmed. "We'll see about you."

...Across the room Armand saw a painting of his father in his blue postal uniform. The eyes looked right, but the beard was curlier than his father's. His wide face was painted yellow, green, pink, even red. His father didn't have those colors in his face. Flushed from liquor--that's how this man saw his father. The realization hurt him, which was surprising to him because he'd had thoughts of his father lately that weren't kind at all. He couldn't help it, and so he was going away. But the painting made him feel good, too, his father there in his postal uniform looking straight back at him, square-shouldered and forthright, like a general.