Open 2022 Open Stories - Henry Colt


Does anyone sing at Easter
By Henry Colt


Some stared and marveled at the man’s audacity. Others murmured amongst themselves but said nothing to the museum guard, who seemed to have turned a blind eye to what was happening. Deep in the far corner of the room, opposite the open hall that led to a collection of Impressionists’ paintings, an older man, in ancient times he would have been mistaken for a sorcerer, stood unmoved by the gathering crowd.

His long hair was grey. His mustache flowed over the folds at the corners of his lips, dangling silver, like mercury, it stopped suddenly at the margins where his chin melted into his jawbone as if frozen at the edge of space.

He never removed his eyes from the firm, undulated marble buttock hidden beneath the palm of his right hand. The woman had kneeled at Christ’s feet, embracing him, pleading. Her head rested against his belly as if she were worshipping, listening perhaps for his fluttering heart, not in a sexual way, nor sensual, but her hips were flexed and the small of her back turned inwards.

A thin line led clearly past the sacral triangle at the base of her spine. Her breasts pushed against the Redeemer, but obviously, he could not hold her. His outstretched arms seemed nailed into the stone as only an impression of the cross remained. His legs bent. Immobile, he stood crucified. The gallery slowly emptied. Like a non-participating and willing observer, the man took it all in, and soon it was quiet in the adjacent corridor that led away from the cloistered space where he stood. In front of him, the suffering seemed real.


He kept his cupped hand over the firm sloping surface of the woman’s body. He followed the curve upward unto her back, then down into the folds between her legs, downward still onto her thighs until he reached the place in the stone where she knelt alone, desperate, where silence drowned a love that would remain unheard through millennia, yet felt by all women who cry for their lovers, their sons, for the vulnerable and victims lost unjustly, pulled from their grasp into the darkness and utter loneliness of death.

Amidst a cloud of loss without remorse, the man suddenly understood, and he remembered his friend’s passing. Enveloped in their embrace, he listened to their final words that death was not darkness beckoning but a blessing. Still, he was afraid, and at that particular moment, he had no thoughts of tranquility. Feeling dejected, he gently slid his hand upward along the woman’s buttocks again, passing alongside her spine. He pressed his fingers against the stone as if he could massage her tightened muscles, taught through her upper back and into her naked shoulders.

Her head was turned, and her face was barely visible, as if the sculptor had hidden her intentionally to avoid the gaze. Christ’s head was also turned, drooped, leaning against her shoulder. It was as if the pain of her embrace needed to be without witnesses and left unexamined. As if it needed to be felt rather than perceived, understood rather than explained, and like the froth of a thousand waves shattering over the rocks only to disperse and evaporate in the mist, her pain still signaled an approaching storm.

Violence was in the air. He felt it, so he raised his head.

And the guard said nothing still.

A tall, black, beautiful woman came to stand by the man’s side. Her thighs, though dressed in tights, reminded him of the woman kneeling. Her dark oval eyes radiated intelligence and compassion. Her hair seemed chiseled and pockmarked, crudely draping onto her neck and along her cheeks as if it had been rushedly groomed like the Rondanini Pietà, the unfinished sculpture on which Michelangelo worked to the last days of his life.

Her voice was softly inquisitive, childlike, but with undertones of maturity that echoed in the now-empty gallery.

“Can you feel it?” she said.

“Of course.” He barely moved his lips. His hand remained on the sculpture.

She touched the stone gingerly. “Was Rodin thinking of Camille when he made it?”

The man looked and caught her eyes. “You mean Camille Claudel? Yes, most probably. This sculpture dates from around 1894. Her abortion was in 92’, but they may still have been intimate. In this piece, it is almost as if it were he on the cross. Rodin was torn then; a classic battle between wife and lover, but perhaps she was already showing signs of emotional instability.”

The woman stopped smiling. “Why must men always blame the girl?”

“There is more than only moral suffering here,” he said.

“You seem almost obsessed,” she said.

She sounded playful, and he wondered if she was testing him, to see how far he might lead her in his labored explanations, so he said nothing. Instead, he lowered his eyes and stared at his hand still caressing the smooth marble finish.

“Your hands are very muscular,” the woman said.

“Perhaps she was still his lover,” he said after a moment. Then he stepped away from the sculpture, close enough to the wall so he could read the fine print on the exhibit label. He thought of his own work. He also thought of how another artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, had crafted the tombstones of her assistants who died of AIDS in the early years of the pandemic.

“Christ and the Magdalene,” he read out loud. He noticed the woman followed his gaze back to the bodies hewn from the marble block, polished figures entwined in an embrace that contrasted sharply with the unfinished base. It was as if the sculptor had discovered the essence of creativity, that moment when suffering ends, and joy spills forth like the birth of an idea.

He hoped she might accept his invitation for tea.


Dr. Henri Colt from U.S. is a physician-writer and wandering scholar whose short stories have appeared in Rock and Ice Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Active Muse, and others. His passions include art history, mountaineering, and tango


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