Short Story: Modern Art

Once again, I have decided to post a short story and some brief commentary in lieu of a more time consuming piece of content. Enjoy the fruits of my current laziness.


“Look at the painting. The way the waves seem to shift and roll. That sense of movement and colour is present in all of the works in this series. Is it any wonder the artist was considered a prodigy before he graduated primary school?”

He was considered a prodigy before he finished primary school because his parents paid good money to have him considered so, but who was I to judge? Besides, as mediocre as I found most of Ellis’s work (yes, he went by a mononym, like Cher), I really did like ‘Red Boat #4’.

Everyone murmured their appreciation, and we moved on. Two rooms, twenty-eight pieces and fifteen minutes until my shift was over, assuming no large groups came in. We asked that any group of over six people call ahead so we could have enough staff on hand, but that didn’t stop social groups, retirement homes and yes, even schools from coming in without notice expecting to be accommodated.

“Our next room is very—”

A loud crash echoed from behind us, someone screamed and a siren began to wail. I saw the group I was guiding share a glance, one that said ‘I’m mildly concerned but I don’t want to look stupid if this is part of the exhibit’.

I kept the panic in my voice to a minimum as I ushered everyone into the next room. “There seems to be a disturbance of some kind, so I’ll have to ask you all to take shelter here while I try to find out what’s going on.”

Muffled swearing echoed down the hall from reception, as the group I’d been guiding scrambled to hide in a brightly lit room mainly filled with papier-mâché kitchen appliances.

I left them to it and headed back into the ‘Ellis’ room. Then I froze, not sure what exactly I should be doing. A crash followed by a whispered argument sent me straight back into the room I’d just left.

A model toaster lay shattered on the ground and a red-faced man with plaster on his hands was attempting to pry open the door leading to the next room.

He turned when he noticed me, “This door is locked! You need to open it right now!”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to stay calm—”

“I tried to stop him—”

A woman I assumed was the art-destroyer’s wife stood helplessly by his side, while her husband turned to pry another sculpture off its plinth

The sound of glass shattering behind us was enough to send me scrambling to use my security code to unlock the door, and the group hurried after me, red-faced man in the lead. The next room contained only a hand painted sign reading ‘you are safe’, and after explaining the meaning of ‘the break in’ (and nearly being attacked by the red-faced man, whose wife, Melanie, apologised profusely) I could finally sign out and go home.

Sometimes, I really hated modern art.


This was as usual the product of a flash fiction challenge, but I think the piece is pretty cohesive. Entertaining, but without much of an underlying message. I also think I could have worked harder at characterization, as I think there are no characters that really anchor this piece. All in all, it is a short story, with a classic twist no less, but I don’t think it’s memorable. That being said, making an impact in 500 words or less is always a challenge, I just think I could improve it in this instance.

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