Abigail Ulman’s short story “Chagall’s Wife” appeared in NER 28.4 (2007):
“A monogamist.” Mr. Ackerman had come up behind me.
“Chagall. He loved his wife very much.” He leaned in close to the painting. “That’s her up there, see? She’s flying. And there he is, on the ground below, waiting for her to come down. Hoping to catch her. He put her in all his work.”
He walked on to look at the next one and I watched him go. For a science teacher he seemed to know a lot about art. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel like learning schoolish things on the weekend. I dragged myself from painting to painting, ignoring the essay-long inscription next to each one, staring at the colors till they blurred before my eyes. I made inkblot tests of them all. Instead of a tableful of angels I saw a close-up of a mouth with teeth falling out; I turned a juggling bird into a woman belly-dancing; a bunch of doves in a tree became soggy tampons just hanging there.
But it was true what Mr. Ackerman had said, about the guy’s wife. She was all over the place. First she lay draped naked over a tree of roses. Then she was dressed as a bride with a long veil and holding a baby. And later she wore a housedress and the two of them floated together above the orange floor of their kitchen.[read more]