#FridayFlash: Ugly Picture, Expensive Frame

Ugly Picture, Expensive Frame

by Andrew Hollandbeck

“It looks like a dirty toilet,” Julie said.

“I suppose they could’ve been hanging it wrong,” Tony said. He turned the large picture ninety degrees. “Maybe it goes this way.” He leaned it back against the wall and stepped away. They stared at it in silence, tilting their heads from side to side, trying to make some sense of the image.

“Now it just looks like a sideways toilet ,” Julie said.

“I think it’s supposed to be a portrait,” Tony said. “That dark smudge kind of looks like an eye.”

“Looks like a toilet handle to me.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s not a toilet.” With a grunt, he turned it another ninety degrees and stepped back.

“It could be a unicycle,” said Julie. “Or a bomb.”

“Maybe it isn’t supposed to represent anything,” Tony suggested. “Maybe it’s completely abstract.”

Another minute passed in silent contemplation. “Where’d you get this thing, anyway?” Julie asked.

“An estate sale. Some kid’s grandfather left him an ‘art collection’ in his will. You should’ve seen some of the other crap they had there. One of them just looked like somebody threw paint at the canvas. They were all too happy to have the cash.”

“Why did you get this one?”

“For the frame. You know that big watercolor my dad painted when he was in college? The one with the barn and all the leaves turning red and orange. This frame will go perfect with that.”

Julie nodded her head approvingly. “So how much did you pay for it?” she asked.

Tony stared at an interesting spot on the ceiling and squeaked, “Oh . . . not much.”

“Tony . . .”

“Oh . . . one-twenty.”

Julie’s jaw dropped. “A hundred twenty bucks?!”

Tony raised his hands defensively. “They wanted one-fifty! I talked them down! Look, this is real gold leaf!” Julie was not appeased. “Look,” Tony explained, “This’ll be my Christmas gift to Dad. If I didn’t spend a hundred-twenty on this, I’d end up spending that much or more on a bunch of other stuff he doesn’t need. He and mom will really like this.”

Julie sighed as she thought it over. “I guess you’re right,” she said. “And it is a really nice frame.”

Tony smiled. “It is, isn’t it? And you know what’ll make it look even better?”


“Taking that ugly painting out of it. Gimme a hand.”

Holding the frame upright, they pushed the corners of the picture with their thumbs. The painting and a small, yellowed card popped out the back and landed on the floor.

“What’s that?” Julie asked, picking up the card.

“What’s it say?” Tony asked.

“It says Wassily Kandinsky 1929.” She looked up at Tony.

“Wassily Kandinsky? Really?” Tony asked. Julie nodded and smiled. “Ever heard of him?”

“Nope,” Julie said.

“Me neither.” Tony stuck his head through the frame and lifted it onto his shoulders. “You know,” he said, “It is kind of a wah-silly painting, isn’t it?”

Tony chuckled; Julie rolled her eyes.

“I’m gonna take this out to the garage,” Tony said. He trundled the bulky frame out the back door and into the garage. Gingerly, he placed his expensive prize on the concrete floor and leaned it against the wall. When he walked back into the house, Julie was still staring at the painting.

“I think it’s a bird,” she told him. “A bird with a big, fat head and a tiny little body. See? This could be a beak.”

“Oh, yeah,” Tony said. “That is one ugly bird.”

“What should we do with it?”

“I don’t know. Give it to Goodwill, I guess.”

“You think anyone would buy it?”

“Probably. Some uneducated schmuck’ll probably buy it and take it to Antiques Roadshow, hoping it’s a Picasso or something.”

“Pfft! Some people just don’t know jack about good art.”

“Tell me about it!”


!sdrawkcab ... hsalFyadirF s'tI
April Fools! The story you just read appears here on my blog as a part of the Great April Fool's Day FridayFlash Blog Swap, organized by Tony Noland. You can find my story for today, "Looking Down" at Andy Hollandbeck's website, Logophilus. (I should note that my story nearly made Andy sick because of all the blood and gore... sorry, Andy!)

You can read all the dozens of stories swapping around as a part of the GAFDFFBS, check out the GAFDFFBS index. For hundreds of thousands of words of fantastic flash fiction stories, check out the FridayFlash hashtag on Twitter. It happens every Friday!

... and Kandinsky? Read about him here.


  1. Ha! Nice one. I confess I've had similar thoughts about yard sale purchases myself. :)

  2. Ha! This is MY DREAM! To find a painting or other rarity at a yardsale. Great little story. Peace...

  3. Funny how they didn't even Google the guy's name. No curiosity.

  4. We had the Guggenheim at our local (State) Art Gallery a few months ago, and I remember seeing this piece there. Looks so different "in the flesh" so really made me chuckle as I read through.

    Well done.

  5. Hilarious! I almost choked when I found out it was a Kandinsky, and then the "wah-silly" line made me laugh out loud.

  6. Freaking Hilarious, Andy. This is EXACTLY why I go to my neighbourhood thriftstore once a weak... that and my jacket fetish.

  7. How dare they? I love Kadinsky. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  8. This kind of thing is why I always check to see if my garage sale stuff is worth anything. For example, last year I bought a fountain pen for a buck which turned out to be worth a hell of a lot more than that!

    Thanks for the story, Andy!

  9. I was laughing out loud at the end, Andy! Hilarious! Well-written and I loved how you tied in the real painting - as well as our friend Tony's name. Great stuff!

  10. Ha ha! Very entertaining. I love the Idea of including a real painting in a fictional piece like this.

  11. Very funny - loved the line about Wah silly...

  12. Thanks for all the great comments; I'm glad you enjoyed it. Writing anything remotely comedic is always worrisome because you never know if other people will think it's funny. Whenever you write with your tongue in your cheek, you risk it getting it bitten.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. At least look the painter up before you give it away! Cringing while reading.

  14. This is a wonderful take on what art really is. Great Job Andrew.

  15. Very cute story - as FAR said, funny how they didn't even bother to check it out or ask anybody. I sold a picture a couple of years back and laughed at the buyer...i made a comment about how nice the picture was and he just told me all he wanted was the frame. Hmmph - i kind of liked that picture ... Ah well. ;-)


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