Ceiling is today’s #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. My thoughts on this one scattered like autumn leaves, but then when I settled down I decided that it really was an opportunity to visit the artist in action. I have no idea who that artist might have been, or when! This is just over 600 words and I hope you enjoy it.

And afterwards there are some details of Read an Ebook Week!

a white plaster ceiling with beautiful artistic carvings: in the centre is a painting featuring angels and the odd animal


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 

It was the best because he had a job, for which he might even get paid. Having a job was better than nothing. Nothing equalled painful, hungry, disgusting, and sometimes even dangerous.

It was the worst of times because he was lying on his back on flat wooden boards, twenty feet in the air, painting.

Do you think that was a good job? Lying on your back, hardly able to shift position, trying to do intricate details in the most marvellous impression of gaily dancing women surrounded by cavorting dogs … and the paint is dripping into your eyes, into your hair, up your nostrils and into worse parts. Despite the eternal glory that would result, since nobody would want to get up there to get rid of it, it was a disgusting job.

He rolled onto his side to check perspective from the doorway, and then touched up a little more rouge on her left cheek. Was he done with carmine variants now? Could he move on to the gilding?

Gilding was the worst, because it went on last, so he had to be absolutely certain that there was nothing else to fiddle with for the paint layer. And gilding wasn’t really paint. The method for laying it on permanently involved contortions which only a young man should attempt. Yet he couldn’t entrust it to one of his apprentices. Gilding pillars and frames was certainly an apprentice job. But if he brought one up here, he would get ideas above his station. Quite literally, in fact. He’d want to be doing prestigious ceilings ever after.

He eased out his back, and flexed his fingers. Maybe it would not be such a bad idea, though. The master could hardly take much more of this at his age. 

He crawled along to the edge of the scaffolding and carefully stretched down a leg, then an arm, then another leg. Convinced he was securely attached at three corners, he got his body over the side, and retrieved the final arm. Was the grinding noise from his joints or the ladder?

Safely on the ground, he looked around. 

The boys were mostly cleaning paints and boards, or working on clusters of rosy apples on the doorframes.

Sandro, the senior boy, was doing a nice-looking cherub over the fireplace.

He wandered over to him, trying to appear lithe and agile, and not as his joints felt, creaky.

“Yes, that’s coming on well. How long till you finish?”

“Should be done tonight, sir, apart from the gilding.”

“Ah, yes, good. Well, you’ll be able to give it a few days to dry properly, as you’ll be doing the gilding on the ceiling tomorrow.”

The lad’s expression wavered through pride in his work, through dislike of gilding, to appreciation that this was, quite obviously, a step up in his career. “Yes, sir. Thank you.”

He nodded, and made his way out to clean the rest of himself up. The boys would do the paints and brushes. That was their job.

Maybe he could concentrate on getting the commissions and leave more of this grunt work to his journeyman, as he should really term the senior boy now. He had talent, after all. Just a shame he had such a ridiculous surname. He should change it if he really wanted to get on in the world, like his master. 

Floridan de Milo. Now that was a good name. Ceiling painter to the rich and famous. Nobody would ever admit to a painting by Botticelli, for goodness sake.

© J M Pett 2023

If you enjoy my short stories you can find several of my collections, as well as the first in each of my series, as FREE ebooks this week at Smashwords. This is Smashwords annual promotion Read an Ebook Week, and it ends on Saturday night (11th March) at midnight, California time.That gives Brits until 8 am on Sunday 🙂


Ceiling | #writephoto Flash Fiction
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10 thoughts on “Ceiling | #writephoto Flash Fiction

  • 6 March, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Great story I actually felt the aching limbs and back. Yes that lad Botticelli certainly needs a new name 🤔💜💜
    Oh! And good luck with ebook promotion, thank you for telling us 💜

  • 6 March, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve sort of gone “splat” with the ebook week thing. Meant to sign up. Maybe I still will. Too much to do and I’m itching to get back at the writing! I guess that’s a good sign 🙂

    • 6 March, 2023 at 4:59 pm

      Oh, and I liked the story. Can relate to the poor guy deciding he’s getting a bit old for ceilings. I’m not sure his sense of desperation at the start match the feeling of having a whole stable of boys doing the scut work, but it’s a great little twist at the end!

      • 6 March, 2023 at 6:04 pm

        Ah, but then, he’s responsible for the little toe rags to their parents, who are also paying him for their art education! But I agree…

    • 6 March, 2023 at 6:06 pm

      It is a good sign! The advantage of putting your books in late is they show up nearer the front page for longer…

    • 6 March, 2023 at 9:35 pm

      Yes, you were! I had an inkling, but I wasn’t confident 🙂 Do you know where this ceiling is? Not a strong point for me, ceilings!

  • Pingback:#WRITEPHOTO – Ceiling by Jemima Pett – New2Writing

  • 8 March, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    Haha! Very good, Jemima. My poor back gave a groan of sympathy at the thought, I was bad enough last year painting the garden fence – haha. Thank you for a great entry to #writephoto. I’m sorry to hear you are having such a tough time at the moment. Sending virtual hugs and happy thoughts your way. KL <3

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