By Ben Loory, Aug 31, 2009

One time Picasso came and stayed in our town. This was a long time ago. I guess he was taking a break from painting, because he didn’t do any of that when he was here.

Mostly Picasso just walked around with a microscope looking at bugs on the ground.

You’d see him in the meadow, up with the dawn, his eyes always angled down. And when he found a bug—one he considered good—he’d kneel to examine it, and then put it in his jar.

Picasso rented a room above the filling station. He laid all his bugs out on the desk. You’d go in to see him—his door was always open—and he’d hardly even look up.

Just staring, staring, staring at the bugs.

At their tiny little bodies, their wings.

When Picasso left, his bugs went with him. Most of them at least; some stayed. We examined them closely, tried to figure out why—what was wrong with them, why they’d been left behind.

But to us they were just bugs, like all the other bugs.

You had to be Picasso to know.

So we buried the bugs in their jar out back, and went back to the way things were before.

But every now and then I go down to the library, and I take down one of those books. And I flip through the pictures of Picasso’s paintings.

There’s a game I like to play with myself.

You see, in Picasso’s paintings—the ones from after he came here—you can always find just one tiny bug. It’s hard to spot, but it’s always there. Just a little speck in the paint.

If you can’t find the bug after hours of looking, it’s a painting he did before the town. But if you do find it, and sit very still, it’s like holding Picasso in your hand.

Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles, where he is a musician and a screenwriter. His fiction has appeared in (or is forthcoming in) Knock Magazine, Wigleaf, The Bicycle Review, DOGZPLOT, Writers’ Bloc, and Every Day Fiction, among others. He has received honorable mentions in Glimmer Train and ChiZine short story contests, and publishes nonfiction at His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is currently seeking a home.