The Smile

He wrote more than 27 novels and over 600 short stories and somehow his work has never crossed my path.

As I read the Culture and Book pages of The Guardian daily, I have been reading some wonderful tributes to the writer Ray Bradbury who died recently at the age of 91. ‘Margaret Atwood on Ray Bradbury: the tale-teller who tapped into the gothic core of America’ was interesting, Atwood celebrates the author, known for his science fiction but who has shown remarkable scope and influence throughout his career. He was a story-teller; he had an active and far-reaching imagination and rejected the limitation of labels.

After a quick trip to our local French library yesterday, I stopped at a display table honouring Ray Bradbury and came home with his prophetic short story ‘The Smile’ the only English language work left on the display.

Set in 2061, the story is set in a square in Rome, where the boy Tom waits with an angry crowd to view the ‘Mona Lisa’. Joy has vanished from this world and people are filled with hate for everything that represents the past. Except Tom. He remembers. He represents hope. Perhaps love. Certainly appreciation.

Tom stood before the painting and looked at it for a long time.

The woman in the painting smiled serenely, secretly, at Tom, and he looked back at her, his heart beating, a kind of music in his ears.