He made himself look at the faces again.
The fact was, he just didn't like them. The woman had archetypal granny hair, white and tied back in a last century bun. Her eyes looked mournful like she'd just received some very bad news and there was no hope of anything ever getting better again. And he got the uncomfortable feeling that she wouldn't have had it any other way. Her mouth was down turned. She could have been stood beside a freshly dug grave rather than posing for a painting.
Her husband had short white hair attached to the sides of his bald head. He was very pale and had cold blue eyes that had a hard stare. He looked like a dentist applying a drill to the sensitive tooth of a terrified patient. And that he was getting a sadistic kick out of it.
Some faces wear and fade like the mosaic tiles on the floor of the county museum. They become refined and shaped by the stories of the years and take on an alluring beauty.
These did not.
Later, he told me that the woman had a face that was just plain miserable. The kind of face that liked being miserable. And wouldn't be happy unless everybody else was too.
And the man?
Well he had a mouth like a rat trap.
He quickly turned the portraits so that they faced the wall. Got out of the tool shed as fast as he could, the work table now clear of junk, his white trainers sinking into the black stuff compacted on the floor.
It was dusk now. The sky was clear and tinted with purple. A sliver of moon hung above the hills in the company of one solitary star. Lights shone in pin-points from the houses on the hill. Not a breath of wind.
Tomorrow the decorator was coming. If he was to do his job properly, the leaves that had collected along the path until they were banked up against the mouldering front door would have to be cleared.
He'd left the leaves around the door because the cat had loved playing in them.
He opened the front door and stood in the hallway. Turned to take one last look at the moon, the solitary star and the lights shining from the slopes on the hill.
It was then that a very peculiar thing happened.