The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard
Yes, I am slowing down. Reading two short stories a day, or even one, is beginning to prove existentially exhausting. I'm not sure if that's because I'm reading other things as well or not. Perhaps this story hasn't interested me as much as some of the others? I don't know.
"The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule" is about a young artist who proposes to kill an already half-dead dragon that dominates a town by painting him. The idea is that the toxins in the paint will eventually build up in the dragons system and finish him off. Being desperate to get rid of the beast, which still exerts a psychic influence over the town, the magistrates empower Meric Cattanay to carry out his massive plan. The story continues, interspersing bits of biographical work about Meric and his painting with scenes from Meric's life as he labors to cover the dragon in paint. We are allowed to see Meric's first exploration of Griaule, his brief and sad affair with the foreman's wife, and the finishing of the painting and the artist's death.
I can't say that I particularly like the character of Meric Cattanay. He isn't virtuous, and he doesn't have any great passion or charm to redeem him. Mostly, he just drifts through life. Griaule is more of a presence than a character, so there's not much to cling to there either. The side characters are interesting, but we don't get to see very much of them. There is an ironic twist to the story's conclusion which I won't spoil for you. Perhaps you can make something of it? If there's a greater point to the story, that's where it will be found.
Next Up: Nets of Silver and Gold by James P. Blaylock