The Sculptor

-originally published in Crooked Lullabies, 8/7/16.

-to my wife, Kait.

She is young. She is an artist. She has boundless dreams and steady hands.

The clay is fresh. The clay is moist. The clay is shapeless.

She places the clay on the wheel and presses the pedal that makes it spin. The clay is squishy between her fingers. It kinda’ tickles. The clay slides across her palms. It feels good. She strokes the clay deliberately. She smiles as the clump begins to take shape. She is her own master. She will stop the wheel when the clay has become as defined as her boundless dreams.

As the wheel spins…maybe she stumbles upon a nameless dude in a corduroy jacket amongst a million nameless dudes amid a late night freshman troll on Match.com. Maybe he finds her affinity for microwaveable teddy bears and the 1978 Dr. Strange TV pilot too irresistible so he speechlessly carves his feelings into her stomach with his finger. Maybe she drinks too much Southern Comfort and asks him “What do you think it would be like to be engaged?” while Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick plays on vinyl pre-hangover. Maybe he buys a Whiffle ball and rubber bases and sends a group email to friends instructing them to wear shorts and a tee shirt to the reception, where Whiffle ball replaces a DJ. Maybe they exchange wedding vows beside a band shell hosting a puppet show merely 30 yards away.

Though the wheel spins she loses some sight of the clay. She caresses it with her fingers, but with less resolve. Small chunks spit onto her plaid shirt.

Maybe she sees an expecting woman in the infant section at Target and weeps with what she hopes will soon be empathy. Maybe he hides the Parents magazines in the basement because she weeps in her unexpectedly prolonged yearning to empathize. Maybe she weeps when the nurse hands her Uriah because her empathy is fully realized. Maybe he finally weeps too. Maybe they settle on outer space wall decals to decorate the baby’s room while they haphazardly redecorate the walls in the new uncharted room in their lives.

The wheel is spinning…spinning…spinning. She subconsciously weaves her fingers, purposelessly shifting the clay. She doesn’t heed the forming cracks.

Maybe she scours the CCAC nursing program website, or nearly aces the PA Civil Service test, or peers over the bobbing head of a still-awake toddler to notice the clock slip to 1:04 AM. She continually strives to be a perfect mother. Maybe he “causes a scene” when Jordy Mercer boots a surefire double-play ball, or orders “one cheese, three craft beers, and an M&M cookie,” twice a week, or walks his son about Greenfield to allow Mama the occasional breath.  He continually strives to be an adequate father.  Maybe she wakes up yet fifteen minutes earlier to accommodate a chaotic-er morning because he punched a refrigerator and can’t lift more than twenty pounds. Maybe, just maybe, he actually punched a fucking refrigerator and broke his hand like an idiot. Maybe they…

She lifts her foot from the pedal, and the spinning wheel stops. The clay is dry like dirt and amorphous like mud. Her plaid shirt is covered in crust.

He joins her at the wheel. He lifts the clump and holds it in his hands. He wants her to know he’s seen nothing so unique–all others are shooting stars, but in a meteor shower; nothing so beautiful–all others are sunsets, but in a world that doesn’t rotate; nothing so forever–all others are diamonds, but better left in the ruff. Nothing so befitting an art show all its own.

He tosses a clump of clay–fresh, moist, and shapeless–onto the wheel, and presses the pedal that makes it spin.

…They are young. They are artists. They have boundless dreams and steady hands.

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