Novel

It’s just past sunrise. The sculptor wakes to the sound of a large truck. He stands at the threshold of his home—screen door propped open with his foot, a coffee mug in both hands—and squints at burly men with burlier beards as they remove a piece of marble from the purring vehicle.

They ask where they can put it.

He says in the garage.

The men take their time to move the heavy marble. Once in his workspace, they remove a blue tarp, say good luck and drive away.

At first he stares at it, anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. Then, with mallet in hand, he begins to lop off the chunks.

At first he stares at it, anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. Then, with mallet in hand, he begins to lop off the chunks.

In the beginning it seems random. He’s trying to uncover what’s trapped. As the floor becomes covered in chalky powder, the sculptor exchanges his hammer for tools more precise.

He chisels away at an arm or a leg. A nose appears somewhere from within the head. He’s already thinking about the eyebrows and the lips, but he knows it’s not time. He must tend to all the rest.

As the months pass he begins to focus on toenails, abdominal muscles, wrinkles on the forehead. From the ground up a body begins to emerge. After a few more months he arrives at the face.

And here is the most important and most delicate task: “The soul of the sculpture,” a teacher once said. And though the sculptor can envision what the eyes will reveal, the sculpture remains faceless and still for now.

How many months have passed? Does it matter? He is there, anyway.

Weeks later, with metallic tools rarely seen outside the orthodontist office, he begins the delicate process of chiseling away. How many months have passed? Does it matter? He is there, anyway.

The only mistake he can make is to be hesitant now. He continues his work. He stares from thirty feet away.

A week later, ten feet.

Five feet the next.

As he approaches, he remembers what this marble once looked like. He stares into the eyes and clutches the head.

The sculptor doesn’t own a broom or a dustpan. His shoes are covered in porcelain dust. He hasn’t been away from his home in months and he can’t remember the last time he took a break. Soon, he thinks—maybe by the end of the day. Tonight he’ll pour a glass of whiskey and reminisce.

The sculpture was finished when the marble arrived. Lopping off the chunks was just as essential to the process.

The sculpture was finished when the marble arrived. Lopping off the chunks was just as essential to the process. With an idea in his head, hurrying back to the sculpture, another eyelash emerges from what was once cold stone.      

The garage is quiet now—no more scraping, no more hammering, no more chiseling away. The tools are idle and his breath is calm. For the briefest of moments he allows himself to be proud, but quickly places the work with all the others, in the corner, not on display.    

That night the sculptor sleeps well. He wakes to the sound of a large truck. He stands at the threshold of his home—screen door propped open with his foot, a coffee mug in both hands—and squints at the men as they descend the purring vehicle.