I offer a collage, a convergence, of past work for this week’s post. On LinkedIn yesterday I saw a reference to a sculptor named Michelle Millay, who works in the film industry. I interviewed Michelle in May of 2013 for my website on filmmaking. Her sculpting work is featured on movies like Batman and Robin and Pirates of the Caribbean.
What I’ve Written
Thinking of Michelle reminded me of two stories I’ve posted here in the last few years that have sculpting as a theme.
One story is titled “The Hand”. I used an image of several Rodin sculpture as inspiration for the story. I first posted it in February of 2021.
A man’s left hand reaches forward, bent at the wrist. Three fingers curl inward. Thumb and index fingers extending. Poised. Expectant. Ready to grasp.
His love lies dying. Ravaged by disease. Poised to let go. In a moment of mindfulness, she comes through the pain. She slides her wedding ring off her left hand and holds it out to him. A gesture of giving, of surrender. I won’t need this. I want you to keep it. Her eyes speak. Remember me when you hold it. Touch it. Feel its smoothness, worn by years of love. Years of twisting and turning. Of sliding off at night, back on every morning.
He reaches for the ring. Index finger and thumb extend. Moving in hesitation, in reluctance…in acceptance. He grips the ring lightly. Feels the warmth of her finger as it fades slowly from the ring’s surface.
He has no words. He slides the ring partially over his forefinger. Enough to maintain a grip on it. He knows that to accept the ring is to accept her leaving.
His eyes meet hers. She smiles weakly. Closes her eyes. A shallow breath. Another. And a last one.
He rubs his thumb hard against the ring. I will remember.
More on a Convergence of Theme
I add another converging element on the theme of carving and sculpting. Check out a song of loss and remembrance from The Subdudes: Carved in Stone.
And read on for the second story about a woman with cancer scars.
Scars Tell a Story
Kathryn Malone’s sandcastle marriage crumbled after the kids left for college. As soon as the divorce was final, she knew she’d never remarry. No one needs more than one asshole, she told herself.
Ten years later, she found herself sitting at a patio table behind her favorite coffee shop. Waiting for a man. A work associate’s brother, new in town.
She owed her associate a favor. Make the guy feel welcome. Kathryn expected nothing more from this encounter.
Kathryn wore black pants that clung to long, graceful legs. A white top, arms tan and bare. Gold bracelets on her wrist. She still wore a wedding ring. Not the original. One she bought herself to discourage pickup lines. She had placed a white carnation on the table, so the man would know her.
Her tongue brushed her lips after sipping her black coffee.
In the corner of her eye she spotted a tall man enter the patio, peel off his sunglasses, look around. A yellow Hawaiian shirt, white shorts, white hair. He carried a large, cold drink. He glanced at her. The only woman sitting alone. As he approached, she gritted her teeth. Waved the carnation slightly in his direction when he hesitated. His face lit up.
“Hi, you must be Kathryn.”
She nodded. “Please, sit.”
“I’m John. Happy to meet you.”
John’s frame filled the seat opposite Kathryn. He leaned back, spread his legs, gestured with his hands.
“I’m getting used to Southern California. This is very nice.”
“Where did you live before this?”
“Up north. The Bay area.”
He removed the lid and sipped his drink.
“Do you need a straw?” Kathryn asked.
“Never use them. Do you know how many straws go into the trash every day?”
Kathryn leaned forward. Steepled her fingers. “Tell me about yourself, John.”
John laced his fingers around the drink cup. “I was a bank branch manager. We got bought up. I retired and came here to live near my sister.”
Kathryn leaned back, crossed her legs. “How are you adapting?”
“I love it.” He gestured to his shirt. “I never would have worn this back home.”
She smiled. Shouldn’t wear it here, either.
“My daughter still lives up north, with her boyfriend. Great job in sales. She’s tough. But hard to deal with. That’s the way you have to be to get by.”
Kathryn said, “I’m in real estate sales. I find that—“
“I know a lot about real estate. A buddy of mine sells houses.” He pointed to her. “Let me tell you…”
Here comes the mansplaining, Kathryn thought. She twirled the carnation, snapped the stem in half.
“All that baloney about curb appeal. You gotta get someone to stage the house. Works like a dream.”
“Oh?” She broke off pieces of the stem.
“Yeah, I can give you a link. He’s got videos up on YouTube.”
Kathryn raised her eyebrows, a hint of cynicism. “Good to know.”
John leaned in, his elbows thunking on the table.
“Did my sister tell you about my surgeries?”
She shook her head as a gleam of humor lit her eyes.
“I had a bypass last year. I got through it okay, but it sure messed up my manscape.” He tapped the center of his chest. “I can’t go to the beach without wearing a tee. The scar is ugly. I used to look pretty good.”
His brows creased. “I always considered myself a decent kisser, too. But my wife told me I was a bad kisser…” He paused. “Did I tell you, she passed away last year.”
Kathryn sat a bit taller in her seat. “Scars tell a story.”
“I have scars on my chest too.” Her shoulders shifted gently up and back. She brought her hands up, fingers pointing to her breasts. “A double mastectomy. Two years ago.”
John stared at her chest. “I never would have guessed.”
Kathryn waited till his eyes rose to hers again.
“No, you wouldn’t. Until I took my clothes off.”
A red heat rose in his neck. He gulped from his drink.
Kathryn continued. “I attended a charity event up in Carmel last year. I met a sculptor who has done quite a lot of impressive work. Including the usual female nudes. I dared him to sculpt women after they had had breast cancer surgeries.”
She sat even taller. Ran her left hand along the other wrist. Fingers skimming the skin. “He agreed. I sat for him. I learned later he invited several other women, all cancer survivors, to do the same.”
John ran his hand though his hair, rubbed his scalp.
Kathryn looked him in the eye, reached for her phone. “I have pictures of the sculptures.” She extended her hand, the phone in her open palm, under his face.
John pulled back, tucked his chin into his chest, peered down at the photos. He blinked hard.
Kathryn slowly withdrew her hand.
“My scars tell a story of survival.”
John stared wide-eyed. He grasped his drink cup, took a long swallow.
He stood abruptly. She stared up at him, her face easing into a smile.
“I really should be going.”
He swung around, checking for the exit.
“John,” she said. He turned back. She picked up the carnation, twirled it between her thumb and index finger, stuck it in his drink cup. “For you.”
He pursed his lips. Tried a smile. Failed. He turned and walked in long strides towards the door.
Kathryn recrossed her legs, leaned back, folded her arms across her chest. No one needs another asshole, she whispered to herself.