“Sculptor’s Block,” A Short Story

         The block of red granite loomed in his mind the way it loomed in his studio. It even showed up in his dreams. He admired the thing, which glittered subtly with inclusions of quartz and mica. It frightened him a little, too. No doubt he should have chosen a smaller chunk of stone for his first project in granite. It was an unforgiving material, dulling chisels, and even diamond-bladed saws. However, once he’d seen it, he was consumed with the lust to possess, with dreams of grandeur. He’d carve it into his magnum opus.

For days after the delivery, he’d spent hours with the stone, studying it, patting its rough surface. How would he transform it? The stone demanded a worthy subject. He thought of the sculptors who’d come before him: Praxiteles, Michelangelo, Rodin. And he started to sweat. He knew that he could never be the genius those men had been. He comforted himself with the thought that he didn’t have to be a genius; he didn’t even want to be a genius. He’d be content to be a damned good sculptor of his own time. Make a name for himself that his son could be proud of.

Michelangelo had seen an angel inside a block of marble and carved until he set it free. Much as the sculptor looked, he couldn’t see anything trapped in his block of granite. Zeus wasn’t there. Neither was Thor. Not even Sitting Bull.

Then on a divorced-dad Saturday, with his son at the zoo, they’d stood at the rail of the bear enclosure and both stared open-mouthed at a Kodiak. He’d found his subject. Carving it like that, sitting on its haunches, immense paws dangling on a vast furry belly, he could make it almost life-sized.

Back at the studio he sawed, hammered, ground. Splinters of granite flew like drops of sweat. He forgot to eat. He forgot to sleep. Only the stone mattered.

It wasn’t like working with marble, alabaster or soapstone. Somehow he couldn’t get the details right. The ears didn’t look right. The snout was all wrong. Worst of all was the fur. How could you make such a hard stone look like soft fur?

He sawed. He hammered. He ground. More dust and granite splinters flew. When at last he stepped back, he realized that the block of stone was no longer large enough to make a life-size adult bear. Well, all right, maybe he’d sculpt a half-grown cub. Cubs were cute. People liked cubs. A cub would probably sell better than an adult bear.

There was always something to change, something to improve. As the stone shrank, his ambition shrank with it. He chipped away. A wolf was a noble animal. He’d carve a wolf. No. A fox. No. A rabbit with droopy ears.

In the end, all his labors brought forth was a mouse. By no means perfect. Of course not. But, Japanese netsuke artists notwithstanding, he’d be damned if he’d carve a bug.

4 thoughts on ““Sculptor’s Block,” A Short Story”

  1. Very nice story! I loved some your phrases, like “divorced-dad Saturday” which says so much without extra explanations. The ending was totally unexpected, too. Good story! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my story and commenting on it, Aija! Virtual music to my ears that you think it’s good and that you loved my phrasing. I had fun writing it. I hope you’ll enjoy my other posts, too.


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