I’m playing with the blog this month and putting up a short story I wrote a while back. I submitted this piece to one place last year–a place that rejected it. I don’t have the umph to keep reworking and submitting and am ready to let it go but not willing to let it only gather dust in a computer file.
So here it is in a few segments I’ll publish over this month as I get the time. Inspired by a video of a stone carver I saw in my writing life, it helped me tremendously to write it in more ways than I am brave enough to tell you. If you like some part of it, that will make it even better.
“The Making of a Muse”
The ghost of Cheyenne noticed–not for the first time—that the ping of the chisel rang through the stone cleaner than it ever had when she was alive. Hovering inches above the concrete shop floor, the smell of the dust from the day class almost pushed out thoughts of the work she needed to do.
She wanted the carving to be easy. In fact, after working this same project for all 10 of her dead years, she thought it rather ridiculous that making the same bust of the same woman with the angular features was so difficult.
She wondered, sometimes, what would happen if she were to stop making it—if she set down the chisels and grinder, took off her coveralls and just floated out of the shop where she’d been ever since her death on that fateful July day.
She never could bring herself to stop. Something about repeating the movements night after night soothed her essence. Having to watch the live students she haunted at the art and technical college made her unbearably envious. They could find new projects, fall in love, and show their work. Gloria was the only project she could do now and it wasn’t enough.
She leaned over the block of Parian marble—the semi-translucent, pure-white, and flawless stone she had spent 2 years saving to get before suddenly dying. Her coveralls still hung loose over the tank top she wore under it. Or at least she felt like they did. Taking the drill in two hands, she pulled the trigger to get the concrete bit up to speed before pressing it into the marks she had measured—again. Forever again.
Next came the chisels and that resonant tink they made as she drove them into the hard stone, breaking off the exact amount she needed in order to carve the marble into Gloria’s head.
Cheyenne supposed if she had known that the young model would be her last subject, she might have talked to her more. Might have asked about her aspirations. Might have done more than use those calipers and tune out anything Gloria went on about when allowed to move her mouth. Knowing more of Gloria’s story might have been good for the decade of etching the stone into her face.
She had made up stories about Gloria, of course, and what the model did with her life after Cheyenne died. You could only fill your head with the same precise measurements for so long. Some of the stories had Gloria going on to be the mother of many. Some of the stories had her staying single, becoming a stone carver herself, or jetting around the world as an overpaid supermodel. Gloria was, after all, nothing if not stunning, a classical beauty with an impressive bone structure and a long nose that the Romans might have envied. Longer even than Cheyenne’s, which was saying something. At least, Cheyenne thought, she had picked someone with an eternal appeal for her final doomed-to-repeat project.
As the chisel broke the stone into two pieces this night, though, something different happened. The lights Cheyenne never needed came on in the shop, causing the figure of Gloria to dissolve and the stone to reform into its block shape. It always happened. But normally in the morning. Only when the sun rose and the day class came in to open the wide shop doors. Never in the ten years before this had the stone carving ghost been interrupted at night.