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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

A Sculptor's Summer
by Bick Parker

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June is the month when inspiration really flows through me; the icy breath of a winterís chill inspires no-one.

Being an artist - a sculptor - creating shape and texture is the art form I love, but it has been a long, hard struggle to attain the recognition which I truly deserve. There have been many critics since my childhood days, and every one of them poured scorn on my creations, spitting venom with every word that left their lips. No praise was given to my works, no encouragement offered. The first critic of my style of art was given a taste of what it felt like to be humiliated ...

Mrs Jessop, the ageing art teacher, slowly began to move about the classroom, stopping occasionally at a desk to check on the work in progress. Seldom did what met her gaze please her. Especially my work.

Mrs Jessop eventually came to a standstill beside my desk, silent and daunting, letting go heavy sighs of disappointment carried on minty breath. I didnít look up to acknowledge her presence. I didnít have to, I knew what was duly going to leave her mouth. Some moments later, what I knew was coming, did.

"Robert, what are those supposed to be?" she enquired, pointing an accusing finger at my drawing of a frog, with several steel spikes protruding from various angles of its body.

"Steel spikes, Mrs Jessop," I replied, not looking up.

Those heavy sighs of disappointment now turned to a very audible gasp of utter disbelief. She stooped forward, resting the flat of her hands on my desk to support her upper body.

"Robert Chase, the frog is dead, then ... yes?" she spat out aloud so all in the class could hear. "Whatís the point in that?" she ended.

I didnít answer instantly, I waited for the right thing to say.

"No, Mrs Jessop, the frogís still alive. It depends on where you put the steel spikes in - donít you see?" I informed her.

"No - I donít see! That isnít art!" she countered immediately.

"Itís living-art! Itís my own creation!"

She either couldnít understand, or wouldnít understand. It was my style. But I understood, and thatís all that mattered. I felt anger building inside me.

"Silly! Plain silly!" she blurted out.

I could take no more. Children have pride, too.

Mrs Jessopís scream of agonising pain rang out aloud in the classroom as the newly-sharpened tip of my pencil came down upon the back of her left hand, driven deep into the flesh with all the strength a kid of eight could summon. Her screams continued as she ran from the classroom and away down the corridor, clutching her injured hand as she did so.

After some moments had passed, I became aware that everyone in the room was staring at me. Nobody spoke. I just stared back at them all, with a satisfied grin on my face.

I also became aware that I didnít appreciate other peopleís critical opinions of my art form. Perhaps all artists feel the same as I? I couldnít say for sure ...

Have I ever loved?

Yes, my grandparents, I loved them dearly, they never criticised my art. They raised me from the age of two: my parents were killed in a freak motorway accident one winterís night. I guess I loved them, too.

I enjoyed living with my grandparents, they were both really jolly people. I also miss the friends I made in the village where I grew up. Still, youíve got to go forward in life, right?

What were my college years like?

Some good days, some bad. But there was one teacher who just couldnít see my style of art for what it represented. She wasnít really nasty about my sculptures, she just didnít care for them. I tried my very best to make her understand my work, but I failed to convince Miss Bonam. I thought it a good idea at the time to invite her to a drink and discussion at my favourite watering-hole one night. After some hesitation, she agreed. In hindsight, it turned out not to be one of my better ideas ...

Sara Bonam walked into the city centre pub where weíd agreed to meet for our talk and a drink or two. She looked different somehow, years younger than the 33-year-old art teacher she was in class. In fact, she looked stunning in the close-fitting t-shirt and jeans she wore that night. Her sweetly fragrant shoulder-length blonde hair wafted gently as she sat down beside me.

My plan that evening was to fully explain the reason for the style of art that I'd created, and I'd expected Sara to eventually come round to my way of thinking, especially after a few drinks. But it was not to be, soft drinks is all she had because she'd driven into town. And by the end of that evening, I still hadn't managed to change her views on my art. In her own words, 'Robert, I hate to say this but ... what you create isn't art.'

Sara Bonam tripped and was impaled on spiked railings in the pub's car park that night. The local rag reported it as a tragic accident. I really liked her, too.

The isolated cottage my grandparents left me was the perfect place to live, especially now that I'd converted the connecting garage into a studio.

June came round, and though I'd been inspired, there was no masterpiece to my credit. I had spent too much time alone, thinking of the past. I decided I needed a living subject, some female who would not only be a friend, but also act as my model. It was time for a night out in the town centre. I ate, got showered and dressed, picked up the car keys and left at around eight o'clock that evening.

Harrogate centre on Friday night can be very boisterous, unless you know the quiet places to go for a drink. I did.

Blonde women have always caught my interest, and Sharon was just the woman I'd been hoping to meet; early twenties, leggy, with flowing hair. We soon became friends, especially as she had an interest in art and artists. She listened intently as I told her all about myself and my artistic style, occasionally taking a drink from her cocktail glass then running her tongue over her moist lips in a most seductive manner. I'd found the perfect woman, beautiful, with a touch of grace and sexually stimulating demeanour.

Sharon's eyes lit up as I explained that she would be the perfect subject for creating my masterpiece upon. She positively glowed with excitement when I invited her to pose for me at my studio. My invite for a nightcap back at the cottage was accepted.

The drive through the country lanes to the cottage was pleasantly quiet; I hardly spoke a word because I was thrilled at the prospect of creating my first masterpiece, and could think of nothing else at the time. Sharon was enjoying the warm summer air rushing through the open passenger window.

We arrived at the cottage a little after midnight.

Sharon was impressed with the rooms of the cottage; I gave her a quick tour just to prove that a single man can be house-proud too.

She was eager to see my studio, and so I led the way through to the kitchen, unlocked the connecting door, then gestured for her to enter. I followed, with great expectancy.

Sharon's facial expression at seeing my sculptures became a look of bemused horror as she gazed silently around the room for a moment. Then she placed a hand over her mouth as she let go a soft giggle. I wasn't sure at that very moment if she was laughing at my sculptures or mocking their creator, either way my feelings for her instantly changed. I asked her if she'd care to pose for me, as I was feeling overly-inspired right then. She agreed.

I stepped forward, took hold of her slender wrists and slowly began to raise both her arms above her head, she let out a seductive sigh as I did so. With no resistance offered me, I tied her wrists to the steel joist above her head, an act that sexually aroused her. I embraced her as I planted a kiss on her pouting lips. Then I began undress her. Sharon's breathing became so heavy and laboured as I continued to steadily reveal her beautiful body, that I too felt aroused, aroused in the knowledge that my masterpiece would present itself to me that very night.

Duly she was naked before me.

"Sharon, I'm going to tie your feet together," I told her.

She didn't reply, just gazed at me with an ever-increasing passion in her eyes, waiting for me to fulfil her. And I was ready to do just that.

I reached out behind her, picked up my chisel and mallet from the bench, then with a smile, I showed them to her. She stared at me, with a confused expression.

"These are the tools I'm going to capture your presence and immortality with," I informed her.

Sharon appeared even more confused now, and a hint of fear came to her eyes when I told her that my work must begin. Only a true artist like myself knows when it's time to begin, and time to end.

I positioned the honed edge of the chisel against her left cheekbone to prepare for the first strike. Absolute terror had Sharon in its grip, her body rigid like stone, unable to scream out as I pulled back the mallet into position.

The first strike was a moderate blow, slicing through flesh and muscle with the artistry of a surgeon, creating a clean aperture through which could pass the first insertion. Sharon had passed out, yet I really didn't mind her doing so, after all, she'd be able to admire my work when she came to. The right cheekbone proved more difficult as I had to strike twice, then twist the chisel to create a better angle - but I forgave myself for that little error of judgement. Both 12-inch steel spikes had fitted nicely, protruding exactly 6-inches at perfect 45-degree angles.

Sharon's mouth needed improving. I took the scalpel and cut down carefully at each corner of her lower lip, then pinned the flap of skin under her chin. When the blood had stopped flowing, the brightly polished teeth of her lower jaw stood out like little pearls. I was proud to have executed yet another masterstroke.

I worked on, cutting and inserting the various lengths of steel spikes into Sharon's body, with varying degrees of angles. I made only one mistake as I worked feverishly on, I'd used far too much force inserting a spike through her left thigh, breaking the bone in the process. I never said that I'm perfect - only my creations are.

By half-past two Saturday morning my work was completed, and I stood back to admire what I'd done. And I was so proud right then, because the masterpiece which I'd strived so long to create was finally there before me - a perfect creation of living-art! I must admit, I was so overcome with joy that I did shed a tear as I applauded myself.

It was time to wake Sharon and show her the wonderful work that I'd done - she would be proud. Two hefty slaps, one either side of her face did the trick.

It was clearly obvious to me that those groans upon her waking were groans of gratitude. My masterpiece had come to life; I expected no praise for the toil and trouble I'd put myself through to attain such a beautiful creation, the look on her face was praise enough as I placed the full-length mirror in front of her. Sharon was overwhelmed with joy as she glanced at herself, her head lifting up slightly to admire the greater view. The moan of pleasure she let go right then will remain with me forever.

"Sharon," I began, "say not a word for the beauty and grace which I've given you tonight. The critics will soon see the error of their ways, and know I was right all along." I had to smile at her, a brief pause to take in the splendid work I'd done.

Her groans of pleasure rang out ever louder as I gently untied her wrists, kissed her forehead, then swept her up into my arms. "Sweetheart, today the world will gaze upon your eternal beauty and give thanks to its creator. You are the living-art ... the sculpture ... the masterpiece." Sharon's eyes closed then, overcome with such fulfilment that she had to slumber in peaceful rest. I forgave her.

Saturday morning saw the largest crowd of art-loving viewers assembled in Harrogate park. Every expression on every face, in awe of my work.

"Doctor, this is the third time this year I've told you ... what more can I add?" The psychiatrist's eyes were harsh and penetrating. I had the distinct feeling that this blonde-haired beauty had the impression she was talking to some kind of psychopath. If only I was allowed my tools of work in this institution for the criminally insane...

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