The Unknown Sculptor The models came to Georgia’s house one after another.

She found herself especially dissatisfied with them. They became restless while waiting for her to make a decision and wandered to the edge of the terrace which overlookedthe ocean. The ocean was transparent green at this hour and it made a gushing sound as it leapt into the rocks and flooded the crevices. It was midmorning and uncomfortably warm. The sun’s rays baked the open patios surrounding the house. Doyan was making her rounds, watering the potted plants and the small beds of irises and tulips. Six or seven handsome models paced the terrace irresolutely, their bare backs covered in Chinese robes. Like bunch of errant hens, they stared down at the ground, bumped into each other, grunted and kept pacing. Without a tinge of remorse, Georgia called out their names, and dismissed them one by one. Many of them thought that she was being cold and unsympathetic. They hung their heads, exchanged their clothing, and left. She didn’t feel sorry for them. Over the years she learned to rely on a bold, intuitive sense that told her yes or no. When she ran an advertisement in a local newspaper, a deluge of calls came in, models with credentials, models with experience. Theywere handsome, respectable men. They had muscular, athletic bodies. But something was missing and she had to dismiss them. In her twenty-odd years of sculpting nude males, Georgia believed that there was an indissoluble net which wrapped around the human body. She couldn’t give an exact medical definition of this net but she could discern the net instantaneously and it served as her touchstone. The net represented a unity. If the unity was absent in a model, she dismissed them. It did not matter whether this “net” existed or not. She was neither a surgeon, nor a scientist; she was a sculptor and she relied on the powers of intuition. Yesterday a model came to herhouse named Raphael. She had him stand on the moving platform in her studio and she pressed a button which rotated the platform 360

degrees. Raphael went around the room, surprised by the automated whirligig. Georgia studied him intently from the corner of the room. He had a bald, cannon ball-shaped head and a thick goatee. As he went around the room, he smiled a lot, revealing two perfect rows of teeth. Georgia pressed the button to stop the platform. She dropped her arms to her sides and fell down into a tangerine papasan with faded cushions. Deep in thought, she gazed into the middle of the room, breaking her concentration only once or twice to glance back at him. He waited for her to announce his merits or lack of merits as a model when she abruptly removed a cigarette from her breast pocket. For the first time in her life she was unable to make a simple judgment—“Yes” or “No”. He didn’t have theconventional build. His height fell under the usual requirements, and he lacked the tall, noble stature of the models you see in California style magazines. But at the same time, his body was lively and energetic. His muscles stretched across his shoulders and upper back like a well-fitted garment. Before making a hasty decision however Georgia recalled the mysterious, elusive net, her touchstone. Was it there? She waited a few minutes for an answer (from the gods?), and took out another cigarette. The chalky smoke filled up the glass studio, and Raphael was secretly disgusted by her careless smoking. Raphael came to the United States only six months ago. There was a small population of Nigerians in the city, and when he first arrived, he moved in with four friends. They lived in an antiquated apartment building with boarded windows next to a dry-cleaning factory. He worked two shifts as a waiter in a gentrified part of the city, and saved up money so he could go to college at a technical institute. Modeling was one of the many jobs he picked up to survive. This was only his third time. Raphael’s confidence seemed to make Georgia’s decision more difficult. He had an endearing quality to him, a very affecting personal charm. He spoke English in a heavy Francophone accent and repeated over and over again the phrase,“This is true. Thisis true.” These qualities

made him seem like a good listener. People naturally felt comfortable in Raphael’s presence, and they would tell him things, about their families and their private lives. He listened because he was a good listener, but once in awhile he wanted to tell people about himself and they seemed too self-involved to care. He wasn’t bitter or anything; it just made him think. “But does he have the sacred unity?” Georgia mused. Again she pressed the button to the revolving platform; Raphael awoke from his reverie, and went around the room like a sleek mannequin in a shop window. He smiled tirelessly as Georgia studied his body. She asked him to put his clothes back on and invited him into the house, which was not her usual routine. Usually she told her models to walk around the back of the house, through the pool area. Her husband, however, was out for a stroll today with his nurse, and Georgia decided to have Raphael come inside the house and see the kind of work she did.

Raphael had never seen such a house before. He knew that there were houses like this on the coast, but he’d only imagined themfrom the movies he’d seen. His studio apartment was about the size of her foyer. The columned porches that flanked the front and back of the house reminded him of the house in the movie, The Godfather. The decorative façade along the top of the front doorway had a distinctly neoclassical style. Georgia ushered him inside, carefully holding back her own feelings of excitement and pleasure at having a special guest. Part of Raphael’s charm was the innocence and humility that radiated from his dazzled face. “Do you live here?” He asked incredulously. “Of course I live here,” she answered with soft, bubbling laughter, “I’m the artist.” “Are these all of your sculptures?”

“Except for the Roman bust in the front hallway, yes, they’re all mine.” There were exactly forty-nine sculptures in Georgia’s house, all of them nudes and all of them male. Each year she produced about four and she’d been working indefatigably for almost eighteenyears. What the average person noticed about these sculptures, other than the thick granular plaster applied in multiple layers, was that the men of thesesculptures were more like gods. They were taller and stronger and more beautiful than human males. They held themselves in triumphant postures, in warrior poses, in serene meditations. Everything about these sculptures possessed the heightened, exalted visionsof the artist herself. She was clearly striving for something unavailable on earth. Heaven was her model. Therefore it came as a surprise to Raphael to think that she would want him to pose for her. In his opinion, he didn’t have anywhere near the physique that was represented in these figures. He’d only put “body-builder” on his resume because he wanted to make himself sound more like a professional model, which he wasn’t. Although these doubts came into his mind, he didn’tsay anything. The two of them went from room to room, looking at the sculptures. Astonished by the extensive collection of nudes, the young model burst into rapturous praise about Georgia’s work. He was hoping she would choose him for her next sculpture. Raphael’s awe of the house and the sculptures produced a strain of giddiness and delight in Georgia. She was taken off guard by the short, black man’s natural charisma and abandoned herself to their idle conversation. Rapheal told her about his job as a waiter in the city and his aspirations to get a degree in computers. “Computers,” she said, “Why would you want to do a thing like that? Why you would confine yourself to a dull and boring technical career?” “But I’ve always loved computers,” he said. “Ever since I was a child.” “I’m sorry Raphael but I don’t see how a computer can be imaginative. What about the human body? What about

the face? Have you ever looked at a person’s face? I mean really looked at their face?” Raphael didn’t have an answer. “Well, if you’ve ever considered a person’s face and the structure of their face and the unique mold of their face, then you’ll agree with me that Nature, God, or whatever you want to call it, has endowed us with beauty, true and complex beauty, and the creativity of Nature, or God, or whatever you want to call it, is far greater than our own powers of invention and we can only strive in our limited ways to imitate the creativity of the Divine Source, God, or whatever you want to call it.” “This is true. Yes. This is true.” The model said. When they arrived in the kitchen from their tour of the house, Doyan had poured two glasses of freshly-squeezed lemonade and left them on a serving platter on the counter. Raphael introduced himself to Doyanand asked her what country she was from. She said she was from the Caribbean. Doyanwas twenty-eight years old. She had big eyes, a rounded face and tough-looking feminine features. She leaned over the counter and pretended to put away some dishes, ignoring Raphael’s natural exuberance but listening to him anyways. He posed a bunch of questions to her about how long she’d been living here and whether she wanted to go back home or not. The maid gave curt, smiling responses. Georgia watched their interaction with pleasure, as if she could see something going on between them that they could not see themselves. She pulled a chair to sit down. Doyan showed some embarrassment, “Excuse me but I have to check the laundry.” She proceeded down the long hallway, her uniform sashaying on her hips. Raphael looked at Georgia and smiled in languorous amusement at the maid’s hardened disposition. Then, carrying their lemonades outside, they walked under the shade of a couple lime trees and went toward the pool. The ocean gurgled in the rocks and hissed in the distance.

On the other side of the pool a studio with sliding glass doors overlooked the Pacific Ocean. There were small purple hills and rising black mountains and in front of those spread a patchwork of vineyards. Raphael continued to let out exclamations of joy. This was the most beautiful corner of the world he had ever seen before. Meanwhile, Doyan, the huge, uniformed figure watched the two of them from the window above the sink. She could see in the back yard, the pool, the garden where the Mexicans worked, and into the studio. Raphael stepped behind a screen to take off his clothing as Georgia gathered her charcoals underneath the movable stool. When the model came out from behind the screen, Georgia turned her head away, not to look at him at once and appear as if she was staring. This had become a habit of hers over the years. To an artist who stares atnaked bodies, it is a fine line. She had to stare to meditate on the body, but gazing was the child of unconscious-looking. Raphael had dark, coal-black skin and taut muscles with very little hair on his body. She looked at him now with mindfulness and discretion. “Stand on the platform, please.” She was still not sure that he suited her ideals. Again, it was nothing wrong with the body per say. With a model, she had to really get a feel for their inner vitality. If it wasn’t there, she would have to dismiss him like the others. Raphael smiled a lot and that created an impression of buoyancy and openness. But she wanted to see what he looked like and how he held his muscles when he didn’t smile, so she said, “Relax your face and pretend I’m not in the room.” Raphael was becoming a bit uncertain now because in the tone of Georgia’s voice he heard a lot of censure. Slowly, self-consciousness overtook him while he was standing there on the moving platform. His body felt awkward and clunky and he asked to sit down. Georgia was displeased by this restlessness but she gave her model a chance to regroup. She told him he could

go outside and sit by the pool while she finished up a couple sketches. Raphael glanced over his shoulder, sitting on the edge of the pool. Georgia was working furiously in there, making abrupt sketches and throwing back the pages of a giant sketch book. A sense of failure, of premature failure, sank in the bottom of his stomach like a stone. He jumped up from the edge of the pool and knocked on the glass door of the studio. Georgia motioned for him to come in. “I think I was having a hard time concentrating,” he said. “Please, give me one more chance.” “I wasn’t about to fire you, don’t worry. But you do have to show me that you can stand with more confidence and self-awareness. Don’t let your mind drift all over the place when you are modeling. I want to see that your eyes are focused.” Raphael hung his head and mounted the platform. Georgia stared for a moment at his dangling member. Then she began to sketch another page. The cool air inside the studio circulated through vents by the floor. Georgia’s legs were becoming cold, and so she stood up from her chair and turned off the air-conditioning. After a couple minutes, beads of sweat began to form on Raphael’s face. It looked like he wanted to ask Georgia to turn the air conditioning back on but he also didn’t want to bother her, because she was working so diligently on her preliminary sketches. He remembered to stay focused, as she had told him. Now the studio had become like a hot house. The sweat was pouring down Raphael’s face and shoulders but because his skin was so dark it was hard to see. He burst out in an expression of fatigue, “Excuse me, but can you please turn the air conditioning back on?” “Yes, of course,” Georgia said, absentmindedly. By now, however, her sketches were done and it was toward the late afternoon. Raphael had been standing for several hours. Georgia said that he could change. The two of them returned to the house, where they met the old man and his nurse. Mr. Ashkarsat in the living room before the marble fireplace with his dog on his lap. The

nurse, Candy, stood over him with a basket for magazines and newspapers. Raphael briefly greeted Doyanwho was hunched over the counter slicing up zucchini. Raphael walked slowly through the house, waiting for Georgia to tell him whether she had made her decision. Georgia opened the door for him, but said nothing as he left the house. Raphael went out to his car, totally unsure whether he would have a job with her or not. Exhausted from her incessant sketching, Georgia grabbed a canned shake from the refrigerator and told her housekeeper that she was going upstairs to lie down. Candy put down the basket of magazines and newspapers and began reading to the old man an article in reader’s digest about “Good bacteria”. The rhythm of cooking and preparing the food for dinner put Doyaninto a tranquil mood. She hummed and sliced the vegetables and threw oil into a pan. The brisket was in the oven, a sharp seasoned smell wafted through the open kitchen and into the living room. Mr. Ashkarexclaimed, “The food smells so good!” Candy sat by his side, reading. The atmosphere in the house was relaxed in the late afternoon. Soon Candy would be going to her night classes and the old man would be by himself, probably resting in his chair, waiting for the boys to come home. Sammercame home from wrestling practice at five o’clock. Nobody usually wanted to talk to him until he took a shower and cleaned off. That flesh-eating bacteria, Myra, had been going around the wrestling team. They caught it from rubbing their sweaty bodies on the mat. The coach ordered Sammer to see a doctor, but he forgot to tell his mother for a number of days, and now the bacteria had carved out a whole section of flesh from the back of his neck. Finally, the coach called Georgia to tell her that her son had a life-threatening microbe slowly eating away the surface of his body. Georgia immediately drove her son to the hospital. She sat in the emergency room while the doctors treated her son for infection. When Sammer came out of the hospital at eleven o’clock that nighthe had bandages all over him. His

mother broke out in hysterics, right before she turned on the car. He couldn’t understand why his mother was so upset. The door opened and Sammer burst through into the entrance hall. His bison-head and broad shoulders gave him a brutish appearance. A tuft of black hair fell over the sides of his protruding forehead. Candy was standing on the other side of the door. Upon seeing her, he dropped his wrestling bag and looked nervously away. Since she’d been coming to the house to take care of his father, he nursed a small crush on Candy. She was about six years older than him, and had thought it was “cute” that he liked her until she found out about the bacteria that wasliving in his skin. Now she made her exchanges short with him and tried not to give any sign that she was interested in him. She could take care of the old man, Sammer’sfather, indeed she had been taking care of old people her whole life. Their diseases and maladies did not ever seem like a form of sickness to her. But a flesh eating bacteria frightened her to death. Sammeralways seemed to project a grizzly appearance and now with the bacteria, she was positively disgusted by him. She never found wrestlers attractive anyways. It was something about the homoerotic tangle of their bodies on the mat that unsettled her stomach, coupledwith the unsanitary contents that grew invisibly on the mat. It could not be said that Sammer Ashkarwas handsome. But he was made of a solid construction with larger muscles than most adolescents. His calve muscles whichhe worked repeatedly on in his basement, bulged from underneath his ankles. There were certain muscle groups that he was proud of. He had a weightlifting schedule for himself that he conformed to. His parents bought him a small weightlifting gym for his fifteen birthday and the “torture devices,” as his mother called them, were downstairs in the basement. Hardly anyone went into the basement except Sammer, and he spent hours downstairs improving the size and tone of his body. Sammer’s younger brother, Aaron,dressed in such a way that would make you think the two brothers were nothing alike. He wore a narrow sports coat and ripped jeans

to school, and he carried a hand-held video camera wherever he went. His favorite activity consisted of taping people when they weren’t noticing, and going back to his computer where he would dice up the images and the words and make abstract videos using a computer program he had also received for his fifteenth birthday. In a certain sense, the adolescents revealed the two sides of a single child who was never born; the one sulky and brutish, overtly masculine, and the other, slightly effeminate and artistic, more yin than yang. Nor did they communicate too much to each other. They had separate groups of friends, or as high school can be so cruel, they had few friends and were isolated from the crowd. Even as a wrestler, Sammerhad been singled out as a misfit for having too big of a body. The coach suggested another sport, maybe football. But Sammerinsisted on wrestling. It was the last week of the season, and Sammer’s obsession with weighliftinghad caused him several defeats. On the mat, his dense body was hard to maneuver and the more agile wrestlers in his weight division trapped him in unexpected holds. The statues trembled on their pedestals when Sammerstomped up the stairs to his room. He locked the door. Doyan woke up Mr. Ashkarfrom his chair and helped him over to the dinner table. The old man sat at the dinner table for nearly fifteen minutes staring at the salt and pepper shaker. Then, his wife came down the stairs, also having just arisen from a deep and restful sleep. She reminded him of when she was twenty-eight years old. Her doe’s legsand languorous torso, supple under the concavity of her chest. Georgia’s curly black hair fell over her shoulders and always had a shimmer of onyx to it. At fortyeight years old she was just as beautiful as when she was twenty-eight. The only thing that perhaps left a bitter taste in his ruminations over his wife was that she had become so reticent and reserved toward him. These last years she betrayed a sort of unkindliness to her own husband. They sat down to dinner as a family, an unusual family, but a family nonetheless. It was custom for Doyanto serve

them and also to sit down at the table and eat herself. The purple potatoes, fresh, were steaming out of a little pot on the stove. She filled their plates with vegetables and a slice or two (three for Sammer) of the beef brisket. The old man Ashkar loved the smell of the beef brisket; it was the same recipe his mother once used and he fished it out of some old boxes years ago and asked Doyan if she could attempt it. Doyan surpassed their expectations in every way and that’s why she was paid such a high sum. Georgia could have been a little more respectful to her, but other than that she was comfortable living with them and knew her duties and what they wanted. The beef brisket was charming the old man said. And Georgia nodded her black-curls and agreed that Doyanhad made a masterpiece this time. A blush of embarrassment came into the large, black woman’s face and she modestly shunned their praises. The two boys ate silently for awhile. The small digital camcorder sat on Aaron’s lap and bounced between his legs as he chewed on the brisket or reached across the table for bread. Sammerdidn’t make much eye contact with those around him. He had a manner of staring directly onto his plate and not swerving his eyes from his meal until he cleaned it properly and filled himself once more with a second helping. His tunnel-vision sometimes upset his mother who thought of him as a darkly, brutish boy. But she had her own form of blindness to deal with and everyone in the family knew that her capacity for selfabsorption was just as great if not greater than the others. Perhaps the only member of the family who didn’t have an agenda was the old man Ashkar. He’d lived too many years to still be holding onto an ideal vision for himself. There were too many catastrophes in his life that blew his ship off course. It wasn’t that he had an overly pessimistic attitude, on the contrary, he tended to be open to whatever arose and he dealt with things asthey came. This explained his oft smiling countenance and cheerful cheeks pulled into Cheshire grins. He wanted you to join in with his merriment even if you saw that his merriment was a bit foolish or juvenile.

“How bout we play a game of ‘sticks’ after dinner?” The old man said, yippily. “No Dad,” the boys replied almost in unison. “I’ve got to study for a science test,” Aaron answered again. “I got to get some rest for the match tomorrow.” “Rest! But it’s only seven o’clock.” “That’s late for them,” Georgia saidin defense of her children. “They leave for school at seven in the morning. That means by this time, they had twelve full hours.” “But I’m sure they take naps when they come home,” the old man’s voice rumbled. “I never have time for a nap. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The conversation ended there with Mr. Ashkarunable to rouse his family for a game of ‘sticks’. In a way, Georgia felt the strings of sadness and compassion twine for her husband. He had nothing to do and nobody to entertain him. Not until Candy comes tomorrow morning will he have a companion to listen to his incessant prattle. She thought for a moment that maybe it would be nice of her to sit with her husband in the living room. She saw a picture of them together on the love seat and she was offering him a back massage with her right hand. But then the image quickly dissolved and the next thing she knew she was standing up from the dinner table and bringing her plate to the sink. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get those.” Doyan said. “Thank you, Doyan.” Georgia’s langorousshape, tall and lanky, disappeared into the shadows of the hallways and she made her way up the curving stairs into her honey-wood bedroom. Out on the small balcony, she sat down on a metal chair and lit a cigarette. She reserved a pack of cigarettes for when she was in between sculptures. That was a time when she found herself a bit anxious and uncertain about the direction of her life. But with an almost mechanical gesture she reached for the pack in her dresser drawer and took a cigarette onto the balcony. The woods at this hour were stirring with buzzing insects and squirrels scampering through the trunks and

tangles of roots. The night air in California, especially in this northern part, was mountain air, fresh and clean. Her nicotine smoke blended into the night and she was aware of the column of her breath rising up and down her lungs like freight on an elevator. The movement of the smoke gave her a tingling sensation and she almost felt she could evaporate into the night with each breath. But then her cigarette finished and she was feeling guilty for having broken her own rules. “What can I do?” She said to herself. “I’m only human.” She begrudged herself many times for doing things she knew that she shouldn’t have. She could remember a time when she slept with one of her models, that was in her late thirties, many years ago. Her husband was still an old man,it seemed, even back then. She must have lost romantic interest in her husband shortly after they married. But this man, who came to her in a flash of recognition while she was sitting out on the balcony, he was unlike any of her other models. She would not have slept with him otherwise. What distinguished this model from the rest was his nobility and that when he stood naked not one spec of his body seemed ashamed. Although he wasn’t a self-consumed narcissist either, whose love of their bodies is only another form of addiction. But this man she, admittedly, fell in love with and would have married (had he not been married himself), he was the first model she knew to show her genuine intelligence about himself. He posed in such a way that the intelligence of the body came through like a powerful beam through a lens andmesmerized her. He was very difficult to sculpt, a challenge, and yet sleeping with him made it even more difficult for her. That was the only sculpture she had to abandon. Now she looked across to the murmuring wood with a sharp pang of regret. Oh well, she thought. What’s done is done. These trite phrases were so easy for her to fall back on, but when the emotion underneath the memory seeped through the hard protective layer of her consciouness, she recoiled. That’s when she went back inside the house. She looked over the banister. Her husband was still sitting in his favorite arm chair in the living room with the

dog, floppy-eared on his liver spotted legs. The top of her husband’s head from the staircase looked like a small white pancake. She turned her gaze away from him and saw her youngest son, Aaron, who was playing like a child on the floor with his video camera. What was he doing recording them all of the time? One of Aaron’s obsessions was to record his father. Georgia thought that was slightly on the grotesqueside, being that her husband had so many ailments to contend with. But the old man didn’t care and even took a light-hearted pleasure in having his son film him. Suddenly, Aaron shot up the camera in her direction. Through the lens, he watched his mother waving her arms in anger and walking back into the bedroom, shouting, “Don’t film me! I told you I don’t like it when you do that.” Aaron and his father were laughing uncontrollably. The view-finder was fixed on the doorway to the guest bedroom, but Georgia didn’t come back out. Beneath Aaron’s obsession with recording the mundane was the suggestion of his resentment of his mother’s role, but she couldn’t be sure. All that she knew was that she hated to be caught on tape, especially when she hadn’t done up her face or even washed from sculpting earlier in the day. But her son persisted stubbornly with his juvenile hobby. He said he wanted to be a director, and that was all fine and good, because she had instilled in her children an appreciation for art. She wanted both of her children to become artists, but her oldest son didn’t show the slightest proclivity toward art. He had more of the temperament of one who destroys art. When he was in middle school, he got into some trouble vandalizing homes. When she found out from the authorities that he had broke into a summer house with his friends and poured melting wax over the contemporary paintings on the walls, she almost wanted to strike him with her fist. It filled her with anguish that her son would have an appetite for destroying beautiful objects. Therefore, in her mind, when she went from ruminating on one son and then the other, she preferred the faults in her youngest to the faults in her oldest.

While her youngest son could get on her nerves with his camera, the frustration he provoked in her wasn’t anything like her oldest son. Sammerhad grown into this muscular Hercules overnight and he preened himself downstairs in the weightlifting gym. The bars were constantly clinking, the weights flying up on the metal cords. Her oldest son got an intense satisfaction and release from lifting weights. He worked out in the mornings usually, and when something someone said angered him. He retreated into the basement, which became like his den that all the other members of the family preferred to stay away from. It was cold and damp down there and he had posters that were curling on the edges from the damp of body builders such as Steve Reeves and Blank Blankfrom the Golden Age of body building. Before he went to sleep, Sammerwent downstairs to do chin ups and curls. He had a schedule attached to the wall with boxes he checked off for every morning and night. Usually at night the equipment had a sort of presence. He loved the diamond bars and the baby weights and the suspension lift. The equipment was his identity and his love. He came down here every night to do some more reps, but he also came down to admire the gym and to say good night to his equipment. Raphael was called the next morning by Doyanto come in for Georgia. A rush of excitement stormed his mind when he discovered this and he jumped up from his bed and got changed. The drive from his house in San Jose to hers in Clear Lake was over an hour. The house was tucked into the woods and he had to take a number of inroads that twisted around the foothills of the Sierra Madre. If he could ever afford to live in this part of the state, he thought to himself. By eight o’clock his car pulled into Georgia’s driveway. He carried a small gym bag and rang the door bell. Doyanappeared at the door and told him to walk around to the back of the house. Georgia was already in her studio, waiting for him. He passed Georgia’s husband and his nurse on his way to the back yard. Candy, a strawberry blond with plumpshape, wiped a string of saliva from the old man’s

mouth and pushed him forward down the long, serpentine driveway. Before stepping into the studio, Raphael admired the view from the pool area. The vast openness of the vineyards, and the crosshatch of the fields that spread from the foothills, the oceanfilled him with astonishment. He felt truly lucky to be working here, in the company of areal artist. But why hadn’t he heard of her before? Surely with this fortune she must exhibit her artwork somewhere. And the sculptures in the house that he saw last time, they had the quality of originality to them . . . Georgia had the vats of plaster on the floor underneath her and Raphealhad to walk around them when he came into the studio. In addition, there were tools scattered on a small wooden table, rasps and chisels and other sharp objects for cutting and shaping. Beside the tools was a giant mass of chicken wire and some burlap sheets. “I take it you’ve decided to go ahead with the sculpture.” Georgia sighed. “I guess so. But we’ll have to proceed with caution. There are several rules I’d like to go over with you.” When Raphael had undressed and was standing on the platform in the center of the room, Georgia raised herself from her chair and said in a stern voice, “I want this sculpture to evoke a certain feeling. You are to capture that feeling with your pose. So from now on, think of yourself as an actor. An actor has a double personality. He can project qualities that he himself does not possess, and that is what makes his art, magic. I want you to imagine a deep resource of anger within yourself and become that anger. Let it fill your veins.” “But I thought you wanted this sculpture to resemble one of the Greek gods?” “I do. However, first you must accomplish this short exercise before I can proceed to sculpt you. Now stand on the platform and get in touch with feelings of deep, infernal anger, toward the world and toward yourself.”

Raphael still had the perplexed look on his face and worried Georgia whether he would be able to follow her lead. On the stage he attempted an expression of anger, but it was too contrived and Georgia wanted him to try again. “Make two fists with your hands and tighten your arms and your chest. Good. Now tighten your whole upper body and be Anger.” Raphael was following this exercise with a bit more of confidence and his face was turning purple. She could see him become rigid with anger all over. “Good. You can stop now. That is the anger I want you to remember when you are posing for me. You do not have to maintain that rigid pose. On the contrary, I want you to only stay in touch with the anger, even if it only bubbles under the lid of your awareness.” “Am I supposed to be a jealous god?” “No, you are only supposed to be angry. If anger provokes you to jealously, or vice versa then fine.” “Gods like humans have multiple dimensions. Once you tap the root of anger you may very well find jealousy and other emotions as well. If you would like to further investigate the history of your anger, read about the greek god Poseidon.” “Why Poseidon?” “Because Poseidon is the god of the seas and the earthquakes. His rages are elemental and unpredictable. They create and destroy.” Now Raphael assumed a pose on the platform that didn’t suggest the greekgod Georgia had described at all. And so the forty-eight year old woman jumped onto the stage and in storm of emotion and showed him what she wanted. Raphealthought that maybe she was a little crazy, and yet part of him also admired her for her passion, for her desire to carry out something that seemed a bit far-fetched to him. She shook her chest and arms in the air and brandished an imaginary trident. “Imagine the crushing weight of the sea all around you. Imagine the waves. You’re

rising out of the waves with your anger and you have the taste of destruction on your lips.” Raphael was stunned by her ability to create such an atmosphere on the small stage. He nodded his head and said that he would try to evoke such passion. Georgia went back to her work station by the tools and waited for Raphael to strike a pose of the great god Neptune. The whole afternoon seemed a bit silly in retrospect, but Raphael agreed to come back the next day. When he had read in the classified section the opening for the job, this was probably the last thing from his mind. The unknown sculptor had a lunacy about the process of creating sculptures that frightened him as much as it intrigued him. The next week he knew what to expect and it wasn’t as bad pretending to Neptune or Posidonor whoever she wanted him to be. Instead of feeling uncomfortable in her wild presence, he was beginning to think that he understood her. Obviously, she channeled her emotions through these sculptures but what was strange was that she transferred them into her models and expected her models to become these vital creations of her mind. Georgia’s attitude toward Raphael also changed over the weeks. She was slowly molding him to her pleasure. In the beginning, she could tell he was apprehensive about modeling as a Greek god but now she observed that he was quite comfortable in the role and actually took some gratification from coming to her studio and transforming himself into the deity. Weeks passed and she even began to see dramatic differences in the way he held himself. It crossed her mind that this could be an undiscovered form of therapy. The patient pretends he is a divine being and regains his lost or damagedself. She laughed at the idea, but nonetheless it was apparent that she was doing miracles with Raphael. The project injected life into her and thus her relations with her family also improved. The family was even becoming a little suspicious of her for being so abnormally joyful and spontaneous around the house. This is when Sammerbegan to think that his mother was having an affair

with the black man, Raphael. He saw them twice inside the studio. He snuck up on them from the pool deck and hid behind a bush while they were working. The black man was stark naked and Sammertried not to stare. He could see his mother get up from her place and put her hands on his body to adjust the posture slightly. Sammer grew a knot in his stomach every time he watched them laughing orworking in the heat of excitement. The adolescent went down into the basement to pump iron. It was the only way he knew how to handle the enormous resource of rage that boiled up inside of him. He saw that his father was in a vulnerable position, an old man with liver spots and who needed people to push him around in the wheel chair. His father’s picture flashed under his lids when he had his back on the bench press and sweat oozed from his temples. Compressed air whistled through his teeth as he lifted the bar repeatedly. He added more weight and did another ten reps. During dinner Sammerdidn’t say anything. He only sulked and hung his head, spooningup his soup into his mouth. The old man Ashkar knew that something was afoot, but he was so occupied with eating that he didn’t say anything. Georgia was oblivious to Sammer’s rage. Her sculpture of Posidon was constantly on her mind that she forgot about everything else. Aaron had his video recorder on the chair next to him, and he duplicitously hit the audio record at the beginning of the meal. Doyan was in her bedroom, talking to her son on the phone. She received the call right when they sat down. Her son lived in the Caribbean, with the rest of her family. Sammerpushed the chair from behind him, causing a screeching sound on the marble tiles. In a huff, he left the room and what followed this dramatic exit was a silent gap. The old man Ashkarstared perplexedly at the empty chair. Some apple sauce was hanging from his bottom lip. “What’s gotten into him?” Georgia asked. Aaron grinned because the tape was now recording. “I think he’s having his period.” “Don’t be so crass, Aaron. We’re at the table.”

“I know we are, but I really think he should see a shrink. I mean, really, who acts like that?” “Maybe he’s angry with us. You know you’re father and I used to think that it was attention deficit disorder. But you see how well he concentrates on tasks that mean something to him.” “Like what? Wrestling and weightlifting?” “Exactly. He has no problem focusing his mind on those things.” The old man burst out in half-articulate speech, “My boy doesn’t have attention deficit disease.” Mother and son shot a smiling glance at each other at the enfeebled man. Georgia changed the subject. “Doesn’t anyone want to know how my sculpture is doing?” Aaron looked down at the video recorder. The red light was still on. “Go ahead mother, we’re listening.” “I’m creating a sculpture of the Greek God Poseidon. He’s knownas the god of the seas and earthquakes. He embodies the elemental forces of nature, the forces that destroy and create. He’s a symbol of the undifferentiated state of nature, the chaos from which form arises.” “What’s up with the lecture, Mom?” “I’m sorry. I must have gotten carried away. I’ve put all of my hopes into this project and sometimes I wonder if it will all pan out.” “Are you questioning your abilities?” Aaron asked. The old man stared wide-eyed at his wife. “If it was only up to me, I wouldn’t be worried at all. But I have a partner in this, the work rests on his shoulders just as much as mine.” “But how could that be? He just has to stand there?” “Not so, sweetie. It’s more than that. A model is not just a mannequin. His presence evokes the spirit of the sculpture itself. I’ve been very careful about picking the right model for this job. But even so, I worry that I might have picked the wrong one. To evoke the presence of Poseidon, one must be united with the primeval, indeterminate, capricious spirit.”

Aaron seemed to have encouraged his mother to go a little to far with her ideas, but that was the point. He wanted to get all of this on tape so he could show his friends how crazy his mother really was. When Raphealarrived at the house the next day, Georgia had already been awake for several hours and was working in the studio all alone. She watched the sun rise over the ocean that morning, the terrace overlooking the ocean sparkled with light and her studio building beside the terrace was glowing. Raphael hesitantly entered the sliding glass doors. Georgia had her hands covered in plaster, plaster dripping down the length of her arm and plaster flecks in her hair. She pressed the last layer of burlap onto the broad chest of the angry god Posidon. The ripples spread apart on the burlap and she rolled the thick liquid over the figure. You could not yet see what posture the figure was holding. It was a massy, indeterminate tower of plaster in which the artist pushed the substance to and fro around the curve of the imagined torso and up the imagined shoulder blades. Raphealcame out from the Chinese screen wearing nothing and took his position on the stage. Without a single remark from either or them, the morning session began. Georgia did not need to coach Raphael anymore on how to stand or where to look. He assumed the powerful stance of the god and raised his arms in wrathful splendor. There was a light coming from within him now that showed he was centered in his being and he radiated energy and light from his lower abdomen. Georgia entered her trance, sculpting the arms and lower back quickly. She scooped plaster from the vat beneath her and gently poured it over the nondescript figure, then rolled the substance evenly over the curve and shape of the body. At twelve o’clock both the artist and model were exhausted and Georgia suggested a dip in the pool. Before she went into the pool she had to clean the plaster from her hands. The sink in the back of the studio was covered in plaster and partly used as a storage room. She gazed at herself in the mirror, smiling atthe smudges of

her work all over her face. It gratified her to be covered in the materials she used to create. Raphael stood behind her and reached for a Speedo he kept in his gym bag. The two of them swam in the pool with the sun high over them, the clouds scudding across the sky. The tides beat an alternating rhythm on the shore under the cliff. Georgia’s lithe body fished-tailed through the bottom of the pool like a salamander. Raphael sat in the shallow parts, sunning himself. From the kitchen window, Doyansaw them in the pool. She worried what would happen if Sammer were to come home and see his mother outside frolicking with her model. She thought to warn her that Sammerwas coming home early this afternoon. It was a half-day. She took off her apron and opened the patio door. “Did you know—” the housekeeper called out, approaching the pool, “that Sammer will be home any minute.” “I completely forgot,” Georgia said, water gushing between her teeth. Raphael was listening but he had his eyes closed and his chin tipped up toward the sun. “Maybe we should get back inside the studio.” Raphael opened his eyes, and reached for the towel beside him. Both of them rose out of the cool, shimmering water. Sammerdid arrive shortly. When he glanced at the model in his mother’s studio, he felt both disdain and a kind of admiration, because he wanted a body like that, he wanted hard, dense muscleslike Raphael. But it sickened him that his mother was so engrossed in sculpting her models and the former feeling took over the later. After having his snack in the kitchen, he went down into the basement to lift weights. He followed the same schedule every day, alternating three muscle groups. His discipline never wavered. Today, however, as he lunged forward from theincline bench, the pictures of his mother and her model, the black man, wouldn’t leave his mind. He tried to concentrate on lifting

and he could for awhile but then the images returned. Lifting was a release of emotion, a purging of his negative thoughts, but today lifting only seemed to aggravate him more. The weights seemed heavier and the damp, dark atmosphere of the basement made him uneasy and afraid for the first time. His initial reaction was to run upstairs and pack a bag for a friend’s house. He could sleep over there for the night. But then he relaxed a bit and doing some bicep curls, he decided on another action. He would destroy that sculpture his mother cared so deeply about. That would show her that her art wasn’t as important as his life. And that her affairs with her models actually hurt him. Every time he glanced outside she was frolicking in her studio and touching that man’s shoulder. They even kissed. He saw them kissing, or maybe not. Maybe that was his imagination, but still, they probably had sex in the back of the studio. He imagined his mother lying on her back in the grass. The image was terrifying and impossible to get out of his head. He ran upstairs, making a loud stomping noise in the stairway. Doyanlifted her head and turned her shoulder in his direction, but he was already flying up the other stairs into his room. “Where are you going?” She yelled after him. Meanwhile, Georgia and Raphael had just walked out of the studio. “I’m thinking one more week, and we’ll be done,” she said. “That’s good because I’m ready for a new pose.” They both laughed. The old man Ashkarwas coming up the hill with Candy behind him pushing the wheelchair. After Raphael got into his car, Georgia approached her husband and said, “Are you enjoying this beautiful day?” The old man was surprised by his wife’s good spirits. “You bet we are!” he yelled. Candy smiled from under her strawberryhair. Georgia stood in the center of the driveway with her hands spread out like a helicopter and she began to twirl around. Both the old man and Candy started to grin and giggle. She twirled

and twirled and twirled until Doyan’s voice screamed from inside the house. Georgia stopped and looked at the still, silent faces of the old man and Candy. Then she began jogging toward the house. She ran through the kitchen and out the patio door. From across the pool, she looked into the studio. Pieces of hard plaster flew everywhere inside and the figure of her son appeared inthe whirling rubble. He had a sledge-hammer and was swinging it all around. The hammer came down on the head of her beloved Posidon, and a murderous scream escaped her vocal chords. With growing rage, the brutish boy threw down the hammer again and again. The windows were ringing with pieces of broken plaster. Dust flew up and around and clouded the glass of the sliding doors. From inside she could see her angry son destroying her masterpiece with gratification and pleasure. Aaron was by the pool with his camcorder to his eye, recording the whole event. Finally, Candy and the old man Askarhad come around the back to see what had happened. With a look of pitiful shame, the old man watched his oldest son destroy his wife’s ideal creation. After the room was fully sabotaged and destroyed, the hulking Sammeropened the door and threw the hammer onto the ground. His mother was on her knees, crying and cursing at herself. Sammer walked right past his mother and went into the house. He returned to the basement. Inside his dungeon of weightlifting equipment, he resumed the reps that he had left off on. Staring fixedly at the low ceiling, with his back against the cushion of the bench, he pressed the metal bar up above his shoulders. The weight seemed easier now, and he added several more bars.

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