The sculptor


He asks if I want tea.

I sit in a rocking chair in front of a clay model of a sculpture he’s finishing, boots dripping water and snow onto the rag he tossed on the floor in front of me. He doesn’t want the damp on his cork floors.

An old and incredibly gentle German Shepherd rests at my feet; now and again she pushes her nose my way but mostly she sleeps.

I take the tea. He hopes I don’t mind as he lights up a narrow cigar.

The man fascinates me. I’m here for the sculpture but I want to know the man. There are photographs of animals along one wall and a half-finished painting on the easel and yes, he went to Africa on safari last fall and now he wants to paint the pictures he took.

I’m trying to move past the “Africa on safari” bit; he said it the way I’d say I went to Texas, or Colorado.

He’s putting in a well in Haiti but he doesn’t appreciate it when I ask him to let me know when it happens. This is his thing. Lots of people trying to help but this is his and he doesn’t want attention.

Oh.

That’s what becomes clear as the interview goes on. He’ll talk about the sculpture but he’s grumpy, too, at the attention. Don’t make this about him. It’s just about the sculpture, the group he’s making it for.

On the wall a fox skin hangs from Moose antlers. By the dog a cat sleeps. It’s ridiculously warm.

He drinks tea now that he’s given up drinking, tea with honey and he makes mine so sweet.

And by the time the small mug is empty I’m out of questions and we make our way down the wooden steps of his studio, back out into the cold.

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