This is one of my first full fledged attempts at fantasy.
The Factory Artist sits on his stool, nervously scratching the mop of curly hair on his head. He pushes it back, a habit he’d gained doing art over the years. Five months and all he had was a goddamn head. Granted, the head was perfect. Michelangelo couldn’t have sculpted a better face if he did so for hours on end instead of painting that ceiling. But now it’s 48 hours until his deadline; 48 hours until his patron comes to pick up a modern creation of “David”. But what The Factory Artist has come to realize is that the reason the face was so easy for him to do —unlike any other sculpture he had done before—is because faces are easy to update. More strained eyes from attachment to lighted devices with still a beautiful pout, that was a simple accomplishment. The body, however, was harder. New starches and exercise patterns and anti-depressants had turned the body into a much different place, with much different ideals expected. He wouldn’t call himself a hack, but he now realizes that he isn’t Einstein either.
The Factory Artist gets up for a break for the 20th time that day. So far, he’d only sculpted an arm and it was nearly too muscle toned. He had faith in himself too, but it was dwindling. He stands up and begins to approach his kitchen. He had recently moved into his studio as a resident after his wife had kicked him out. Granted, it was small: each respective corner of living, dining, creating and entertaining were all less than ten feet from one another, but it would do for now. Ultimately, it was cold; the old, refurbished factory section had been transformed into something home-y but not necessarily into a home. Still, he kept it spotless and most of the time the classical music he let blast out of the stereo at the lowest volume kept the small quarters from exacerbating his loneliness.
Suddenly, a low laughing sound fills up the high ceiling and back down to the concrete floors. The Factory Artist attributes this to the testy heating/cooling system and moves on. But right before he’s able to grab a water, he hears:
“Typical Factory Artist, too afraid to finish it in time. You’re right, you’ll never finish it in time.”
He quickly swings his view around in all directions. He crouches to look under the table, stands on his tiptoes when he runs to check his lofted bed. The door remains closed. Could Mary have come in and hid? Did she finally want back the man who, despite the love of his art, loved her just as much maybe even more deeply?
“Mary?” The Factory Artist called out.
“No, you idiot! Over here!”
He swear he hears the voice coming from… No it couldn’t be…
He shrugs, figures he’s just tired but still knowingly tiptoes back to the body. It’s his own drive, he decides, when he’s done, the voice will stop. He begins to slap clay back onto the taupe arm. Softer, he thought, maybe leaner?
“Oh God! Even worse!” The menacing and giddy voice cackles. The Factory Artist jumps from his stool, a bit of clay splatting to the ground as he does.
“You klutz! You’ll never get done. Never! Spent too much time on my head and now I’ll forever be severed!”
The Factory Artist now thinks he must be drunk. He looks to the head only to see that it is no longer where he left it. Drunk, how drunk he was. But as he travels to go find the crafted head, his thoughts swirling, he sees a full bottle of PBR not yet opened.
In the kitchen area, he decides to start drinking anyhow. Drown out the voice, he has tomorrow.
“You don’t have tomorrow. You’ll be even dumber then. Go ahead though and get drunk, though, it’s what you’re best at.”
The voice had now been muffled. He thinks it’s a good sign, until he opens the fridge to see it there. The Factory Artist considers throwing it out the window but remembering his pending rent, he does not.
So instead, as gently as possible, The Factory Artist lifts the head out of the refrigerator and brings him back to his original holder on the table before his future body. He forgets about the beer and begins to examine the face. Was it him or were the eyes now slanted, his mouth a little crooked as if in the middle of a great joke? No, no, he’s delusional. He has to be. Too much work, not enough play. He’s beginning to understand Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
The Factory Artist turns back to his impending work, fiddling with the smooth wedding ring on his finger. If only he could convince Mary to come back. He’d listen to every composition she made just to have her with him, just to silence the demons.
“You should have bargained like this months ago. But as always, you’re a joke. Just like my body will be.” Then he cackles that low, distinct laugh. It’s sultry but grates against The Factory Artist’s ears.
His doorbell rings. Five-thirty reads across the digital clock. The Remote Mail Man! Surely, he’d keep him company and block out all the horrible noise!
“I’m not a coward like you are, The Asshole Artist.”
Frantically, The Factory Artist runs to the door, whips it open and bellows, “My good man! Why don’t you come in?”
“How nice of you to offer, but I still got…”
“He’ll never keep you company. If I, your own creation, won’t love you, nobody will,” The voice mocks. It sounds like he’s sipping something.
“You hear that?” The Factory Artist’s eyes open wide.
The Remote Mail Man furrows his eyebrows, “Um, hey, buddy, you drinking again? You know I could take you to uh… these meet ups? My wife goes to ‘em.”
Shit. The Remote Mail Man usually saw The Factory Artist when he was drinking. But he only did so when he was struggling with art and every time The Remote Mail Man came, he happened to be struggling with art.
“I haven’t had a drink today. But you should come in. Free beer?”
“Come in!” The Factory Artist interrupts.
The Remote Mail Man does as he’s told and picks up the PBR on the table.
“No drink yet today, huh?”
And much to The Factory Artist’s surprise, The Head was next to the beer now!
He ignores the jab, returning to the body. “Tell me about your day.”
“Well I…” The Remote Mail Man starts but The Factory Artist can’t hear a thing over the voice.
“Avoidance. Avoidance. You certainly are a damned artist. Never getting anywhere. Never getting anything done.”
The two voices meld together and it becomes so loud, he drops the shaper and puts his hands over his ears.
“Listen, bud, I’m gonna go…”
“No, stay, I’ll be fine. Give me a second.”
“Really, I should…”
“Stay! Please! I beg you!” The Factory Artist dashes to lock the door.
“No! I’m getting the hell out of here!” And he does and The Factory Artist is left to the laughter once again.
“Please! Please! Tell me what I can do?” He finally addresses The Head.
“Leave. Go to your ex-wife and fix things with her. When you come back, it will be done and you’ll get the commission. But you will never live solely off your art again. Do this and I’ll leave you for good. Defy me and I’ll be with you forever.”
And so he goes: out of his house, into his car and off to the ramp on the highway to his true home. When he gets there, Mary says she was about to leave to his studio. She needed him. He told her his plan. She said he didn’t have to but he intensely insisted. Fuck art, fuck all. Without each other, it meant nothing.
In the 40 odd hours he spent with her, he called a real estate agent. The studio would be sold. His wife never left his side. They return half an hour before the work is due and when he sees the attached Head to the body, The Factory Artist is speechless. It is impeccable and tragic, exactly what he wanted to portray. He tries not to show how much he is marveling to Mary.
The Patron comes for his “Dave.” He marvels as well, congratulates him and asks him to sign on for another work. The Factory Artist shakes his head, “I need a break. A long one,” He says clasping Mary’s hand.
The Patron says, “Suit yourself.”
And as the statue leaves the apartment, his Head nearly out the door, The Factory Artist swears he hears a voice whisper, “Good job.”
The Factory Artist kisses the greatest artistic project of his life: his marriage.