Books

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Block Breaks: A Story

For most of her life she'd carried the print around in her wallet. She wished she could get rid of it, but every time she threw it out, another version of the same print materialized. There were variations in the density of the ink, in lightness and darknesses, but they'd each been pulled off the same block--a simple linoleum block cut into with a small curved blade. The image was fairly simple, but it had fantastical properties--a Rorshach inkblot with a pulse. Some saw a chasm, some a vortex, some a view to the unmapped universe, some a simple garden, some a golden door to heaven. She couldn't predict or control what anyone else would see in it. She would have preferred not to show it at all, but eventually anyone she got to know well wheedled it out of her. Oh that old thing! she said as they stared at it. I hate it but I can't seem to get rid of it. Some of them shrugged as they handed it back. Some of them looked at her funny, though. She told them to pay no attention and warned them about what the artist was up to. Sometimes they heard her. Sometimes they became so entranced by the print they couldn't stop staring at it. When this happened, she heard the artist laughing. 
Then, one day...one day.
The story backs up here, to the creation of the block itself. What a blunt, crude artist it was who carved it, an amoral artist, feelingless and merciless. No mature person would ever accept a piece of his work, but he could trick small children into it. Oh boy. He crept into her room one night and gave her the block.
Why did he come to her room? Because he knows when a child is vulnerable. He knows when the worst has happened. He knows his chance. His intention is purely and only to harm. I know--it is hard to believe there are such creatures. Yet not to believe in them is to be fooled by them. He was very pleased with himself when people who saw his work were afraid of it. That was all the payment he ever asked for.
Forward again.
One night decades after his first visit he crept into her room to do a little touch up work on the linoleum block. Some of the grooves had worn down over time from being pulled at for so long. He went to work, carving and cutting away, and when he was satisfied that she'd get a few more years of prints off of it, he handed her the block again. But this time he'd miscalculated. She looked the artist straight in the eye. Yes, you have harmed me enormously, I'll give you that, she told him. But now I see--how very banal it is. There's nothing here at all, see? She turned the block to him, and he blanched--for all of his markings had disappeared. Infuriated, he grabbed the block away from her and stomped it to bits. She opened her wallet: the print was gone.

1 comment:

  1. The hair on my arms is sticking straight up. Not one of my favorite looks, but...wow.

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