Thursday, January 8, 2009

1. Arrival

He arrived one day in an oblong cardboard box delivered by UPS. I cut the tape with a matte knife and lifted out a rather heavy and very bulky swath of coarse burlap. He was bundled like a newborn. Or an object d'art. Yet he was neither new nor particularly “artistic” looking. I carefully unwrapped his swaddling cloth and found his right arm had become unattached to the rest of him. The arm easily popped back into its socket. I stood the Little Man on the drafting table, all nineteen inches of him. That was his name, Little Man.

At first I thought of calling him something else. Adolphus, for instance. The name Adolphus sprang to mind even before I realized it had the word “doll” in it. He was made of light-colored wood with a yellowish tinge. There were scuff marks and cracks on his chest. In fact there were tiny hairline cracks and nicks in various places all over his body. His hair was brown paint, parted neatly in the middle and showing definite white patches where the paint had chipped. Poor Adolphus! What have you been through?

He was smiling at me. The most endearing smile. Actually, it was more the shadow of a smile. Or a half-smile. A sad smile I thought, the more I looked at him. Or maybe it was the expression in his eyes, which were large and gray, outlined in black almost like Egyptian eyes. Yes, he was as serene as an ancient Egyptian statue. Two graceful, shaded curves for a brow gave him such a peaceful look. That and a high unlined smooth forehead. I had been told he was from South America. Argentina? Peru? Venezuela maybe? Where a tourist from one of the cruise ships spotted him in an outdoor market in Caracas? He stood out among the painted bowls, silver vases and copper trinkets, and was taken to Miami, where he was sold in a flea market. That much I knew was true.
I took him by the hands. He could move his arms up and down, out and in, and bend them at the elbows. His hands turned also. And his head, though his face never changed. He greeted the world with the same half-smile every day, and never sat down, for his legs were as straight and unbending as tree trunks. I said, What shall I do with you? He held his hands out to me. A sweet, supplicating gesture.

I clipped a large sheet of good Italian paper to my drawing board and gathered some pencils and my kneading eraser.

The drawing went quickly.
I stopped when the light faded.

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