Many Models to Go Before I Sleep

Image of Kate R.

Kate R.

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The leaves pull at your feet with a playful child's grip. The door holds your hand with a lover's urgency. The card reader clicks with a parent's chiding tone.

But you must go back. You've lost your model, and as you climb the stairs and look out the studio windows, the due date lays on the horizon like an oil spill. A shroud hangs over the studio, catching pencils and knives in its weave.

You kneel to look under your desk.

Cardboard and plywood pieces shuffle restlessly, an amalgamation of scraps from bygone projects. They were too large to throw away without guilt at the waste of precious cents, but their shapes, echoes of past idealism and unrecognizable elements of larger things, mutter in disharmony. The grain of cardboard is always running the wrong way for the piece you're trying to form, so you have to push against it, the bend jagged and irregular unless scored, cut in half and barely hanging together but at least the grain lines up, at least that one detail among so many others is right.

Keeping your shaking hands away from the table, you walk down the aisle of shelves, a graveyard of past projects. Here, a model half deconstructed, whether finished or not you cannot tell. There, a hastily made model oozing yellowed glue and shedding dust. In neat rows, models from the same projects comparing themselves to each other and tearing each other apart, even as they stand tall.

None of them is yours.

You return. Hesitate at the desk. What was it you were here for? You need a model. Something to appease the powers that be.

Your hand rises. Pauses at your unease. Then, respectfully, moves on.

Cut down the spine of your ruler, Bristol board smooth as newborn skin and bloodless pale. The edges alone are frayed, too much like the nerves you can feel burning at each joint and you have to press the knife blade against the table, skin aware of every millimeter of unforgiving edge under it. A dull blade struggles with the dry meal of paper you offer but will still bite the hand that feeds it. Like a dropped wineglass, the blade fractures, one head gone. The plastic creaks as you slide in another to replace it and cut again.

Out of the depths of lines and areas and curvatures, something conscious stirs. The light has shifted, once blue, now artificially yellow, but you do not turn from your desk to see where the sun is. Whether the sun is still out. It must be.

It can't have been long. It's not only you here, alone, clawing at the passing darkness as time moves onward despite your desperation. There are others, hunched forms with skittering hands and flickering eyes, their work laid out before them like maps of their innermost thoughts. You are all there together, yet unable to speak for the rush of lead and sawdust running through your hands as you work.

You just need to finish a few more pieces. You watch them stack up, pleasant, jovial little soldiers in the battle against chaos and despair. Admirable fellows, in their regularity and uniformity and consistency. If only you, like them, had a pattern to follow...

Something shifts. There's a buzzing in your ear, and you reach to crush a fly against the surface of your drawing board. You look, but there is only ink, dry and lifeless, beneath your fingers.
You pause and move on.

The assembly is perhaps the most detailed part. Yes, all the pieces have now reported for duty, but if that was what won wars perhaps generals would be out of a job. The pieces must fit together, at the proper angles, in the proper order, without getting marked by inferior substances. A drip of glue sends you back to the cutting board, to resurrect a clone of a fallen man.

A clone... that's what you feel like. Just another lost model, marching along to a tune you neither composed nor understand.

A tap on your desk.

In someone's outstretched hands.

Your model.

"I found it. Over there."

On your desk, the almost finished second edition.

From within the loops of concept and collars of ink that crawl across your shoulders and around your ankles, something pauses, and nods thanks to the one holding the elder model.

Who is going to find you?


Image of Lost and found


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