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“I believe it’s pointless to ask, Anthony. Those days have long past. Plainly you can see this.” With mournful eyes, the man sipped his bourbon, while into his chest, as if some wounded animal, burrowed a mercilessly bandaged hand.
Anthony’s hand lingered across the tacky remnants of liquor upon the table; within balled fist, a cold wad of bills. He glared upon the sullen man seated before him. “See? Yes, I can.” Fist inched forward, awkward in its urgency. “And as you can plainly see, a job well done will be rewarded.”
“What I do…what I did…never constituted a job. A job does nothing to stir the soul. Only passion achieves such a state of grace.” The man inhaled deeply—of the bourbon or the proposal, left to dangle in air—Anthony was not sure. But he did not appreciate the smooth impassiveness across the man’s alabaster face. Did not appreciate it in the least.
“Yes. A job is measured by hours. But passion’s hours are timeless.”
“It seems your passion has nearly left you a cripple, while my job has left me a wealthy, wealthy man,” Anthony sneered.
“You are my brother, Anthony. And had you not been, I’d find your gaffe of words truly insulting.”
“At last, bravado found at the bottom of your glass. Is that the residue of passion, Nicholas, or merely passion’s inspiration?”
A thread’s breadth parted Nicholas’ lips as bourbon drizzled tongue. Eyes danced but to the song of another day, transfixed by noiseless, ghostly chords. “Some people wish to choose their vice. But for others, the vice chooses them.”
“Killing yourself slowly with alcohol now, then.”
“It’s not alcohol of which I speak.” The words hung between them.
Hesitation. Eventually Anthony loomed over the table. “She’s gone, Nicholas,” and instantly the music ceased; a blackened veil draped his features. Hand plummeted to the table, the snifter nearly shattering atop the sticky grain. Bourbon splashed Anthony’s knuckles, but fast his posture remained. He studied his brother with dulled satisfaction. Slowly, by inches, he lowered his considerable frame, pouring his bulk into the opposite seat. Watching intently. Silence, broken only by Nicholas’ strangled mewls.
Nicholas dabbed at the corner of his trembling lips. “When?” his voice a hoarse murmur.
“Six months ago. You’ve changed your haunts. It’s made finding you difficult, but not impossible. I thought you had fallen from the face of the earth, too. Like Catarina.”
Stinging, the words. Nicholas winced, eyes searching. Searching.
“The illness…came on suddenly. The doctors could do nothing. Her body already rampant with disease, but Catarina, she said little. You should know well of my wife’s strength.” Anthony’s back stiffened in anticipation, but his brother, snared within the throes of paralysis, offered nothing. “You should know well of many things concerning my wife.”
Nicholas is a sculptor, renowned throughout the land.
But now he suffers from a ruined hand; worse yet, a fractured soul.
When his brother hires his talents for a final time, however, Nicholas suddenly finds himself at a crossroads: sculpt the only love he has ever known – his own brother’s wife.
Or carve a memorial for her heart…
© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.