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(A short story of 5323 words)



by Kathleen Jones

Ursula has taken a job as an intern, working for a world famous artist in Tuscany. But he has a beautiful wife. Soon Ursula is locked in a triangular relationship and she dreams of mythical beasts emerging from the pine forests.

In the dawn light that sharpened the edges of things, foregrounding the mountains against infinity, Val went down to the studio, stared critically at the clay form he’d shaped the previous day and then, clenching his massive hands into fists, he flattened it. The physical action of pounding the clay back into an abstract mass raised his blood pressure, making a vein at his temple thud against his skull. He did the same thing every morning and the ritual gave him an odd, destructive satisfaction. There was no longer anything else; the material that oozed and sucked between his fingers no longer gave him that childlike feeling of delight in its endless possibilities. Once, the clay had seemed an extension of his imagination, shaped and formed by the strength of his will. Now, it was merely a recalcitrant terracotta mass that took all his strength to handle.

Afterwards, breathing hard, he went to stand in the open doorway gazing out into the courtyard, where the early light reflected in pools of rainwater on the terrazzo tiles. In the centre, on a block of uncut marble, stood the statue of Europa being carried off by Zeus disguised as a bull. It was a sculpture Val had executed when he was forty and, every day, he looked at it to remind himself of what he was capable of.

‘Why did you want to depict a rape? ’ the girl had asked when she first arrived. ‘And by an animal at that? Even if it is mythical. It’s not a very nice subject.’

‘It’s not about sexual politics,’ Val had argued impatiently. ‘It’s about form. Do you know how difficult it is to get the bull like that with his hind legs reared up to lift the girl? And to make it work from every angle? Of course it’s only a two-form statue; the Greeks did three – almost impossible. But perhaps I’ll do three before I die.’...

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