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Hot Tin Roof: Mason




This morning, out to borrow a floor jack, I opened the metal door to my brother’s garage, and there sat my nephew, hunched over the plywood workbench, moving a straight screwdriver carefully into a one-pound block of paraffin wax. His hands were covered in little specks of white, like wool gloves. It was a Sunday.

“You shouldn’t be using that screwdriver without supervision,” I said, but he just carved and inspected, white specks thickening. So, I inspected the emerging sculpture, too, and asked him where he found the wax. “Right here,” he said. The whittle marks were clumsy and crooked, as though he had been doing it with the wrong hand.

I saw what he was making. I should have told him to set the screwdriver down, to go inside for supper because it was near suppertime, but I didn’t. I grabbed the floor jack, tussled with his hair like uncles do, and said, “Your dad uses that wax to pull the down feathers out of the geese he shoots.” And then I moved outside of the garage to watch the first flurries of snowflakes move horizontal above the ground. Supervision, I thought, was necessary. From earshot outside the garage, I stood in reverence of the accumulating weather, too warm to last, and thought around my nephew’s sculpture in that same manner. He ignored me—our communion was the slow, even tap of metal nicking plywood—but a distance was narrowing, carved into wax brick.

There was a still frame, or a statue, or some imagined memory: four years ago, when it was deep Spring and flowering, on a day with fine weather, after a May daughter but before the shoebox-sized casket–my brother sat at his workbench, supervising I think, and he held his May daughter, and his son fiddled with a ratchet set and a bike chain. He looked at her as if to see how her soul was (that is, warmly), and it looked fine; and her tiny hands grasped, white as paraffin.

I wondered if my nephew saw that same picture, or any picture, or if he simply knew of her differently.

I supervised from just outside the garage, and it was a Sunday. It had begun to snow. The tap, tap of the screwdriver silenced, and for fear that he had injured himself, I went to check on my nephew. He had finished, wiped his hands on his shirt and lifted his sculpture to show it. I took the carving, tussled with his hair like uncles do and held it close to my face. I didn’t smell the clean scent I was hoping for, but the cold, unmoving smell of paraffin. It didn’t matter. My nephew grabbed back the whittled brick and looked close, moving his fingers over every uneven bump, and maybe they were together then, reborn in that bright lump of wax.


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