Skaparinn by Guđrún Eva Mínervudóttir
Thorkell hung the last one to dry, the hook worked its way through the back of the neck. The hole would blessedly be covered by silky hair once their heads would be in place. He placed a stick, one meter long, between the ancles since it was important to let them dry with their legs spread, otherwise they would be difficult to handle – like virgins in distress. And there they hung, four of them together: body-type number four.
He stood up, placed his sore and wet hand on his lower back and admired their shade. Amber-colored, as if they had spent every hazy day of summer walking around naked. The combination was perfect and he reminded himself to write down the exact measure of each colour before it would vanish in his memory.
He did not consider himself an artist, although many would try to force that dubious definition upon him. He was a craftsman, the best of his kind, yet he didn´t allow himself to indulge in that particular thought. Because, what was self indulgence but the spoiled sister of stagnation? His job was to make them the best he could, create the illution of human consciousness – framed in blond, black or copper strands of hair, shining out of blue or moss-green eyes, barely awake behind half-closed, pale-red lips, and to release his beautiful girls into the world in the hope that they would become a sense of joy to their solitary owners.
Not for a moment did he imagine that they were living beings, no matter how much he managed to make them look like real, young women. He didn´t fall for his own cunning. They were his life and passion; but it was not the same as the passion of his customers, who dressed them in beautiful gowns, sat beside them and held their hands while they wathed television. Finally spared the feeling that life had committed them into that eternal shameful place at the back of the classroom.
He took of his rubber apron and hung it on a nail by the door. Washed his hands, put on his watch and then, noticing that the hour was almost nine, he felt the hunger inside his intestines, his jaws were stiff and the pulse of the veins in his temple intolerable. The joints in his fingers burned and the pain echoed in the wrists and elbows. It was always the same story, his body started to protest as soon as he lost concentration.
He leaned up against the doorway and tried to remember what was in the fridge. It would have been quicker to walk into the kitchen and open the fridge and check the inventory, but it was too much right now. He would have to relax before he made a move, yet he knew that he wouldn´t be able to relax before he´d had something to eat.
What was there? Ground beef, almost on its last date, onion, potatoes, flatbred, butter, tuna in oil, razor thin pieces of smoked lamb in cumbersome wrappings. He didn´t want to cook, imagining the knives and the spoons, thinking they would be so heavy, heavier than the steel that he used for the ligaments of his girls, heavier than led, thank god that the bottom of the drawer didn´t burst form their weight. He could have flatbread and coffee, but it was against his discipline to let three hundred grams of ground beef go to waste.
In the neighborhood there were a few restaurants but he really couldn´t face people at the end of so many days of work. No, the only possible thing was to let go of that doorway even though he wanted to take it with him into the kitchen and lean his forhead against it while the beef and onion were simmering on the pan. One foot forward, then the other. It was possible. A luxury problem, compared to the fridge being empty and having to go to the store. Or when he was broke and needed to borrow money, like when he was a student, before the dollmaking really got going. Before it became a common knowledge in the industry that he was the best, that he not only offered standard body-types and faces but also would deal with special requests and would not let any buyer leave with an unhappy face.
Four medium sized potatoes in a pot, just enaugh water to submerge them, he couldn´t help grinning as he carried the pot with both hands from the sink to the stove. Working these long hours didn´t do the body any good. The pain in the ligaments reminded him that the small finger in his right hand had been numb since early January because of a pinched nerve in his arm.
Two red onions, one just beginning to sprout. He took one of the heavy knives from the second drawer and used its tip to draw the kitchen curtains to let in the pale yellow May sunlight. What blinding light at nine in the evening, making him unsure whether there was a car in his driveway or if it was just the iris of his eye adjusting to the light. Maybe it was an illusion, a green fleck dancing in front of his eyes while he got used to the light.
He would put butter and salt on the potatoes. The thought of butter moved his insides like a good kick in the side. Yes, that was a car, a bright green Renault and out of that car stepped a woman, her hair blond – long silky curles (Honey Golden Sue, he thought instinctively, since he had similar Honey Golden Sue wigs in the workshop), but aside from the hair there was nothing doll-like about her. What did she want? There was no order ready for delivery yet, and people usually had the girls shipped, even if they lived next door. Besides, of all the orders he´d delivered in the last five years, only two had been delivered to women.
Whatever her mission, she would have to wait while he ate. Beef on the pan, pan on the stove. He tasted the raw meat – it exited his hunger. His attention lingering on that feeling of hunger – not leaving much for that woman, slaving over the open trunk. Maybe she wanted to sell him something. Or talk about Jesus. He´d be quick to shut the door in her face. No, what was that? A car jack, tire iron? Now he noticed she had a flat tire.
The woman struggled with the spare from the trunk and rolled it to the front of the car. She leaned against the hood and made a comic attempt to get rid of the dirt from her hands by shaking and clapping them. “How industrious”, he muttered, his eyes watering because of the onion, looking at the hapless affair. She seemed to know what she was doing – though dressed in an angel white wool coat, neat little shoes, a perfect match with her jeans.
Hubcap off in one move, that´s right, raise the tire iron, loosen the first screw.
The woman kicked the tire iron, but the screw didn´t move. She stepped up on it as if it was the edge of a ladder but nothing happened. She tried the screw above but yet, nothing happened. She threw the iron onto the ground, placed her elbows on the car roof and hid her face in her arms.
Thorkell was getting the feeling that she was about to cry and that was something he did not want to witness. Hesitantly he turned the heat of the meat and walked towards the door, only too fast, because now he felt dizzy. On his way, he became determined to be friendly even though there was anger inside him resulting from being disturbed from food and rest.
All stuck? He asked, voice and action deceiving him. She smiled faintly.
Yes, she sighed, and from her hunched shoulders she seemed to be almost as tired as he was. She had crows feet in the nest of her eyes, a sensitive mouth and a dimple on one cheek. I thought it would have been bad luck good luck that this happened here outside the car mechanic, but I see that there is no garage here anymore, she said and looked at the tidy lawn with its green grass.
They moved into a larger house by the road, ten years ago, he said and bent down to pick up the iron, fixed it around the screw and placed all his weight on it, but nothing happened. He laughed, hardly believing.
Who made it this tight? he said, more to himself than her, since he didn´t really think she knew.
My father did, she replied, and the dimple in her cheek deepened and a shadow crossed her face. He was a taxi driver and a bench press European champion.
This is the first chapter from new novel by Guđrún Eva Mínervudóttir, translated by Marteinn Ţórsson.