Wednesday, June 3

to carve

As he walked down a street in Baltimore, Oliver passed the shop of a stonemason. There was a little yard around the shop powdered with stonedust. In the yard were scattered pieces of stone, blocks of grey Vermont granite, Georgia marble, and several bases of sandstone. There was also a monument from Carrarra in Italy: it was of a marble angel, with bright carved wings. The angel held a lily delicately upwards between its cold elegant fingers.

Oliver walked on, returned, and peered through the dirty windows of the little shop. Within he saw smooth marble slabs of death, a stone lamb couchant on a granite marker, a cherub volant on a plump foot, a scrollwork, and two joined armless hands. He also saw two more angels with simpering marble faces, and furled wings.

A bearded brawny man wearing a work apron was standing in the yard above a wooden trestle. He held a great wooden mallet and a chisel in his hands and he was chipping with tense craft at a design that had been penciled upon the surface of a marble slab.

As Oliver looked at the man and the big angel with its carved stipe of lilystalk, a cold and nameless excitement possessed him. The long fingers of his big hands curled. He felt that he wanted to carve delicately with a chisel more than anything in the world. He wanted to wreak something dark and unspeakable in him into cold stone. He wanted to carve an angel's head.

Oliver entered the yard and asked the man for a job. The man put down his mallet and looked at him.

"Son," he said kindly, "it is hard work and I can not pay you much while you learn."

"I don't care," said Oliver. "I want to learn the business."

He became the stonecutter's apprentice. He worked in that dusty yard for five years. He became a stonecutter. When his apprenticeship was over, he had become a man.

-- Thomas Wolfe O Lost