The Sculptor

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
He knew how to leave prints behind him. Wherever he went by, he left a piece of art. Or at least, that was the way he called them...
Dozens of empty milk cartons, crashed cars, bed pans, old shoes, pots, book and newspapers, wire, bones and any knick-knacks were the materials for his profession; that could not be distinguished from entertainment in the eyes of the local villagers of the towns he was visiting.
Whoever stopped to observe his pieces, undoubtedly left with an ample smile. Those at the mayor’s office felt relieved with his visit, knowing that somebody was collecting garbage for them - free of charge.
He was an ecological artist. However, the people from those places had no clue that such discipline was recognized around the world.
The sculptor was a transient; he never remained longer than a week in each place. As soon as he completed his unique artwork, he was in search of new horizons. Everybody could identify who the sculptor was, but no one knew about his family, his name, or nationality. Three generations witnessed his work, until he arrived at a village of absolute poverty, where there was nothing more than volcanic ashes, the sole evidence of an eruption that devastated the place.
Its people reflected sadness on their faces. All, with no exception, had lost loved ones in that tragedy. The sculptor did not find what he traditionally used, whatever: screws, nails, wood, metal, all was used there for practical purposes. After such tragedy, who could think about art, when those who decided to remain at the place needed to eat to barely survive?
After several days of impatience, he discovered a few far away trees that almost as a miracle survived the devastation.
Finally, he had found complementary materials for his creation. The trees were pines, from which he started collecting the sticky sap, drop by drop in a plastic bag he was carrying in one of his pockets. He caressed the bark with his wrinkled hands; he felt love, respect and admiration for them.
The sculptor was a great protector of nature. It took him an entire week to collect the dense liquid that was not more than perhaps a pint or two. He stayed at the village for an unusual longer period of time, but that was not a problem. This time, it would be different; he would create his masterpiece. Indeed, he expected drawing a smile on every single inhabitant who stopped observing his unique sculpture.
He looked around and felt satisfied while smiled, as a child holding a new toy at Christmas Eve, nevertheless, with some compassion and tenderness at the same time. He started walking back, slowly; he was not in a hurry. As he was reaching the center of the town, he began getting rid of his clothing, piece by piece until he was naked. It was naptime; there were no walkers, no drivers who could see his brittle anatomy, free from prejudices. Very calmly, he started covering his slim body with a thin film of the aromatic sap, inch by inch, dab by dab. The substance made him feel dizzy, yet happy. He looked at the ashes around him and laid down over the soft and warm surface, rolling on them.
The gray dust adhered to the sap forming a peculiar type of paste. The ashes blurred the original sap perfume transforming it in a delicate scent that only nature could produce. With the limited mobility that was left, he walked to the place where the silhouettes of old benches were still visible. He chose one to sit and looked at the small town. He covered his eyelids and the nostrils with more ashes he held in his hand. He snoozed in the sun, until he fell asleep, smiling placidly as the material solidified imprisoning his body. He thought how much he loved art at the age of 87. That was the last sculptor’s piece.