By John Paul Carillo
Karl ruined his business. He had been doing well, really well, with the owls, and the bears, and the bearded tree-men, the occasional nymph—stuff that, you know, people normally carve with two-stroke 3.75 hp gasoline driven chainsaws. But then one day, about a year ago, Karl began to fail to keep abreast of the competition, and started carving the same chainsaw sculpture again and again: A man, with a chainsaw, carving a man with a chainsaw. Karl now only carves sculptures of Karl, with a chainsaw, carving a smaller sculpture of Karl with a chainsaw. His lot is full of them, “Karls Carving Karls” (and maybe a nymph or two he wasn’t able to sell before his metamorphosis into a lunatic). I know all this because I’m the only one (beside his wife) who’s ever bought one, one of the “Karls Carving Karls,” and I’ve been positioning myself to return it ever since! I’ve got it in the backyard now, “Untitled #7 (Karl Carving Karl),” and still the neighbors give me funny looks.
Okay, okay! So I am sleeping with his wife! Okay, sue me! What would you do?! The man is obsessed!!
The other day, in bed with M, I said, “What do I do? The neighbors—they gawk.” “Move it into the backyard,” she said calmly as she pinched her left nipple. “I did that already!” I screamed. “The neighbors, they still come. On stilts. They look over the fence. They throw rocks.” “Oh, Lewis,” said M, “make love to me again.” But she didn’t mean it. She just wanted me to shut my trap about “Untitled #7 (Karl Carving Karl).”
Anyway, a few days later, during lunch break (I’m an insurance salesman by day, bingo champion by night) I went down to Karl’s lot, where he was working on another sculpture, I don’t have to tell you. I kept my distance, while indicating for him to cool it with the whirling blades, ready to run if he decided instead, you know, to come running at me and lop my head off. But no, the man—and he’s got this classic look to him, with the red mustache, and always the blue and green flannel shirt—is oblivious. “Karl,” I said, as he let the machine die down, “another?” “Trying to get it right this time.” “But, Karl, they’re all the same,” and I indicated as such by pointing out all the “Karls Carving Karls” in his lot with a wave of my hand. There were nearly a hundred, just like the one I had in my backyard. Karl shook his head at me, mouthed the word “pathetic,” and, as he started his Husqvarna, I took several cautious steps backwards.
About an hour later—he’d been deep into his composition when I’d arrived—he turned the chainsaw off again, flipped his goggles to the top of his head, and stared me right in the eyes. Then he looked down, into the sculpture, where I was meant to look. I looked. My eyes opened wide: I couldn’t believe what he was showing me; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing—and I don’t know how he’d done it … He’d gotten the wooden “chainsaw blades”—the wooden representation of the chains themselves—to move, in a vaguely ovular fashion. They were spinning around and around, making a woodpecker sound—defying logic, gravity, and even proper decorum.
I tried a complaint. “The one you sold me doesn’t do that,” I whined. “Trying,” he said, “to get it right. Just trying, Lewis,” he said, and he spit a wad of tobacco onto his own boot, “to get it right,” and he looked me deep into the eyes again. I couldn’t stand it, and turned my head away.
I stopped sleeping with Karl’s wife, stayed out of his business in general, and never doubted the man’s artistic obsessions again.
And, I went home with another statue.
We keep this one in the living room.
– John Paul Carillo is a graduate of The Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University. He has recently completed a comic novel, Bad Adjunct, and is currently working on his next novel, Real American People. An excerpt from Bad Adjunct, “America Is Not the Future,” has been published at Vol 1. Brooklyn, and his story “Little Hellhounds” was translated into French and published by 13E Note Editions of Paris. He currently teaches screenwriting at UMBC, and plays in the groups Joy on Fire and Three Red Crowns with his partner and saxophonist Anna Meadors. www.jpcarillo.com.