2001 Graduate Fiction Winner


Tara Jill Ciccarone

The Wire Sculptor

           With a handful of wires and a blinking red sign, the crazy wire sculptor’s at it again. Alma hears he’s fashioned a stone fountain with wire mermaids, flying flounder fish and a bronze sea horse. He’s charging the public to see it, calling his kitchen a wire botanical garden. He’s hanging the figure of a stick man, hands holding a telescope up to a glass eye, from the roof of the British museum. She’s seen his flyers all over town. They paper the telephone poles orange, seem to blow out at her from around street corners. She pictures his eyes charged with the idea of twisting more wire, his palms scarred and callused like the tips of guitar players’ fingers. Alma knows he’s responsible for bending thin strips of metal, placing one more each night on the side of her street. There are twelve so far. He’s resurfaced out of nowhere. Again.

            She caught a glimpse of him running towards her down Or­ange Street on Sunday. She could hear the tinkling bells sewn into the hem of his denim jacket, the line of coat hangers scraping the sidewalk behind him. She’s not going to fall for him again.

            He twists and turns, and then, he is there again at her doorstep on Tuesday: the crazy wire sculptor.

            He smells like wine at two p.m. It’s like he’s made of wire, shapeable bendable, able to blend into her porch rails and spring out in front of her. When she opens the door, she notices his tweed jacket too is sewn with bells. A blue bow-tie, bright like his eyes, shines at his throat.

            She’s about to take Emily to the park. She wonders what would have happened if he had rung the doorbell instead of just waiting there. She doesn’t wonder if and how he knew she was home.

            When she catches her breath, she turns into the house.

            “Emily, why don’t you go find your kite,” she calls, even though she knows there is no wind in the park this day.

            The wire sculptor stands and grins, and as if on cue, the gen­erators click off and silence ices over the porch.

            She tries not to acknowledge what he’s wearing, but really, his clothes are strange. He should be wearing this suit in Boston a hundred years ago. He never dressed like this before. Behind her, Emily’s shoes pound on the floor as she looks for the kite, but at the moment, Alma’s eyes are drawn to this man’s and held there as if by two glistening cords.

            The wire sculptor takes his hand from behind his back and holds out a cube of glass, entwined in copper veins. A dragon fly sits, sus­pended in the cube, as if frozen there. She thinks vaguely of gag gifts, plastic ice cubes with fake flies inside. He pushes this thing towards her.

            “For you,” he says.

            She tells herself she will not accept this gift. She is taking Emily to the park to look at spring flowers, not standing there swooning over a man made of wire. And truly, he does look more beautiful than ever in this old, too old but clean jacket and straight hair cut chin length, his blue eyes dazzling her, the pupils the size of the buttons on the jacket Emily wears in spring. The corner of his mouth twitches up, but the wire sculptor doesn’t smile.

            She knows when he’s like this. She knows these bursts don’t last. She stands facing him on her porch. It’s one of the first spring days, and the sun licks shyly across her face. From somewhere, she hears birds. He steps closer and the smell of wine intrudes upon the day, clouding the scent of cut grass. This should be over.

            Then, Emily is pushing herself between Alma’s legs, trailing kite string from the bedroom to the porch. Emily lets the kite fall onto the ground, and reaches for this thing the wire sculptor has made. Any other time, Alma would stand and wait, watching Emily commit this new, brave action with a stranger, but instead she snatches the dragon fly and holds it close to her chest. Better it be in her hands than in Emily’s two-almost-three-year-old fingers.

            “I don’t know what to say,” she murmurs, and there she is swirling in the wire sculptor’s eyes. He grabs her hand and kisses it, and she can feel him making love to her right there on the porch. She knows the way he can touch her. His hands roam over her in her mind. His mouth. She shakes her head and looks at the porch boards. And then he is gone. Quickly, impossibly, because he should not be able to disap­pear in those clothes. But she lets him.

            “We’d better put this thing in the house,” she says to Emily.

            “Is that your friend?” Emily asks.

            “I don’t know, Miss Baby. Let’s wind this kite string up.”

            Alma stares at the dragonfly while Emily bunches the string up in her hands. When she lifts Emily, Alma has to lean into the child’s weight. She thinks absently that Emily feels more solid every day. This heavy Emily, this Emily with her hair halfway down her back, is the first version the wire sculptor has seen. As she wonders how Emily looked to him, Alma tightens her arms until Emily squirms. When they go back in, she lets the door slam behind them.

            Later that day, she finds herself stealing glances out the win­dow She tells herself she’s making sure he’s not coming back, but really, she’s looking. And looking.

            He comes back the next day with a stroller fashioned completely of wire. The wheels are made of thick steel cables, bent to circles and wound again and again with copper spokes. She can see he has made the seat and hood out of steel fibers that twist like wisteria. The body itself is made of a pattern of interlocking metal daisies. This time, he has knocked. She holds the door open a crack.

            He seems decorated in his yellow suit jacket and tweed pants. She wants to ask him why he is dressing this way now, instead of in paint stained T-shirts and ripped up jeans. She wants to ask him everything, but she makes herself pretend she’s not interested. And she shouldn’t be. But why these clothes? Why this stroller? Why now after all this time?

            This time, he smiles. He sweeps his arm grandly in front of the carriage.

            “A pram,” he says. “For our baby.”

            Alma’s hands move to cover her stomach like caged birds suddenly let loose.

            “You know that’s not true,” she says.

            She closes the door gently and leans against it. She hears his shoes thud down the steps, and then, he is gone. She waits. There is a corner he will turn some place. When she is sure he has reached it, she opens the door, and drags the pram into the house.

            He has fashioned hanging elephants from the visor. They sus­pend with long trunks and ears that stick out like airplane wings. He shouldn’t know Emily loved elephants best. In the middle of the handle protrudes a silver key, and when she winds it a calliope tune draws Emily into the hail.

            “Is that for me?” she asks. She pushes the elephants back and forth. “This is a really nice stroller,” she says. She’s wearing a Band-Aid on each arm just for fun. Her blonde hair, blonde like Alma’s, blonde like John Luigi’s, curls at her shoulders. Her nose turns up­wards like John Luigi’s, as if declaring she is not the wire sculptor’s child.

            “It’s just to look at, honey.” Alma tries to keep her voice smooth, but something inside of it shakes, and she realizes her chest and hands are trembling.

            She pushes the pram into the kitchen and wedges it between the refrigerator and the counter. The space in the house expands around them, as if it’s not her and Emily in their kitchen together anymore; the world roars in, with the wire sculptor spinning in the center. She can hear his voice in the calliope song She wants to grab Emily in her arms, but she thinks about the day before on the porch, the way Emily wriggled when her grip tightened. Alma knows she’s still shaking too hard to pick her up.

            “Let’s go for a walk, baby,” she says.

            As she helps Emily get her shoes and socks on, the music keeps playing, even when they are on their way out the door.


            Because they met in the fourth square, he said their love was victim of coincidence from the start. She knew eight streets cut the downtown area into a grid pattern called the nine squares. The ninth square had a bar named after it, but besides that, there was little refer­ence to the squares around town. They were something people talked about when they talked about the town’s history. Alma could take out a map and count the spaces between the streets, four running north to south, and four running east to west, like a tic-tac-toe board with the boarders boxed in. But the wire sculptor talked about those squares more than anyone else Alma had ever met. He promised circumstances would always bring them together, and when it was over, Alma consid­ered moving out of the nine squares and over to the East Rock neigh­borhood where the statue on the monument towered over quieter streets. She found out she was pregnant then, and stayed in the house on Or­ange Street. She told neither John Luigi nor the wire sculptor about the baby. She told herself there was not truth to the stories about the nine squares. Long ago, maybe when the masons had been in Connecticut, the grid pattern might have been important, but that story was too old to matter to her. She told herself she was not destined to live a life with the wire sculptor, and New Haven would not remember what they’d had. She lived in the seventh square, and that was that.

            But the wire sculptor said he believed in the nine squares the fall they met under the thick smell of leaves and nutmeg. The wire sculptor then, and the wire sculptor now, but somewhere in the middle of it, she called him Matthew

            She met him at the News Stand on Chapel Street. She was scanning a photography magazine for amateur contests she could en­ter, when he came in twisting a phone cord around a hexagon of coat hangers. It scribbled in the air in front of him as he bent and cinched. He wore wire-rimmed glasses she would learn he had constructed himself. She tried not to look at him as the lines she was reading blurred. Then he was standing next to her, and when she breathed it felt like trying to unlodge a flock of the smallest brown birds from her chest.

            “I want you to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life” he whispered.

            She jammed the magazine back onto the shelf. How did he know she’d been trying to discipline herself, that she was twenty-four and needed to start taking her work seriously?

            “What kind of thing is that to say to somebody?” she asked. She tried sound irritated.

            “You’re a photographer,” he said.

            “Yeah,” she said.

            “Let me guess, all darkroom, no computer images.” The way he said it without raising his voice into a question made her wonder how it would feel to touch him, how his cheek with a light growth of stubble would feel on her hand, her lips.

            “How do you know?”

            “I can tell.”

            It turned out, the wire sculptor could tell many things. Later, hours later, the hands that spent hours manipulating wire knew the secrets to her body at first touch.

            “You know, there’s something to meeting in the nine squares,” he told her that night.

            His sheets tangled at their feet. He had the window open, and the fall air curled around them. His thin fingers stroked delicately against the back of her neck, and he seemed to be made of something fine, like eyelashes or dusted wings. Things made to be held carefully in the hands. He smelled like clove cigarettes. The night had something clean about it that made her feel as if she had stepped out of her life and into a story.

            “What do you mean?” she asked. She counted the squares in her head. York and State marked the top and bottom of the grid, and if College Street was the second street, then they had met in the fourth. It took a minute, but she could remember the order. She lived in the seventh, and his house was in the first.

            “Some people say that when love happens in the nine squares, it’s especially fated. And if it breaks, the people will always be haunted by coincidences.”

            “You think?” she asked. She detached herself slightly at the mention of love. Who was he anyway?

            “It’s magic,” he promised. “And New Haven doesn’t forget it.”

            He was still the wire sculptor then, and she was in bed with him. She felt vaguely aware that this would not have happened in any other month, but that October had drawn them together to merge and blend against the coming cold. Later in the fall, the cold tended to focus her inside of herself. The weather was to blame, not the street pattern.

            “It gets sad, doesn’t it,” he said.

            “What does?”

            “Being alone a lot.”

            ‘Are you alone a lot?” She posed the question carefully.

            “Probably as much as you are.”

            She thought about the vague periods in her darkroom, walking around alone taking pictures, always taking pictures. Often she felt like taking the pictures kept her company, like her art was another person that sometimes surprised her. She listened to him breathe and didn’t ask the question that ran through her head. How could he tell she was alone a lot?

            They spent all their time together. She found herself working quickly in the darkroom and rushing to his house to cook, or eat take-out with him. They slept together every night and the vague feeling she sometimes had rarely hit her.

            He gave her irises even though they were out of season, and

            she tried to remember having told him she liked them best. He could

            read her mind, it seemed. He made her favorite tomato and pesto on sesame bagels, and bought the chocolates she often craved. “How did you know?” she asked when he surprised her with a book of photographs by Meatyard.

            “Magic,” he said.

            The clean feeling did not last, but the sensation that she was living inside a story remained. Sometime between New Years and Valentine’s Day, an alarm rose and throbbed in her chest, and the brown birds left her. He was Matthew by that point, and a gray aura dripped from him and pooled at his feet as he sat in the house and made no sculptures then.

            He sat poking a pile of laundry with a coat hanger one day.

            “What’s wrong with you?” she asked.

            She had her camera with her and she waited for him to turn his face into a patch of light. She held him that way in a mental photo­graph as he stretched out on the floor and exhaled cigarette smoke. When his pose matched the picture in her head, she squeezed the shut­ter and felt oddly like she was sailing above him, as if he had dropped down below her somehow, and that the picture would not look like the Matthew she was used to. She sat down next to him on the floor to stop that idea, but it nagged at her. He glared at the camera.

            “It’s just the cold,” he said.

            A dump truck idled across the Street where someone was clear­ing out an old warehouse. She expected him to go running out, trying to salvage any bit of scrap he could find. Get up and bang on the piano. Something. When he stayed spread angel-like on the floor, she had the uneasy feeling that she had made a mistake somewhere in deciding she knew him well.

            Then he coughed.

            “You think you’re getting sick?” she asked.

            “I think I am sick,” he said without looking at her.

            So she cooked thick chicken soup and set vitamin pills next to glasses of grapefruit juice. His cough came rarely at night, and he never sneezed.

            It was her way to work through dull periods, and most days she left him alone to do the same as she photographed. Some evenings she would go over and find him sitting with pieces of unbent wire, the breakfast dishes crusting on the counter. She cleaned the kitchen then, and smoothed his sheets over his bed. Most nights they made love quietly, and she felt more and more like a substitute for something else he needed to make him better. But the way he seemed content to rest his head on her chest as he fell asleep made her feel somehow stronger than she usually did.

            “I’m worried about you,” she said one day when the snowless winter slammed down around them. The temperature had dropped below zero, but still no snow only a sharp feeling that gave her a headache when she went out doors.

            “I’ll be all right,” he said.

            And he was. Sometime in early March, she found him construct­ing a Volkswagen out of metal scraps, adorning it with huge flying bugs as if the car was under attack from them. He went to the galleries and collected the money he’d made from his sculptures, and one night sur­prised her by asking to make a plaster cast of her body. As he pressed layer after layer of plaster to her skin, she tried to imagine what she’d be doing if she wasn’t with him. The thought nagged at her. A gray feeling crept up inside her as she thought about staying up late printing photographs and keeping herself busy, taking more pictures than she had to and developing them in her quiet house. She told herself to stop thinking that way. He was better again.

            When the plaster dried, he painted it in swirls of blue and silver. The small breasts, the concave stomach, the sharp hip bone, were all her own.

            “I hope you never leave me,” he said.

            She ran her hand over the cast.

            “I don’t want to leave you.”

            She learned the pattern without looking. His giddy times would come and he’d seem to fizz inside and then drop down for weeks. When the ground thawed in April, he became a scarecrow in front of her. She let herself into his house one afternoon and found the shades were drawn. Her eyes went naturally to a blade of light that sliced through the room and illuminated the dust on the floor.

            “Matthew?” she asked.

            She had groceries in her arm. Tapioca pudding she knew he liked (not by magic, but because he had told her). The darkness gnawed at the room and seemed to follow her to the kitchen. When she flicked on the light it retreated to other parts of the house. She wiped the counter clean of the food he’d left sitting, guts of tomatoes, carrot shavings, crumbs. She put the dishes away and went into the living room to wait for him.


            The blinds squeaked as she pulled them open and he was there, sitting in the corner chair, his arms dangling to the floor. His legs looked like they’d been broken at the knees, as if he’d need splints to stand again. His eyes were shut, but she could tell his face was too tense for him to be asleep. She thought about crawling into his skin, his clothes, standing up again and breathing for both of them. How it would feel. How putting her mouth on his, not to kiss him, but to breathe into him would be. If she could really carry him, that weight might feel less than the one she felt standing in the living room watch­ing him. She found she couldn’t touch him; she could only stand there as his eyes snapped open.

            They stared at one another. Frown lines crinkled around his mouth and he bit his lip. When she wrapped her arms around him, she knew there was no way to get inside. He was fragile, and at any intrusion she imagined he would fold into himself. She held him gently and listened for the sound of his heart.

            And then one day he was better. Again. He built her a tripod Out of wire and taught her how to play songs on the harmonica. He gave her love poems folded into origami birds. He told her they would get married and move to Spain. Sometimes he tried to explain what was wrong with him.

            “I just get like that sometimes,” he said.

            They stood at the top of East Rock and looked down at the trees that concealed the streets below She thought it was strange not to be able to see her house, when it was down there, nestled in a blur of spring leaves and telephone poles. His hand felt solid in hers as she squeezed it.

            “Do you feel like I know you?” she asked. She thought he would say she did, and that it wasn’t her fault he was unpredictable and sad.

            “Not as well as I know you,” he answered.

            She waited a minute. She was never sure how to talk to him about his sad times. “You felt like a scarecrow to me,” she said finally.

            Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, he looked stronger that day; his scarecrowness had gone away and she hoped he would talk about it. He held his arms out and let his head fall to one side.

            “A scarecrow,” he said. “I like that.”

            And so spring bled into a summer of scarecrows. They were everywhere by July, wire scarecrows dressed in rags. She took clothes from the Salvation Army drop at night so he could dress them. He became a blur before her, streaking across town to erect another. The scarecrows had their own collective weakness about them. He jointed their arms to swing limply at their sides. Stuffed with straw; they looked threadbare. He purposefully used wire that would rust quickly. He made seventeen.

            “I hope I die a scarecrow,” he told her one night.

            “I hope you don’t die for a long time,” she said. They were going to sleep.

            “Maybe you’ll have a baby someday and you won’t have to take care of me anymore.”

            She tried not to show that she stiffened.

            ‘Who said anything about having a baby?” she asked. She wondered if he was losing his knack for knowing things.

            “I just thought you would like it,” he yawned.

            “You seem happier now that you’re making scarecrows,” she said.

            “Are you changing the subject?”

            “I don’t know.” She mumbled as if falling asleep.

            “I like making scarecrows,” he said.

            He kept making more and more. She photographed all of them. Rolls and rolls of negatives. She learned to print from infrared film, and the pictures looked spooky in a black and white haze. Something inside of her warned her to be careful with Matthew. At any moment he would fall back into a cut out of a man. It seemed like she was always apart from him, and she wondered how different her life would really be without him. She waited for him to break again.

            John Luigi from the art museum loved the photographs.

            ‘You’ve really got something here.” John had his blonde hair slicked back, and she could tell he’d shaved that morning His voice whispered like silk on skin. She knew he had his own gallery, and she surprised herself when she noticed he wasn’t sad. Her life had started to break down into two categories, sad and not sad. Matthew, and her.

            “How would you like a space to show your pictures?” he asked. She hadn’t expected him to say that. She had been trying to            enter them in an amateur show.

            “You mean at the British Museum?”

            His eyes had a soft light in them. ‘Why not?”

            When she left, she found herself wondering what it would be like to be with a man who was happy.

            “Matthew?” she asked that night. “How would you feel if my photographs had their own show? I mean, since I took them of your work.”

            She heard the alarm going off inside her head, and a small place in her chest constricted.

            He stared blankly and rubbed at his temples. She wondered how she could have asked him differently, what trick she could learn to keep him okay.

            “You’re cheating on me,” he said.

            She got up off the sofa. “You’re wrong,” she said, but she couldn’t help but think about John Luigi.

            “Bullshit.” He glared at her. “I don’t care what you do with your pictures.”

            The next day, he stayed in bed until afternoon.

            And then he was gone. One day, his locks were changed, and his neighbor said he had left with boxes of metal scraps. She stood and waited at his door, and later, she sat there and smoked and slept. Sometime during the night, she imagined noises inside his house, wire scraping against the walls, hammering, but when she pressed her head to the door, there was nothing A day later, her neck strained, smelling like cigarettes and sweat, she circled the town.

            At the Binaki, the scarecrow stood strawless, unclothed. Charred pieces of flannel curled on the ground like dead leaves. The wire had turned black. She stared. At the next place it was the same.

            For a moment, she was angry. Who would do this? She pic­tured the town filled with burned up men, punks squeezing lighter fluid onto the sculptures. but then she knew.

            “Fuck you, Matthew,” she swore at the sculpture.

            He came back long after her show had run its course. She was sleeping with John Luigi by then, and working freelance on the com­puter at night. The newspaper paid her to cover special events, and she still had time for her own work. She sold almost everything she had in her show and the money was good, better than she expected. She and John took long lunches at the restaurants on Wooster Street. She tried not to think of the wire sculptor much, but some nights it dawned on her that she had not met John Luigi in the nine squares, and that the whole thing with him would turn out to be a terrible sham.

            There were no bells and fireworks inside of her when Matthew showed up. He was just there in her doorway smelling like whiskey and cloves. He was back after eight months. He had the condom ready like he always did, and after, she dressed quickly.

            “That was a mistake,” she said. His hair had grown past his chin. She couldn’t stop looking at his face. She told her self she couldn’t be with someone that messed up. She was with John anyway. She told herself she wasn’t sad. She wanted to cry.

            “I can’t deal with you, Matthew I mean, maybe if you got some help.”

            He smiled his half smile, and for a second she thought he was going to say he’d figured himself out.

            “I love you, Alma,” he said. “And I know you better than any­one does.”

            “You’ve got to go.” When she said it something crumpled in-side of her. She knew that feeling She knew from knowing him.

            She saw him a few more times, but never told John Luigi about him. John got an offer to manage a place in New York, and had already decided to go when Alma found out she was pregnant. She kept the information to herself, the same way she kept to herself the fact that nights when she and John made love, she sometimes imagined the wire sculptor was inside her, and that she did not love John Luigi at all. She didn’t tell Matthew either. Instead, she waited for him to know If he did know, Matthew never mentioned it. Instead, he left. She gave birth to Emily alone in the hospital, and she didn’t hesitate when the nurse asked her for Emily’s last name. She made the decision simply. Mat­thew had worn a condom, John sometimes pulled out too late. She ratio­nalized that Matthew would have been able to tell she was pregnant if Emily was his baby.


            Now that he is back again, she stays up late to finish her prints. She’s been doing work for the college for a long time, photographing brick buildings and stone fountains, flocks of students with their back packs. The prints come out so quickly she wishes they’d take longer. In the darkroom with the soft glow of the safe-light and the water in the sink flowing, she feels like she isn’t quite in the world.

            Until she holds a photograph of some kids crossing campus up to the light, and he is there in the crowd, wearing jeans and a shirt, indistinguishable except that it’s him. The wire sculptor.

            She rips the contact sheets out of their files and it turns out, he’s in forty-two out of seventy-two. Pictures she took on different days, at different times. She thinks back to the days the photos were taken. Every image she has of him was taken when Emily was with her. She lays them out on the table, and silently counts the squares in her head. The sixth square. All of them.

            At home, she gives Emily pasta in the shapes of wagon wheels. She wonders if he’s been watching Emily all day while she printed.

            “Emily, what did you do today?” she asks.

            “Played play dough.” She scrunches her face up when she talks in the same way Alma does. She never acts like Matthew or John.

            Alma looks at the prints while Emily eats. He’s there in the crowd, watching them. She finds herself trying to read the look on his face, to find a shot where his eye corners crinkle and he smiles. She bites her lip.

            She’s about to put the pictures away when Emily knocks her cup onto the floor. The dull sound of plastic hitting the linoleum makes Alma jump.

            “Jesus Emily!” She snaps before she can stop herself.

            Emily’s mouth goes wide. Alma has never lost her cool before. She’s always known she wouldn’t be able to look at herself if she lost it in front of Emily. But suddenly, all the calmness she’s learned to keep in her mind seems to buzz, and she can barely tell her daughter it’s okay.

            She picks the animals up one at a time and chucks them in the wheelbarrow They look helpless in there, their little legs sticking out She’s about to push the wheelbarrow into the alley between her house and the next, when Emily comes running out.

            “Stop it! Stop it!” Emily yells. “My Daddy made those!”


            She takes Emily’s to the babysitter’s and then puts all the animals in the trunk of the car. She drives to a parking lot and throws them in a dumpster. As she tosses them in, she looks at one of the pigs. She tells herself she does not want Emily to have these toys.

            She goes home to wait. When she hears his feet pound up the steps her heart thunders. For the first time since Emily was born, she wants a cigarette.

            “You can’t come here anymore,” she says through the door. She says it over and over to herself in her head.

            “Alma.” He sounds choked up. “Let me in.

            “I’m not opening this door.”

            “We have to talk.”

            She makes her voice stern. “Matthew, I think you’re sick. I think you need to go get help and leave us alone.” When she says it, she feels like she’s betraying him.

            He doesn’t answer.

            “You’ve got to go.

            “Alma, open the door. It would be so good. You wouldn’t have to be alone with the baby. I’ll work, and you won’t have to take pictures of the college anymore.”

            “I like taking pictures of the college.” She’s yelling.

            “You love me,” he says.

            She waits.

            He clears his throat on the other side of the door.

            “I got a blood test,” she lies. “It’s not you. Really, it’s not. If it was you, things could be different. I just don’t think we’re supposed to be together.”

                                    She sits down on the floor with her back to the door. She waits a long time, and he doesn’t say anything. It seems like it could go on forever, the two of them waiting. She’s there, against the door, and she’s not going to open it. She thinks she can hear him breathing She wonders about magic, how it works, how he can always know things, what he has in his head in the network of wires that lets him know things and makes him crumple all the time. She wonders if she hadn’t had a baby if she would know how to control her breathing so well, so well that she can hide the fact that she’s crying She wonders if she hadn’t had a baby, if she would always have gone back to the wire sculptor.

            He bangs his hand on the door once, and then he is gone. And he doesn’t come back.


            After Emily turns three, she outgrows the backpack, and one morning, in a hurry, Alma takes her out in the pram. Leaves funnel up around them as they walk, and Emily claps her hands. Alma is sure the wire sculptor is gone again, and she breathes the fall air in deeply as they head towards the green.

            “This old man, he played one,” they sing. “He played knick knack on my thumb.”

            They have to wait to cross Trumble Street, and the song loses momentum. Alma scans the road for an upcoming break in traffic, and looks down at Emily. She’s unfastened one of the elephants from the stroller. Alma’s breath chokes in her throat and she counts the squares in her head until she reaches the fourth. They stand between College and Church, Grove and Elm. The light up on Temple Street changes, and the pram rattles as she pushes it, shoving it quickly ahead of her and clear to the other side where she turns down Lincoln Street and away from the grid pattern, picking up speed, while below her, in the seat, Emily has undone the elephant and is molding a small man out of wire.


            Later, years later, she will know he wrapped himself in wire so he could stay, to give the illusion of sculpture and remain hanging over them. She is old the year they find the wire sculptor’s bones. The blizzard of that winter knocks the sculpture of a man from the top of the art museum. She’s trudging through the snow on Chapel Street when she sees the police looking at the sculpture. When they turn it over, a spray of tear shaped icicles releases from inside. She finds her­self counting the squares in her head for the first time in years.

            “He’s gone,” she says.



About the Prize Winner:

Tara Jill Ciccarone is currently enrolled in the University of New Orleans’ MFA program in Creative writing. Her essay, “The Wire Sculptor,” was selected as the winner of this year’s Touchstone graduate fiction contest.

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