Magic Hands

Paulo perused his favorite artistic publication, Hands of Clay and Stone. An advertisement in the back caught his attention. It touted the wonders of clay uncovered in Magic, Montana when contractors were digging at a new reservoir site. “Magic Clay!” the ad screamed in bold red letters. “The perfect medium for the contemporary artisan. Limited quantities. Order now.”

Paulo had not been working in clay very long, and had, in fact, only taken up the art since his retirement from the factory. Still, he was considered quite talented by the locals and his work sold quickly and for high prices. Perhaps a more seasoned artist would not have been drawn in by the ad, but Paulo was excited to try Magic Clay. Something about the ad intrigued him. He went to the online site mentioned in the ad and was shocked by the high cost of the stuff. The site itself was bland, although the ad copy was compelling. It claimed there was nothing like Magic Clay anywhere due to some odd geological quirk.

Pulling out his credit card, he ordered the smallest available size. For $299.00 plus shipping, he could have a mere two pounds. Shaking his head at his own possible foolishness, he nonetheless placed the order.

Two weeks later, when Paulo had practically forgotten about Magic Clay, a package arrived on his doorstep early in the morning. It was plain and unadorned. Paulo pulled his glasses from his shirt pocket and squinted at the address label, which at first glance looked genuine. Closer scrutiny, however, revealed much of it was nonsense.

Magic Clay
!☼♦£¶§ West
Magic ΩΨ,ЗӨא‍♂♀

With a hint of foreboding, Paulo took the package inside and opened it. He was beginning to feel as if he might have been duped. There were no papers inside, no packing slips, and no order forms, just the product. Wrapped in a thick coating of plastic was a single block of flesh-colored clay. His fingers trembled slightly as he slit the covering with his knife. Spreading the plastic apart, he revealed a perfect cube of medium. Touching it with a fingertip, Paulo discovered it was not only soft and smooth, but warm. Over and over again, he stroked the clay, leaving a shallow trail on its surface. So soothing was the texture, he began to sway rhythmically. Pulling himself away was difficult.

Paulo rushed to his bedroom and changed quickly into his work clothes, all concerns over purchasing a bogus product gone. He couldn’t wait to sculpt with the Magic Clay. Carrying it to his studio, Paulo placed it on the counter and turned up the heat in the small space. It had grown quite cold outside overnight.

Soon the room was cozy and Paulo held the strange clay in his hands, kneading it and pressing it between his palms. It was pliable and silken to the touch, while at the same time, it was strong, like nothing he’d ever felt before. He did not need to work it to make it malleable. Plus, it retained its warmth, and Paulo rolled it against the skin of his hands in a state of wonder.

He was accustomed to throwing pots and vases but had been considering trying his hand at hand building and this clay felt right for such an attempt. He didn’t even think he’d need to add grog; the clay felt perfect.

He could come up with no idea for a project with this wonderful material. As he worked the Magic Clay into one shape after another, he began to grow drowsy, falling into a hypnotic state. He lost awareness of his surroundings.

Much later, Paulo opened his eyes to find the studio dim with late evening shadows. Hours had passed without his knowledge. A wriggling sensation against his palms prompted Paulo to look down. He opened his clay-covered hands and there, inside, he found the figure of a small person. But it wasn’t just a figure. It moved.

Paulo sighed with satisfaction. He had never attempted to sculpt before, but his magnificent artistic skill had surpassed all his expectations. This time, he had created life. He placed the small man gently on his workbench, and the tiny figure immediately stood and began wandering across the cluttered surface, looking at this and prodding that. Paulo turned on a lamp, leaned down to examine the creature, and nodded his approval. The little man was perfect; his musculature well-defined, skin supple, and shape proportional to his stature.

“I’m even more talented than I thought,” Paulo mused softly, but the man ignored him, intent on exploring his new world. “You need a name. Oh, how I wish I could call you Adam, but I don’t want to be a copycat. I don’t want to steal ideas from the real God, so I can’t do that, although it’s quite tempting. No, I’ll call you Aidan instead.”

As Aidan stood on the edge of the table and looked over, Paulo absentmindedly reached out a hand to block him from falling. The small man backed up and turned his attention to the dented metal cup of sculpting tools, eyeing them with curiosity. But fascinating as Aidan was, Paulo’s mind had already returned to the Magic Clay. Less than half of it remained.

“You’ll be lonely,” he told Aiden as he kneaded the rest of the clay. “I will make you a companion, just as Eve was created for Adam.”

As Paulo worked the material, the same trance-like state descended over him. The next time he opened his hands, a small woman lay across his palms, her dark hair flung over her head in a glistening sheet. As she rose to a sitting position, Paulo could see that she, too, was flawless. She knelt on her knees and looked up at him, her face a thing of miniature beauty. Very tenderly, Paulo placed her on the surface beside the man. The two looked at each other with expressions of interest. Aidan offered his hand, and the woman took it. As they clasped hands, Paulo smiled.

“Yes,” he whispered. “This is right. And I will name you Elbe. Stay still now, and don’t wander. I’ll be right back.”

I must make a world of people. Paulo rushed into the house for the sculpting journal so he could order more Magic Clay. But the ad was not where it had been in the magazine. He had even circled it in pencil. But now, the circled ad was one for life insurance. How strange! Fortunately, Paulo remembered the website address. Undeterred, he sat at his computer and typed in, but the site could not be found. He pulled up his computer’s history, but found no evidence of magic clay there either. Slumped in his chair, Paulo stared out his window at the darkened night sky.

Two, then, would be all he could create. He sighed and walked to the back door to return to his studio, already planning in his mind the small town he would construct for his people to live in. Looking up at the starry sky, he whispered, “Well, You started with only two. I suppose I can do the same.”

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