With These Hands by C. M. Kornbluth

With These Hands C M Kornbluth

With These Hands C M Kornbluth

HALVORSEN WAITED in the Chancery office while Monsignor Reedy disposed of three persons who had preceded him. He was a little dizzy with hunger and noticed only vaguely that the prelate’s secretary was beckoning to him. He started to his feet when the secretary pointedly opened the door to Monsignor Reedy’s inner office and stood waiting beside it.

The artist crossed the floor, forgetting that he had leaned his portfolio against his chair, remembered at the door and went back for it, flushing. The secretary looked patient.

“Thanks,” Halvorsen murmured to him as the door closed.

There was something wrong with the prelate’s manner.

“I’ve brought the designs for the Stations, Padre,” he said, opening the portfolio on the desk.

“Bad news, Roald,” said the monsignor. “I know how you’ve been looking forward to the commission—”

“Somebody else get it?” asked the artist faintly, leaning against the desk. “I thought his eminence definitely decided I had the—”

“It’s not that,” said the monsignor. “But the Sacred Congregation of Rites this week made a pronouncement on images of devotion. Stereopantograph is to be licit within a diocese at the discretion of the bishop. And his eminence—”

“S.P.G.—slimy imitations,” protested Halvorsen. “Real as a plastic eye. No texture. No guts. You know that, Padre!” he said accusingly.

“I’m sorry, Roald,” said the monsignor. “Your work is better than we’ll get from a Stereopantograph—to my eyes, at least. But there are other considerations.”

“Money!” spat the artist.

“Yes, money,” the prelate admitted. “His eminence wants to see the St. Xavier U. building program through before he dies. Is that wrong, Roald? And there are our schools, our charities, our Venus mission. S.P.G. will mean a considerable saving on procurement and maintenance of devotional images. Even if I could, I would not disagree with his eminence on adopting it as a matter of diocesan policy.”

The prelate’s eyes fell on the detailed drawings of the Stations of the Cross and lingered.

“Your St. Veronica,” he said abstractedly. “Very fine. It suggests one of Caravaggio’s careworn saints to me. I would have liked to see her in the bronze.”

“So would I,” said Halvorsen hoarsely. “Keep the drawings, Padre.” He started for the door.

“But I can’t-”

“That’s all right.”

The artist walked past the secretary blindly and out of the Chancery into Fifth Avenue’s spring sunlight. He hoped Monsignor Reedy was enjoying the drawings and was ashamed of himself and sorry for Halvorsen. And he was glad he didn’t have to carry the heavy portfolio any more. Everything was heavy lately—chisels, hammer, wooden palette. Maybe the padre would send him something and pretend it was for expenses or an advance, as he had in the past.

Halvorsen’s feet carried him up the Avenue. No, there wouldn’t be any advances any more. The last steady trickle of income had just been dried up, by an announcement in Osservatore Romano. Religious conservatism had carried the church as far as it would go in its ancient role of art patron.

When all Europe was writing on the wonderful new vellum, the church stuck to good old papyrus. When all Europe was writing on the wonderful new paper, the church stuck to good old vellum. When all architects and municipal monument committees and portrait bust clients were patronizing the stereopantograph, the church stuck to good old expensive sculpture. But not any more.

He was passing an S.P.G. salon now, where one of his Tuesday night pupils worked: one of the few men in the classes. Mostly they consisted of lazy, moody, irritable girls. Halvorsen, surprised at himself, entered the salon, walking between asthenic semi-nude stereos executed hi transparent plastic that made the skin of his neck and shoulders prickle with gooseflesh. Slime! he thought. How can they— “May Lhelp—oh, hello, Roald. What brings you here?” He knew suddenly what had brought him there. “Could you make a little advance on next month’s tuition, Lewis? I’m strapped.” He took a nervous look around the chamber of horrors, avoiding the man’s condescending face.

“I guess so, Roald. Would ten d’ollars be any help? That’ll carry us through to the twenty-fifth, right?”

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Categories: C M Kornbluth