With These Hands by C. M. Kornbluth

“I think they’re wonderful,” said the girl.

Roald saw the spaceman go rigid with the effort not to turn and stare at her. He loved her and he was jealous.

Roald told the story of the dolphins and said: “The price that the architect thought was too high was three hundred and sixty dollars.”

Malone grunted. “Doesn’t seem unreasonable—if you set a high store on inspiration.”

“I don’t know about inspiration,” the artist said evenly. “But I was awake for two days and two nights shoveling coal and adjusting drafts to fire that thing in my kiln.”

The spaceman looked contemptuous. “I’ll take it,” he said. “Be something to talk about during those awkward pauses. Tell me, Hal-vorsen, how’s Lucy’s work? Do you think she ought to stick with it?”

“Austin,” objected the girl, “don’t be so blunt. How can he possibly know after one day?”

“She can’t draw yet,” the artist said cautiously. “It’s ah1 coordination, you know—thousands of hours of practice, training your eye and hand to work together until you can put a line on paper where you want it. Lucy, if you’re really interested in it, you’ll learn to draw well. I don’t think any of the other students will. They’re in it because of boredom or snobbery, and they’ll stop before they have their eye-hand coordination.”

“I am interested,” she said firmly.

Malone’s determined restraint’broke. “Damned right you are. In—” He recovered himself and demanded of Halvorsen: “I understand your point about coordination. But thousands of hours when you can buy a camera? It’s absurd.”

“I was talking about drawing, not art,” replied Halvorsen. “Drawing is putting a line on paper where you want it, I said.” He took a deep breath and hoped the great distinction wouldn’t sound ludicrous and trivial. “So let’s say that art is knowing how to put the line in the right place.”

“Be practical. There isn’t any art. Not any more. I get around quite a bit and I never see anything but photos and S.P.G.s. A few heirlooms, yes, but nobody’s painting or carving any more.”

“There’s some art, Malone. My students—a couple of them in the still-life class—are quite good. There are more across the country. Art for occupational therapy, or a hobby, or something to do with the hands. There’s trade in their work. They sell them to each other, they give them to their friends, they hang them on their walls. There are even some sculptors like that. Sculpture is prescribed by doctors. The occupational therapists say it’s even better than drawing and painting, so some of these people work in plasticine and soft stone, and some of them get to be good.”

“Maybe so. I’m an engineer, Halvorsen. We glory in doing things the easy way. Doing things the easy way got me to Mars and Venus and it’s going to get me to Ganymede. You’re doing things the hard way, and your inefficiency has no place in this world. Look at you! You’ve lost a fingertip—some accident, I suppose.”

“I never noticed-” said Lucy, and then let out a faint, “Oh!”

Halvorsen curled the middle finger of his left hand into the palm, where he usually carried it to hide the missing first joint.

“Accidents are a sign of inadequate mastery of material and equipment,” said Malone sententiously. “While you stick to your methods and I stick to mine, you can’t compete with me.”

His tone made it clear that he was talking about more than engineering.

“Shall we go now, Lucy? Here’s my card, Halvorsen. Send those dolphins along and I’ll mail you a check.”


The artist walked the half-dozen blocks to Mr. Krehbeil’s place the next day. He found the old man in the basement shop of his fussy house, hunched over his bench with a powerful light overhead. He was trying to file a saw.

“Mr. Krehbeil!” Halvorsen called over the shriek of metal.

The carpenter turned around and peered with watery eyes. “I can’t see like I used to,” he said querulously. “I go over the same teeth on this damn saw, I skip teeth, I can’t see the light shine off it when I got one set. The glare.” He banged down his three-cornered file petulantly. “Well, what can I do for you?”

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