It stood in the middle of the market square – a pipe in the mouth, a hat with flaps, a nose as long as Pinocchio’s nose, a cravat and waistcoat. All chipped, chiselled and carved from stone.
I shivered as rain began to threaten with ominous grumbles from thunderheads along the visible part of the horizon.
But I was not shivering alone for long, as a woman, one of the locals, had arrived close by without an umbrella - and she told me that it had stood there for donkey’s years. But, to me, the real life statue looked pristine, unweathered, as if newly chipped, chiselled and carved. It stood in the afternoon appearing as if it had been made in the morning. And I told her so.
During her thinking time, let me tell you that I was on tour of this foreign principality, seeking curiosities. This being the most curious of all. Even the queer animal with large ears skulking in a downtrodden restaurant nearby depleted in its curiosity by comparison.
The woman, meanwhile, gave the impression that she had walked into the square prepared … by pulling out a sepia photograph that she plonked under my nose. It looked as if it had been hastily ripped from an album as the four corners still bore their sticky separate corners.
“Look ‘ee, that was taken afore not afar the war, and proves what I say,” she said.
Lo and behold, it was exactly the same statue, complete with flappy hat, Pinocchio nose, even buttons on the waistcoat I had failed to notice in real life…
“The cravat has gone,” I suddenly announced, having just noticed this fact by dint of comparing the real-life photo with the statue.
“Ah well, yay, that was added by a chipper master,” she said, with a proud, preening gesture.
“How can you add stone to stone and still make it look continuous?” I asked.
I forget how long it was to take me to think of the question. Her answer, too.
“Ah, the scarf was dug outta his chest,” she said.
I did now notice that it was more a scarf than a cravat, and that the real life statue had a sunken chest upon which sat the scarf like something that began to look like something that wasn’t a scarf at all.
“Why was that done?” I asked absently, sensing disinterest creeping upon me.
The woman looked blank. Then she spoke again, as if she were making things up as she went.
“The town wanted the statue changed each year as a mark of time’s wear and tear.”
She seemed more in command of her words, despite the hesitation.
I then proceeded to examine the new-found dips and dingles that were all over the statue’s inner stone, presumably where things had been dug out of what had once been outer stone. I thought I was glimpsing parts of his body under the clothes. I am sure it had not been like that when I first noticed it in the square.
I glanced back, I remember, at the sepia photograph – and the woman was in it – instead of standing beside me. And I felt a sudden pain in my belly, felt it with my hand, as it sank further into the stone.
Except it eventually felt more like bone than stone.
It all ended with a flash of lightning.
Or was it someone in real life donkey’s years ago taking a photograph?
Adapted from last night's speed-writing exercise at the Clacton Writers' Group.