“Just a touch,” he said, his eyebrows up, his hands clenched, worried his student would muddy the thing.
“A dab is all it takes,” he said, and watched Julian dip the swab too deep in the stain, like his daughter did when she painted her nails, an activity that also made him wince. She’d dip the the tiny brush in nail lacquer and pull it out without scraping it along the lip of the bottle, and he’d want to cup his hand under the brush to catch the looming drip. The first touch of brush to nail would leave a big glob of paint that his daughter then rushed to spread among all of her toes before it dripped off or got too gummy to disperse. You’d think she’d learn. He sighed.
Julian knew his teacher was tense. Julian seemed to have that effect on the craftsman. He tried to do everything right, but the harder he tried, the worse he made things. Julian thought about that time at the pool, when a fit, muscled father tried to teach his daughter to swim. They were strangers to Julian, and he watched from behind his book as he lounged in a pool chair. The daughter was maybe six, and the dad’s age was hard to determine. He was tanned and his skin showed signs of aging – a hint of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, thin elbow skin – but it was impossible to tell whether this was from a lifetime of outdoor activity or from age.
The dad’s tricep was tattooed with the Olympic rings, and it was obvious he was passionate about swimming. His daughter bore the brunt of that passion.
“If you’d just RELAX, you would float,” the dad said, his hands under her back as she squirmed on the surface. He nearly shook with frustration. His daughter’s face scrunched with her effort to be still, and each time her chest would drop below the surface, and her dad yelled at her to JUST RELAX, she flinched. She never did float on her own that day.
That’s how it was with Julian, with his damned teacher hovering all the time. Julian touched the swab to the wood, and his shoulders sagged as it left a blob of stain where a gentle stroke should have gone.
Photo credit: Cotton buds by Nic McPhee
For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Thank you to Jay E. for the prompt “Cotton swabs.”