• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 06
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God-given Talent

Above his desk are quotes he decorated in Sunday School.

Every day you’ve got to be your best self.

It’s a sin to waste a God-given talent.

His mother had put them into frames and nailed them to his wall, like Christ to the cross.

Irwin pinches the clay between his finger and thumb and rolls it. Already the heat of his body is making it soft. He breathes carefully, through his mouth, leans forward and selects the tool he needs from the array beneath the lamp. It illuminates his desktop like an operating theatre. The white clay is still too big. He uses the tip of his thumbnail to lever off a chunk and commences rolling and moulding again.

‘Irwin.’ His mother’s voice is raised up over the hymns blasting from the radio. He can picture her, face glazed with the pan steam, pinafore tight around her skinny frame. ‘Irwin, set the table please.’ He presses a little too hard. The tiny earphones snap. He sighs and balls them back to indeterminate clay.

‘Irwin!’ The edge is there now. He squashes the ball into an oval and stares at it, imagines it life-sized, tucked against his armpit and his ribs. He flies across the turf, legs like pistons and lungs on fire. He makes the line and dives in exultation. The boys crowd round and coach pulls his head in close. ‘See you for practice on Sunday. You’re looking good, kid.’

Irwin lays the ball on the desktop and squashes it flat beside the miniature briefcase, the tiny crumpled jacket and the minuscule pair of blue jeans. He reaches forward and switches out the light. He unhooks his earphones from around his neck and picks up his Bible.