(214) Perfect (Short Story)


By Helen Sadler

Turning the pot over and over in her hand looking for imperfections, Lisa turned to the potter and asked, “How much?” It was then they recognized each other.

Lisa was transported in time: it was 1984 and they were in a ceramics class together in high school. This woman with a booth at the local art show had been a nemesis as far back as Lisa could remember. Petra was not necessarily the better artist, but somehow she aced Lisa in every category they competed in – charcoal portraits, watercolor landscapes, abstract acrylic art. No matter what they did in art class, Petra managed to get more recognition. The final straw was senior year when Lisa did everything in her power to be the better potter – alas, to no avail. Petra won every award, going all the way to the state level. Lisa envied Petra for her easy talent and approach to art. No, not just envied — despised. Ever since middle school, Petra had been considered the superior artist and student constantly making Lisa feel less than.

“Lisa?” Petra stared up at her from the chair behind the table. Lisa quickly realized something was different. Petra was sitting in a wheelchair.

“Wha…what is going on, Petra? What happened?”

“Oh, just a little multiple sclerosis. Nothing I can’t handle.” She looked Lisa directly in the eyes now, her gaze soft and kind and brilliant somehow. Lisa felt like she needed to sit down, she was so taken aback with the revelation. She quickly regained her composure and decided to change the subject. “Your pottery is gorgeous. You have come a long way.”

Petra smiled. “I have been fortunate. I did a lot of study in the Edinburgh technique in Scotland. I would probably still be there studying if the MS hadn’t flared up to the point that I can only walk on occasion.”

Now even in the face of debilitating disease, Petra was perfect. Her pottery was perfect. Her attitude was perfect. Every bit of rage Lisa had felt over the years reared up inside her again. Her mind flew through the last ten years of her own life: a dirty and disgusting divorce, her only son addicted to heroin, three car accidents that were her own fault, and a complete abandonment of her own art. When was the last time she pulled out her paints? Threw a pot? Lisa had to face the fact that she couldn’t even pinpoint the year.

She looked back at Petra and then the pottery for sale on the table and shelves, and smiled. “Let me look around. I want to buy one of these lovely pots. In fact, which one is your favorite, Petra?”

Petra didn’t hesitate, as she pointed to a mid-sized pot in a lovely purple, green, and blue glaze. “This one. I love the way it came out. It has a transfer pattern from the Scots. I simply adore it. I have not been able to replicate, no matter how hard I try.”

It was an amazing pot. Breathtaking, in fact.

“Then that is the one I’ll take.” Lisa got out her checkbook, while Petra tallied up the amount with tax and a hefty friend discount. Lisa gave Petra the check, and held the pot while Petra reached back to get packing material. When Petra turned back around, Lisa let the pot slip through her fingers, and it fell quickly, crashing to pieces on the concrete sidewalk.


She only took a moment to look at Petra’s face frozen in horror.

Then she turned and with a satisfied smile, swiftly walked away.


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