By Joshua Nicolás Prits

Billions of faces, duplicated, altered, fused; all the billions of faces gazed at him in his head, reminding him of their appearance and nature. From image to fingertips, he transferred what he remembered and what he assumed onto a wooden shape, of Venetian origin, upon these many masks which lay on stubs and stands for display. He makes the masks into faces. The faces that have seen love, faces that have seen surprise, the faces that have seen the world, he crafted these masks in reflection of his perspective. He had nothing more to his trade, for he sailed the riviera in his youth to the wide continent, to a mercantile land, guided by dreams to sell these masks, investing only in his craft. These paintings were meant for facial accessories, colored by his recollections of many passerbys and celebrities. The masks once sold enough to make ends meet, enough to gain him the stability he sought, enough to allow him to comfortably fall in love and have a daughter. These masks would be his unique portrayals and personification of his memories. But these masks would go out of fashion, and his accounts would meet their lows once again, and his wife would be driven away into a distant mystery, joining the many wandering souls he retained in his memories.

This artist is the local maker of Masks, tall and graying, furrowed brows in permanence, with a stubble that had outrun the days. But he cared not for comfort nor dreams any longer. He cared only for the sweet daughter that had blessed his world and the sunshine she carried. Those many painted eyes witnessed the growth of the girl with the passing of each season, and their perpetual expressions would occasionally vanish with a fortunate sale or eventual frustration by the Mask Maker disposing of his undesired works.

There had come a point where the motor home and assortment of masks were all they materially possessed; in daily constancy stood love, firing up each day and settling each night no matter the circumstance at hand. He faced rejection at every turn, loss at every step, the echoes of reminiscence berating him with doubts he could succumb to. 

The Mask Maker loved his daughter dearly. She made his life worth every moment. She would whistle a tune in the mornings, and he would wake from his nightmares, springing to action and working from mid-morning to the hidden hours of night. She would study her books while he pushed his masks, finely crafted and plentifully made. He found it hard to maintain the ledgers, the birth records of the masks. But to her, the record keeping was second nature.

The Mask Maker painstakingly sketched and painted his latest creation, based off of a fascinating passerby he witnessed on his weekly commute aboard the train. His frustration from a slight error snapped the brush between his fingers, dragging the paint across the face and creating a true blunder staring him in the eye. In response, his daughter giggled, hopped from her bed with a book under her arm, and took a glance at the mask while her father massaged his throbbing temples in an attempt to regain composure.

“It’s ugly,” she mentioned.

“Yeah, it’s trash now.”

“But ugly doesn’t mean bad. Ugly can be fun, like a pug or a pig. Why does it have to look like a real person?”

“Because real people are what I see.”

“So then see more than just everyday people!”

Under the fuzz of a mild sun, their motor home cruised by ponds along the heartland, those beds of water giving hearth to gliding fish and lounging ducks. They pulled out of the highway onto a riverside knoll, home to a lone wide-armed bush he could not identify but decided to rest against. In a quick turn to her stressed father, she smiled brightly,

“Don’t just look, feel,” She bubbled, “It’s a pretty day! Take it in.”

And it was a pleasant day. The sunlight’s touch heated his skin, the whizz of the eager dragonflies brushed past him, and he washed the gentle blue-white shine of the mellow pond. His daughter hummed a slow melody in the sweetest demeanor, just low enough to hear the rest of the land alongside her tune.

The father breathed in the sensation of life for the first time in several years, and he could only tear up watching the prairie grass move silently in the chilled breeze, reminding him of so long ago when life was young and blissfully joyous. A nostalgic whisper crawled from his heart into his soul.

Within moments, he released a pocket sketchbook and threw down what his core being now understood. His daughter could only smile as she looked over at the new design. With bulky edges and prominent eyes, he sketched an adorable, animated turtle face with a presentation of pure happiness. 

Several other drawings came, all in the same family of style. Poppy creatures with cool, unique, and loving looks, expressions beyond the typical face. The design of nature guided his imagination to a grander aesthetic, drawing from cartoons and games from his youth in a funnel of inspired wilderness art. He felt as if this creative venture would provide stability for his eternal muse, his gentle daughter with a spirit of stardust. 

The new designs would spring life into the shapes of the masks. The images that would grace their presence on these bubbly masks became the signature looks of off season athletes, and celebrity icons would make headlines with their new facial accessories, and the socialites would eventually raffle his product for millions. The faces, those jubilant, beautiful faces which stared at him in his new home smiled at him in his most colorful dreams. Aboard the Rushmore of his heart, his mother, his father, his daughter, and his first turtle mask would gleefully gaze at him in the permanent expression of their loving eyes , sending him along the life path of peace and financial security he had always envisaged with his longing warmth.

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