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June, 2021 2nd place winner: a Fine Balance by Terri Mullholland

‘It’s a fine balance,’ said Anna. She aligned two sticks to form the supporting beams of the roof. ‘Everything affects everything else.’

I’d watched this model fisherman’s hut take shape over the weeks I’d been visiting Anna. We met at the seafront gallery. I told her how much I admired her sculptures; tiny houses and huts on bases of grass or sand. Some were furnished, like dolls’ houses, but there were never any dolls living there. They were always empty spaces, waiting for something.

Anna invited me to her studio. I arrived every day at noon and sat in the corner, watching her work. She talked, documenting her process, but never asked anything about me.

I looked at her models in envy; what I would give to live in one of those beautiful, tranquil spaces, rather than the chaotic life I lived on the sofas of long-suffering friends and in a string of short-term hostels.

One day I brought her a piece of corrugated metal from the beach, large enough to roof a full-sized hut. Anna was delighted.

I wondered if it was too big if the scale of the corrugated waves would be wrong.

‘Anything can be cut to size,’ she said.

I never knew how she did it, but the next day it was in place, a perfect roof in perfect scale.

When the hut was complete, we both stepped back to admire it.

‘I’d like to live in that hut,’ I said.

Anna nodded. ‘Yes, my models need a person in them. I think you’d be perfect.’

I laughed, thinking she was joking, forgetting that anything can be cut to size.

‘It’s a fine balance between art and life,’ said Anna, once she had installed me in the hut. ‘I’m hoping I’ve got it just right.’

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