My Butter Likeness
by Colleen Morton Busch
I didn't know it was made out of butter. Not right away, at least. You see a sculpture and you don't think butter. You think clay, bronze, copper, sandalwood. Not Land O'Lakes.
Late one Saturday morning, I stopped by the bakery where my boyfriend Russell worked. He led me to the walk-in, a smile of anticipation on his face that made me think he was going to ravage me against the steel shelves, bite the frozen lobes of my ears, his breath coming out in steamy puffs.
"Remember the Butter-Cow Lady we saw on Letterman?" he said, reaching behind a box labeled "Whl. Wheat, 15 lbs."
I remembered her alright, the one who said there wasn't any kind of cow she couldn't sculpt. I hadn't even known there were kinds of cows. I remembered she'd carved a life-sized rendition of The Last Supper out of 2,000 pounds of Iowa sweet cream butter.
Russell's sculpture was about as tall as a cinnamon twist turned upright, pale as Farmer's cheese. I imagined him working in his flour-dusted apron, teasing out strands of hair with a fingernail, shaping nipples with his fingertips.
"My hair's not that long," I said.
Russell's face fell, but it was true. I'd never been able to grow my hair past my shoulders, even when I ate yogurt and took B vitamins. And I didn't say anything about the breasts, plumper, rounder than mine.
"It's representational," he said.
Maybe it was someone else's hair, someone else's breasts—some woman who came into the bakery every morning with a sweet tooth. I'm not much of a pastry eater myself. I imagined her—one of those unkempt second-generation hippy wannabees who walk around with bare feet, no bra, and hairy underarms, with a perfect figure but without the sense to flaunt it.
"I gotta go. Dee Dee's in the car." Dee Dee's my four-year-old Chiweenie—part Dachshund, part Chihuahua.
Russell handed me the sculpture on a trimmed cardboard pizza round. She was slightly off center, and surprisingly light.
"She's molded around a popsicle stick," he said, smiling like he'd just handed me an Oscar. "You'll have to keep her in the fridge."
I carried the sculpture back to the car, where Dee Dee was sleeping in the sun on the dashboard, and then I drove to Russell's. I let Dee Dee wander around the fenced-in backyard and started a note to leave on the table where he tosses his mail, along with the sculpture.
"Dear Butter-Babe Guy," I wrote. "Representational of what?" But that was all. I couldn't explain the strange feeling in my stomach, like when you smell something rancid. I stuffed the crumpled paper in my purse.
I gave my butter likeness a haircut instead, smudging out the long locks beneath her shoulders. Before I left, I set her in the fridge next to the other dairy, the eggs and milk and sour cream, so she'd be there, cold and accurate and lonely, when he got home.