THE PRICE OF BEAUTY

Tim Tucker

Doctor Jacob Goldman was bored out of his goddamned skull. He sat pensively behind his polished oak desk in his medical office, his mind clouded by his own dark impulses. He took a cigarette from an open drawer, lit it with a gold plated zippo lighter and got up to open the silk Venetian curtains so he could gaze out over the city of Los Angelos.

It was always a stellar view, the city nestled against the San Gabriel Mountains like a sprawling jewel under the dying vestiges of sunlight but in his heart Goldman had always felt contempt for the small minded denizens of the City of Angels. He was the true artist, not the vapid and shallow stars who came to his office in the hopes of obtaining the unobtainable but they were the ones who were worshiped like Gods. It was that implied unfairness that he resented to no end, but if they were merely worshiped as Gods then Goldman was a God because to create like the Gods is to be a God. After all, could only a God fashion a face? For the past fifteen years Goldman had done it time and time again – taken what was banal and made it exquisite, taken the mundane and made it magnificent, but sometimes even a God had his limits. Beneath every man and woman's face lay a secret, a hidden perfection masked under the surface of the physical visage. If you could liberate that hidden beauty from the surface reality then you could achieve the final symmetry of pure perfection.

Surgical equipment was too limited to reach that level of deep beauty. If only there was some way to manipulate the face on a cellular level. To sculpt a patient genetically, like a potterer molding a lump of clay. Goldman was reminded of Pablo Picasso, who when bored of painting people in the conventional sense started representing them as cubes and abstract forms. Everyone marveled at his genius. Goldman spent his entire career sculpting the same shapes over and over: the forehead lift, the rhinoplasty, the cleft chin. If only he could do with a knife what that eccentric Spaniard did with a brush...

Goldman blew a plume of smoke into the glass as his darkened reflection stared back at him. Even while inheriting his Jewish fathers pronounced nose and mothers brooding Balkan features he still thought of himself as a strikingly handsome man. It was the eyes, dark pools of amber that regarded the world with a perceptive yet icy professionalism. Despite his alluring good looks Goldman knew that an even better face lurked under the surface of his own. Did he dare to find his own hidden perfection? Was he skilled enough to perform surgery on his own face? Perhaps with a mirror -

"Doctor, the patient is stabilized."

Goldman glanced towards the doorway where his assistant waited for him. Nurse Rachel was a small, mousy black woman in white scrubs. She had a pretty, heart shaped face and plump, glossy lips and Goldman found himself wondering if he could find the perfect beauty hidden beneath her face. Suppose if he could shave back the excess fat under her chin, reduce her pterygoideus muscles by half, then dissect her supra-orbital creases, giving her eyes an even more exotic look...

Rachel fidgeted in the doorway. Perhaps he had been staring at her a little too long. All in due time.

"Ah-yes. I'll be right there." he stubbed his cigarette out in an ornate ashtray on his desk and followed Nurse Rachel down the hall. The patient, a young Latino woman named Nina Chavez, waited for him in the recovery room. She was probably one of the many star struck young women who were drawn to the glitz and glamor of Los Angelos in the hopes of making it big. Now she lay draped under a sheet, her head covered in thick facial wrapping like some exquisite mummy. Goldman stood over his patient, and like a museum curator unveiling his most prized exhibit began to unwrap her bandages.

Nina Chavez's face was slowly revealed. Nurse Rachel gasped...

,,,and clapped her hands together in joy. "Oh my God Doctor, She's beautiful! You've done an excellent job!"

Goldman sighed. It was true, she was quite beautiful. He took her chin in his hand and turned her face from side to side. She had a typically attractive, softly sculpted face now with dimples on her olive cheeks and a matching one on her chin. When the swelling eventually goes down and the scar tissue heals she would look absolutely radiant. Still Goldman wondered what lurked beneath her altered facade.

"Thank you Rachel, it's just...I can't help but think that there's far more to be done, an even more perfect face hidden beneath this pretty little mask."

"Doctor?" Nurse Rachel seemed startled. She swallowed. "You performed the surgery almost perfectly. She'll be thrilled when she wakes up."

"Almost perfectly..." he muttered to himself. "No, no, no...that simply won't do." Goldman brandished a scalpel from his lab coat, the blade mortally sharp under the fluorescent lights.

Nurse Rachel stepped back. "Doctor, w-what are you doing?"

I'm perfecting my subject you dumb bitch. Goldman wanted to say, but instead he made a small incision near Ms. Chavez's temple and traced a thin line across her forehead, her subcutaneous veins erupting in a steady flow of blood.

"Oh my God! Oh my God what are you doing!? Stop cutting Doctor stop!"

Goldman didn't hear her. When he was finished recontouring her forehead he next moved to her orbicularis oculi. Humming tunelessly to himself Goldman slipped the scalpel beneath her eyelid and carved away at the soft tissue. For a moment the stark glare of her eyeball gazed up at Goldman before a pool of blood flooded her orbital cavity. Nurse Rachel ran from the room, screaming bloody murder in her wake as Goldman then proceeded to gouge into those pretty little dimples, giving an even more pleasant smile to the mouth.

Nina Chavez's face had become a crimson mask but Dr. Goldman continued to go deeper, deeper until he realized that no blade was sharp enough to cut away the filth that was the mundane and replace it with sheer, symmetrical perfection.

THE END