He stares so intently at the work of his hands that he almost doesn’t hear the knock on his doorpost, and a customer invites himself in. He gives him the smile of a salesman and waves a clay-coated hand towards the shelf housing his most recent creations, but the way the customer holds himself tells him he’s not there to purchase.
He shrugs. One customer won’t make a difference; business has been tepid at best. He only carries on because shaping clay has become a daily need for him; he feels that if he lets his hands lay idle, the residue of mud coating his hands would solidify in his sleep.
The customer continues to watch as he shapes and reshapes the slab of clay over and over again, smoothing out every single wrinkle, finding new ones, redoing everything and ironing the same spots until he can fool himself into thinking that he’s satisfied.
He’s not even finished when the customer clinks a few coins on his worktable and leaves with a pot plucked at random from the shelf. The potter shrugs to himself, and continues to spin his wheel.
A moment later, he feels, rather than hears the sound of a pot shattering to pieces, and he discovers he’s not surprised enough to cringe anymore.