Monday, October 20, 2008

The Word Smith

Chayman relished the passing of time. The more hours that spooled past on fate's spinning wheel, the more time he had with his words, and the more he learned. He had not come to his trade easily; when his father had announced Chayman's apprenticeship to the Word Smiths Guild, his child self had screamed and launched tantrum after tantrum. Chayman had, like so many boys in his neighborhood of crooked narrow streets, hoped of being apprenticed to the ride masters or the fire bearers. Even the light-wielding wizards of the Fiber Optics Guild would have been preferable. But the economic necessity of unloading child number four and his father's provision of a cheese wheel to the Word Smith Guild chartermaster sealed Chayman's fate. It wasn't until twenty years later, after days spent cobbling wooden word boxes and nights spent poring over endless dictionaries, when Chayman opened his first shop that he felt a tiny twinge of excitement.

Six decades beyond that day, Chayman still spent every morning pulling open the bamboo shutters of that same shop. He could mark his own small blood stains on the wooden floors, and could differentiate them from the blood spilled that cold morning from the veins of the Councilwoman. He could remember which nick in his worktable corresponded to the construction of which word box - an easier feat than perhaps one would think, given the relatively few words he had permitted entry to his shelves. And he could, for a few of those older words, tell the interested browser when was the last time, decades ago, that he had slid that word box from its shelf. Sometimes it saddened him to see those grand dames fall into disuse, but most days he accepted it with magnanimity, enjoying his privileged position as caretaker for the old, fragile words.

For truly, that's what it meant to be a Word Smith. Each day he hung his guild's motto outside his storefront, naturally preferring the advertisement of a sentence over the visual allure of a showcase window.

"Words are our tools. We have to take care of them." - C. Mejia

After having repeated that mantra thousands of times with his bruised knees against cold stone floors in the Guild's rectory, Chayman had felt it creep into his heart and overtake him with its simple poetry. Each word box that he built, shaping each hollow letter into a unified wooden word, capable of holding all the meaning they would place into it, was stamped with that motto. All of the word boxes he inherited from Ustery, who had worked in this store until the day he died, bore the same motto. The Guild dedicated their lives to it.

Chayman, being not quite old but certainly not young, and with his lungs bearing the testament of his youthful indulgence in jade weed, expected that his life had been fully dedicated to the motto and foresaw no more than two decades of future dedication. Of course, as we know, he was rather mistaken in that prediction.

* Credit for the Word Smith Guild's motto goes to this author's wonderful co-worker; many thanks for his insight and inspiration.

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Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma