The Mannersword 2
by Patrick Coughlin
Left To It
It is not unusual among the tinkers for families to be large, which is neither to say that it is usual, some have many some have few, some even have none, just as I have found it to be with the people in the settled places, all though not all of them, that must be said as well. That said, in my family, I was younger to four and older to two at the time of the onset of my first long walking. There was and (I persist) is a sister who is oldest who I never met for she had the fitful foot as well, and had commenced her long walking some years ahead of my being born on the move.
Speculations on the nature of her present status and possible past adventures was always a foregone conclusion as to the question of my and my siblings preferred subject for storynod, as well as a converstion topic any old time, but sometimes the Old Boy would get that sad old faraway wandering heart look in his eyes, and he would make that long slow cluck lowly, and Mother Dear would cross the table and place her gentle hand on his arm and our wandering sister would not be spoken of for a time after that happened. To spare the Old Boy the stinging. You know.
It wasn’t my intention to tell you of our older sister the wanderer today, but I suppose she was wandering around my heart, as she tends to often, and so she has shown up here as well, as is only natural.
I was going to tell you, beloved eyes and ears of the heart, of the time I first walked long. And so I shall do.
It was a morning, sunny and green, not many days after the Setceles for my fifth birthday I woke and found myself in a place which was different from where I had fallen asleep. I did not know it fully comprehensible yet, at the time, that is, but it was the first time my fitful foot had carried me away without my permission.
Not that memory dictates it but rather circumstances of this time and place we share together my friend, that allow me to tell you how I looked around me on that sunny morning, casting for a glimpse of the caravan and the cart, my thoughts and voice acted as one and I said;
– But, if I’ve walked away from them, they’ll leave me to it!
To understand this sad and unavoidable thought made sound, hark to the flow of this talk I had with the Old Boy one night by the set’s big fire. I had asked him why, if it made him sad and put the look of the faraway wandering heart in his eyes to think on our wandering older sister, why he did not go a’looking for her?
-I must leave her to it. We must all leave her to it. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s got to be. You know there is law, and by tinker law no long walker may be interfered with.
-What if the caravan and her bump into each other?
-That would be a happy day, indeed.
-Could she walk with us then?
-Yes. For as long as she wanted. But we could not make her stay.
-Will I go long walking, Old Boy?
-I don’t want you to, my Boose.
-But will I?
-I think you might.
-Will you leave me to it, too? And Mother Dear?
-I don’t want you to!
-When it happens you will. Among all the different kinds of people in the wide world, unhappiness is most rare among the long walkers. They are favored by the mysterious force…
As I stood there in the unknown place I said it again; “They’ll leave me to it!” though my voice raised considerably this time and big globby tears soaked my cheeks and dropped of my chin in a tiny rain. Then I heard an odd sound;
I spun surprised at the sound, and my eyes beheld their first truly unusual sight.
Well, to be specific, two truly unusual sights, one a thing, the other a person, but as the two are so unified…Well, you’ll forgive my despicable tendency, or to put it more sincerely, flaw in my storytelling to follow these inconsequential via obviousness of detail, details branching constantly , but hold no real interest toward our purposes here, which is to say we can see these things well enough should we wish it so or even if we cannot help but do so and there is no need to discuss them.
So, the sight, from the ground up. Green grass, the invisible air above the grass, then a great block of stone floating in the air, topped with what can only be described as the block’s rider, a curiously amused looking smooshy kind of fellow with big bright eyes on a softish cleanish baldish dome of a head floatily emerging from the stiff high collar of his shiny silky robe of red the style of which I’d never seen.
He said again, and put an amply fingered hand to where his mouth would be below and behind that collar, giggling strangely, though not in any way to make me take caution, on the contrary he laughed like baby sister laughs. The strange boy pointed, and giggled some more.
I looked to where he was pointing, and saw something yonder way. I walked to it and found a mysterious mess. It was a tangled clothesline with all sorts of odd things caught up in it as if it had been dragged cross country and many different yards until finally disengaged. Indeed, the furthest point the clothesline traveled held one of my socks in it’s knotty grip.
He was telling me my unconscious adventure had caught his eye, and had clearly been filled with gleeful delight at the entertainment. I pulled my sock free and put it back on. I remember it was wet with dew. I waved to him then and said;
-Well, see you later Shim-shoy.
And I started walking.
I could tell the Shim-Shoy Boy (I call him the Shim-Shoy boy because he seemed more like a boy than a man, but he was so unusually alien he…. well, it was his eyes, really. They put one in mind of both a lively curious kitten and a great old tree at the same time, if that makes sense), I could tell he was following me, floating along behind. I continued on until I heard once more;
I turned and looked at him again. He had stopped short some steps of mine back and was a little sad now. I told him;
-I can’t play with you, Shim-Shoy. I have to walk long now, and must be left to it. You can come along if you want.
He floated back a little on his stone block and with a determined look shot forward again but could not progress past the point where he was before. He did it again to show me. I asked;
At this, he brought his big eyelids and big hands down slowly, and the stone block came gently to ground. When it did, the block suddenly glowed brightly to my eyes, and I could see inside of it somehow and there were mazes inside of it. There was also a rope around it I could not see before. I walked along the length of the rope, noticing that everything in the world had turned different colors. I found the other end of the rope buried in the ground. there was a garden shovel tangled in the clothesline I snagged and dragged through the night and the world, and as I ran to get it, I took in more keenly the color shift, and saw that the Shim-Shoy boy still sat quiet and still where his now blazing brightly stone block rested aground. I could not tell if he was looking at me or not, but I waved to him with the now oddly colored shovel in my hand, saying;
-Don’t worry, Shim-Shoy!
I dug up the ground where the rope was buried. I found the other end finally, tied about a piece of heavy metal far larger in size than my modestly dug hole could reveal. I could not untie the knot, so I tried to cut it with the shovel, which ended with me conkin’ my own noggin good. Frustrated in failure, the story about the Mouse, Vehn Rous, came into my mind and I set to gnawing at the rope with my own gnashing teeth. Chomping mightily, the rope become cut, and as it did it just melted away suddenly, poof! The whole rope! Suddenly everything was it’s good old colors again, and the loudest sound I ever heard shook the world;
I looked up, and up, and up, for that is where the Shim-Shoy boy was flying, leaving neat, gently poked little holes in clouds as he shot through them on his stone block, and a great feeling was all over me and inside me as I beheld the sight.
When he did not come back down, and the little cloudholes closed up, I was about to call to him, but my foot fluttered, and I realized that I was wrong about the Shim-Shoy Boy. It was not companionship he sought, but rather, like my own fitful foot, the freedom to move, and now that he had it I would have to leave him to it. Perhaps it is likely that my young thoughts were not were not so well elocuted (if they are now), so here we are reminded of the unique luxuries of this time and place.
And so I followed my foot, my fitful foot, as the song goes, and let it take me where it would that first day of my long walking.
P.S. In case you were wondering, this is not the last time I would encounter the Shim-Shoy Boy. I like to see you squirm in anticipation, my most highly estimated fellow traveler, but it would be cruel to withhold such information, I’m sure you’ll agree.