‘I made something beautiful!’
The boy was out of breath from running down the street from his own door to the door of his father’s workplace.
‘I made something beautiful!’ he repeated. He said it as he burst through the front door and didn’t even notice that his father was not present. He gladly regaled those who were there with this joyous news anyway.
‘I made something beautiful! I made something beautiful!’ He was getting his breath back and starting to laugh it out now. Dancing on his toes he exited the building and skipped down the busy main street repeating and repeating his euangelion.
No smiles were returned. People scarcely gave him eye contact. It was just possible he would suddenly desist before it was too late and it would be well if no one had ever really acknowledged his deadly error.
But he kept on and then they heard the swift heavy hoofbeats, a deep distant tattoo at first and then very quickly, too quick for comfort, the equine thundering was upon them. It was surprising to be able to hear amid that violent noise the sleeker lethal sound of well-honed blade leaving scabbard in a practiced rush.
The boy was heedless, still heralding his glad tidings and holding aloft in both hands his creation, thrusting it at this person and the next in ecstasy of proud craftsmanship, the shocked delight of one who can’t believe what his hands have produced. This creation hit the ground and rolled over a handful of times long before the boy’s head hit the earth. The clean stroke that took it from his shoulders sent it high and arcing over the bystanders, only a small scarlet thread of blood describing its arc in a beauty none would dare to admit. The body stood erect and shuddering, a far more profligate spray erupting where the head had been, people near grunting out little gasps and shrieks as they cracked into each other trying to leap away from its staining.
But the sound that would stick with them all above all these others was the sound that was repeated in every similar circumstance and had to be locked away from consciousness. The boy’s refrain went through twice more in the air and was half way through a third when the head hit the ground and rolled and continued to repeat ‘I made something beautiful!’ in muffled and then open and then muffled and then open tones, accreting mud into the working mouth.
The horseman sheathed his scarcely bloody blade and made a return pass in which he leant far down off his horse like a showman at the annual fair and scooped up the still declaring head and stuffed it into the wooden box that always hung at his saddle, clapping the lid shut and drowning the declarations to a nearly inaudible mumble amid the hoofbeats.
They watched the rider out of the main street and then returned swiftly to their affairs, trying not to think of the boy’s father about to return from whatever task had taken him from his place of work, trying to control their shaking, those who were not yet hardened and reconciled to this reality. They all unconsciously stepped round the fallen creation, leaving it lie without further acknowledgement as custom-law dictated, its convolutions and functions forever unknown. The shuddering body of the boy was not far from the ignored creation and it eventually crumpled into a heap that the refuse men would hurry to clear away as soon as they had been informed.
At the edge of the town a massive pit opened its hidden entrance to the approaching rider and the noise that roared from this opening would have deafened the rider did he not have his ears ready-plugged against it with the special wax the witch-men made. He opened the box and tossed the little head with its little words into the chorusing onslaught of the very same, the little voice lost in the unison cry of the crowd of heads all calling out:
I MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL!
I MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL!
The entrance to the pit came crashing down again in a cloud of dust and the clang of its closing helped ram the noise it cut off from the rider’s mind. He wheeled his horse and returned to his post, one of several such tower-and-livery structures placed evenly about the town.
The townspeople too had heard the burst of refrain from the hidden crowd of heads in the distance and they too sought to shut it from their minds, throwing themselves into their work with renewed vigour. The thing that had happened paradoxically caused the rest of their work day to be one of their most alive and productive, carrying a mood of zest and resultant happy exhaustion right into bedtime and waking on the next morning. Not a few babies were conceived that night. It was an intuitive and wholesale conspiracy of focus and contentment against the dark of what they lived with.
[Note: this is the first draft of a story I began to write earlier this year. It has 3,000 more words so far but I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to really get down to polishing a real version of it. Such is the case with a dozen or more stories I’ve written, each piece two to seven thousand words in length. This school year will be given over mainly to my dissertation, so who knows when and if I’ll have space in my life to get down to the serious business of fiction writing. It’s a lifelong dream and I just can’t tell if it’s one that supposed to finally bow out and die or struggle on to some level of fruition.]