It all started in a marriage. It was not every day I was invited to a marriage with my mother. It was a special feeling. That marriage was a very important sign of social acceptance. The wedding party was bigger than I had imagined. I was a lowly carpenter. I didn’t take up this job because I had an interest in trees or wood. I took it up because that is what our family did. It was rumoured that my father was not actually my biological dad. Whenever I asked my mother about it, she went into a trance. My father, who brought me up, didn’t seem to mind it a bit. He was the best father anyone could ask for. Even when I was just a kid I noticed that I was so different. I was born among the cattle. The smell of the bull shit and urine stayed with me all through my adolescence. People said it was just my imagination. But to me, it was my unique smell. I spent day and night sawing and hammering the wood to embrace the sawdust smell into my body.
Do you know how it feels to be the favourite child of the family? It feels awesome. It gave me a complex which I tried to shed but it really didn’t work out. My big mouth didn’t help either. I have always imagined that my biological father was a good influence, a man who could convince people with just his words. I hope you all would have come across such people at least once in our lifetime. People who are called charming or good looking, make people listen to them and generally spread love and positivity. There is no other reason to think that the man, who brought me up, was so happy that he was given a chance to bring up an illegitimate child. I wanted to be that leader. That charismatic person. I knew I had it in me.
But our humble beginnings didn’t help. I didn’t stop, though. Somehow we got the orders from the kingdom to make different torture tools with wood. Life improved and with that came the trouble. The local priests knew I was earning and they wanted my money to build their place of worship. I had to pay at least twenty percent of my income. It was hard already. I was a man in his early twenties. I had my needs. But no, the mother was so steadfast in giving it to them. One day in a drunken frenzy, I went in their place of worship and ransacked their account books and money and drove them out of the place. I was relieved that I was not alone. Soon people echoed my sentiments and I became their voice. Needless to say, I enjoyed all the attention.
That was one of the reasons I was invited to the wedding. Most of my friends were going there and I had to bring something. I found a person who brewed arrack and paid him in cash. The fact that I got orders from the government and also the new local hero image made him say yes. But there was one glitch. He couldn’t make strong arrack on short notice. He was kind enough to deliver the wine he had stocked over the years. I was not able to carry it as I went with my mother. And I knew my friends; they would finish off the beverages in no time.
The marriage went fine. We were at the dining hall when my friend walked to me in his drunken stupor said that the alcohol was done. I wondered when my order would be delivered. Or was it delivered already and these drunkards finished it too? I couldn’t be sure. The money gone is gone. I couldn’t do anything else and my mother wouldn’t leave my side. I had to be happy with a great meal while my friends were dancing in their alcohol induced rhythm. Someone should have arranged it, I thought and kept moving.
“They are happy because of you, ” a voice said as I went down the lane. The man looked rugged. He was carrying a heavy bag.
“What did I do?”
“They said you are the reason we are having a good time now” he tipped his glass towards me. I nodded. No other friends of mine were in a state to talk.
I pointed out to his bag, “What is in there?” The thieves were common in that village. One couldn’t be more careful with strangers in a wedding.
“Oh, that!” He said in an absent-minded manner. “I work as an assistant to a doctor. He sent me to deliver a medicine for an ailing boy. I gatecrashed the wedding actually” he said with a smile. He was creepy. I started to walk away from him.
“Hey wait.” He stopped me. I turned around. He had a map in his hand. “Do you know this place?” he asked pointing at a point. He had a long way to go. I sat with him and explained the shortest route possible and also gave my name so that he could get a vehicle from a nearby village.
“Thank you! I thought of gate crashing another wedding tomorrow in a village on the way. But now there is no need” he said.
I smirked at him and walked ahead. The wine I had ordered had come in six big jars and they had drunk five and broken one. They took me on their shoulders and danced around. I gave in and joined with them. It was early morning when we started from the wedding hall. We were passing through the village where the creepy man I met yesterday had planned to crash the wedding. A drunken man stopped our vehicle.
“They say you are a miracle worked. I know about the wine business” he said to me.
“Brother. The wine is all gone.”
He started crying. Poor Man. We could have brought back one barrel. But we didn’t. We broke one for God’s sakes.
“ Wait.. Where are you from?”
He said the name of his village. He looked respectable. “Who are you there?” I asked.
“I am the head of the village. My son is suffering from fever. The doctors have no clue.” I remember the creepy guy yesterday telling a similar story.
“He should be Ok by now,equipments” I said.“What?”
“Yes. He should be ok by now. I think your family needs you now. You better start” It looked like the man wasn’t high after all. He was just tired. He started walking to hire a vehicle to his village. I slept through the rest of the journey. The boy had actually survived. The medicine assistant had reached there in time. The father sent a word to me. He wanted to host me in his village. I kept it aside as I had to prepare morequipmentfor the government. It was an unending task.
As my reputation grew on these incidents (I didn’t want to correct the assumptions of people), people from various walks of life came to meet me. Some were really in awe of my presence. It didn’t matter if I were in rags or dressed well; they always had something good to tell. That was when a group of writers came to meet me. They were very rare at that point in time.
“So what do you do apart from writing?” I asked them. They just smiled at each other.
“We talk to people about what we are writing”
“So does this feed you enough?” I didn’t know there was lot of money in writing.
“What we write now may bring in lot of followers and wealth later on. We are investing ourselves and our time in our book”
“We are expecting to acquire a lot of land across countries with our writing”
Fools! I thought.
“So what can I do for you?” I asked.
“We are going to use your physical description and your name in our book. We hope it is ok with you”
I shrugged off. Nobody really knows my name in the region. I was just a respected carpenter.
“Go ahead,” I said. “Write good things about me OK”
The smiled and nodded. “We hope it will be a mutually profitable agreement,” they said before they left. I didn’t know to read so I didn’t bother with what they wrote or what they talked about their book to the little gatherings they addressed. I knew that they told a lot of good things about me. People respected me wherever I went. But they always wanted me to perform one miracle or another as if I was a street charlatan. Sometimes I indulged them; sometimes I didn’t give them my time. As it always happens we had formed a group now. Eleven of them were my friends. They did anything I asked to do without questioning me. And then there was one from the writers’ group. He used to jot down my physical description (most of it were lies. I didn’t have that hazelnut hair and eyes he mentioned in his books).
He took me around the villages to gather more material for his book. I and my eleven friends followed him. On a pleasant day, as we walked to the village, there was a huge rush. The writers group should have informed people earlier. It sucked. I knew I have to perform a miracle for them. I didn’t have one up my sleeves. A young boy with a basket came to me as we were climbing a small mountain to address the crowd.
“Are you the one who cured our village head’s son?” he asked. I looked at him. He was tired. He had five loaves of bread and some fish in his basket. I found a rock to sit facing all the people who had gathered. My mind made some quick calculations. I whispered in the boy’s ear and saw him run with all his might to the village centre.
Luckily that day I didn’t have to perform any tricks. But it was hard to keep the crowd under control. The writers group had promised food and I had no money. The boy I sent to the village head came running to me. “Our village head is very happy to host you. He had prepared food for all the people here” I let out a sigh. I had escaped.
People had a feast without a worry. I kept on talking. When their stomach was full, the better they listened. As the crowd started to disperse, I searched for the boy. There were no words to thank him. The upside of being a person whom people like is you didn’t have to say thanks often. People believe you deserve all their goodwill without any questions. He fell on my feet and started to turn back. He had forgotten his food, I thought. I called him and handed over his basket, which was behind the rock, I was sitting. Just then the writer friend started shouting “Miracle!! Miracle!!” and the crowd which started to disperse stopped at its feet and fell down worshipping me. I should have felt elated. On top of the world. But somehow it didn’t feel right. It was the first time I felt being used. I felt someone’s goodwill towards me, though misplaced, was used for someone else’s benefit. And that too to propagate a book. I felt cheap.
I was very glad to rush back to my village on Kingdom’s order. They had designed new torture equipment. It looked simple though. But it would slowly kill people. It will break the ball socket and slowly make the person tired. With all the hanging, he would stop responding. His sensory organs will stop reacting and he wouldn’t even know if a spear went into his gut. He may or may not get conscious in a day or two with complete rest. It was amusing that two beams of wood can bring this much of pain to a human being. If used right, even with that we could do a lot of good. But nobody got time for that. It would be difficult to deliver it to the mountains they had asked to. I wondered who will carry them. I started the work right away. It took me three days to complete the equipment. I had a satisfied smile on my face when I got it done. I had enough of the days playing the leader and miracle worker. It was fun while it started. Not anymore. The hours of physical labour left me in good spirit. As if he smelled it, the person from writers’ group came into my shed.
“What is this?” he asked.
“The new killing equipment,” I said.
“Hadn’t you named it yet?” he asked.
“Why should I?”
“You are the creator. Think and give it a name”
“Maybe we can call it a cross?”
“That is a good idea” he came closer and caressed the wooden beams. “I think we will add this to our book.”
“Speaking of which, what had you named me in the book?”