The Man We Never Knew

I knew him once, but then, maybe I didn’t. It all seems such a long time ago and things have become confusing. I’m not really sure about anything anymore. I don’t remember him being different from any other child. Never got into too much trouble, although, he did get lost once. To be honest, he was just one of the kids and I did not take much notice. As he got older I remember he used to like walking the hills in the early morning. Liked his own company, I guess – but you’d never know it when you were with him as he always seemed so glad to see you.

It was as a craftsman that I remember him most. For sure, he wasn’t quick, but everything was done with such care. The way he sharpened his tools. The way he worked the wood. The way he understood the grain. It was poetry. Everything with infinite care, everything just right. When he wasn’t busy, he’d practice with off-cuts. Always turning them into something useful, or maybe a toy for some child. He had this knack for knowing exactly what was needed and when. Odd that, now that I think of it, but I didn’t think anything of it then.

I remember going to see him one day when my own work was slack. He was such a pleasure to watch and to talk too. I had interrupted him in the middle of doing something difficult and almost apologised and left, but his welcome was such that I knew there was no need. He showed a piece he was practising on – not that I know why he was practising, it seemed pretty near perfect to me. But then, he had such an eye for detail and it clearly gave him pleasure.

It was while he was describing what he had been doing that old Miriam came in with a broken chair. Well, I am no expert, but if ever there was a chair beyond repair, that was it. He offered to make her another. Her face fell, she could barely make ends meet since her husband died. Yet, before she had a chance to say anything, he said he would be grateful if she’d let him, as it would give him a chance to practice a new joint he’d been working and if she were willing to make him one of her delicious cinnamon cakes, he’d consider it a good trade. It was amazing the way her face changed from despair, to puzzlement, to shear delight. We all burst out laughing at that point, the delight was so tangible. Makes me chuckle still. Of course, she knew that he was all-but giving her a new chair, but as she left, her head was held high. I have to admit though, that she does make really good cinnamon cakes, a real treat – so maybe had not made such a bad trade after all!

When he left, I assumed that he’d make something of himself. I think we all did. Then came all those rumours. We never knew what to make of them. It all seemed so strange, but now, looking back, well… Mind you, we didn’t see any miracles, not back then. He was just one of us, the man we had always known, but, I guess, we never really knew him after all.

Written By Ken

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