the Goldsmith

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Adisa and the village love watching the local goldsmith work. they become captivated by times and places outside of their world. however, the goldsmith doesn't always make beautiful pieces of art for the rich.

Submitted: December 05, 2019

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Submitted: December 05, 2019

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On Saturdays, in the evenings ripe with free time and amber skies, Adisa would wander down the copper road to the Goldsmith’s workshop. The shop was the second building on the right of the main road, and many people would often gather near the forge. The Goldsmith, who recognized the preeminent respect which came with his craft, had built the shop so that his workspace was completely visible to the outside. The display cases were shoved to the back under the cover of the roof, but the crucible, sanding station, embossing table, and anvil all coagulated into the front, spilling out onto the sidewalk and street. The goldsmith, sweating in the open sun next to his fires of invention, worked from noon to nightfall, sometimes hammering on large cups and dishes, sometimes tapping away at small sections of shining rings or coiling individual links of fractal chains.

The processes which he employed were repetitive and tiresome. A shining billet could be retracted from the forge thirty or forty times before being set onto the anvil, but Adisa’s attention never wavered. He would crouch in the red dust, carefully watching the leather gloves clamp the long tongs again and again. The crowd did the same, for though the work was hardly captivating, the gold always shone with an eminence so bright that they could not tear their eyes away for a second.

They would stand, watching the hammer slam again and again over glowing bits of the superheated metal. The Smith, with an endless supply of material would take seven or eight days to finish a single project, meticulously bending, straightening, reheating, and stenciling the piece until its perfection could not be missed. Adisa would sometimes not get Saturdays off, and he would miss the completion of some projects, but he would make it every day he could, gleefully anticipating the next creation.

His mind would wander as he sat motionless in the rusted road. He would imagine the objects in different times and places around the world. If a coin was being minted, he could see it in the hand of one of the merchants that often visited the village. He would follow it with his mind, imagining it as it passed from the cold, dark purse of the traveler into his warm hand, his skin being able to perceive the beveled and embossed surface without consciously realizing it. Since it was in his mind, the gold could be spent on anything, so instead of imagining it purchasing fruit or wood, he would imagine that it had been traded for a ship so large, that it’s crow’s nest rose higher than any crow would ever fly.

When a cup started to take shape, he could almost taste the fine wine which could be sipped from its lip. He could see it sitting in the china cabinet of a rich mansion, resting pleasantly next to an identical dish set. If the cup had eyes, it would probably be able to see out into the mansion’s courtyard, with its beautifully crafted garden full of white and purple flowers. Anything but red. Red was the color of the desert dust he saw every day. It was the color of the loose cobbled road he took to the village almost every evening and morning, and it was the color of the sky every night, its light always seeping into his house and bedroom.

One evening, the Goldsmith was fashioning a small tree out of drawn out pieces of gold wire. He would heat up the thick gold cord he started with, and then force it through increasingly smaller holes. Adisa watched as the strips grew into long fibers of shining light. The smith then wound the cords into each other, bunching them up in some areas and curling them tight and straight in others. After about four hours, the wide strips had melded into a solid, docile trunk, while the thinner pieces cracked into jagged and brittle branches. The ends of the cords formed twisted roots before ending in polished points. Small bits of gold foil, after the long and laborious process of stretching and beating a coin sized chunk into a sheet thinner than paper, were draped over the crinkled branches, and trimmed to resemble sparkling leaves. This work of art sent Adisa’s mind reeling. During the process, his brain expanded into other countries, seeing it on top of a pewter stand in the middle of a dining table. It then rushed halfway across the globe to place itself in the dimly lit display box of an American museum. When it was completed however, and the full beauty and expression were visible, his mind contracted. He imagined himself the owner of the beautiful object, and the pleasure he would feel giving it to a beautiful girl. He had seen a girl once who he had been on a caravan that had visited the village. She was the prettiest girl he had ever seen, and he imagined giving the golden tree to her. He could see her black eyes widen, and he could even imagine her thin lips curling into a smile. The image wouldn’t leave him for years after that night.

One night, however, the Goldsmith brought out an already made item. The crowd, which curled itself up to the small workshop like a swarm of floating fire ants, watched in confusion as, instead of bringing out a piece of raw unworked metal, the goldsmith brought out a single wedding band clamped in between a pair of thin tongs. A couple of the women in the crowd gasped, startled at the sight of the ring without an owner.

Heedless of the crowd’s expression, the Goldsmith set to work. He heated the band until it was bright hot, neglecting the crucible altogether, and brought out a large metal working hammer. The process was strange compared to his usual work.  Jewelry was usually worked on in a delicate manner which suited their size. Small dimpling hammers and tiny folding tongs were customarily used to carefully fold and shape the bits of smooth gold ore. This time, however, the ring was beaten with one of the large shaping hammers. Its form forced out as it was heated and reheated over and over again.

Adisa’s imagination exploded at this sight. First, he thought of a crying woman, stumbling blindly out of her stucco house as her husband tore the ring from his finder and through it after her. He could see the ring land in a clump of sand and be left there, forgotten, and unwanted. Before long, his mind flitted to another place. This time the ring was nestled in a small box, carefully held by a man on his knee. This time, the women’s face was crinkled in anger, and she wordlessly turned on her heel, leaving the man in the dust with his gift of metal. Yet again, the ring was ferried to another place, this time resting in the sand, lost by its owner. Its shiny surface reflecting the red sunrise of the desert until a hawkeyed merchant spies it and triumphantly tears it from the ground and inspects his prize.

The Goldsmith worked fervently and efficiently, plunging the ore back into the fire as soon as the fiery glow of the kiln started to fade. He kept the coals blisteringly hot, almost heating what had been the ring to a molten white star.

For hours he repeated the process of rough heating and battery, not seeming to make any process. The ring had long since lost its shape, and what the Goldsmith wrestled with now was no more than a small, shapeless form, ripped from its symbolic inception. The setting sun soon dipped under the horizon, and the smith’s work was lit only by his own fire.

An hour passed in darkness. The crowd had thinned greatly as many of the villagers left to sleep. Adisa stayed, his mind still wandering from the ridiculous project. His curiosity at the unorthodox procedure would not let him leave.

Finally, when the night sky had become so dark that even the blue hints of the waning moon shifted to black, the smith let the fires of the forge die out. By this point, the only spectators left were Adisa and his imagination. Without pausing, the craftsman picked up the piece of metal with a large leather glove to protect his hand and walked back into his shop. After a minute or two, he came out of the front door and started to walk down the road out of the village. Confused, but still intently curious, Adisa followed him, his bare feet carefully testing the shadowed road in front of him with each step.

The Goldsmith walked straight down the road until he reached the edge of the village. Adisa made no effort to conceal his presence, but the man did not seem to care. Once he passed the last house, he quickly turned off the road toward a small hill in the landscape. Not wanting to lose him over the curve of the mound, Adisa jogged after him, only to stop as the man halted his journey next to a lone tree.

Watching from a good distance, Adisa saw the goldsmith kneel behind the tree. He then stood up for only a second before quickly walking back toward the road. He passed Adisa without a word, his face shrouded by the night.

Adisa walked slowly up to where the man had knelt. Behind the tree was a small pile of stones with a stick poking out, forming a tiny grave. The stones, though smooth and large, were haphazardly placed in the pile, with an irregularly large one jutting out at the top. On this stone, lay the completed work which the Goldsmith had worked the entire evening on. Instead of being a perfectly formed piece of jewelry, or a shining gold ornament, the ring had been beaten into a flat piece not even uniform in texture due to the constant heating and cooling. Its edges were rough and jagged, but its form was unmistakable. The ring had been hammered into the shape of a small heart and had been dipped in a blood-red wax.

Adisa reached his hand forward and picked up the small heart, as red as the sand. It was slightly concave, which made it fit perfectly in his hand. The metal still radiated a small amount of heat from the goldsmith’s fire.


© Copyright 2020 Kelson Brewer. All rights reserved.

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