The sorrows of a working man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The struggles of a working man. (Not too sure how this one came out but check it out)

Submitted: August 04, 2008

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Submitted: August 04, 2008

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Grandfather Bill always worked without pause, opening things up, spreading all the tiny pieces out, studying each one carefully as though he had never seen anything remotely similar before, and then he reassembled them properly, with no loss of concentration, no sign of fatigue, and no loss of patience. Bill was very analytical, skilled with his hands, and knowledgeable with any sort of home repair. It didn’t take much brains to figure out his true calling, and after a two-year stint as a journeyman, he became a licensed carpenter. But his yearning for the trades didn’t stop there, he continued to master many trades until he became, in retrospect, a one-man-army of home repair. His dedication made him very reputable, people of all walks of life sought his expertise, and towards the end of his life, he was known to preach to troubled and misguided young men. In essence, he was a true jack-of-all-trades, a man who can build a cabinet for the new room, install the lighting, and fix that leaky faucet in a day.

 To the people, he was a saint, a descendant from the heavens, guided by the heavenly Father to better the community. He employed the troubled youth to work with him, where they all cut, sawed, attached, and soldered until the sun itself had gone to sleep. They way he transformed the youth into functioning members of society was astonishing and miraculous, so impressive people began to name his shop Major Bill’s Boot Camp, in honour of his military service. His approach wasn’t forcefully or strenuous like other disciplinary ideas, but more spiritual and self-centred, he emphasized that every man has to find his own path in life. He explained his principles to every troubled youth who entered his workshop, hoping they’ll aspire to be something more than a common thug. He began his program by teaching them self-discipline, the most powerful of all human actions.

 He would take his batch of recruits to behind his workshop, where a small forest provided an endless supply of wood. He’d demonstrate how to use an axe and let them cut a few trees, and then he’d show them how to splice a log and let them have a few whacks. By the end of the day they’d be tired, dreary of physical labour, and eager to be off their feet. Having nothing else to do, they would sit on the ground and turn to Bill, waiting to hear instructions for the following day. Bill, who stood on a tree stub as he always did to make announcements, looked down at his crew, and he recognized the look of confusion in their eyes, he knew they had low morale, he’d seen it in the war. He remembered the eyes of the soldiers the most, seeing their blank stares, he could only imagine what horrors they saw, what diabolical things that could burn a man’s spirit and soul and leave only emptiness.

This was always a critical moment in his program, this was the defining moment where he explained and reinforced his ideology. “Discipline,” he would say, “ can only be achieved with control, and like many other things is life, control is self-taught. This is not a nature vs. nurture question, you are never born with discipline, but you can achieve it if you’re willing to set boundaries and limits. Now I know many of you are wondering why you’re here cutting down trees in the middle of the forest, and not in some small cosy juvenile prison cell that you call home,”

Some small murmurs perpetrated through the groups while Bill took a second to organize his thoughts. “You’re here,” he continued, “ because I want you to vent your anger. I want you to take all that anger inside of you and I want you mash the hell out of those trees with it and I don’t want you to stop until your hands are numb,”

Bill’s speeches were always phenomenal and inspiring. Each time he had a crew, he told them to vent their anger on the trees, each man thinking they were cooling their heads in doing so, but as the days would go by, his recruits would play games to pass the time. They would test each other to see how many logs they could cut in an hour, or how many trees they could cut in a day. After a while, they’d start to work without Bill around and they’d complete their tasks without arguments. He explained to them that by instilling a responsibility to cut down the tree for wood, and the confidence to do it effectively, they had developed a form of military discipline where they could function even in the absence of their commander. His subtle doctrine had almost always worked on his crew, his disciples, and they gradually, over the months, grew to accept the code of conduct of society and eventually became very efficient workers.

However, his doctrine would have never worked if it weren’t for his charisma. He spoke like a politician, mixing the authoritative tone of a college professor with the gentle soothing voice of the country folk. Whenever he spoke, he grabbed the attention of all those around him, something even the reverend couldn’t mimic during his sermons. He might have been a politician, except he never prevaricated and didn’t care much for the executive branch of government.

 

He was beloved by all, respected by even the most powerful men, and idolized by all trade workers. But despite his benevolent family and friends, he became detached and isolated in his later years. Everyone understood why, losing a loved one was no easy reality to cope with, it shattered you into fragments, breaking you apart, only to brought back together with the glue of depression and sorrow, but in reality that never held, it tore and ripped like an open wound, and you remain distant and emotionally detached. Most understood his need for space and isolation, but no one knew the dimensions of loss better than he did. The death of his wife had shaken the small village. The community acted as one big family, and they shared the pain. But this mutually respect didn’t always exist, it was a foreign concept, particularly after the war when Bill brought home Hadewig, his soon to be bride from southern Germany. Trophy wife they called her, or foreigner when the previous name grew stale. The community was rather xenophobic, afraid of the world outside their backyards. Hadewig, being a German name didn’t help, and despite them losing the war, they were still considered the country’s biggest enemies and looked upon with suspicion. 

Hadewig became ashamed to leave the house, tried of being easy prey and being scorned in public. Their wedding was a small reception in their backyard, and only the reverend came from the town, while Bill’s family filled the rest of the seats. It wasn’t until West Germany joined NATO did the community accept German and Japanese culture back into society, feeling the need to ease relations now that they were allies. This and the Provo-counter culture movement of the sixties further eroded the xenophobia from the country. Him and Hadewig never had any children, but as they grew old, people began calling them grandpa and grandma, teasing them but mainly because it showed some respect, since they were the equivalent of a town elder.

When Hadewig passed away, Bill couldn’t take the pain and the thought of losing someone so close and important to him. He began to work harder, burying himself in work, anything to keep himself occupied. He worked for long periods under intense concentration, hoping the pleasure and relief work gave him would distract him from everyone else. It was as if he crawled into a hole and hid, while the world and its many problems raged above. It worked out well, but as he grew older he grew tired. Everything about him was hunched and crooked from years of bending from doing various kinds of labour. His fingers became twisted and bent, and the occasional splinter lodged itself in his hand. Pain filled his joints each time he used them, but he didn’t mind the sensation, “Pain is only temporal,” he said, “but a well built cabinet is permanent,” The doctor was the only man who wilfully broke Bill’s heart by telling him to hang his boots. He took it hard, but was content to at least be able to overlook his shop.

Finally on a cold October night, Bill lost the will to live, his heart filled with sorrow, the poison that sucked the life out of him. He finally understood what other soldiers went through during the war; he himself didn’t see much combat because he wasn’t drafted until the very end when his agricultural exemption wasn’t enough to keep him home. Nevertheless, he felt their suffering and their pain now and understood why they were soulless in the end. He was fortunate to die in his sleep peacefully, like a general, and not as a foot soldier like so many of his comrades. Despite all his sorrow and pain, he was happy to have survived the war, happy to live and love and to cherish every moment. Grandfather Bill closed his eyes and dreamt of a happier place, his own version of the Garden of Eden, and never awoke


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