Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Dust of Little Stories

He’d been working on it his entire life; at least since the age of one or two. It started small at first. Tiny screws and tacks were found in various carpets. It’s all one could expect a toddler to find after all. Then, smallish slabs of wood, mostly multi-ply but some hard and soft woods. By age six he’d formed the legs, by eight the first row of cubbies, by nine the next and so on until the cabinet stood 12 cubbies high and 36 across. The drawers were difficult, though had he not reached the age of eighteen they’d have been impossible. Curved metal handles, the type libraries use for their index files, those that index fingers might just fit horizontally below were added last, as they required a bit of cash as much as desire and a steady hand. Finally, the labels; each face of each drawer sporting glued and screwed plaques announcing the names of his emotions, one by one.

To the top left was Surprise for example. It was high enough that no one could see what was actually in the drawer until one drew from it a vial of its contents; a clever enough symbolism on his part, but sadly the drawer had been empty for many years, and even the few surprises drawn from it to date had not been very surprising.

The center of the apothecary hutch was less artful, more pragmatic. There in one row left to right were Envy, Jealousy, Depression, Hate, Malice and so on; in another row were Rapture (nailed shut), Acceptance, Love, Complacency and the like.

Although it had taken the better part of thirty years to build the émouvoir armoire, the daunting task truly, was to attempt the filling of the drawers, so as to have an emotion ready when needed. Joy for instance, was impossible to find. He’d thought to have stumbled across a vial of the substance early on, but discovered it was only a potent philter of happiness, thus the subsequent mixing of a dash of annoyance with a single thread of disappointment, the ingestion of which caused the aforementioned permanent closure of the rapture drawer.

By his 55th year he had sampled at least once, each of his drawers’ substances (save that of joy), whether elixirs or distillates, effusions or suspensions, philters or simple dehydrated resins; but of many he was able to find only one dosage, and no amount of searching would bring him another. Optimism was one of these, as were anticipation, zest, eagerness… oh I could go on. It was not that he’d never tasted of each, nor that he simply didn’t understand every possibility contained therein. They were only such rare commodities within the sphere of his influence, capturing them even the single time was a near magical feat, and lately he’d grown tired of the hunt.

On this particular day he waffled, reading through his labeling system as though he hadn’t seen it a thousand times before.

“What shall I be today” he muttered. “Grouchy? Satisfied? Oh there’s a few vials of guilt if I want to go that way, though I was guilty just a few days ago, for what reason exactly I can’t remember now. If only I had a drawer of Stymied, I could spend the day staring at the ceiling without having to choose. But, here we are there’s really no choice, choose I must. Hmmm, Caring? Nah, tired of caring. Lust? Tempting, but no purpose really. Enthusiasm? Hell, I’m not even awake yet, and there’s only a few left anyway; I may as well save them for someone’s birthday party so I don’t have to fake it.”

In the end he had whittled his choices down to two; contentment, and bitterness. There were a few small sacks of contentment left. He’d used up all his happiness and had been filching the stores of contentment and complacency as often as he could. Now those cubbies were nearly empty and the harvesting of said emotions had become far too dependent on the weather, not to mention the day of the week.

What he did have though, in droves, was bitterness. In fact, one entire vertical row of drawers was labeled bitterness, as he’d rustled up so much of it to begin with, and as everyone knows it is one of the most self propagating emotions available, why he just didn’t have space for all the bitterness at his command.

Bitterness or contentment. Bitterness or contentment. It was some time before he made his choice, but ever so slowly, so as to not chance spilling a single grain, he slid open the box of contentment and dissolved a single wax paper sleeve of the gray powder into a glass of water, downing it before he’d so much as stirred. It’s not as if the bitterness would go away, there was plenty to be had and surely he would have his fill before the cabinet was emptied; but for this one day he decided to write a pleasant story, one that said little, but was contentment unto itself. For this was his purpose in life, to write little stories that might somehow recreate contentment, that he might restock his cabinet and spend a few more days within its embrace.

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