Part Five July 18, 2016
As he entered his home he ignored the pale figure of his mother who sat hunched near the fireplace. He forgot to say goodnight to her and his father who had grasped his shoulder before going to bed. In his room he did not see the prepared sack that stood in the corner nor the peculiar looking dagger that lay beside it. All that his memory could grasp of the world flashed before him. All the sketches in the books he had read showed clearly before him. The drawings of distant lands, and strange creatures were prominent, for Bran’s memory had always been limited to what he could see. He could remember past events but he was not capable of daydreaming or revising the past, present, or future in his thoughts. He excelled in math, but faired poorly in anything that called upon his imagination. Designs were easy for him, plans based upon the things he knew, but he could not make up an original story to tell a child. He could not mentally conjure up things he had not seen. No newly created beings would enter his mind. A snake was a snake, a dog a dog. He felt short-handed by this. The only thing he could do with his imagination was come up with originals words to songs he already knew.
He remembered when at school his friends laughed at Kalvin’s descriptions of Master Poah. Kalvin mocked the Master by describing him as a man with a boar’s head. Others laughed, but Bran didn’t. Kalvin’s statement held no realism, no logic to him. It did not make sense to him. As he pondered his lack of imagination his eyelids grew heavy and he drifted off.
He opened his eyes to the new day with a new vigour for life. Today he and his father would work together throughout the summer. He stood up and stretched before the streaming sunbeams of dawn. Tired, but feeling good, he dressed. He stepped out of his room into the kitchen where his mother stood over a bowl of carrots. Her hands shook as she sliced the skins off. “Mother,” he said as he hugged her. Her body felt clammy.
“You’re not well today?” he asked.
Without turning to face him she replied in tears. “Today is the day you become a man.” He remembered the other night. Today he headed for the Bard campus, alone.
“Don’t worry,” he said with strength, “I have to go to the campus, but I will return.”
“When I am grey and old?” Her words dissipated into weeping sounds.
“Shh,” he soothed. “You are too young to worry about that. I could return in twenty years and your hair would still be yellow like the healthy straw of first cut.” She grasped him around the waist. Patiently he stroked her hair. “I may not stay a year, at most four, and then I will return to see you.” He kissed her forehead. “But thank you for crying.” He took a tear from her cheek and placed it on his tongue. “Now I have a part of you to keep with me,” he said.
She stared into his eyes. “And I you.” Swiftly she cut some hair from his bangs, and clasping the strands in her hand, kissed his cheek. “Get your sack and go to your father.” He was about to turn away when he felt a tug at the back of his shirt. “Remember Bran, you are the only one who represents the bonding of your father and I.” Bran nodded wordlessly.
He felt weak as he left her side; his steps were shaky. He took the sack and threw it over his right shoulder. Her final kiss to him before he went outside, felt like a lethargic dream. Outside he heard the swooshing sounds of the bellows. He looked nostalgically at the blacksmith shop, the short stone wall that gave the little building its foundation. Running his fingers along its rough surface, he explored the tiny cracks where the insects lived. For years the wall remained unnoticed by him, something so part of his life he could afford to ignore it. Above the five-foot wall were cedar boards that made the structure into one complete shelter with a peaked roof. He stood back to gaze at the puffs of smoke from the brick chimney. If this was the last time he saw home he wanted to remember it. He inhaled the scent of the smelter. He opened the door to his father’s shop and walked in.