Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Sculptor

Tap Tip…. Tap Tip…. Tap Tip…

The sheriff closed his eyes. The sound was rhythmic. Soothing. But he only felt sadness. The place was not the same as it once had been.

It used to be a lively one. The place where he now sat, was the workshop of the old, blind sculptor. The blind man was the best stone sculptor for miles. His workshop held a lot of space, and on most evenings, men from all over the village, after a hard days work came to relax. It was a jovial place. The old man was wise and sometimes small disputes would be amicably settled. It was also a go-to place for the local news.

The sculptor’s son lived with him in a two storey house, a mile off the workshop. He was a bright, illustrious young man who helped out in the workshop as an apprentice. There was a guest room, next to the son’s room on the top of the house, which would sometimes be occupied by paying tenants, travelers etc.

About two years ago, on the day the top floor raged with fire, there was a new young tenant, a traveler from a far off place staying in the guest room. The blind sculptor, who slept in the ground floor, having roused by the smoke, gathered help as fast as he could. But in spite of all their best efforts, the fire ravaged the entire floor. A body charred beyond recognition was found in the guest bed room. Based on the pieces of cloth adhering to the skin, it was determined as that of the paying guest. It was found out that the fire had been started intentionally. Also, the box containing almost all pieces of the masterpiece that the sculptor was working on had been stolen. It was concluded that the son had run away with the sculptures after setting fire to the house.

The old man and his workshop were never the same after that.

Tap Tip…. Tap Tip…. Tap Tip…

The sheriff opened his eyes and looked around. The sculptor sat a few feet away, tapping a hard stone with his heavy hammer and nail. These days he never sculpted any intricate designs that he was famous for. Most of the times, he just tapped into stones, shaping their edges, as he did now. The only other occupant in the room was a kid sitting idly in the corner of the room. The desultory scene weighed upon him. He sighed, wished the sculptor a good night and left the place.

Not long after that, another man entered the workshop. He looked like he had been on the road for a while. His clothes were dusty. He had a full beard and long matted hair. He walked up to the place recently vacated by the sheriff. He sat there.

The nail slipped from the old man’s hand then. It rolled over to the place where the stranger sat. The man bent down, picked it up, rose and started walking towards the sculptor to return it.

Suddenly, the sculptor rose from his place, and with the agility of a much younger man, covered the small distance between them, raised the iron hammer well above his head, and smashed it down on the head of the stranger in one vicious blow.

The man was dead even before he hit the floor.

The sculptor dropped the heavy iron on the floor, breathed deeply, turned around to the kid and spoke for the first time.

“You the baker’s kid, right?”

“Yes, sir” came the nervous reply.

“Go tell the sheriff that this man killed my son, burnt my house and stole my work. I always knew that he would come back for the last piece, which I was still working on two years ago. The whole set would then be priceless.”

He paused once and continued, as though remembering something from a long time ago.

“I was there half-asleep in my bed that night. The man that left the burning house was not my son.”

He paused again slightly.

“Ya see, I never forget foot falls, kid. As for the rhythm of this man's foot steps”, he said, pointing to the prone figure on the floor, “I have been tapping it into stone, every day, from the last two years. I would recognize his walk in my sleep”.


Logik said...

Never trust blind men. with hammers. In Dha's short-stories.

The authentic-western description was good[ or so i gathered].

Welcome change from retarded giraffes. For both of us, I presume.

vk said...

Yet another brilliant one!! Keep the great work going...

And btw, a sculptor uses a chisel, not a stupid nail :-D

Dha said...

i thought of using a chisel in place of a nail too..
but firstly, the sculptor was not interested in sculpting anything... and secondly.. a nail rolls a given distance more easily than a chisel does.. most chisels are kinda flat... i would have to waste time describing the chisel otherwise..


Nithin "Kitta" Shenoy said...

This one was brilliant. Reminded me of 'the prisoner'! Waiting for the new one...