Monday, January 27, 2014

Salt Kopman (A Fragment)

I am a salt merchant, a seller of exactly one commodity, salt. Not pepper, not saffron, or sage, just salt.  It was not what I was classically educated to do, but sometimes life takes you in directions that you are, at the very least, reluctant to follow.  No, salt was not in my future as a bright young lad in the Empire's second most important city.  Back then, I was not destined to sully myself (or my hands) with something so dead common as a trade. I was the family's golden boy with locks of curly hair, and a mind sharpened on the whetstones of the best tutors my family money could buy. Granted we were not the richest family in the city, but a middling amount of money would go much further back in those days than it does now. I was also the lucky beneficiary of an odd quirk that (almost all) tutors possess (when they are paid). It is wonderful for them, or so they would say, when they find a mind as quick as my was purported to be it becomes a contest. A contest to see which one of them could fill my mind with the most knowledge in their respective fields. My Maths teacher saw me solve all sorts of complex problems that his mind could only loosely grasp, and wanted me to me the next Archimides, bringing world fame upon us both. My science tutor, pondered, and failed to understand the results of my more complex experiments, and became determined to be known as the discoverer of the next Newton. My history teacher was baffled at the conclusions I drew, but knew enough to know that he wanted to make me the next Herodotus.

It wasn't overly important to me which of these fools won the day, I knew that I was not going to be any sort of the things they wanted me to be. I was going to be my own man, make my own way in the world, and do all sorts of wonderful things.  I didn't really want to be limited to being just one of the above 'new' men, I wanted to be all of them rolled into one.  Thus, my desire to learn as much as I could, about as much as there was to learn. Each tutor, in their own way, and without their knowledge was creating in me exactly what they wanted. They just didn't realize that all the other tutors were doing the same thing.  I never claimed to be a nice guy. People have their uses, and not putting them to the use they have is just plain wasteful

However, all those tutors imparted all that knowledge at a price. Both in monetary, and other terms. The money eventually ran out, and I was not prepared to meet their other terms. Seems they wanted to create the newest, brightest thing in their field, but only if they could control it as well. I have some major control issues, and I left my tutors, and decided to take my knowledge out into the wild world. The problem was with how I left my tutors, and it was for that reason that the wild world became a little bit wilder. Some fellows with nightsticks and the funny hats merely 'suggested' that 'the wide, wild, world could use a lad like you, just not this particular corner'. This corner of the world had all the clever fellows it could stand, and it was in my 'best interest' to find a new location from which to pursue my dreams of world domination.

Hints are rather easier to catch onto when they are delivered at the end of a sharp, pointy thing, and suggestions about traveling are easier to understand when they are had at the city gates. The second city of the Empire had no more use for me, regardless of my feelings on the matter. It wasn't that I had put down particularly deep roots in the city of my birth, but being pushed out the door was quite a blow to my psyche. Not that I had any sort of 'normal' home life to bid adieu to, but still one would prefer to walk out of, rather than be shown, the door.

Once out that 'proverbial' door, I had very little choice. The 'free' market isn't really free, and charity is not something that can be reliably depended upon. Sure, there are some kind souls out in the world, who will give you a hot meal, and maybe even a place to stay, but they begin to look less fondly upon you as more time goes past.  Therefore, the kindness of my fellow humans was not going to see me through was what clearly more than just a 'rough patch' in my life. No, I very quickly realized that there was exactly one person upon whom I could rely, myself.  It was not necessarily a surprise, but this realization was still not a pleasant one at which to arrive.

The problem with that realization was that I was an unknown quality when it came to be relied upon, no one had ever had the bad sense to rely upon me before. But, here I was out of other options, and only my wits, and a precious few coins to sustain me. Those coins, some carefully hoarded, some actually earned, and a few that were, shall we say 'borrowed' from my fellow citizens, were not going to last nearly as long as I needed them to, and the horror that soon became apparent to me was that I was going to have to acquire that most dreaded of things, a job. Suddenly, the idea of being the next Herodotus didn't look such a bad idea. Unfortunately that ship had sailed, sailed without me, sailed with me standing on the dock gleefully waving it good bye and wishing it a bad journey. That decision, as I plotted where my next meal was coming from, seemed just a bit on the foolish side. The joys of hindsight, if you ponder long enough about 'where it all went horribly wrong' most of the time (stress on most) you can, if you're bright enough and honest enough with yourself (always a tricky thing to try to be), figure out that moment in time where you went left instead of right. 

Although my more immediate left or right decision was a bit more prosaic being as it was being decided in a pissing down, cold rain at the crossroads that I had been 'gently' escorted to by the burly gentlemen wearing the Queen's livery. The left or right choice that was currently facing me was much more simple. Left led to the swamps and wastes of a province that had no appeal to me. Left was the way of the desperate, the way of the men who had absolutely nothing left to lose, those that life had little use for, and those who had little use for life. Right led to the far-flung reaches of the empire, the frontier as it were. A place, where if a man was clever enough (and I liked to think back then at least that I was clever), he could find some sort of fortune, if not exactly fame. The province I was being 'advised' to leave was home to the Empire's second city. The province that I turned right to trudge towards contained (and I am being generous) the Empire's seventeenth city, and and whole bunch of nothing else.

However, since I was not quite in the grips of a mind numbing despair, I chose to go right at the crossroads. I like to think it was a good idea, but hindsight is always 20/20. Back then I just wanted to find a place to sleep that was dry, and a place where I could eat on the cheap. It is amazing how quickly your priorities can change, and how simple your goals become once you are 'homeless'.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice! when is chapter 2?