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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Guild of Two

The Glove Maker

Weeks of crossing the Atlantic in steerage and long lines at Ellis Island had all but exhausted Isaac, but he could not afford the luxury of rest, not now, when he had to open a business and feed his family.
He sat at his workbench, patiently showing Micah, his eldest, how to stretch butter-soft kid leather over a glove-maker’s sample so that the fingers were snug while the palm remained loose.
“The woman should be able to close and open her hand, so the glove must have some give to it, you see?” he asked, using the same words, the same hand motions, that his own father had used years before, when Isaac himself was a boy apprentice.
Memory carried him back to their shtetl, a sheltered and pleasant Russian hamlet where Bezoar goat kids grazed all summer, only to be slaughtered for their leather in autumn.
Isaac could smell the tang of newly tanned hides, could hear the songs his father had sung while stitching the elegant gloves that were sold to rich ladies of the Czar’s court.
Fondly, he regarded Micah who now was trying to please him by doing well, and Isaac wondered whether his own father had gazed at him in the same way, and his father, and his father before him.


The Music Teacher

This pale child next to me has the true gift, the rare gift that the learned old men at the august State Conservatory speak about in hushed tones. She places her hands on the strings with the confidence of a seasoned concert performer, and the music she makes is exquisite.
But there is something wrong with her spirit that I can’t name, as if playing well is her revenge, and not her calling.

My other students watch me play, their eyes never leaving my hands, careful to learn the fingering and the bow technique I use.
This one, though, she watches as if she is waiting to catch me in a mistake.

Sometimes at night I see her in my dreams, a malevolent grey form dragging a violin and whispering, “Now who is the teacher and who is the pupil?”



The Cave Dweller

Back in the year 2341, two Earthlings and three Martian Adepts unlocked the genetic code for passing down knowledge from one generation to the next while the fetus was in utero. This forever eliminated the cumbersome human act of teaching.

There had been fierce debates, of course, about how much knowledge to upload to the fetal brain via gene manipulation. Should new Passengers be required to know obsolete skills like farming, tool-making, book binding or harp-playing – relics of a bygone world?
The “Past is Prologue” school of thought said yes, whereas “The Future is Now” school said no.

The Martians valued the role of elders in training younglings for Galactic Passage, but Earth people outvoted them in favor of using Droids.

And so it came to pass that the words “teacher,” “apprentice,” and “guide,” left the Galactic Vocabulary forever -- except, my darling, for right here, in this crystal cave, where I tutor you in the secret art of touching others with words.

4 comments:

Bill said...

These three pieces are works of art. The last is off the charts. Really well done, G.

Sandra said...

Intriguing, especially the violin player.

And as always Gita you have perfected the art of "touching others with words."

Amelia said...

Hope that you're weaving a book of short stories or a novel. :-)

Gita Smith said...

thanks, guys. I am not sure I have a novel in me. a collection of short stories is a big yes.