Tuesday, July 5

The Wooden Heart - VII (Last Part)

Click here to read this story from beginning. 


When lady reached home, she had got fever and spent many days on bed afterwards, burning with fever, shame and rage.

Sometimes she thought it wasn’t fault of wooden heart but her own temptations. At other times she thought that it was solely because wooden heart, she was at peace before wooden heart entered in her life. Nonetheless, she missed the wooden heart, its bruises and wounds, its beautiful design, its nonstop talking and even its silence afterwards. Her mother listened to her muttering in sleep. “That’s all because of you, why did you make a promise that you were not able to honor.” At other times she listened her murmuring. “But it’s not because of you dear; it’s all because of me. We human, we traders of vain hope and futile dreams, dealers of false promises and delusive aims; how easy it’s for us to blame everything for our misfortune except ourselves.” Sometimes she also listened her saying “This is all because of you merciless woman! This is not fault of this innocent and beautiful heart that even can’t speak. This is you to put a false hope in my and misguided me.” 

When lady recovered, she had reached a decision. “Gypsy woman was a fraud and her predictions totally false, I’ll never think about her predictions again.  

She spent weeks and months afterwards trying to live dreamlessly, assuring herself that her life is a black hole perched in endless space, for whom time and change are words of past. But she had to make another decision later. “It’s better to live painfully with a hope, rather than living peacefully hopeless.”

 It’s not necessary for hope to have a name or a face. Hopes are necessary to live but not necessarily as names, faces or things, hope can be just a feeling, a though that something will happen someday and life will be not as it is now, sometimes hope is simply a piece of wood carved in shape of a heart with a delicate etching.  Lady had missed the wooden heart since the day she tossed it away on the street where tavern was located. It had become part of her life gradually and its absence felt like a loved one’s absence in home, like absence of his father, to say. She went in search of missing heart to the street where tavern was and stood at the same place where she listened to talk of boy with his fellows in tavern. She tried to recall the direction she tossed the heart and estimate the distance at which it might have fallen. She inquired children playing there if they saw any heart made with wood there. She promised a bronze coin whoever guided her to the wooden heart or a nickel coin for each if guides were more than one.

It didn’t take children longer to find the new owner of wooden heart. One child asked to other, he spoke to a third child who told about a girl he listened speaking about some wooden ornament. In the end, it came that wooden heart was in possession of a painter living in a hut nearby tavern. Painter wasn’t an artist as some might think; he was a laborer who whitewashed walls and fences of people’s homes and gardens. Peoples said he is mad and children feared him, no child agreed to go to his hut and bring the wooden heart back from him. They told lady that they can only lead her to the hut of mad painter.

Upon entering the hut, lady noticed that wooden heart was very first thing to be noticed on mud walls of hut bare of any decoration or whitewash. Door of hut was opposite the direction of sunrise and there wasn’t enough light inside the hut, yet it was darker if moderate flames of a clay stove were not helping the eyes of newcomer. She was afraid to meet with someone not better than carpenter’s drunken assistant. But the discovery amazed her that painter didn’t look mad by any aspect, when he said “Hello” his voice was gentle.

“This wooden heart is mine” Lady said to him after exchanging greetings. “I bought it from carpenter in the carnival for a silver ring and I’m rightful owner of this”  
She couldn’t see the changing color of painter’s face due to insufficient light. She just waited for his response and then repeated her words again. “This wooden heart is mine; please return this heart to me.”

“Were that you?” Painter’s gentle voice turned into a furious grumble at once. " Were you that root of misery?"  Lady couldn’t understand meanings of this reply unrelated to her question nor why at once his gentle voice has turned into a grumble. She thought painter was really mad. Some mad people look very reasonable until you come to know their madness from close.
“I don’t understand what are you saying? This heart is mine, please return it.” Lady said, retreating by a few steps towards entrance of hut.
“You want it back?” He grumbled louder “You want it back? Ok, take it back” Painter removed the wooden heart from mud wall of hut and threw it in flames of clay stove. Waxed surface of heart immediately caught fire.

Lady screamed as though her own heart was put on fire. “Rascal, what have you done? O what have you done” She cried. “Why did you throw it in fire?”

Painter stood still, motionless, without caring to reply her question.

“Why did you throw it in fire?” Lady shouted again, tears sliding on her cheek like raindrops on glass of a window. “Ah, cruel fate, were not all these wounds and bruises enough for you to crucify me that you had threw my heart into a fire” She hurried to pick the burning heart from stove but cruel, merciless flames didn’t allow her to touch it, there was enough heat to push back her hand immediately.

Tears of woman have a magical softening effect on men’s heart, painter wasn’t unaffected by that magic. “What’s matter lady?” His voice was gentle again when he spoke. “Why are you crying for this piece of wood so badly? What’s special with that?”

“You can’t imagine how precious it was” Lady replied among tears.

“The silver ring you gave for this heart, right? I’m sorry. I’m a poor laborer and can’t compensate all your loss but maybe I could even some of loss caused by my foolishness” He said.

“It got nothing to with cost of this heart. I wonder if you can understand. It’s all about the bruises of this wooden heart; they were very similar to bruises of my own heart. Can you imagine how difficult it’s to find a heart so similar with your own heart and how precious such a heart can be?” Lady said bitterly, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Ah, lady I wonder if you can understand what made me throw this wooden heart in stove” Painter said with a sigh. “Let me admit it was really my foolishness. I get angry when people call me mad but perhaps I’m really turned mad. I’ll find you another heart like this; this is my promise that I’ll find you another wooden heart like this. That will be not exactly like this heart but it’ll compensate for your loss somewhat.”

“There can never be another heart like this, you don’t what you have destroyed” Lady replied “But I’ll like to know what you have to offer”

“Meet me here in my hut after three days” Painter said. Just before leaving the hut, lady noticed that painter’s eyes were as tearful as her own eyes.

Lady wasn’t sure if there will be anything worth visiting when she re-visited painter on fourth day but for her surprise, there was a new wooden heart waiting for her.

“My Goodness” Lady exclaimed. “This is amazing, this is magical. So similar to my previous wooden heart” She examined the heart. “Design is different, it’s simple yet beautiful but not as fancy and delicate as the previous heart but I don’t care for it. I care for underlying bruises, this is real magic. They are so much similar to bruises on my own heart, so much similar to bruises on the burned heart and same skillfully blended in the design.”

Painter smiled. “I’m glad you liked this heart lady. I’ve somewhat compensated for my foolishness, I hope.”

“But who carved this heart?” Lady asked “I’m amazed how the pattern of underlying bruises is so much same to the previous one?  Wasn’t this a very difficult thing to do?”

“This is me who carved this heart and this was me who carved the very heart that was burned by me!” Painter replied.

“Good God! Was that you? But you are a painter, how come you carved that heart? Carpenter told me that heart was carved by his assistant.”

“I’m the carpenter’s assistant, former assistant, to say” Painter replied with a smile, as readers would have recognized by now, he was the same broken hearted boy who carved that heart in darkness of a very dark night. “Now I’m a painter. Carpenter fired me one week after you bought that wooden heart from him”

“Why?” Lady inquired.

“He wanted me to carve more hearts like that. He said that was something for what rich people will happy to pay a silver coin.” Boy said with a sigh. “The silver ring you gave him had lit the fire of greed that no water of world can put out.”
  
“You’d have carved more fine things like that, that was not less than a magic” Lady argued. “But why did he fire you? Did you refuse to carve more hearts like this?”

“I tried my best to carve another heart like this, believe me. I couldn’t even carve a rightly shaped heart let alone etching a design on it” Boy replied. “This turned carpenter angry, he thought I’m making fool of him. He accused me of cheating and said that I wasn’t carving another hearts like this lest he’ll be rich. He called me a bad apprentice who betrayed his master after learning from him and finally fired me with the warning that I’d never think about doing woodwork in the town or he’ll put my workplace at fire.”

“Got it” Lady said. “So, was this the reason you threw that heart into fire but why did you keep it before I met you and demanded its return?”

“I was in a love-hate relationship with that heart.” Boy admitted. “You can’t imagine difficulties those I faced after losing my job. If this wasn’t for bruises of this heart those were so dear to me, perhaps I’d have put it on fire the very first day I found it again. Just when you told me this was you who bought this heart for silver ring that brought me all those miseries, I couldn’t control the rage heaped layers upon layers inside my heart.”

There was a long pause afterwards. Today, hut was not as dark as three days ago, it was late afternoon and sun was shining right in door of hut. Sunshine was roaming freely everywhere inside the hut, hugging the mud walls and kissing the straws hanging down from thatched roof. Lady began to feel a something strange but she was unable to understand or name that feeling.

 “But how came these bruises are so similar to bruises of my own heart?” Lady asked. “You say this pattern of bruises belongs to your heart while I see this very similar to my own heart.”

“I don’t know, I really don’t know.” Boy replied. “Though let me tell you one thing, for many days after carving that wooden heart, it seemed to me as every person in this world has a wooden heart squirming somewhere inside them to be carved out, to reveals its bruises and tell its story to world. I wondered if each of us could etch bruises of his real heart on wood, how many hearts we’d have seen similar to ours.” He paused for a while and then continued. “I wondered why God didn’t give everyone a piece of wood and tools of carving so they could carve out their hearts when in utmost grief. Had not I carved this wooden heart that night, the lump shackled in my throat had blocked my breath and carpenter might have found me dead on work bench next day.”  

“I’m not able to understand all this” Lady admitted, intensity of strange feeling was growing. “As I don’t know of what night you are talking about”

“There is a long story behind that, lady!” Boy replied with a sigh. “Better leave that story untold and don’t pay attention to these bruises for a while. Just look at these flowers. Didn’t this fact surprise you that I failed to carve a heart when carpenter asked me? I don’t know how I carved this heart again like I didn’t know how I carved the heart now turned ashes. This heart is not carved by skill of hand but something that rhymed with beats of my hearts”

 “I’m thankful to you for being that kind to me.” Lady said, trying to understand his eloquent speech dotted with ambiguity. “These flowers are beautiful … These flowers ….. These flowers” Words staggered on her tongue suddenyl, it was as though a lightening flashed inside her and lightening was accompanied by a thunder that has left her thunderstruck. 

“These flowers and this sun with rays on top corner of heart, my mother knit this design on my sweater. This was only design that came to my mind etching this heart, it’s not as delicate as the previous design but it’s beautiful ….” Boy stopped, he felt something strange and saw widened eyes of lady.

"It’s more beautiful than any design carved on anything in world.” Lady’s voice was trembling; she had fully recalled the second sign given by Gypsy woman that she worked hard to bury in grave of reasoning and repentance. “You’ll recognize him when he’ll grow flowers in your heart.” She didn’t need to verify that boy before him was the person predicted by Gypsy woman and wooden heart now turned ashes. She wanted to exclaim “Bruises of this heart, similar to bruises of your heart and mine heart at the same time, are most beautiful design ever existed on Earth, ask me why and let me tell you a story too.” But instead of exclaiming, in a low voice that didn’t tell the intensity of her emotional state at all, she said. “I have some broken furniture that I want you to repair. Will you please come to my home this evening to see that? Don’t worry about carpenter; there’ll be nothing to provoke him. Just some minor works that even a painter can do easily.” 

Boy, trying to understand the strange feeling that had filled his small hut with something pleasant but incomprehensible, just nodded his hand. There was something that had just made the sunshine smile and straws hanging down from roof dance. That strange thing wasn’t only in sunshine or straws, that was in eyes of lady as well and even though boy couldn’t see his own eyes, he was sure that strange thing was in his our eyes as well. Eyes with which he looked into eyes of lady and found a bright flare there, not like the last gleam of a lamp about to douse but like first ray of sun just rose above streams and waterfalls of a green valley in a summer morning. Eyes those looked the lady going out of hut, walking on street gracefully and disappearing at the corner of street. Eyes those noticed just a moment before her disappearance that color of her dress was the same that boy’s damsel of dreams wore the first day boy saw her and last day he met her. Then boy sat down and began to think without thoughts and feel without feelings.

He didn’t know, for sure he didn’t know how important those few moments of strange feeling and flare were. Great moments of our lives don’t come with beat of drums and sparkle of fireworks, they just step in silently and only when they step out softly, leaving deepest mark of their presence on our hearts and our lives, only then we realize splendor of those moments. We gather scattered memories of those moments and keep them like diamonds and rubies in our heart. In dark times of life, they glimmer like moon and stars in dark night. Then one fine and calm day reveals what these diamonds mean to us, like when boy realized the purpose of moon and star on dark blue muffler knit by his mother. When he realized red flowers and warmth of bright sun doesn’t always stay with us, sun leaves us in night and flowers leave us in autumn. Then, these are stars and moon those remind us that world is not collapsed and life is not ended, that there will be another morning after the night and there will be another spring after the autumn.

When we read a story, we justifiably expect an end. Readers might be curious about end of story so let us consider an end before we leave this story. If this was story of lady and boy, it can’t end here because there followed days, months and years of them together, making up moments those don’t necessarily make a story but make a life. If this was story of wooden heart, it finished when boy threw the wooden heart in flames of clay stove. Events before making of wooden heart and after burning of wooden heart fall in the category of prefaces and annexures.

 We can consider it to be the story of passion that engraves bruises on hearts, the passion that etches dreams on hearts, that blends those dreams into bruises and make art, beauty, poetry and life out of that blend. The passion that carves a wooden heart with blurry eyes and trembling hands in darkness of night, that makes a piece of wood talk, that burns silently in flames of a clay stove with stars and moon and reappears renewed with sunlight and flowers. Though, this story can’t end even if it’s story of that passion. Story of this passion never ends; it just takes a break from one name, one face, and one situation to appear again somewhere else with new names, new faces and new situations. This story started with first dawn of humanity and will end with last ray of life on Earth.

However, taking guidance from tradition of storytelling, we can end the story with traditional end “They lived happily afterwards.” Sparing for your imagination to fill in the answers of questions like “What happened afterwards? What talk lady and boy had that evening and what followed next?” There are never perfectly “happy afterwards” though, being human means an endless fight at battle front of life. Shortly after end of a battle we find ourselves engaged in another fight with life, there are invasions of new problems, new fronts to fight at. Therefore, we can’t say “happily afterwards” with certainty though we can be certain they never suffered with life as badly as they suffered before meeting each other. There was, at least, a shoulder for them to rest upon in weariness and a hand to hold in uncertain times. So the life goes, with its bitterness and sweetness hand to hand.

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