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Final draft :) Unfortunately, as I wrote this I kiiinda forgot this was supposed to be a snippet of a novel, not a short story....whoops! Oh well, enjoy anyway! Peer reviews are no longer needed, but are always appreciated ^_^

Joe's Chisel

November 16, 2020

I was only a young boy in the summer of 1952; yet at the time, I thought I was a grown man at 12. Looking back, I laugh at my naiveté. I'm 80 years old, and that golden summer seems so long ago now. But, still, all these decades later, I remember it as if it was yesterday. 

Stillwater was only a small town back then, without all those fancy stores we have nowadays. Yep, Oklahoma was still growing, an' not much older than I was. I knew most all of the folks who lived there, and not a day went past without a friendly greeting from one of the townsfolk. I lived there with my Ma, Pa and 2 younger sisters on the outskirts of the town. Our house was small and none too fancy, but I loved living there.

I remember distinctively when I first heard about Joe Barnes coming to town. I was outside, feeding our chickens, when I heard my best friend, Oliver, running up to me.

 "Robert! Rob, you ain't gonna believe this!" Oliver cried as he skidded to a stop in front of me,
"What's up Oli?" I asked with a mischievous grin.
"There's this guy that came to town, jus' a few hours ago. An' now he's eatin' lunch at Johnnies!" - Johnnies was our favourite restaurant back then -. I wrinkled up my nose. 
"So? You came all this way to tell me that?
"Nah! He's, he's different!" I went back to scattering the feed to the angry chickens.
"Go on then, if that's all you're gonna tell me." 
"No! Just come 'ere! I'll show ya!" I sighed. I quickly emptied my bucket to the clucking hens, and placed it beside our back door.
"Fine then, show me him." Oliver grinned, knowing he had won the battle.
"Come on then!" 

I slowly ran after Oli, who was strutting with self-importance. As we got to Johnnies, I saw a surprisingly large crowd of towns-folk surrounding the restaurant.
"Oi! Berkeley, what's goin' on?" I yelled to a young waitress standing outside.
"Rob! Ya won't believe it!" I sighed. 
"Jus' tell me what's going on." 
"It's a man! He's eatin' just inside!" Berkeley said excitedly.
"An' what about him?" My yell was cut short by a collective cheer from the crowd as a man stepped out the door. He was none too tall, had dark skin, scraggly black hair and carried a small chisel in his hand. He didn't look so special. He raised his hand to the crowd, who cheered as if he was Harry S. Truman. I scoffed and started to turn away, but the man raised his eyes to mine and I stopped still. There was something in the way he looked at me. He slowly walked towards me, with a long stride.
"Greetings, son." My legs felt like they turned to jelly, and my mouth felt like I had swallowed a handful of nails.
"Can I stay with your family tonight?" He asked, his voice seeping into my soul. 
"Of-of course - sir," I stuttered, trying to remember my manners. He smiled and followed after me.

The next morning, I found the man - Joe Barnes, he said his name was - outside, feeding the chickens. 
"Oh, sir, you're a guest! You're not expected to work." Joe laughed.
"I grew up with a big family, and I was taught to work for my bread. I know how to work, and I'll do it in return for your Ma and Pa's kindness. And yours also," He added with a smile.
"A-alright." Joe stood up.
"Well, I'm done now. Would you like to help me deliver a package?" 
"S-sure!" I noticed Joe still held the chisel in his hand. He went inside, and soon re-appeared with a small box.
"Do you want to see what's in it?" He said, smiling at my inquisitive face.
"Yes!" I leant in as Joe slowly lifted the lid. Inside was a small, intricate piece of woodwork. I lifted it, and saw it was a car; the woodwork was smooth, and the details were many. I ran my finger over it.
"Do you like it?" Joe asked, grinning.
"Yes! It's - it's amazing! I've never seen anything like it," I said in awe. 
"Aspen. 'Tis the only tree that can cause a smooth carve like that," Joe said, shrugging off the praise.
"Who's this for?"
"Your little friend, Oliver."

We made our way to Oli's house. I went to knock on the door, excited to see Oliver's face, but I stopped as Joe put a gentle hand on my shoulder.
"No need for that, son." He placed the box on the porch, and started to walk away.
"Wait! Where are ya going? Don't you want to show Oli?" Joe smiled.
"He doesn't need to know it was me."

After that, those wooden presents started appearing everywhere. Mrs. Piper found a small rattle for her newborn baby. Berkeley was given a pair of delicate earrings. My little sisters found 2 small, detailed dolls. My mother got a new set of dishes, and my father, a new hammer.

A month later, I went to Joe's bedroom to tell him it was time for supper. Yet, as I stepped through the door, I saw his bed was empty. His clothes were gone from the dresser, and his chisel was missing from the shelf. I found a scrap of paper on his bed.
To Robert,
Thank you for your kindness son, it will be rewarded.
Here's a small present for you.

I lifted the paper and gasped. Underneath was his chisel. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I ran my fingers over the smooth surface.
"Goodbye, Joe," I whispered reverently.

The folks of Stillwater wondered about Joe for a long time. Was he a part of our imaginations? Was he simply a traveler, and nothing more? But I knew. He was real. And he had changed our town.
Harry S. Truman was the American president in 1952.
Word count: 998 words.

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  • Rose A(hiatus)

    I'm not sure if I'm being biased as an Oklahoman, but I loved this! The story was so amazing. I wish you the best of luck. ;)

    7 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    Good luck!!

    7 months ago