For Want of a Stone, Chapter IV: Lunch

by Jason Alan

Chapter four of my upcoming book. Links to the first three chapters are here:

Chapter I: Grinder

Chapter II: The Land

Chapter III: Johan

Chapter IV: Lunch

On his way back to the mason, he felt a bit nervous. What if Grinder didn’t lend him the book? He wanted to get started learning what to do immediately. The book Johan gave him was fine for leisure, he supposed, but he wasn’t interested in that right now. He wanted to get to work. Trying to put the negativity out of his mind, he made a mental note to try and be more patient. Grinder would almost surely lend him the book, albeit tentatively, and everything would work out just fine. He was sure of it. At least, he tried to tell himself that he was sure of it. That was good enough for him.

When he got to the mason’s shop, he stood outside the open door for a moment, the two books tucked neatly under his arm. He breathed deeply a few times and prepared himself for an answer of no, just in case. So what would be so bad if he couldn’t borrow the book? With Johan’s help and connections (Johan had many) with book lovers from surrounding cities, he would figure something out regardless. He exhaled sharply and walked inside.

“Grinder?”

There was no answer. It was dark, as well. There were no candles lit or lanterns burning, and his eyes had not adjusted, so he could barely see anything.

“Hello… is anyone here…?”

Just then the back door opened, flooding light inside, and Grinder walked in, holding something. He walked to a table in the back corner and set it down, lighting two lanterns.

“Hey there, young man,” the mason said, sitting down, consciously making the effort not to call him boy. He was already proud of himself for not doing it.

What he had brought in was a very large plate of steaming hot meat. It was lunch time apparently. Where had the time gone already, Logan thought as he walked further inside.

“Here for your stone, are ya? It should still be outside, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed. I’ve kept an eye on it for ya.”

“Yes si-, uh, Grinder. It is still there. But there is another matter I would like to discuss. If you would like, I could come back when you are finished eating.”

“You speak of nonsense. I don’t mind in the least if you stay. It’s a bit hot out at the moment anyhow. So speak to me. What’s this other matter?”

Logan walked closer, taking the romance novel from under his arm. “It is a trade of sorts. Johan, the book store owner suggested it. You know him, this is true?”

“Yes, of course. Everybody in town knows Johan. Not all admit it, mayhap, but we all do.” He smiled a bit.

“I see.” No humor on the boy’s face.

“Alright then, failed attempts at levity aside, what is this trade you are proposing?”

“Johan tells me you have a book on the trade of masonry. I would like to borrow it, and in return, you get to keep this book.” he walked closer and presented the novel to Grinder.

The man took it, inspected the cover, lips moving as read the title. He turned it around and looked at the back, very obviously not long enough to read it all, turned it back and set it down.

“It looks like we indeed have a deal, my boy, as long as you know one thing.”

Logan pulled up a chair out and sat down, excited and a little anxious. “What would that be?”

“That you are aware this is for my wife, not me. I don’t read this kind of garbage.”

With that said, this time both of them laughed. Grinder, though, guffawed a bit too hard and too long. The laughter morphed into a brief yet harsh coughing fit, which he punctuated by spitting a wad of green phlegm into the corner. He promptly proceeded to pretend that it never even happened.

“Alright then. I’ll get the book for you after we enjoy our lunch. As long as you’re here you are welcome to join me. A growing boy such as yourself must be hungry about this time of day. What do you say? My treat, of course.”

“Why, thank you. That is very kind of you. I must say I am quite famished.”

“Very well, then. I’ll get a plate for you.”

Grinder walked off and came back a a few minutes later with a plate, a knife, a fork and two brass cups filled with water from the well out back. He scraped a generous helping of meat for the boy from the prodigious pile on his own plate. They began to eat, mostly in silence. The man ate like it would run away if he didn’t hurry up and gobble it all down as quickly as he could. He paused only enough to ask the boy why he needed the masonry book, but he simply said he was interested in learning more about the trade. He wasn’t yet ready to tell most people about his project. He didn’t think they would understand, and if truth be told, he really didn’t care what most anyone thought about it. It wasn’t for them. It was his baby. He would nurture it as he saw fit, and tell only the select few people that he knew would not mock him. Besides, word spread like wildfire in this town. Before long, every citizen of Kingdom would be aware of what he was doing, whether he liked it or not.

Logan helped clean up after they ate and thanked him again for the meal. Something told him he would be eating a lot of lunches with Grinder. He would be needing the man’s assistance with what would no doubt be a very long and arduous project, and he seemed to prefer the boy’s company over his usual practice of eating alone. Plus, the man knew his way around a grill. The boy was as full as a tick and quite satisfied with the ample meal.

Grinder went to put the dishes away and came back with the book that Logan spoke of. There was no bookshelf to speak of. It was more than likely the only bit of reading material he kept in the shop. Logan guessed that Grinder probably never even read the majority of it, either. Although he didn’t know for sure, the boy was right, as he was more often than not. He was quite surely the sharpest tool in the shed, as his mother used to say about him. The thought of his mother made him smile, although a bit of sadness crept into it.

“All I ask of you is that you take care of it like it’s your own. It’s the only one I’ve got. Only one in town of its kind, in fact, so far as I know,” the man said as he handed Logan the book. He held it in his hands like it was sacred, a thing of the gods themselves, although he didn’t believe in such tales.

“Thank you very much, Grinder. I shall honor it and honor you by protecting it with my life.”

He laughed a bit and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Tell ya what, kid. Just keep it from harm, good as you can. I’d have you living rather than have the book.”

The smile hadn’t left Logan’s face, even though he called him kid again. “Fair enough. I shall see you Monday, if not before then. I have much to do and I seem to have burned off quite a bit of daylight so far today. Idle hands, as they say.”

“Right,” Grinder said, “the devil’s work. Stay safe, young man. Wouldn’t want ya to get hurt on my account.”

The boy headed toward the front door, books in hand, ready, willing and eager to get started. His mind raced with ideas and thoughts of what the day would bring.

“Logan.”

He stopped hesitantly and turned around at the doorway.

“Yes?”

He half expected the mason to change his mind about loaning him the book at the last moment. Why must nothing work out without some type of problem, he thought.

“Remember, young man. Work smart, not hard. My father told me that when I was your age.”

The smile returned and he exhaled, glad that his negative thoughts were unwarranted. “Always.”

And once more he was on his way. Delighted at the events that this day had brought to him thus far. He could not remember the last time he had felt this good.

“Thank you again for all you’ve done.”

Chapter V