by Jason Alan
I’ll be putting my first novel on amazon soon. Here’s the first chapter. Let me know what you think.
Marten struck a match with the heel of his boot, lit his cigar, and walked away.
Logan contemplated that it may be wiser to discuss certain matters with a wall than to confer with his father. Thick frustration furrowed the boy’s brow as his old man strolled so casually away, puffs of smoke escaping that ever-present cylinder of stink at what seemed to be perfectly timed intervals. If he were to extract lessons from the man who raised him, they could be broken down as such; be loyal to family, maintain a strong and healthy work ethic, and refrain from developing such deplorable habits as smoking. The former two he learned by example. The latter, from the brown semi-liquid substance that he coughed up and spit out on an almost daily basis.
However, the love that Logan held for his father greatly outweighed any negativity he bore toward the man. He would, without hesitation, accept sword and arrow upon his breast and brow, had the odious occasion presented itself. And no doubt Marten would do the same. One could argue that since this adverse happenstance had not been bestowed upon their doorstep, it was fortune that smiled upon them, yet fortune had little or no hand in this case. The horrors of warfare had not breached the borders of their township since its founding day. The ways of the warrior dwelt in other lands, and had no place in their world.
Marten left with no further word from his son, because Logan chose his speech carefully as of late. Six months prior, Logan’s mother, Mary, contracted the flu and died a month later. Four painful weeks of cold sweats and agony, wherein the town doctor, even with his extensive schooling, could not save her. Logan’s sister, Florence, had been very close to suffering the same dreadful fate, but she pulled through in the end. Although he was devastated by his mother’s passing, Logan perceived that his father had taken it worse, and it was easy to tell. Despite the weak attempts to hide it, he could still see that the intense pain in his father’s eyes had not decreased in the slightest since that day. So the boy kept the response that came to mind in his throat, not allowing it to manipulate his lips. This time.
The stone wall.
That is what had been on Logan’s mind, and the subject of the brief and largely useless conversation he had just held with his father, and the reason he had been so abruptly dismissed. As usual. Logan had grown weary of the way his father treated him and his ideas. Kid stuff, Marten would say, but the boy gathered that it was expected and common of a father to think that way of his son. Even if the child showed that his intelligence and almost every other aspect of his personality were far beyond that of a boy his age.
He understood that his father only thought of him as a little boy and nothing more. After all, Logan was only seven years old. Almost eight, he would say at any given opportunity. Still, it grated his nerves. For the time being he accepted his father’s attitude and put his mind back to the task at hand.
The stone wall.
That was the object that had been lingering for some time in his mind. At least, that was the beginning of the idea that had recently grown from a wall to a small building. From a small building to a house with separate rooms. From a house, to a something of an elaborate and stately manor. And from that, to a grand, immense castle. Something he had never witnessed in real life, but had seen illustrations of in the occasional book.
He fully intended to build it. Even if the project took his entire life to do so, he was married to this idea. No amount of his father’s scoffing or blather from anyone else was going to stop him. So off he went to the town mason.
The mason’s name was Marion Gabion, but to everyone that knew him, he was Grinder. For the most part, he was as rugged of a man in nature as he was in stature, complete with a full beard, rough hands and often a scowl on his face. Standing at six foot eight, three hundred and eighty pounds, he was only outweighed by Hack, the head chef of what passed as the town’s only restaurant. Outweighed, yes, but as Grinder liked to point out, the cook was a full four inches shorter, and the second tallest man in the humble town of Kingdom. If you could call it a town, that is. There were only about three hundred inhabitants. You could say that most of them knew each other, at least on a cursory basis.
Kingdom was mostly flat, and although it did not host a large populus, it was spread out over a fairly ample area. Most of the domiciles were separated by land, enough so that it commonly took at least a few minutes to walk to the neighbor’s house. Much of this property was used to grow food or house farm animals. Gold coins were used for less than half the transactions in the town. They relied heavily on barter.
Four roads ran through the town, none of which had been given a proper name. The one referred to as the main road, which ran directly down the center, was the sole artery that led elsewhere, and it did so in both directions. Another, slightly smaller avenue ran perpendicular to it on the south side. Kingdom was nestled between two large hills on the north and south, and these roads cut between them, going east and west. Connecting these were two smaller pathways, which could barely be called roads at all.
The secondary road divided the remainder of Kingdom from two spacious farms. One of them grew corn and potatoes, and the second housed pigs, cows, goats, chickens and various other livestock. Between these farms and all of the gardens in town, no one ever had to go hungry. In fact, if people from all around did not come to buy from them, they would most certainly have a surplus. The community had a reputation for housing and feeding weary travelers and sending them off with even more food, often without requesting anything in return.
Logan rolled his father’s homemade wooden cart to Grinder’s open shop door and parked it before entering.
“Good day and good tidings, sir,” Logan said.
The massive man, somewhat resembling a stone wall himself, was bent over a pile of rubble, sorting through it absentmindedly. It appeared that he was not looking for anything, but rather keeping his hands busy while deep in thought. He glanced at the boy and mumbled something. More like a grunt than a mumble, but unintelligible either way.
“I noticed you had a stone out back with a sizable piece missing,” Logan remarked. “What must I do to relieve you of it, sir?”
Grinder stood up slowly, nearly grazing the ceiling with what remained of the hair on his bulbous summit. This did not happen, although it was close. He built the place himself and was accurate in his measurements. The man was nothing if not precise. Measure twice, cut once, he would say. The ceiling would have been higher, but he was running out of time, patience, money and most of all, materials. And he had been anxious those many years ago, to finally get his business started.
Pulling a small and incredibly ancient looking leather pouch from his breast pocket, he sat down, opened it and began to roll a cigarette. “I did not figure you for a snoop, kid. Your father is certainly not. What do you need it for anyhow?”
“Oh, no sir, not at all. I was not snooping. It is clearly visible from the road. Although I am aware that you can possibly use it for something, I was hoping we could perhaps make some sort of deal.”
He lit the smoke in the same manner as the boy’s father, striking a match off his boot, and contemplated for a moment. To Logan it was an eternity.
“Well, I s’pose I could use a little help ’round here. I don’t mind my work but I hate cleanin’ up. It is one devil of a mess in here of late and I can’t hardly get the old lady to step out the house to help out.” He looked at the boy very seriously. “Seems she only knows where the grocer is, and that, my boy, is a problem.”
For a short moment, Logan saw the grave look in the eyes of the large, unshaven man and pictured the thin, always well groomed grocer and the mason’s wife. Thoughts of infidelity cut into the boy’s mind, and the image of Grinder rearranging the man’s face with his meaty fists. He said nothing.
“She gonna make us fat!” Grinder said, and the serious look lifted. He laughed heartily, followed by a horrendous and lengthy coughing fit.
As Grinder stood up, he spat on the dirt floor and took another hefty drag from his cigarette. Then another. The man was not looking at Logan, was not really looking at anything. His gaze went haphazardly to and fro as he continued to smoke. Once again he seemed entrenched in thought, as if the boy’s modest proposal was a decision of great consequence.
Logan laughed a little, uneasily, trying to rid his mind of the scenario he had just imagined. Quietly, he scolded himself for having such thoughts. He was just a boy, after all.
Grinder turned his attention back to him. “Ya might want to work on your sense of humor, kid.”
“Yes sir, Mr.-”
“Bah!” he interrupted. “You will not call me sir. Nor mister. You may call me Grinder, like everyone else.”
“Yes, si-, uh, right. Grinder it is. So, do we- ”
“Well, kid,” he interrupted again, “tomorrow is Sunday (he pronounced it more like Sundee) so I prob’ly will not be here at the shop. What say you come day after and the next, help me clean the place up. Look like a windstorm done come in through the front door an’ left out the back. You can take the stone today if ya like. ‘Tis in mah way anyhow. Not worth the effort to fix it up, if y’ask me.”
Logan’s could not resist a huge grin, and without a word he almost flew outside and pulled the cart around to the back.
“I ‘spose ya wanna do it now, eh?” Smiling a little and talking to nobody, Grinder walked toward the back door.
When the mason made it to the iron gate separating the back from the side of the shop, Logan was there, anxiously waiting. He pulled an enormous key ring from the back pocket of his old, dusty overalls and unlocked the gate.
The boy rushed past him and touched the hefty stone like it was a magical thing. “Do you need some help?”
“I got this handled, kid. No problems. You just stay out the way an’ I shall put it on the cart for ya.”
For a second he thought Logan did not hear him, but just as he was poised to repeat himself the boy moved out of the way, still not removing his eyes from the stone. Grandiose thoughts filled his mind. The castle he had envisioned grew ever larger with this single piece. He was elated and ready to begin immediately.
The rock was big, more than half the size of the lad and probably even heavier, but Grinder picked it up like it was paper and gently placed it onto the cart. Logan pulled on it, and the man watched as he struggled with the weight of the load. After a few seconds the boy realized how heavy it actually was and readjusted his stance and got the cart rolling, slowly but steadily. He had almost made it all the way to the road when Grinder said something that stopped him.
“You never told me what you are using that for.”
Logan paused, looking back. He thought about what his dad had said for a moment before replying. “I imagine you would tell me it is merely the foolish ways of a boy.”
With that said, he turned back around and continued pulling, with a considerable amount of effort, his new prized possession. He saw no need for any more discussion.
“I s’pose I would,” Grinder said to himself as he locked the gate and proceeded back inside. As soon as he was back inside, the boy stepped through the front door again.
“In the midst of my excitement, I almost forgot that I have something to attend to. May I leave the stone here for a short while? I promise to return as soon as my business is done and get it out of your way.”
“Sure, kid. I will be here the rest of the day. I shall not let anyone run off with it, if I can help it.”
“Thank you. Oh, and one more thing if you please. You do not want me calling you sir, or mister. Is that correct?”
“That is alright with me, but I respectfully request you refrain from calling me kid. I am not very fond of it. I am sure you are aware that my name is Logan.”
Grinder studied the lad as he was standing in the doorway, and smiled again. He seemed to be doing more of that of late. “Not a problem. Logan it is.”
“Good. Then we are in agreement. See you Monday.”
Head strong and arrogant, Grinder thought. Just like me when I was his age. Hell, like me now.
And on that note, Logan was on his way to the book store.