The Lonely Mechanist
January 5, 2012
This is a piece I’m rather proud of. It’s a but autobiographical and it’s inspired by a myth, but I think it’s rather beautiful in its own way.
This is Pygmalion.
In an old shop in the old world in an old town sat an old man. While he did not grow up here, he was known here, and while he did not grow old here, he was loved here. He was a machinist, a toymaker, a wonder-creator, and a storyteller. To children he was their dearest adult, and to adults he was their oldest child. He sat there, in his old shop in the old town in the old world, and he placed his frail tea cup down with shaking hands, stood, and stretched. Thunderous cracks ran through his body and he sighed as he straightened out, feeling all of those cracks smooth out until he stood straight.
He peered at himself in the mirror, taking stock of what he saw there. Mussed hair as long as three times a man’s hand, goggles hung loosely around his neck. He wore a tattered leather apron over a yellowed shirt and old black pants, held up by threadbare suspenders and worn buttons. Around his waist, a tool belt, askew and covered in dust and grime from working on the wonders of his shop, covered with pouches and boxes and tools and one great ring with but a few keys on it. His feet protected by old creaky leather boots, just like his old creaky leathered skin, and old creaky leather gloves.
Grumbling softly to himself, he gathered up his cane and gently moved back into his old shop. He walked through the front room where he met people, through his kitchen and toyshop where he fashioned the things he sold and shared with his customers. He walked through his bedroom, where he slept briefly between days. He walked through the twisting, sinking library full of his gathered knowledge and wisdom, filed away in a fashion that only he could comprehend. He went through his workshop, where he experimented with problems that he solved in his toyshop. He went through a small museum he tended, a museum of his greatest toys and most wonderful stories. He came to a small wooden door with a humble brass plaque that said on it, simply, “Pygmalion.”
He scooped up his ring of keys and found one long, fanged metal key of incomprehensible design and largely absurd creation. Slowly he pushed the key into the slot on the door and twisted, then waited as a long chorus of gears and clasps and locks and chains finished before pushing the small door open into a tiny antechamber with a handful of beautiful metal dancing dolls, as large as any mortal dancer, and almost as beautiful. All but one was covered in dust, all but one locked forever in a quiet, beautiful pose. He sat at this one, however, and gently opened the panels that covered it.
He gently oiled those parts that moved, cleaned the gears of dirt and debris, and checked the cables and pistons to ensure they were not stuck or damaged. He cleaned the outside panels and replaced them, he checked the head of the doll and set it again. He slowly and walked the room, looking at the other dolls. The Faerie, the first, was old and cracked, having not moved in many years. The second, The Engineer, was unfinished – it moved perfectly but it had faded before it had even formed. The fourth, The Poet, was quiet and broken, having been designed poorly at the start. The fifth place stood empty, waiting on the doll to be finished yet. The third he came back to, clean and prepared. Stamped on its front was his own signature and the toymaker he had worked with to make it, as all of these dolls were wonders made by two master craftsmen. He reached for his ring of keys again and took one up, made of brass and gold with pink feathers on its back, and turned the clock on the back of the third doll and sat in a small chair next to the door into the room.
Slowly the doll came to life and started to dance. It beautifully swept through the room, dynamic and dramatic in how it flowed from position to position. A bit awkward but possessed with a unique grace and capability. It danced for hours and hours in front of him, in this tiny room, and brought tears to his eyes through how wonderful it was. Despite, though, the wonder of its creation, despite the care he had shown it before turning the key, a wheel broke and the doll fell, slumping down on its pedestal and stuck for a time in a lamenting, quiet position. Slowly the toymaker walked over to the doll, crying, and removed the broken wheel, replaced it with another, and smoothed his hands over the chassis. “I do not know when I stopped caring for you as I was supposed to, but if she ever returns, I’ll work with her to fix you. I promise.” He then knelt to one knee and placed a plaque on its pedestal, Hannah – The Pixie.
He stood again slowly and placed his hand on the doll at rest, then wiped a tear from his eye. Slowly he left the room, locking it again with the long and complicated key, walked back through his museum, then his workshop, then his library, then his bedroom, then his toyshop and kitchen, back to the front door and unlocked it for the day. As the sun rose into the sky, this old man, in an old shop, in an old town, in the old world sat down at a half-finished doll, ten times as beautiful as the others he left, a hundred times more complicated, and a thousand times more wonderful to behold, and got back to work on his new doll. This new labor of love.
“Perhaps one day, my Warrior, someone will finish their doll with me and we will both find it beautiful. We may fashion a second doll, and perhaps a third. Perhaps, then, the toymaker I work with will not disappear after the first dance, or even before the work is finished. Perhaps one day they will stay with me and help me make greater wonders. Until then, I shall tend my memories, tend my collection, and ensure that should the toymakers want their wonders again, they shall be in the condition they left them.”
Once again his work began. He carefully threading wires in the case of the new doll, stamped with the marks of two master craftsmen as before, as he cleared his tears while working slowly and purposefully.