|He loved making toys out of wood. He enjoyed watching the flakes come away from the logs he carved up as he delicately manoeuvred his knife over the surface. He'd admire his work as the shape from his imagination began to take shape.
This time it just happened to be the head of a jester. The log was perfectly formed for him to carve the three pronged hat, and the nose for the face already seemed to be in place.
He worked his knife quickly, but carefully over the wood, the head becoming clearer with each minute that passed. Every now and again, he would stop to clear his work area, before picking up his knife and continuing to work.
This one wouldn't be for sale. Nobody wanted figures anymore. It was hard enough to sell the wooden trains and cars that he made, each with perfect, hand cut, working wheels and steering.
He made good sales on markets around Christmas time, but most of the year, his toys were ignored. The toymaker made these things mainly to keep himself happy. He'd keep the figures more often than not and his workroom was full of different toys he'd made in the past.
He continued to carve the jester's head; it was beginning to take shape. Any onlooker could have seen it now and would have known exactly what it was.
It was so well cut, even without painting the face; the stars around the eyes were visible. The nose protruded a little too far, as though the jester wore a false nose. The mouth grinned, the teeth a little too pointed as the knife still worked on them.
"I'll make you a wife tomorrow," The toymaker whispered to his newest creation as though it was a real person.
He put the knife down and began to clear the worktop of wood filings.
Putting his knife back into his box of tools, he blew the little pieces of excess wood chipping off the jester's face.
"There you go." He whispered to the head, and turned off the workshop light.
He went into the front of the shop, which was still open, and waited to see if any customers would come in before he locked up. They didn’t. So he locked the shop doors without making a single sale that day.
He went into the storeroom to pick out a log, so that he could make a wife for the jester. A male and female jester set, he thought, that might sell well on the market stall.
He picked out a log that had all the right features for him to carve. It was a perfect match for the jester in the workshop. It even had the correct protrusions for a matching three pronged hat.
He picked the log up and took it with him into the living room of his house, which was situated at the back of the shop. His nice comfortable chair was situated in front of an unlit fireplace, ready for a nice cosy autumn evening with a good book.
He grabbed a handful of scrunched up newspaper, which he always kept for lighting the fire. He threw some kindling on top of that and a couple of logs on top of the kindling. He then put a match to the paper. Within minutes, the fire was roaring and the room, which was cold when he first entered, began to warm up.
The toymaker sat down in his chair with a mug of tea. He kicked off his shoes and picked up the book he was reading. He felt the warmth spreading throughout him and began to relax.
After a while, the fire needed more wood, so he leaned over and threw a few more logs on top and watched as they began to turn dark before the flames began licking up the side of them, burning them until they produced flames of their own.
He picked up his book again and began to relax into the chair, but jumped up again thinking he heard a scream.
He stopped reading, listening for anything else other than the crackling of the fire. Then he heard what sounded like a scream again. It was only a high pitched whining noise similar to those that the fire always made. He looked at the flames licking up the side of the fresh logs.
He sighed. He could see the top log was that which he was going to carve the next day.
He heard the scream again. This time it he knew it was a scream; it wasn’t the same as the noise from the fire whatsoever. It was coming from the workshop. He put his book down and put on his shoes to go and see what it could be, thinking that some kind of animal had got itself trapped in there.
The toymaker turned the workshop light on and looked around. Nothing seemed out of place. In fact, everything seemed perfectly in order. In better order than he usually left it. Some of the toys were missing.
He looked at his new carving on the table. The Jester’s head just sat there where he had left it, but something seemed different.
He walked to the worktop to look a little more closely. Something WAS different; it looked as though there were tears in the jester’s eyes.
As he looked more closely, the mouth began to move, the little pointed teeth opening and closing. It spoke.
“How could you? That was my wife!”
The toymaker almost froze to the spot when he turned to run away from the talking head. Behind him a marionette, his own creation, was moving toward him. The strings floating in the air as though it was being controlled by the invisible arms of the jester.
It was holding his knife, waving it in his direction in puppet like swings of the arm.
“How could you,” The jester’s head continued to call out. “That was my wife!”