by Hetty Kitson
This won first prize in the Oxford Literary Festival young writers story contest in 2004.
|The Blacksmith's Boy
"It was mid winter in 1905, and the trees were gently
rustlin' in the chill night air. And as a result, everythin' was
peaceful. Everythin' was peaceful, 'cept for the distinct sound of
ringin' metal comin' from the blacksmith's workshop.
"In this workshop there lived a man named Blacksmith Bob. Nobody knew
his name, so that was what they called him. He was an aging man with
streaks of grey runnin' down his dry brown hair.
"The blacksmith's workshop was located just there across the street.
But all that lay there now are a few chunks of metal and a battered old
litter bin. It was a few doors down from the Farmer's Inn. But they're
all gone now, nothin' left 'cept memories." I pause.
" 'Tell us more grandfather!' Cries Jenny, her eyes glossy with
excitement and enthusiasm. My eyes water a little, but I do me best not
to disappoint 'em, even if Tom is a bit too young to understand.
"Now this smithy did not live alone. He had a son. His name was Jack,
a good lad. He was loyal and reliable, and his father would trust him
with his life. He had blonde curls that bounced off his shoulders, and
bright sparkling green eyes.
"Day and night, night and day, they would work happily alongside each
other, never being apart for more than an hour. But one day, everythin'
was going to change.
" 'I'm just popping across the road to the butcher's. Would you like
anything?' His son asked one mild morning,
" 'Just get a pound of beef joint and a pound of tongue.' His father
replied from behind his workshop door. He hardly ever came out, you
see. Never sticking as much as a toe out the front door.
"So Jack shut the battered old door behind him and made his way across
the road to the butcher's.
" 'A pound of beef joint and a pound of tongue please Sam.' He told
Sam as soon as he was facing the stall. Sam was a jolly old man with a
bloody apron who manned the meat stall.
" 'Certainly Jack. How are you this cool morning?' Sam asked politely,
'And how's the old man?'
" 'Very well thank you. Father's doing fine. You know how he is
though, he really should get some fresh air. That will be all Sam.' So
off he walked, back to the tattered place he called home.
" 'Father, I'm home.' Jack called out as soon as he had closed the
door to his house. There was no reply.
" 'I had a chat with Sam, you know. He's glad that you're well.' Still
"After a few minutes' wait, he began to hear some groaning noises,
like a wounded animal. Then he heard quiet sobs, and then a cry of
pain. They were all coming from the room to his right. His father's
"Without another moment's thought, he threw open the door and ran to
the huddled figure of his father. Cuddling him close, he tried to
examine his father to see what was wrong. At first he could see
nothing: because his father was on the floor, he was studying his legs
to see if they were damaged. But then after a while, he looked down to
his father's face. There were tears streaming down his crumpled cheeks
and Jack suddenly felt a rush of love towards his poor father.
"While Jack held his father, tears now spilling down his cheeks, he
realised what was wrong. After watching with realisation as his father
felt around for his son's face, Jack could determine only one thing:
his father could no longer see."
"After his father's accident, Jack began to feel more protective of
the blacksmith. He would only go out if he had to, for he needed to get
his father's work done as well as his own. He also rubbed ointment on
to his father's sore eyes, even if the pharmacy's medicine cost him all
"After several weeks of this care and devotion towards the smithy,
Jack realised what he must do: he must find a new job, for this
blacksmith's work would not be able to keep them alive for long. So the
very next day, Jack confronted his father about what he was to
" 'But Jack my boy, our family have been smithies for generations. My
father was a blacksmith, and his father before him, and even his father
I reckon. If you give it up now, you'll disgrace the family honour. We
have to respect our ancestors.' His father replied firmly, 'don't give
in now, son. It will only cause disappointment.'
" 'But father, yesterday we couldn't even afford to buy milk. I need
another job so that we may live a little longer. I want you to live for
as long as possible. I love you, father.'
"His father said nothing, but Jack knew what he was thinking. Jack
kissed his father's head and slowly walked back out the workshop
"It took several months to find work, even in such a small village.
This meant he carried on his trade in the workshop for a while longer.
This seemed to please his father. After a long period of searching and
searching Jack finally found an ideal job that paid well. He must move
further into the village where he was to become a groom at Greystone
Manor. He had had some experience with horses so it would be an ideal
occupation, or so he thought.
"The very next day Jack aproached his father about his new job,
" 'So you see father, a blacksmith's job cannot be carried on unless
there is another man to help. And after your accident, you cannot be
that other man.' He paused, but then carried on as normal, 'So I have
been looking for work, as you know, and I have?um?well, I?I've found
somewhere. But there is a problem, you see. To be able to proceed to
actually begin this new job, I have to move away. I would be able to
see you on Sundays and we could go and have a beer together. I would
give you all my wages and we could buy you a walking stick to get
around. How about that?'
"His father just sat there, silently, not saying a word, his mouth
slightly open. After a few minutes he seemed to twitch slightly and
after several more minutes he opened his lips and said three distinct
words: 'what about me?'
" 'Oh, father. I'm so sorry. But there are only spaces in the stables
for those that are to work there. You will have to stay here.' Jack
" 'But how will I get around? I can't survive without you, son. I need
you here, with me.'
" 'But father we need the wages. This blacksmith's work won't pay.
Don't worry, when we get you that walking stick you'll be able to get
around. And like I said, I'll see you every Sunday. That's a
" 'Do you really promise, son? You know I need you. So come here on
Sundays and we'll go down the pub for a pint. Is that a deal?'
" 'You always told me life was like a long journey. I have taken my
path, and my plan is to stay to it, so shall we face this journey
"His father said no words, but his feelings came spilling out of his
eyes, like tears upon a young child's face.
"And with that, the blacksmith's son slowly walked out of the
workshop, leaving the late afternoon sun to stream across his father's