A stranger visits a store to sell a trinket but can't reach an agreement with the owner.
|The Stranger with the Enchanted Spool
It was not often for a customer to come to James’ store looking to sell some trinket, but he was willing to buy just about anything. It was hard enough to get his usual stock delivered, he wasn’t about to turn away a gambler down on his luck or a stranded traveller looking to make some coin, as long as he could get something to peddle to others for a profit. If someone was desperate or inexperienced enough, he could buy things for dirt cheap. Although, working in such a hostile environment, an inexperienced traveller rarely made it to his doors. That’s what made this particular encounter initially interesting to James.
On a quiet Wednesday evening, a funnily dressed man entered his shop, dragging some loose snow inside with him. His clothes were terribly unfit for the cold weather, yet they seemed to be in mint condition. They were obviously woven by a master weaver, yet they were thin and misshapen. The colors of his garments were vibrant, and across his chest was some sort of inscription, woven into the fabric itself. Most surprisingly, his clothes were not patched, ripped, or even dirty in the slightest. The man must have had spent half a day climbing up here, completely unprepared with insufficient protection and no supplies, yet he looked like a lord fresh out of his chamber.
The man approached James and began speaking. Initially, James couldn’t make out a single word the man said. He had the cadence of an English speaker, yet he couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. Some words seemed familiar, but it was mostly illegible. James held both his hands out, palms towards the odd man, to stop him from talking. Once he was silent, James started to try and craft some mode of communication with him. He had traded with Frank pilgrims and even Slav mercenaries, some man speaking weird English would be no issue.
James tapped his chest, and clearly told his name. The strange man followed suit, calling himself Joseph. James recognized his biblical name, and made a cross with his index fingers. Joseph smiled, and did the same. James smiled back, and gestured to the shelves behind him with his left hand, and rubbed his thumb and index finger with the other. Joseph put his hands in his trousers’ pockets and immediately took them out to hold his hands palms up and shrugged. James kept rubbing his right hand fingers, and used his left hand to point towards his hand and then towards Joseph. Joseph produced a small object from his back pocket.
It was some sort of spool with thick, yellow string around it. Joseph held onto the tip of the wire, and flicked his wrist forward. The spool began to unravel and fall towards the ground. Just when James thought the spool was about to touch the floor, it suddenly hopped upwards and started to roll itself back together, finally landing in Joseph’s palm. James was amazed. He had seen a spool of string so enchanted that it would never accidentally unravel if dropped. This would be an immense convenience for housewives, and no doubt make him a very rich man if he managed to replicate its design. James didn’t lose his cool. He had many holy men and sorcerers come to his shop to sell a perpetually spinning top or some other enchanted toy. Every single one of those times, the enchantment seemed to disappear once the customers left the room.
Joseph seemed confident. He was smiling as he fiddled with his odd spool. He demonstrated the effect a few more times. James carefully watched Joseph launch and retract the spool. Confident in his product, Joseph extended the spool towards James, and James reached out and took it. He held it in his hand, and thoroughly examined it. It seemed like any other spool, the wire around it was too thick for sewing, but surely it could be replaced. Joseph mimicked throwing the spool, and gestured towards James to coax him into trying it as well. James flicked his wrist forward, and watched as the spool unravelled, and then returned to his palm as it was before. He had no doubts, this was an enchanted spool. It wasn’t mere mortal trickery. This strange man had to be some sort of divine being, here to bestow him a gift. What other sort of man could travel halfway up a mountain without getting so much as a stain on his clothes, and conjure up this trickery. Surely, God was testing his honesty. He’d normally try to lower the price as much as possible when dealing with such an offer but when God knocks on your door and sells you an enchanted spool, it’s no time to haggle.
He placed the spool on the counter. He pulled his stool towards Joseph and gestured him to sit. Joseph took his seat. James hurried back behind the counter. He retrieved his coffer from under the board and unlocked it. Inside the coffer was a couple dozen copper pieces and maybe half a dozen silver ones. He rummaged between his coins and found the only gold coins he had. He clutched the two gold coins in his palm and returned his coffer to where it was. He stood up, to his relief, Joseph was still calmly sitting on the stool, gazing into the burning fireplace. James enthusiastically slapped his coins down on the counter. He gleefully pushed them towards Joseph. Joseph stood up from the stool and looked at the coins. He looked at James, and then back at the coins. Then he looked back at James, and James noticed his unimpressed facial expression. Joseph grabbed the spool from the counter and took a step back. James threw his hands forward in exasperation, he had offered his most valuable coins and Joseph was thoroughly uninterested. He took one of the coins in his hand and held it by the rim to show how wide it was. Joseph didn’t understand what was so interesting about it, and put his spool back in his pocket. James slammed both his elbows on the counter and smacked his knuckles down. He pushed his coins towards Joseph, but Joseph didn’t understand him and didn’t want his coins.
So, Joseph walked out into the cold, his odd spool still in his pocket. James looked towards the forlorn door. He cursed himself for ruining his only chance to impress the heavens with his generosity. God had sent him the perfect gift, and James had failed him. Defeated, James dropped the coin in his hand. He held his head in his hands and sat in front of the fire. He waited for Joseph to return for months afterwards, but he never did. He asked every customer that came through about Joseph, but nobody had seen nor heard of an oddly dressed man with an enchanted spool.