Sunday, March 18, 2012

Magpie Tales: The tinker, the salesman & the death of god(s)

Image by Robert & Shanna ParkeHarrison (via Magpie Tales)

The whisper in the thunder is discernible only by the most astute listener.

The old man on neighborhood's center had no problem hearing it. Long ears adorned his head, the lobes drooping, covered in a fine white that made them halo in those moments he stepped out to sigh at the sun. He would sniff the air with his bulbous nose, screw his lips, accentuating the creases in his stubbled cheeks and return once more to the darkness of the shop within his garage.

He was a tinker. Turning useless items into what we fantasized were the most fascinating inventions. We never really saw what it was that he made as we watched him from behind the across the street neighbor's car, catching small glimpses of old hubcaps and half deconstructed washing machines, through the always open garage door.

A blender sat atop a rusted oil drum, its clear pitcher filled with nuts, bolts and washers. An old bathtub overflowed with pipes. In the back he sat, under the glow of a lamp, at his work bench, clinking and clanging, his flannel shirted back to us.

Occasionally he muttered in some unintelligible language, took a well soiled towel from atop a filing cabinet to work at his long thin fingers, then would dig through cardboard boxes making the most awful racket until he found what he was looking for and returned to his work.

One morning we exited our house to find a fire truck and ambulance in front of his house. The paramedics wheeled a sheeted mound on a gurney down the sidewalk into the back of the ambulance. After they left, we crept down to his house peeking into the still open garage.

Beyond the shadows, in the pool of light where he he had sat every afternoon, we watched a small orb spin slowly round and round just above the surface of the workbench. It was blue and green and brown, like a marble. Small white swirls seemed to dance across its surface.

The blare of a horn startled us and we turned to find the school bus waiting on us. We gathered our back packs reluctantly and ran to the catch it before we were left behind. After a slow day of school, we returned home by the same bus, anxious to investigate the old man's garage, but the door was closed.

To my knowledge it never opened again. The home was purchased shortly there after by a car salesman. He always wore a suit and had the whitest teeth we ever saw, even to this day.

92 comments:

zongrik said...

that's soooo imaginative. i have a neighbor who's a hoarder, and when she opens her garage door, there is not an inch of room to walk in. what's in there? maybe those gears are hidden under all the boxes.


angular acceleration

Jenny Woolf said...

Strange interesting and somewhat alarming story. Fascinating and well drawn images too.

Shawna said...

This is a tragic tale of imagination and creativity being replaced by the mundane day-to-day. I feel disheartened.

"To my knowledge it never opened again."

My poem is on the same topic but delivered quite differently. :)

rosemarymint.wordpress.com

Laurie Kolp said...

Brian- "The whisper in the thunder is discernible only by the most astute listener"... I love that opening. You never say if he lived alone, but I think he did. The orb is a nice touch... I have actually experienced that. Funny the details the kids noticed (like pitcher filled with nuts and bolts, white teeth). This is great.

Peter Greene said...

A secret workshop god! I wonder if he tormented his tiny people...
thanks for sharing this fun story!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That's a really lovely, yet bitter-sweet tale, Brian. I love it.

CJ x

Laurel's Quill said...

Great story Brian. Those old guys like him are the most fascinating and most of the time we never bother to engage with them...oh, the things we miss:) Laurel

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

You got me thinkng while reading the first part and at the end you left me imagining... Cool!..

have a great week ahead Sir Brian!

JJRod'z

Kay said...

i loved this...it reminded me of my step father who was always tinkering with something in the garage....you painted a vivid picture in my mind..thank you..x

happygirl said...

I love this story. Such a Rod Serling quality. I almost expected to hear his voice at the end of the tail. Thanks for this one. :)

Lyn said...

This is a magical piece..the spinning marble..like the earth in orbit..thanks for bringing this tinker to life...

Heaven said...

How you drew the tinker old man for us in that garage. Then left it for us to imagine what really happened. Mmmm...and interesting title too ~

Happy Sunday ~

Claudia said...

nice...you leave this very open to our own imagination...i was wondering what they were carrying out of the house... and where he had gone really... i love to think that he made his big invention and who knows where he landed finally...made me think of back to the future....a shame he didn't let you in on his plans...ha..i would've loved to join him

Kathe W. said...

ooooooh I like this a lot- you write so vividly- I could see it all down to those white teeth!

Stafford Ray said...

Wonderful wonderful allegory!
I always wondered why He needed all those stars if his mission had been simply to create a creature in his image and a place for it to live.
Now I know. They are all the left over bits of junk!
And your closing idea; so profound!
He is dead and the door to his workshop is closed.
Then I add my own thought that followed: There will never be another little blue planet. This is it!

Brian Miller said...

smiles...i def like all the other junk being the stars stafford...ha yes you nailed my thoughts....

Sue said...

god don't make junk

(sorry couldn't resist...)

;)

Helena said...

I'd loved to have seen that orb....

Fred Rutherford said...

Cool story. Amazing what comes to your mind with these magpie tales, they're always very good and extremely creative. Great job. Thanks

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I wonder how different your parents' take on him was. Kids have such an interesting viewpoint on things!

Mary said...

That is quite a story, Brian; one that I assume is true. What a memory.

Me said...

Wonderful story, perfectly told. Love the child voice, catches the details just right and the end leaves us hanging but feels perfect.

Teri said...

I love Stafford's take on it. That didn't even occur to me. I was following along, with the mind of a child and wondering who lived in that house. We have a neighbor here that has probably 50 lawnmowers and assorted other junk out in his yard. Maybe there is still hope for him too. I hope that I don't have to witness the ambulance though. Or a house fire!

hedgewitch said...

The world still turns, so like they say about santa, he must just have been god's helper--delightful tale, brian, and the gears in your brain are turning just fine without any adjustment or oil changes needed. We both know the salesman could never have handled the truth. ;_)

christopher said...

This is all the way to the top end of the craft. I think you should think of submitting it somewhere for publishing.

Linda said...

No one tinkers anymore. Everyone just tosses the old metal away and gets new stuff from a white toothed salesman. It's so true. But here I am still driving my 1995 Honda. It's about to get carried away on a stretcher too. The world will not survive our 'gotta have the latest model' mentality..... waste, waste, waste. All your ideas are so creatively packaged here. I remember the old tinkers and gardeners who lived around the neighborhood. Thanks Brian.

Karen said...

Oh a splendid tale of creation Brian! Something right out of the "Twilight Zone".

Secret Agent Woman said...

What an interesting glimpse of a mysterious life.

Magpie said...

I'm trying to get a handle on who the car salesman is though...hmmmm.

Betsy said...

I always love it when you write a short story ...a nice change from your poetry. I wanted this to be a book..not a single chapter...it ended all too soon! :)

It also brings back memories of spying on odd neighbors as a child. With an active imagination, we could really make them out to be something creepy! ha.

kaykuala said...

A moving episode, Brian! A tinker lived by himself. We only realized when he's gone, missions unaccomplished. Brilliantly descriptive on details!

Hank

Pat Hatt said...

haha spying on the odd can be fun
Seems you had quite the inventive one
Made me think of Doc Brown too
And is 88 miles per hour that came due
Like the imagination behind this one
Sure it was interesting to see whatever those orbs were run

Josh Hoyt said...

This is a fun story. Great job!

Mystic_Mom said...

Brian - interesting, creepy but so sorta cool too...I like it. I wonder about that car salesman though...!

oceangirl said...

Interesting and mysterious story. Because I think it was real, it makes it more awesome.

Daydreamertoo said...

sounds totally intriguing! I would've HAD to get a better look too.

janaki nagaraj said...

Wonderful story...you left us to our imagination but, certainly would have loved to know what those orbs were.

Steve E said...

Bet the suit had thin stripes. I always can tell a salesman by his 'stripes'...............

Thanks for another "Sunday with Brian" or was that Morrie--and was it Tuesday? I'm confused. No, I'm Steve.
PEACE! to you and me!

Tumblewords: said...

A delightful read - the details and images are superb. It's a movie!

SueAnn said...

I would like to think he was taken to his true home by or via the orb!! Loved this for sure.
Hugs
SUeAnn

Kutamun said...

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy , ripping good yarn , Brian .

Daniel said...

Loved the picture that you started us off with. That alone stirs the imagination and the story within. Then, you blew me away with your tale. Great stuff my friend. Great stuff.

the walking man said...

You make me think...and what I have come to is that the generation of tinkerers is now pretty much gone. We have innovators and made for infomercial junk but those that just wanted to know how something worked or to take something broken and make it work again...just seems to have passed on gone from this digitized video world.

ayala said...

Great imagination in this... Enjoyed it and enjoyed the comments :)

izzy said...

Tinkers are good! mysteries are too!
thanks-

Sandi McBride said...

What was it, that rotating orb Brian? You left me hanging by my fingertips!!! And brought back a memory of my own...
thanks Brian
Sandi

Gail said...

Fantastic

CiCi said...

I always like the way someone who tinkers and builds can think. I wish I could get into their mind and investigate and go through all the files in their many file cabinets.

Tara Miller said...

Nice short story today, love! This makes me think back to the days when people did just that - tinker in their workshop and fix things that were broken. The death of the old tinker is just that. Now adays everyone just throws stuff out and buys new and improved which is actually not as well built and doesn't last very long. Wouldn't it be nice if we went back to those days of slowing down and caring for respecting and fixing our stuff!

Valerie said...

So much mystery about a tinker's garage, enough to send a young boy's mind whirling with anticipation. Who knows, he might have been creating a new world.... or something similar... smiles.

Dave King said...

What can I say? Top of the tops. Love it!

tera said...

I'm sure it was some fantastic invention! Maybe it took him to far, fabulous places where he had wonderful adventures that made him smile.
I wish I drew comic books (ahem - illustrated novels). That would make a neat one!

LadyFi said...

Ah wonderfully intimate portrait of the tinker.

Raven said...

Brian, I am assuming that this story is real. Whether or not ... it is well crafted and has me still wishing to take a deeper look into that old garage. Nice touch "the whitest teeth."

Carrie Burtt said...

An amazing write Brian...wonderful imagery....so much to take in.....you inspire me! :-)

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

Cool story. So many REALLY eccentric and interesting people in the world. Your physical description of this guy is RIGHT ON in that I had the best picture of him in my mind.

Disappointing to have a hum drum salesman move in after this dude.

Tess Kincaid said...

I have fond memories hanging around with the neighborhood tinkerer guy...only ours had really bad teeth...

The Bug said...

Fascinating story. Too bad the boys couldn't have spent more time in that garage :)

DCW said...

scaphium resarcio ergo sum:
I tink, therefore I am.

Polly Janos said...

May the master tinkerer continue to tinker with me! And may I stay clear of temptation, who has a way of talking me into the most awful of circumstances.

Lady In Read said...

love this story.. always wondered about neighbors whom i never saw much of too.. now need to see if they have gears hidden under their garages!

thingy said...

I was riveted. What a great story, and i imagine strange things will now happen to Mother Earth.

TALON said...

Loved this, Brian. A real glimpse into a true character's life and passing. And I loved the touch of magic, too.

Christine said...

Sensitively told account of childhood.

Manicddaily said...

HI, this is lovely Brian. (Reminds me of a Boo Radley with some little swirling spinning planet in his workshop.)

K.

Helen said...

Pure, unadulterated magic!!! (white teeth indeed)

mo.stoneskin said...

Absolutely fascinating, superbly told too, I would have loved to see inside that garage.

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

Hi! Brian...
Tks, for sharing your very [poetic] words [or short story]...[very]descriptive, [very] vivid imagery... too!
deedee :-D

Catfish Tales said...

WOW - great story. Loved this one!

Friko said...

Characters like your old tinker hardly exist nowadays.
How do boys learn to value found objects?

FrankandMary said...

Tension & sorrow...and Twilight Zone. Exhausting effort for no payoff..except for the writing...

Doctor FTSE said...

Very good allegory Brian. And very well executed.

Ginny Brannan said...

This story reminded me of my dear father-in-law, always puttering in his garage. He could fix or build anything!! Thanks for sharing this creative piece, and for bringing back such pleasant memories!

Other Mary said...

Cool Brian. Very cool. I can see this as an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Mama Zen said...

Just marvelous storytelling, Brian!

Kristen Haskell said...

Brian you are a powerful writer and an excellent storyteller.

emily wierenga said...

you tell stories in a way that makes me think of Jesus telling parables.

adan said...

the memories of a life when a child

mysteries on mysteries

some always so

not sure if that's what you might've meant brian, but your nicely writ work brought that from me

thank you much ;-) i appreciate it

Lisa Golden said...

Your work, your words are so evocative. You create such pictures in my head.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Terrific job... I could see the guy and all his "stuff" in my mind's eye.
High five, jj

Jyoti Mishra said...

very interesting tale..
n do I need to say it was awesome :D

Loved it !!

Lydia said...

Oh, this is special, Brian. That spinning marble is so surreal, but I believe it existed somewhere!
In every kid's life it seems there is that one neighbor--usually old (or seems old in a child's eye)--who the kid thinks to be other-worldly but who is forever grounded in memory. Mine was "Old Man Devil" who did not want us around his apple tree.....

She Writes Here Now said...

Hmmm, was it really a car salesman who moved there? White teeth buyer and floating orbs mean something more sinister... Much more sinister :)!

sheila said...

dang, you can spin a tale. felt like I was reading stephen king!

sharmishtha said...

this was beautiful brian. just beautiful. you sure know how to take your readers to a trip to your imaginations land.

Heather said...

oh this is a bitter and sweet story all rolled up into one...i really like the images you gave - i felt like i was there -

Syd said...

I think that I would like the tinker better than the salesman.

chiccoreal said...

Dear Brian: Magnificent imagination and texture to your poem/stories. Tinker magic is much better than shiny white teeth.

S.E.Ingraham said...

such a teller of tales are you ... a profoundly moving, disturbing story and well-told of course ...

nicely done

http://nsaynne.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/the-rip/

~Sarah~ said...

I loved the vivid description of the old man; he's the old guy we've all seen but you captured him quite well.

ds said...

Tinkers are a special breed. Your descriptions are so clever and spot on--the hair on his ears as a halo, compared to the (evil) salesman's too-white teeth, the orb, the open garage. Wonderful tale. Thank you.

Linc said...

This is the subtlest tragedy I've ever read. Your first line is killer.