I’m getting closer to having a final ten stories for Aunt Truly’s Tales. This new story might replace “The Indomitable Husky-Sheltie Cross,” which might not have enough resonance for people who haven’t read my novel, The Kiminee Dream. This new story, which is in draft stage, was inspired by “The Ruby,” a story I came across in Ready-to-Tell Tales from Around the World, edited by David Holt and William Mooney. The original tale is a parable from the Hindu tradition that renowned storyteller Jim May contributed to the Holt-Mooney collection.
I will welcome your comments on this story.
By Laura McHale Holland
There was once a skilled handyman who traveled from town to town and farm to farm, helping folks repair leaky roofs, paint fences, harvest crops, shore up retaining walls and tend to other pressing tasks. He visited the same communities in the same rotation year after year, and oeople looked forward to the time he spent with them. They were happy to give him room and board and some cash for his work. And they were disappointed when he said it was time for him to move on.
One morning after pausing to look into the sky and reflect on his good fortune, he was considering the best ways to fix a broken spoke, when he heard the canter of an approaching horse. Soon a young man pulled his steed to a stop, jumped off and rushed to the handyman.
“I know you’ve got it. Where is it?” the young man asked.
The handyman rubbed his brow with his fingertips and asked, “Where is what?”
“I dreamt last night that if I came to this very farm, I’d meet a wise man fixing a wagon wheel who would give me a diamond, a huge diamond. You’re the only one here, and it looks like you’re about to fix that thing, so you must be the one.”
“Ah,” the handyman said. He bent down and rifled through his toolbox, which was already open at his feet, and pulled out a sparkling diamond roughly the size of a hockey puck. “Here you go,” he said, and handed it over with ease
The youth accepted the gemstone with a gasp. “Why it’s true! It’s really true!” he exclaimed before mounting his horse and galloping to a nearby town, where he lived with his parents above a general store they owned.
Once home, he bounded into his bedroom, put the treasure on his dresser and tried to get some rest before reporting to work downstairs. But it was no use. He couldn’t stop staring at the diamond, so worried was he that if he closed his eyes, the gemstone would be gone when he opened them. Soon, there came a knock on his door. It was his mother.
“Come have some breakfast, dear, before you start work,” she said.
He stuffed the diamond in his pants pocket and went to the kitchen, where his mom gave him a plate of biscuits and gravy. He continuously tapped his pocket and pushed the food around on his plate with his fork. He couldn’t eat a bite.
“What’s wrong with you, son? You usually have your plate cleaned before I even pour myself a cup of coffee.”
“I’m okay, Ma. I’m just not hungry. I’ll have a bite later on with Dad.”
He went downstairs and, as he stocked shelves, he couldn’t stop patting his pants, so worried was he that someone might pick his pocket. He did it so much, in fact, that people noticed.
“What are you so jittery about, lad?” his dad asked him.
He insisted he was fine, but he knew he wasn’t, because his voice was shaky and his hands trembled while he wrapped up a neighbor’s purchase of salt pork
“What’s wrong with your son, there?” the customer paying for the pork asked. “He’s shaking like a leaf.”
“That’s a right good question,” his dad said, eyeing he son with suspicion.
Throughout the morning, the lad’s strange behavior escalated. He jumped whenever the bell jangled when someone opened the door. He dropped a teapot when lifting it out of a display case, and it shattered on the floor. Later, his hands were so jittery at the candy counter, he couldn’t fill a small bag of treats for a child. Finally, when sweat slid from his forehead, down his nose and splashed on a bolt of fabric a woman had just set on the counter, his father apologized to the customer and ordered his son to take the afternoon off.
He gladly ran upstairs and shut himself in his room, where he pulled the diamond out of his pocket and put it back on his dresser. For the rest of that day and all through the night, he stared at his sparkling treasure, so worried was he that it could disappear in a wink.
At dawn, he returned to the farm and found the handyman already trimming a hedge. “Here, take this away. I don’t want it.” He held the diamond under the man’s nose.
The wise man put down his shears and accepted the diamond.
Immediately, the youth chuckled with relief. “Whew! I’m glad to be rid of that thing. I don’t want it anymore.”
“Why is that?”
“You let it go like it was just some pebble or a stick. What do you know that made it so easy for you to give it away? That’s what I want to know, too.”