Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In the mornings the sun glowed red as it rose over the thin and already quivering lip of the horizon. Night so cold would give way to the radiant sun and scorching heat which baked all of the valley as if it were a pot in the creator’s kiln. Uzle rose as the sun did and walked barefoot out into the dirt courtyard spread before the square abode that was home to him and his father. At the well he drew water and drank it and washed his face. He brought water back to the house and in a ceramic pitcher mixed some with wine from a goatskin for his father and for himself. The rest he poured into a wide and shallow bowl. The old man was white bearded and bent in his years. He washed his hands and face in the bowl and sat at the rough hewn table with his son. Silently the two men chewed a handful of dates and drank the water mixed with wine from ceramic cups. Then with little ceremony the older man went into his workshop and smoked a pipe while Uzle brought more water inside for his father to moisten the clay as he worked.
The older man smoked and stroked his beard. Uzle sat down and waited for his father. There were many items on the shelves: vases and pitchers and cups and platters, idols of the mother, and idols of the calf. At last his father finished his pipe and set to work at the wheel, carefully molding the clay with his wrinkled hands. Uzle watched him work. He witnessed the emergence of several pots.
After some time had passed, the young man slipped away. He found his sling beside his bedding and went outside. He searched around the well for smooth round stones and slowly made his way to the rocky foothills east of his father’s house. His pocket grew heavy with the stones. Climbing around the ragged rocks he made his way up the steep gravely hillside. He rested in the shade of a bush. Blinking against the white hot glow of the mid morning sun, he observed the falcon gliding and circling overhead. It danced for a while upon the blue before swooping down somewhere among the hills to make a kill. Uzle rose and picked his way along the rocky slopes in search of his own prey. Something to turn over the fire tonight. Once he caught sight of a ram, but lost his footing and alerted the beast to his presence with the cascade of pebbles dislodged by his sandal.
Before the sun reached it’s zenith, he returned to his home, carrying a scrawny hare by the ears. He hung it behind the house to await skinning. Uzle found his father removing pieces of pottery from the smoldering kiln. The open doors of the workshop displayed their wares and a few things were laid on a brightly colored rug outside so that those from the road might see something to catch their fancy.
A traveler leading a mule stopped and bought a cup from Uzle. The young man filled the cup with water from the well to sooth the traveler’s dusty throat. The stranger thanked him and lead the mule away down the road. A pair of men traveling on foot stopped and purchased an idol of the calf that had been displayed on the rug. Then a time marked by still air and silence settled upon them. While the most recently fired pieces cooled, the father and son sat together in the shade of the house. Now Uzle shared the pipe with his father. The older man fell asleep with his back leaned up against the wall of the mud house.
A cloud of dust rose up on the street in the distance. Soon, Uzle could see that it was a litter being carried by black slaves flanked by a pair of armed men. With a gentle touch, he roused his father. The two stood and waited for the little procession to arrive. Uzle recognized the litter. The rich woman had come to collect a piece she commissioned a week ago. His father indicated which item that his son should fetch, but it was unnecessary. Uzle knew which piece was for the woman. The slaves lowered the litter and the woman pushed aside the curtain that kept her privacy. She stepped down with the help of one of her guards. The potter bowed to greet her and Uzle brought up the platter with the mother holding sheaves of grain etched upon its surface. He delivered it into the woman’s graceful hands.
She examined it carefully. Her mouth was hidden behind a veil. Her eyes wrinkled at the corners and she nodded. One of her guards dropped some money into the older potter’s palm. He bowed again and Uzle did the same. Then the woman resumed her place within the litter, still holding the platter clasped to her breast. The curtain fell back into place so that she vanished from sight. The slaves lifted her again and, turning around, started back down the road in the direction from which they had come. Before long, they disappeared in a cloud of dust. Before much longer that too was absent and the road was undisturbed. The sun glowed red again, and it hung low in the sky over the deserted road.

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