Friday, September 12, 2008

my time in aretown

My name is Lucas.


Sometimes Luke or Lukie.

But mostly just Lucas.

No last name.

I left it behind when I left my little speck of a town to make my way in the world.


So I went.

And I went some more.

Stopping only when I needed to rest my bones.

(I have a lot of bones.)


The first town I found went by the name of Gillsville.

The people there liked nothing better than to catch fish, and to eat fish, and to talk about the fish they had caught and eaten.

Everyone smelled faintly of fish.

As I was never that fond of fish, I moved on.


In a few days' time, I happened upon a string of towns, laid out so neatly together that it looked like someone had drawn them with a pencil and a ruler, side by side by side by side by side.

The first town was called Side.

The next town was called By.

The one after that, Side By.

And then Side by Side.

And, finally, By Side.

I could never figure out which town I was in, they were all so much the same, so finally I left the last of them. (By Side, or was it Side By?)


I worked my way through woods, crossed many a deepening stream, climbed foothills and headhills, until early one morning I came to a place that looked like it had been left alone a long, long time. I was ready to rest my bones, and to rest the rest of me while I was at it.

ARETOWN, it was called.


I hadn't been there all that long when I met a man named Cook. Mr. Benjamin Cook. He said he worked as a cook.

Then I met a woman named Painter. Miss Mary Lou Painter. She said she worked as a painter. Only painter in town, she said.

A man named Cook who was a cook, and a woman named Painter who was a painter. It was starting to make some sort of sense in a sense-of-sorts sort of way.


The next person I met was named Miner. Mr. Kenneth Miner. I asked him if he worked in a mine.

Indeed, he said. And what do you do? he asked.

I walk a lot, I said.

Pleased to meet you, Mr. Walker, he said.

No, not Mr. Walker, I said. My name is Lucas. Just Lucas. No last name.

He looked at me a long time.

Well, he said, now that you're in Aretown, let's see what you can do, and then you can take the name to go with it.

Is it like that for everybody? I asked.

Indeed, he said. In Aretown, what you do is who you are. But you'll have to be a Newman for a while. Mr. Lucas Newman.


So, being a Newman, I tried my hand at different things.

First I tried being a Shoemaker. The name didn't quite fit. Neither did the shoes.

And a Gardener. I thought the name might grow on me. It did not.

A Draper maybe. I never got the hang of it.

Or a Cartwright. For a Cartwright, all my carts sure turned out wrong.


And all the while, while I was trying to make a name for myself, I wrote about some of the people I met. Poems and such.

Like this:

Meet Mr. Livingston Barber.
With a few little snips
he lightens the ships
that have sat for too long at harbor.

And this:

The Mr. and Mrs. known as the Bakers
can never agree on the better bread maker.
If you order one loaf of bread
and then decide you want two instead
he will make his and she will make hers.

Turns out I was better with words than with wood (which my fingers figured out when I was trying to be a Carpenter).


One day I was sitting in the village square -- just writing, not working -- when a man sat down next to me. His name was Tiller. Mr. Cumberland Tiller. (His name was Tiller, but he was a farmer all the same.)

Mr. Tiller said there was a lady he fancied, but he didn't know how to win her heart. He thought I might be able to write a love poem for him.

So I did. It went like this:

When I think of my true love,
I see, in the sky, a beautiful dove.
One so splendid, one so rare,
that every flight does gild the air.

It must have worked pretty good, because not long after that Mr. Tiller told me that he and the lady were to be married. Married in a week. On Naming Night.

Naming Night -- what's that? I asked.

Naming Night, he said, was the one time of year when the whole town gathered and new names were given out -- to people who were starting work, or getting married, things like that.

But I'm still a Newman, I said.

Doesn't matter, he said, come see the wedding.


A week later came the day of Naming Night.

Around sunset everyone went inside the one church in town.

Candles were lit. Everyone grew quiet. The naming began.

The keeper of names for Aretown stepped up and began to speak. His name was Caller. Mr. Alphonse Caller.

The first person to be called forward was named Tinker. Mr. Clarence Tinker. He had just taken on a new job.

Mr. Caller spoke.

Comes now before us
Mr. Clarence Tinker
as known hitherto and heretofore.
Yet as leaves fall away, so does the life we've known.
And thus we give, now and until we are met once more,
the name
Mr. Clarence Tailor.
Go now among us.

Mr. Tinker was now Mr. Tailor. The crowd rose and clapped.

Next up was Mr. Rufus Rainmaker, who was taking the name Mr. Rufus X. Rainmaker. He had finally retired after 53 years of promising rain, for a small fee. (Business had always been better on cloudy days.)

Next was Mr. Jack Brewer-Tender-Rider-Skinner-Bellman. (He was good at so many things.) Much to his relief, he was renamed Mr. Jack Oats -- Oats being an easier way to say Of All Trades.

Then came the wedding. Mr. Tiller married the lady he fancied, a lady who worked at the bank, and they became Mr. and Mrs. Tiller-Teller.

With that it seemed like Naming Night was pretty much over. I started to leave.

And then they called my name.


My name is Lucas.

Mr. Lucas Penman.