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Fiction

(Excerpt)

The Boy Who Found Stories

Copyright, Laura J. Silver

On the first day of Midsummer Celebration in the small village of Ristor, a child was born and his mother named him Sevan. It was an unheard-of name in that village, and the rill of gossip that bubbles under any small community burbled often that there was a secret story behind this name, though no one knew what it was. Whenever the grannies asked his mother about the name, she smiled patiently and replied only that it came with the child.

In most ways Sevan grew like any child in Ristor. His hair was black and glossy as a pernath seed, and fell often into smoke gray eyes as he clutched his mother's skirts, or toddled barefoot behind her through the dusty marketplace. In summer his golden skin darkened to nut brown, in winter his cheeks were burnished apples in the cold. Though he was a cheerful child he was often found sitting quiet and alone, as no other child was seen to do. Long before he could speak he unnerved the village elders by appearing without warning on the edge of the story circle, listening silently and without expression.

"I don't know if he even hears my stories, or the singers' songs," Teller Selaya, complained to his mother. "He does not laugh at the jokes, nor cry for the tragedy. He just looks through us, sometimes with tears, or a smile which does not seem to go with the story. We end up playing just to him, trying to get a response."

"Does this disturb your performance?" Marteh asked.

Selaya started at the question, her eyes clouding in thought. "Many have said our telling seems truer, the songs more heartsure of late. Perhaps, indeed, we have Sevan to thank. We will discuss this. In the meantime, let him come as he will."

As soon as he could speak, Sevan asked the names of every person and thing he saw, and never seemed to forget the smallest one. As he got older he would sometimes leave the children's games and running matches, going instead to the forge or the weaver's hut, the potter's home or the dairy house, asking for the stories of what they did there, how they came to do it, the stories of their names, and the lives they led. Sevan was a good listener and nothing told to him ever burbled from the gossip rill. So, though his own name appeared there often, it was always with affection — for no one can resist a truly good listener.

Sevan also found stories in the plants, the animals, the earth and sky around him. Some were etched in sound, others painted in sights and feelings for which there were no words, and it required great stillness and patience to discover them.

From the grasshopper he learned of spring, green on green, soft, vulnerable, quick and light among tender and succulent stems. He learned of summer, dry and golden, leaping and singing for company on legs as brittle as stalks of grain.

Butterfly whispered a saga of change. Blind larva wriggling free of the dirt; caterpillar moving slowly up a twig, seeking the absolute immobility that leads to flight. With Butterfly, Sevan tasted in one lifetime the sweetness of earth, the shivering of leaves, and the shimmering of air and sunlight on windborne wings.

Trees like the maple, told twin tales. The quivering leaves sang a high descant of life — brief, bright, and burnished — over the deep, ceaseless melody of trunk and root, earth and sun.

Stone's was a tale of infinite color — the blues of the sky at dawn, midday, and twilight; the greens, golds and browns of the earth; and clear shining stones reflecting all the colors of light. There were colors in stone that lived nowhere else. Even the blackest of stones, the whitest of stones, had always some shading to gray or fleck of quartz, if he looked deeply enough. From stone Sevan learned that nothing is altogether one thing. There are no one-word stories, no one-note songs.

He continued to attend the story circle and to listen to the singing, and he came, in time, to laugh at the jokes and cry for the tragedy. When he had enough language to understand, Selaya asked what it was that Sevan heard in the circle as a small child, and why he never seemed to respond to the story she was telling.

" I was listening to the story under your stories Mother Selaya. It was beautiful and sad in equal measure. When you told of the joys of princes far way, I heard the sorrow of your sacrifice to become a Teller. When you were a grieving swan or powerful wizard, I heard the delight your telling gives you. Only when I had all of the story in your heart, could I hear the tales you spin with your words."

Selaya gave him an inarticulate embrace, and a ragged "Thank you child," for never before had anyone so truly heard a Teller's tale.

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