Sep 23

I Was Waiting For You

                                 I Was Waiting For You

The shop was full of sweet-smelling sawdust and wood chips. On the elaborately-carved table lay a stringed recurve. Sunlight filtering through the window illuminated its graceful lines and new, taut bowstring.

Warm summer air swept into the room as the Craftsman entered, invitingly holding the door open. “I was waiting for you,” he addressed to the young lad who followed behind him. The Artisan crossed the room passing racks of bows to the table where the recurve lay. The young man uttered a gasp of awe when his eyes fell on the bow. The reserved smile betrayed the pride of the master. “Give it a try.”

 As the Craftsman’s hand touched the golden wood, he was swept to the grove of out-spreading, lowland Osage trees, with deeply furrowed grey bark and bright green fruit, like oversized, unripe lumpy oranges. He saw himself approaching the gnarled tree, and the small flickering beams of sunlight sneaking through the canopy of evergreen foliage whispered into his ear, “I was waiting for you.” The loud, sharp snap of the branch, with pale, yellow sap oozing out of a small crack in the wood returned him to reality.

The Craftsman handed the bow to the lad. A warm tingle passed up the young man’s arm as he took hold of the riser, and filled up his entire body as he drew the string. “I was waiting for you,” the lad’s eyes were beaming with excitement.

“Be faithful to your bow and it will be faithful to you,” smiled the Craftsman.

The young lad was a talented archer. He competed far and wide, home and abroad, and he was faithful to his bow and it was faithful to him.

One day changed it all. That night the archer didn’t come home. The bow hung on the wall, with its limbs down, scouring the house for the sound of a screeching door, the steps of the archer, and the warm, friendly crackling of the wood stove.

Morning came, and the sparkling rays of the Sun lit up the room, playing with the dust specks. Suddenly the air was shaken by an explosion, gunfire, and the screams of people and animals.

Gradually, the spooked silence returned, but the archer didn’t. Dust blanketed and aged the bow, and the string sagged and frayed, providing support for cobweb blobs.

One day, the scratch of a key in the rusty lock disturbed the dormant state of the house. It was the archer, but something was amiss. The archer stroke a match with his left hand, holding the matchbox in his teeth. The flickering light slid across the wall, bringing the recurve into focus for a few seconds, and then died. Another match stricken in the same bizarre way illuminated the recurve and then burned out. The darkness returned, throwing the archer into a bottomless well, as he dropped down on a chair, sinking into a torrent of thoughts.

The room was getting darker and darker, but man's mind pictured the bright, clear morning and a young lad woken so early, running through the village, leaping over puddles, taking off across the field scaring the cow with the crumpled horn off her domain. Leaving behind the dainty thatched cottages and the whitewashed schoolhouse, he ran to the Craftsman’s workshop on a distant hooter.

Then, victories, smiles, fame, sunny carefree days… “Be faithful to it and it will be faithful to you.” The bow was faithful. Returning to darkness, the man grabbed the bow with his left hand, and brushed it against his side, where instead of his right arm hung an empty sleeve, “You were faithful to me but I was not,” his voice sounded dull.

Days were followed by nights, weeks by months, years by years. The bow was tucked to the attic; the cluster of the past. It lay among a huge rubble of junk; old broken chairs, torn leaflets, once needed household objects.

One spring, life returned into the house. The kitchen was scrupulously cleaned. The floors were washed, scrubbed and swept countless times. The bedrooms shined with several new white paint coats, and out of every window fluttered a pair of new muslim curtains. Then came the turn of the attic.

A huge load of trash was taken down and presented at a yard sale. Most of it was unsold and piled into a huge heap by the road. The bow was amongst it.

For days it rained, the droplets mercilessly pelted down from the sky. Lying in the pile of drenched junk, the recurve’s wood polish faded. The tattered string hung limply from its limbs. Yet the noble Osage wood had not rotted or gone moldy, and there was aristocratic dignity in the graceful body as many years before.

When the rain had finally ceased, a boy ran across the lawn to the side of the road, joyfully out-spreading his hands toward the bottomless sky. As he was passing the pile, out of the corner of his eye he caught a curved limb sticking out of the debris. “Ski!” “is there a pair to it?”

The boy grabbed one end of the bow and tugged on it. A resonating thud vibrated throughout the lawn as the recurve’s string, caught on the jumble of objects, snapped. The boy surveyed his find. It seemed like two thin, short skis attached together by a carved wooden piece in the middle and a string on each end.

“A nice bow you have,” exclaimed a passing by man. “They don’t make these anymore.  Artful work.” He took the bow from the boy’s hands and gently stroked the Osage orange, then carefully ran his hand over it. Cracks, splinters, and furrows were absent. The wood, though worn, was in good condition.

“Do you want to learn how to shoot it?” The boy’s eyes filled with joy.

The man’s house was just a few lots away from the boy’s. With the bow on his shoulder, the boy waited by the gate. The man opened, nodding to the boy, and strode across the lawn. A large stretch of grass ended with few sacks adorned by paper targets. On the side under the canopy was a row of bins and racks filled with a variety of appliances and tools.

The man reached inside the depths of his pockets and produced a new black, curled, string. Taking the bow from the boy’s hands, he secured one of the string’s loops on the lower limb of the bow, then planted it firmly on the ground, bending the recurve in the opposite direction. The boy gasped as if the man was trying to break his bow. But, as soon as the string was sloped on the upper end, the man stopped bending. And the bow transformed: the limp, lifeless stick gracefully arched with dignity, radiating life and energy.

“As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man the woman,
Though she bends him, she obeys him,
Though she draws him, yet she follows,
Useless each without the other!”
The man examined his work and returned the bow to the boy.
Every day, the boy ran to the man’s archery range to practice. He learned to string the bow, to aim, to shoot, to hit the target. He and the bow became great friends. Each time putting his hand on the Osage wood, a tingle of warmth passed up through his arm. And when he drew and released the string, his arrow flew straight and precise whispering, “I was waiting for you.”