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The Happy Tailor

September 9, 2012

And so it came to pass that Lord Peter Greywolf, the Eighth Earl of Greywolf Hall, defeated Baron Johann von Reichbraucken on the field of battle. However, in so doing, Lord Greywolf’s cloak of invincibility was torn. A torn cloak of invincibility could cause great problems down the road if not mended, namely: Vincibility; and much more serious: Death.

And so, on the little country road leading home from battle, how fortuitous it was that Lord Greywolf spied a little tailor shop, one that he had never seen before. The hanging shingle above the door read “The Happy Tailor. You Rip It, I’ll Sew It.” It was a small cottage made of earth and wood. It had a thatched roof and a little stone chimney which issued forth a fluffy plume of gray smoke. It was set off from the road and almost completely enshrouded by trees, but not so enshrouded as to escape the keen eyes of Greywolf.

Lord Greywolf motioned to Fitzroy, his second-in-command, to halt his homeward bound column of men. Greywolf then dismounted his steed to enable himself to knock on the heavy, oaken door of the tailor’s shop.

He pounded heavily and loudly on the door, as a lord should do. After waiting a few seconds, re-pounding, and waiting a few seconds more, he heard a small, tired, old voice, muffled by the wooden barrier.

“Who is it?” asked the tiny voice.

“It is I, Lord Peter Greywolf, the Eighth Earl of Greywolf Hall, fresh from battle, tired, hungry, and in need of a fine tailor!” he yelled loudly and proudly.

After a pause of a few seconds, the small voice again inquired, “Who?”

Greywolf repeated, but louder and prouder still, “It is I, Lord Peter Greywolf, the Eighth Earl of Greywolf Hall, fresh from battle, tired, hungry, and in need of a fine tailor!”

A few seconds again passed before the tiny, little voice came again, “I’m sorry, miss. I can’t hear you. It’s my hearing. T’aint what it used to be.”

Greywolf rolled his eyes and turned to see Fitzroy, barely containing his amusement behind tightly pressed lips.

“I have never suffered such an indignity!” the lord proclaimed angrily before yelling at the door, merely, “Greywolf!”

“Oh! Lord Greywolf! How delighted I will be to assist you!” The tailor then proceeded to remove the four locking mechanisms from the door before finally opening it.

Young, brash Greywolf smiled with annoyance and said, “Good peasant tailor, my cloak has been torn. You will sew it immediately, then feed me and offer me your bed for the night.”

“But I only have one bed, my lord”, implored the tailor.

“You will make due for yourself, peasant tailor”, commanded the lord. “It will be your duty and pleasure to serve me.”

The tailor meekly acquiesced, “Yes, my lord”.

Greywolf sent Fitzroy and his men on the road back home to Greywolf Hall with a message for his mother stating he would return home on the following morrow. The column of battle-weary soldiers gathered up and rode away, slowly vanishing over the darkening horizon.

As they walked inside toward the fireplace, Greywolf noticed the old tailor’s hunched posture, his weak walk, his reliance upon a cane and asked “How old are you, peasant tailor?” The tailor, having long ago lost the twinkle in his eye, responded, “Old enough for some things, but too old for everything else.” He smiled  an almost impish grin and the previously annoyed Lord softened and offered a smile back, followed by a light chuckle. This did not prevent the lord from taking the old tailor’s place in the rocking chair before the fire, therefore banishing the tailor to a spot on the floor. He gave little thought as to how the bent over old man would rise from such a lowly position. Nor did he give thought to the sword hanging from his side, which scraped the edges of the hand-carved chair with every rocking back…and forth. Back…and forth. Back…and forth.

“May I see your cloak, my lord?” inquired the tailor, preparing to get down to business.

“By all means, tailor,” Greywolf replied with nary a hint of superiority and without “peasant” as a prefix.

“Oh yes. This is truly fine work. I have rarely seen such fine work. Of course, I have seen this cloak before,” the tailor’s response somewhat surprised the lord.

“You have? When would you have seen the cloak of a lord in your ramshackle shop?” The arrogance had returned.

“Why yes, young lord. I sewed it many, many years ago for your grandfather Robert, the Sixth Earl of Greywolf Hall,” the tailor stated clearly. Greywolf was taken aback.

“How can that be? It was sewn 80 years ago, by a master tailor. Your story cannot possibly be true.”

“Tis true, my lord, but it matters little. Let us eat first, and then I will work upon the mending.”

Lord Greywolf began eyeing the tailor suspiciously as he was served a small clay bowl of lukewarm gruel. Deep in his observations of the old man, Lord Greywolf picked up his spoon, but paid little attention to what was going in his mouth. The gruel touched his lips, and made its way to his tongue before it was forcefully spat out in the direction of the fire. “What is this?!” the lord angrily yelled, seemingly offended that he would be offered such meager vittles.

“This is my dinner, my lord. You demanded I feed you. This is all I have.”

“How can you eat this? It’s absolutely disgusting!”

“I’m sorry, my lord. Your taxes are heavy. I do not farm. I do not raise livestock. This is what I have. Is it unsatisfactory?”

In such a case, most people would be ashamed of their own behavior. Lord Peter Greywolf, the Eighth Earl of Greywolf Hall was not. “Forget this swill! Get to mending my cloak!”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Are you sure you are up to the task, old, peasant tailor; you, who are so very old? Can your arthritic, feeble hands handle such work?”

“I extend my hand to you for inspection, sir,” the tailor responded with more firmness in his voice than before. “I always shake the hand of the customer for whom I be doing the mending.”

“I am not your customer, old, peasant tailor. I am your better. And you shall never call me ‘sir’. It is always ‘my lord’. Get the job done. I want to leave this God-forsaken hovel.” Greywolf grew more and more irritable.

The tailor then asked him a question. “I know you are anxious to have this cloak mended, my lord. Is it because your father somehow ripped the cloak and was later easily murdered due to its deficiency?” Greywolf’s eyes raged blood-red. Almost as if he had become the animal of his namesake, he snarled, “My father was killed in battle, you ignorant cur! His cloak was torn in fierce combat and he died bravely at the hand of his enemy! Ask me no further questions and mend the cloak now!”

“I’m sorry, my lord. I should have known better.”

“Yes, you should have! Sew! Sew!” the lord angrily retorted.

A few moments passed. Reflecting upon his father, Greywolf remarked, “My father was a mean, vicious, brute of a man.” The tailor heard him, but did not respond.

In a short time, the cloak was repaired. The rip was not large, but was large enough to fill a superstitious lord full of fear.

“The work is done, my lord. Are you certain you would not care to take my bed as you earlier commanded? It is quite late and dark after all,” offered the tailor.

“You do fine work, peasant tailor, but I do not care to sleep in your flea-ridden bed, nor do I care to spend another minute in this dumpy little home of yours. And in the matter of recompense…” The tailor cut him off, “It was my pleasure, my lord!” “Exactly!” Greywolf casually stated.

“Now let me help you on with this cloak, my lord.” As he slipped the cloak on his better, the tailor let loose his seam ripper and, unheard by and unbeknownst to the lord, lightly ripped a small tear in the new mending job. Lord Peter Greywolf, the Eighth Earl of Greywolf Hall, took three steps towards the door. As he clutched the handle on the massive door, the old, frail, hunched, arthritic and feeble tailor nimbly lunged for the sword hanging at Greywolf’s right side, with an agility that belied his obvious advanced age, appearance and manner. As he snatched it from its sheath, Greywolf spun around to see the tailor standing much taller and straighter, his eyes twinkling as he smiled a deadly grin. His grip on the sword was firm and unwavering as he pointed it at Greywolf. Greywolf implored, “Who are you, peasant tailor?“ To which the tailor responded, “I am your better!” With that, he parried and plunged Lord Greywolf’s own sword through his chest which elicited Greywolf’s pained scream and, though choking on his own blood, these words, “How is that possible? This is a cloak of invincibility! You mended it yourself. How is that possible?”

“Once a cloak of invincibility is ripped, the torn fabric can never be truly mended. I sewed it, many, many years ago as I have already told you. I have not already told you that I also ripped it and mended it before, many years ago.”

As Lord Peter Greywolf, the Eighth Earl of Greywolf lay dying, gasping for breath in a pool of his own fluids, he inquired of the tailor, “But why? Were you not proud to have sewn a cloak for a lord? Why would you rip your own work?”

The happy tailor crouched down, almost close enough to kiss the dying lord, and with a smirk on his lips stated, “As I have replied to the very same question in the past, when previously put at an imposition by a young, arrogant and ungrateful Lord: ‘You rip what you sew’”.

The End

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From → Short stories

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