Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Brothers, the Woods, and the Future

Once upon a time, two brothers went for a walk in the woods, and on their way, they met the Future. She was neither pretty nor plain, short nor tall, fat nor thin. She simply was. The brothers had never crossed the Future’s path before, but they still recognized her, for her eyes were as deep as mountain springs and her shoulders seemed to bear a heavy load.

“I would show you your futures,” she whispered, though it cut them to the very core. “Then you may ask a single question. But ask wisely, humble brothers, for questions do not always produce their intended answers.”

The elder brother stepped around his younger, as was his right. “Show me my future,” he demanded.

“As you wish,” the Future said, and with a tip of her head, the forest faded.

A new scene rose up around them. The elder brother knew it well, for it was the workshop where he fashioned the tables and chairs that filled his village. He loved his occupation and took pride in his work, but the simple farmers for whom he toiled knew nothing of artistry. They did not appreciate his skill, but he did. Oh, he did.

As he watched himself multiply tables, each one slightly bigger and grander than the last, the elder brother grew angry. He would wear out his life on these undeserving peasants. Then someone rapped on his door. It was one of the king’s heralds, and as nearby trumpeters blasted a fanfare, the king himself alighted from a carriage and landed on the workshop’s doorstep. The king had heard of his work; his tables and chairs were much admired in the capital. The elder brother’s heart pounded as he watched the king commission him to construct the finest table and chairs he had ever constructed, with a sideboard to match. The herald set a sack of gold on the doorstep at his feet, and as the king promised him more and climbed back into his carriage, the elder brother could already feel the weight of that sack in his hands.

The vision closed, and no sooner had the woods drifted back into focus than the elder brother asked, “When will these things come to pass?”

The Future considered him for a long moment, then, finally, said, “Five years from this very day.”

The elder brother sneered, then pressed his lips into a line. “If I must wait five years, then five years I will wait.” And with that, he stalked away, leaving his brother to face the Future alone.

The younger brother watched his elder go, then turned back toward the Future. “Would you show me my future also?”

“I would,” the Future said, “for I only speak the truth.”

He licked his lips, then mumbled, “Very well.”

“As you wish,” the Future said, and with a tip of her head, the forest faded.

A new scene rose up around them. The younger brother knew it well, for it was the bakery where he made the bread that adorned his brother’s tables. He loved his occupation and took pride in his work, but there was something he loved even more, and that was the woman who entered the bakery and dinged the cheerful bell.

She bought bread every day for her invalid mother, but on this day of days, he gave her a tiny cake with frosting like lace and sprinkles like stars. When she took her first and only bite, she bit into a ring. The younger brother blushed at the thought of such forthrightness, but when the woman said yes, his embarrassment melted away.

Another scene rose up around them. The younger brother knew this place as well, for it was the home that he had lived in since he was a boy. As he watched, his own boys raced by one by one, tiny heels thumping the wooden boards he and his brother had worn smooth. The home was adjacent to the bakery, and life was simple but rich. Then one night while they slumbered, the oven flared to life, consuming the bakery, the home, two of his boys, and his dear wife. As he watched his life’s work turn to ash before his very eyes, the younger brother thought he could smell the smoke of that faraway night.

The vision closed, and no sooner had the woods drifted back into focus than the younger brother whispered, “Must these things come to pass?”

The Future smiled knowingly. “No, for though I only speak the truth, I only speak one of many. The future is as inscrutable as the face of the wind.”

The younger brother wiped his eyes. “Then I will labor to ensure that this one remains a vision.”

“As you wish,” the Future said, and with a tip of her head, she disappeared.

#

Years passed, and the younger brother took nothing for granted. He courted the woman who always bought bread for her invalid mother, and when he asked her to marry him, he simply handed her the ring. He dashed his fire every night and brought it back to life every morning, though it cost him much sleep. He never forgot the vision the Future had shown him. He forged his own path.

On the other hand, the elder brother did nothing to secure the vision the Future had shown him. He daydreamed by his woodpile and hardly set foot in his workshop, content to waste his days as the five years trickled past. But five years came and went, then seven, then ten, and the king never came. He drank much and laughed little. Finally, when he could bear his own stench no longer, the elder brother roused himself and stumbled to the home that had once belonged to him.

“You saw my future!” he exclaimed, falling to his knees before his brother.


“Yes,” the younger brother said. “But you did not see mine.”

The elder brother blinked. “I do not understand.”

The younger brother smiled sadly. “You did not improve the time that the Future gave you, so you did not become the carpenter that you might have been.” He drew his brother up. “The future is as inscrutable as the face of the wind.”

The elder brother blinked again, but this time, he understood. He went away sorrowing, having lost that which he had never had.

9 comments:

Jess said...

An excellent lesson in a well-told story :)

Ben Spendlove said...

Wow. I'm bookmarking this for the next time I want to know what the future holds. (Probably later tonight.)

staceylee said...

This is great! I love the fairytale tone, and I love the story. Good reminder that we're in charge of our futures! Thank you K for sharing your beautiful writing.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Such a good reminder, Krista. We're better off not knowing! ;)

Melodie Wright said...

Love this - thanks for sharing!

Shallee said...

Oh my gosh. I want this illustrated and published and in a book I can buy. I love this.

Kimberly said...

What an awesome story. The last line really hits home.

Naomi Hughes said...

Lovely! Thank you for sharing. I just happened across this accidentally, and really enjoyed the tone and the short but touching story. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thank you all so much for your kind and lovely comments. This is a story I've been meaning to tell for a long time, and I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. I liked how it turned out, too:)