Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fiction Fix: "Mr. Rubblemeaker's Path"

Time now for another installment of "Friday Ficition Fix," one of the many House of Georges features we labor over all week long to get perfectly right just in time for you to end your work week. Either that or we scramble to get it together Friday afternoon and post it after everyone's left work, only to not see it until Monday, if ever. But either way...

During my last semester of grad school, I was lucky enough to intern for New Letters magazine. New Letters is an internationally renowned magazine of writing and art. The publication has won countless awards throughout its 75 years in press, most recently the National Magazine Award for essay. New Letters publishes quarterly and contains poetry, fiction, photography, art, interviews, reviews, and essays. Last year, in Volume 73, number four, New Letters published a trio of short fiction stories by Sonia Scott-Fleming, one of which was "Mr. Rubblemeaker's Path." She has published a novel, a non-fiction book, and is a member of Linacre College at Oxford, where she serves as president of the Art Society.

"If anybody asked Mr. Rubblemeaker what trade his was,

he would have said he was an honorary member of the Society of Stonemasons. He might have elaborated on his idea of this secret and honorable society of stones if he had been better able to put his thoughts into words. But stones, not words, were Mr. Rubblemeaker's language.

In any case, nobody ever asked Mr. Rubblemeaker what his trade was, because everybody knew.

He was the only man in the whole county who could lay a really fine stone path. There were others with the more common skill of building...

slavishly following some previously drawn plan. Not so Mr. Rubblemeaker. He chose the stones; he shaped the stones to his own specification; and he laid each one into a beautifully conceived design. All this from a master plan in his own head...

...Mr. Rubblemeaker knew each stone as if he and they were members of a large and loving family.

His large, heavy mallet Mr. Rubblemeaker used for breaking up the biggest chunks of stone.

With infinite sensitivity of touch he hit the stone, and knew precisely when to stop the mallet blows before he broke it into fragments too small to use.

With his middle-size mallet Mr. Rubblemeaker broke the stone yet smaller, into just the right sizes to fit the design he was working, his delicate skill telling him exactly when to desist,

before he cracked a beautiful shape and so ruined his inspiration.

His smallest mallet he used gently to tap the trimmed stone into position, coaxing with quiet voice and tender touch.

Everybody praised Mr. Rubblemeaker's work; everybody appreciated Mr. Rubblemeaker's genius. Except Mrs. Rubblemeaker.

She mocked his trade as lowly; she derided his sensitive touch..."

But "...Alone with his stones and inspiration...then was Mr. Rubblemeaker a great master. He knew himself to be a great artist. Admired and trusted by his patrons, and employers, confident in his skill."

It is from here that Scott-Fleming's tale twists down a bizarre path, one of beauty, despair. To find out, order the issue of New Letters with "Mr. Rubblemeaker's Path" in it here, or you can order her previously published work here.


Dylan said...

As guy who earned his B.A. 16 yrs after his H.S. graduation, let me be the first to acknowledge Scott-Fleming's obvious talents in assessing the world that surrounds her. Mr. Rubblemeaker's oft unrecognized skills exsist in a world that rewards fast, cheap and thoughtless work.
With that being said, let me again mildly protest the thesis of another article.
That is: Carl Peterson is a Mr. Rubblemeaker type figure.
Mild protest: Peterson is no Rubblemeaker. If Peterson cobbled a driveway, it would look like the Chiefs parking lot. It would be souless, gray and cracked with age after one year, due to the deal he got from Acme cement company.

If I am wrong about the thesis and it is: Mrs. Rubblemeakers really suck. Consider me on board and mail my honorary graduate degree to me.