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The Summersmith

Some days let you have your farm implements, but others require tools of war. Either of those needs fire and anvil, sweat and time. Some people march to the front for battle. Others march out back to the forge.

She’s got her hammer free, and she’s beating fear from hot steel on the flat of a February morning. Try as you might, you can’t hone an edge on worry. You just set yourself to the work.

A flare of light from the cooling metal: recalescence. She smiles in the glow of her swords and plowshares, and marshalls summer against the dark.

The Summersmith

The Summersmith’s feet will detumesce, given a little patience; and for once patience is something she can apply in a paste.

It’s hot and it smells of tasteless breakfast. When she’s done tying cheesecloth she puts her feet up and cranks down the phenakistoscope. She peers through its baroque, flickering lens into her belly: he’s in there, all right, cramped and discouraged, shoulders struggling against the limits of her skin. His hands are always grasping. He doesn’t know it yet, but he longs for tools.

She eats raisins and soothes him. Soon, littlesmith. Ankles and genesis: all they take is time.

The Summersmith

She takes them out of the handkerchief one at a time, careful not to touch the edges: three shattered seconds, like puzzles that cut. Her left eye says they’re missing a few shards but fixable. Her right, through the loupe, says they’re ugly bad dark times: betrayal and sick fear, things that were broken for a reason.

The Summersmith looks across the counter at her patron, thirteen, too young to deserve these in his life. “Do you want them fixed,” she says, “or fixed?

“Truth is beauty,” he says sadly, and the loupe shows her the galloping pulse in his neck.


Night Numbers are just her day job. Everybody wants a little bar code zero, and nothing less than steel will trap that void–but it’s unpleasant, if easy. She’s glad to send them off to the retailer, who’s far away, overseas.

She hangs up the big hammer and locks the forge doors, and she’s no sooner around the corner than the first of the kids is there.

“Miss Summersmith?” he asks. “I was wondering,” and holds up string and some crayons, a dime and white chalk.

She’s already smiling: unpocketing the little hammer, the one with a prism for a head.