|The Epic Toy Factory|
It was night. They were sitting around the fire drinking and exchanging stories of their lives to scare the cold away. Suddenly, they turned to her.
“You’ve been quiet all this time. Tell us a story, a true story,” they asked. She thought for a few moments and then started.
"A while back, a young man I know used to walk up Noble Street coming back from work and always stopped at the window of the bookstore. In a dark forgotten corner of that window sat an abacus. Made of wood, it seemed to call him, to draw him. Many times he felt tempted to go inside the bookstore and ask for its price He wasn’t brave enough to do so though. And the abacus sat there, waiting for him.
Until one day, as he approached the store, he noticed something was wrong. The abacus was gone. In a frantic panic, he walked inside and asked the old man at the counter if the abacus had been sold. The old man said yes; it had been there for such a long time that he had sold it to the first offer he got, a mighty low one too. He was distraught. If only he had summoned enough courage before… Perhaps the abacus would’ve been his. Furious, he decided to walk a different path from then on and forget the darn abacus. It was just an object anyway.
Seven months later, after a rough day at work, he walked home immersed in his thoughts, and without noticing, he walked up that street again. When he realized what happened, he was standing in front of the bookstore looking at the window. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the abacus were suddenly back, he thought. It wasn’t. The old man standing at the door waved at him. He was in a terrible mood and making small talk with a stranger wasn’t part of his list of priorities, so he prepared to move on but the old man was faster and grabbed his wrist.
“I knew you’d come back,” he said. “Follow me.”
“I… I must go…”
“Come,” the old man waved for him to follow. “I want to show you something.”
Resigned, he crossed the store and walked into a small room at the back. When his eyes got used to the dim light, he saw it.
“Isn’t it amazing?” asked the old man, beaming.
He was speechless.
“I got it back,” the old man said. “I got it back for you.”
“I don’t understand…”
“I saw your sadness and called the buyer. He really didn’t want this abacus. He was just looking for something to decorate his office and the abacus looked… I believe the word he used was prestigious.” The old man adjusted his position slightly. “But now I want you to have it.”
“I don’t have money… really, I don’t.”
“It’s for you, a gift.” The old man smiled. He had prepared this a long time ago, but the young man had disappeared.
“I don’t understand… Why would you go through so much trouble for a complete stranger?”
“Well, you know that the abacus represents fortune. There are many ways to have fortune. One is obvious, money. I cannot give you that, and then again…” The old man smiled mischievously. “The other is a smile. I can give you that. And finally, I can also offer you a friend, me!”
The young man was moved. He held the abacus, smiled and hugged the old man, who was as happy as he could possibly be.
Well, finally let me tell you that the young man left his miserable job and took over the bookstore with enthusiasm. The old man now does what he loves doing, sorting through old dusty gems of literature, giving advice on which books people should take and offering a nice cup of coffee to everyone who walks in, encouraging them to sit down for a bit and read something. People love it.
The abacus, well the abacus is still there. And it will always be there, bringing fortune, in more ways than one can imagine, to all those who walk up that street and go inside that very special bookstore.”
Everyone around the fire remained silent. She could almost hear them think that it must feel good to be offered a smile, a hug and a new life.