Hello, great readers! Life has been a little busy lately, hence the lack of posts for the past two weeks. I haven’t posted a short story for a long time, and I have one for you this week that I originally wrote on Wattpad. Enjoy the story of The Detangler.
The Detangler was a quiet man who lived all alone, neither wealthy nor poor, in his cottage in a hillside village. The kingdom unfortunately never had quite enough to eat, but he was more comfortable than most others in his village. The townspeople had all forgotten his name, if he had ever had one, but they called him the Detangler because he had the skill to untie any tangled rope that they brought to him. Once a woman brought him a broken loom with the threads still attached, all knotted up together, and he undid every knot and then sent the loom along to the carpenter. The woman asked him how in the world he had managed it. “My dear young lady,” replied the Detangler, as he always would when people asked, “anyone could work out these knots with a little wit and patience.”
Now this woman was a maidservant of the wife of the greatest man in town, Sire Mayer. When the maid arrived home, she told her mistress of the great skill of the Detangler, and Lady Mayer of course wanted to see it for herself. So the maid arranged for the Detangler to bring the loom back the next day and show his craft to the Lady.
The invitation from Sire Mayer’s house addressed him as “Mr Detangler”, which was altogether a surprise for him. He had never had any sort of title before. He determined that day to live up to his new prefix. The next day Mr Detangler donned his best coat, which was only three years old and still rich in color, and headed out to fetch the loom. The carpenter helped him tie it to Mr Detangler’s small cart, but still it was an awkward load; at least for the poor donkey who had to pull it by himself.
Now Mr Detangler set off. The donkey struggled along for a good while, slipping and sweating on the stony path, until it had almost reached the top of the hill, and then decided that it’d had quite enough for one day. It sat down right there in the middle of the road. Mr Detangler stopped short, surprised, and turned to see the loom leaning dangerously over the side of his cart. “Oh, come now,” he pleaded with the donkey. “We have almost made it, and you cannot give up now!” He yanked the halter, patted the donkey’s nose, tried to convince him with many reasonable arguments, but the donkey would not budge even an inch.
Someone had to get the cart up the hill. So Mr Detangler squared his shoulders and turned to the loom. He still had a good fifty ells to go with it, but he could not pull or push that cart all by himself. Looking up the hill, he spotted something in front of Sire Mayer’s house. It was a stake for tying horses and donkeys when visitors came. He found a rope in the back of his cart- a Detangler always has a good deal of it with him anyway- and tied one end to the cart in place of the donkey, who now sat comfortably in the green grass by the road and watched curiously.
Mr Detangler took the other end of the rope and hurried up the hill with it, looped it around the stake, and then pulled with all his might. And would you believe it- the cart rolled up the hill as easily as if six strong donkeys had been pulling it! Mr Detangler’s own donkey sat shocked for a moment and then cantered up the hill to stand beside his master.
Meanwhile, all the townsfolk and those in Sire Mayer’s house had come out to watch. They cheered as the loom creaked to a stop before the front door, and Lady Mayer herself came down the steps and let Mr Detangler kiss her hand, sweaty as he was. “Your skill is beyond compare!” she exclaimed. The donkey snorted and tossed his head with an air. The people paid this no heed, clustered about Mr Detangler as they were. Though his cheeks had been pink before from his exercise, Mr Detangler could feel his cheeks getting redder at all the attention.
Now the crowds parted for Sire Mayer, who looked him up and down, then nodded and even smiled. “Well done, Sire Detangler,” he offered in a very dignified tone.
Sire Detangler! Why, no one else in the whole village besides Sire Mayer himself had ever received such a title for at least twenty years. He opened his mouth in protest, but Sire Mayer continued, “Henceforth you need not untie common ropes such as you have done. Today I bequeath to you a new task- you shall be my own assistant.”
Before he could say either yea or nay, the new Sire Detangler was whisked into the house amid laughing ladies and murmuring men. They tucked him into a seat at the right hand of Sire Mayer’s great wooden chair, gave him a grand new coat with golden buttons, and made much of him. The hours must have flown by for them, but to Sire Detangler, each minute was nothing but a flustery nightmare that never ended.
Somehow the day did end, though, and Sire Detangler was glad to crawl into a deep feather bed and close the curtains of whitest linen about him. He had just fallen asleep, it seemed, when Sire Mayer rapped on the door and called, “Arise and greet the morning!” Sire Detangler drew open the curtains, climbed out of bed, rushed to put on that stiff coat with gold buttons, and then followed Sire Mayer down endless halls and stairs.
Sire Mayer plunked him down on a wood chair behind a monster of a desk in a room with high papered walls- too much paper and too few windows, thought Sire Detangler- and dropped a heap of papers on the desk.
“Herein are written all the problems of the King’s realm,” announced Sire Mayer proudly. Sire Detangler now realized why he was so nervous around Sire Mayer- he always clasped his hands behind his back like he was hiding something and about to hit Sire Detangler with it if he made a mistake. “Your task as my assistant is to solve all these and bring them to the King within a fortnight.”
Someone made a noise outside, and Sire Mayer turned to the door to see what they wanted. Sire Detangler took his chance and leaned forward, hoping to find why Sire Mayer always clasped his hands, but there was nothing. At this moment Sire Mayer turned back and caught Sire Detangler staring at his back. He scowled. “Within a fortnight,” he repeated, and he stepped outside and shut the door tight. Sire Detangler heard the key in the lock and decided that he did not much like Sire Mayer after all. He set to work anyway. Someone had to solve all of these problems.
Sire Detangler dutifully tried to finish within a fortnight, working all day without much time to eat and sleeping fitfully all night. By the end of those two weeks he was wan with dark circles under his eyes. There was still one problem to solve that had puzzled him all the time. Moreover he was not very happy. Working out a few important problems was a fine task for him when he had a good night’s sleep and some bread and cheese by his side, but he could not help wondering whether the King could not end his own wars and whether the farmers could not devise ways to grow their own crops.
Sire Detangler could not sleep the last night. That final problem was unsolvable: how could the King make sure his people had enough to eat? The authors of Sire Mayer’s books did not know, the people themselves did not know, and even Sire Detangler did not know. Must he tell the King on the morrow that people would go on starving? And would he forever be working to answer the unanswerable questions of the kingdom?
The next morning Sire Mayer knocked on the door as always and saw to it that Sire Detangler did all his golden buttons correctly, but this time a servant tied a silk scarf around Sire Detangler’s neck and added a chain to his new watch. Today they walked past the study with that monstrous desk and to the Mayers’ own carriage. Lady Mayer was already in it, glittering under at least a pound of jewels. Now after all that time poring over official papers, Sire Detangler knew that all her jewels came from the King’s taxes. “Somehow,” said Sure Detangler to himself, “she does not look so lovely as the ladies in the town with the attire they make for themselves.”
And then Sire Detangler realized he had solved both problems. He leaped up from his seat with a shout and smacked the carriage-roof hard, but he hardly noticed, so great was his joy. Sire and Lady Mayer both jumped up too, and Lady Mayer started fanning herself when she had landed. “What on earth?” she wailed.
“I have found it!” cried Sire Detangler. “And I do not want you to call me ‘Sire Detangler’ anymore. ‘Mr Detangler’ was just fine. I would even settle for ‘the Detangler’ again! Now hurry up the driver and get me to the King’s palace straightaway! I must tell him all about it.”
The King’s palace was a very stately building: flags and flower gardens on the outside, rich red carpets and tapestries inside, but the Detangler rushed through it so fast that he could barely recall any details later. He found his way to the King’s throne room in a hurry, Sire and Lady Mayer trailing along behind. He burst through the doors out of breath and missing his silk necktie, but he bowed deeply to the startled King and plunged into his speech.
“Your Majesty, I have solved all your problems. Here they are, here they are; take them.” He plopped the stack right onto the King’s robed lap. “And here is the last and greatest nut to crack! ‘How shall we make sure the people have enough to eat?’ Well, I know the answer now. Your Majesty certainly must see how worn I am; that is because I have spent all this time inventing new farming processes and going over Your Majesty’s treasury accounts. I used to untie ropes for a living, but as I would always tell my customers, anyone can solve their problem with a little wit and patience. So now I am telling Your Majesty so. Let everyone first try to work out their own problems before they bring them here. If they have the tiniest bit of wit and patience, your people will no longer starve.”
The King smoothed his fur robes and stood grandly. “We shall try your new policy, Sire Detangler. And we are most grateful to you for all you have done. Go home to your rope business. From this day forward we shall teach the men, women, and children to feed themselves.”
Sire and Lady Mayer took him home in silence, but when they left him at his cottage, Sire Mayer smiled at him again before driving off. The Detangler now told himself that Sire Mayer was not so terrible anymore when he drove his own carriage, and Lady Mayer looked almost lovely when she smiled and waved thank-you.
And from then on the Detangler- for so the people called him again- no longer had very many ropes to untie, and he became a teacher and taught children the art of detangling. “Only a little wit and patience, that’s all it takes,” he would say.
And so it did.