The sun slowly began to peek over the horizon as Paul shuffled quietly down the street. He had been making the same journey for nearly sixty years: three short city blocks from his well kept brownstone to his small jewelry shop. Paul sighed as he dug into the left pocket of his well worn khaki slacks, searching blindly for his keys. After several moments he produced a large silver keychain.
“There you are, old friend.” He mumbled to his reflection, which shone back brightly in the orange hue of the morning sun.
He paused for a moment. He carefully studied himself in the reflection as he read the small inscription: Wilson’s Jewelry Emporium Est. July 1955. He remembered the day that he hammered those words gingerly into the soft sterling. It felt like no time had passed at all. He ran his finger over the letters who’s edges had softened with time and care; then, he inserted the small brass key into the lock and opened the heavy wooden-framed door.
Cynthia, his daughter, had always lectured him about maintaining the original door to his business. While he had upgraded the windows with new security measures, he was somewhat sentimental about the door. Unbeknownst to Cynthia, Paul and his late wife Wanda had inscribed their initials quietly into the corner of the frame. He knew it was somewhat of a security risk, but he still felt obligated to keep it. The door creaked in protest as it closed softly behind him.
“I know, old girl. The weather is starting to turn. It hurts my old bones too.” Paul spoke as he continued around to each of the small shop windows to lift the security gates and allow the morning light to shine through. Once the windows opened and the sun shone brightly illuminating the small space, Paul set about uncovering and organizing the display cases. He was exceptionally proud of his displays. Ninety percent of the jewelry in his shop he crafted himself. Being a silversmith wasn’t just a way to make a living. Paul put time and soul into each of his pieces. If the customer wanted to know the story behind an item before making a purchase, Paul could tell them. He remembered each detail as if he were speaking of his children.
Of course, in today’s modern society, many of his customers no longer cared about the intricacies of hand made items, and were only concerned with the bottom line. How much does it cost, and do you finance? That was all he ever seemed to discuss with his patrons lately, many of whom were sons and daughters of his very first customers. It was nice to have the loyalty of his patrons. However, Paul desperately missed the genuine interactions and sincere appreciation for his work.
After removing the covers from his stock and turning the lights on in each display case, Paul stopped to stretch his aging back. After he finished his stretch, he walked over to unlock the door and flip the sun-faded sign baring his business hours to open. He paused and looked out the window into the quiet city street. A few of his neighboring business owners were beginning to make their way in for the day. Cars began to line the limited spaces in front of the small row of shops as birds fought over small crumbs they had procured from dumpsters nearby.
Paul loved his shop and the small neighborhood boro it occupied. As if a stark reminder, his arthritic hand began to throb. He knew his days as a jeweler were slowly drawing to a close, but he wasn’t ready to give up his irons just yet.
He walked behind the counter and began to set up his desk for the afternoon. The local high school would be releasing its latest graduates in the coming months, and Paul was making custom class rings. It was a service he offered since the shop first opened, but each year the number of students willing to spend the extra cost to receive a custom ring was dwindling. Out of the latest class of several hundred students, Paul was only commissioned to make twenty rings.
He opened his workbench and carefully lay his tools upon the velvet cloth, which protected them from the elements. He checked them for damage or other wear and tear. He had practiced this ritual each day for so many years it had become a habit. His tools weren’t getting nearly as much use as they had been in years past, but he felt compelled to check them at the beginning of each day regardless.
As he finished setting the tools on the table, he paused to admire them. They were the only remaining friends from his youth; everyone else had passed on either from life itself or the neighborhood. Paul had his children, but he was at odds with them more often than not. They loved him and wanted the best for him in his ripe old age. Still, somewhere between teenagehood and adulthood, they had forgotten their father was capable of taking care of himself. His arthritis flared up occasionally, and he wasn’t as quick on his feet, but he was still a man in command of his business and his life.
His face crumpled into a scowl at the thought of Cynthia’s latest lecture, and he huffed as he rose from the small stool to don his leather apron. He carefully tied the worn straps around his waist before returning to his seat and adjusting his glasses.
Paul almost picked up his mandrel when he was interrupted as the bell above the door let out a loud jingle. A rather tall man dressed in a smart suit and cap entered the shop.
“Hello, welcome to Wilson’s Jewelry Emporium. Can I help you, sir?” Paul called as he folded his glasses before sticking them into his breast pocket and rising to meet his guest.
“Yes, thank you. I’m looking for someone to make a custom pendant for my wife. Is that something you can help me with?” The gentleman asked, politely removing his cap.
“Let me see. Do you have something specific in mind?” Paul answered, honestly.
“I do. Are you familiar with the significance of the Shinto Omamori custom?” Paul’s guest asked.
“No. I can’t say that I am.” Paul answered.
“Ah, well briefly for time’s sake, I have an appointment, as part of the Shinto religion a priest often inscribes small talismans to provide luck or protection from the various kami. Kami, being deities. I’d like to have a specific inscription made as a necklace for my wife.” The gentleman explained.
Paul thought heavily.
“I’m not a priest, sir. I don’t think that…” Paul began.
“Oh, yes. I know. I’m not concerned with that. Can you make the inscription?” The gentleman interrupted.
“Well, yes. It should be a simple project. I don’t know if I’m entirely comfortable with it. If it has a religious significance, it should be crafted by someone who practices the religion. It’s a matter of respect.” Paul answered.
The gentleman smiled warmly.
“I deeply appreciate your concern. I assure you, Mr. Wilson if you’re able to manufacture the pendant for me, you are more than worthy.” The gentleman insisted.
“After the unexpected loss of her first child and subsequent cancer diagnosis, Tabitha gave up. She had no desire to continue life much to the distress of her husband, Jack. Giving up on modern medicine, Jack turns to an ancient Japanese custom. He enlists the help of a seasoned silversmith to craft a small charm necklace with the hopes that it might bring his wife the happiness and vitality that she lost with their child.
Little does he know that commissioning the charm will set off an intricate chain of events impacting the world at large from the bustling urban city center to a small rural farm town and beyond. Whimsy and Sterling is a story of hope, humanity, and the six degrees of separation that connect us all in the most profound ways. Blink twice, and you might miss the magic.”
Copyright 2020 R. MacCeile