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The Tinkered Mind
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November 27th, 2022
Lucilius was walking through a foreign town, the dust from the main unpaved boulevard coating his feet in a thin skin of dust. He was tired and hungry, and smiling from his long journey.
He sat himself up against the side wall of a local general store to rest and took pleasure in the sweet air as he breathed it.
The owner of the general store and the man’s daughter walked out onto the front porch of the building with two bowls of food and pannikins of water. The man sat with his back to Lucilius, and the little girl watched him from big brown eyes as she spooned the delicious porridge to herself and sipped the water. But she was full before her father, and after watching Lucilius she asked her father if she could give the rest of her meal and the water to the strange man sitting against their store.
The owner of the store turned to look at Lucilius. Lucilius smiled humbly, averting his eyes, fully aware of the scourge of opinion that was commonly laid upon his sort of person.
The man nodded to his daughter and the little girl hopped down from the porch and approached Lucilius, handing him her bowl of unfinished food and the pannikins of water.
Lucilius nodded deeply accepting the two. It comprised one of the most delicious meals he ever had. Lucilius had dinned in palaces, hosted by kings, and once a kind himself with all manner of luxury available at his beck and call, but none of it stood the trial of comparison agains this simple meal handed to him by the young child, daughter of the owner of the general store in this poor town. Each bite, Lucilius savored, and the water to finish it with tastes like a kind of clean liquid gold. The likes of which Lucilius felt he’d never tasted despite having tasted the world’s best wines.
He nodded to the man and his young daughter and thanked them. The man smiled gravely at Lucilius, and just that moment a neighbor rain up the short stairs of the general store and shared words with the owner. His face grew worried, panicked even.
The owner called to his daughter and commanded her to stay at the store. He needed to leave for a few minutes, and as he swiveled to leave he saw Lucilius once more.
“Watch over my daughter.”
Lucilius nodded and the man ran off with his neighbor toward some worry in the village. Lucilius smiled and rested against the store’s wall.
But as he sat, he noticed more and more of the villagers headed in the same direction the owner had fled. And as they amassed the young girl grew anxious, and her whispers of “Daddy” grew and grew until the girl was and audible mess.
“Come child,” Lucilius said. “We will go see and make sure your father is well.”
He took the young girl’s hand and the two walked calmly in the direction of the rushing villagers.
They found a crowd. A crowd growing and growing angry.
Lucilius slipped left and right through the thing gaps in the crowd, the small child snaking the path behind him, until they arrived at the front of the mess, beside the store owner.
“My sister,” the distressed man barely gasped, barely cognizant of Lucilius standing next to him.
The front ranks of the crowd were incensed, their raging eyes bulging, their voices near a screech, all directed at the sobbing woman on the ground before them. Also of them, of the crowd, this close held stones held high, ready to be thrown.
“My sister…” gasped the crest fallen owner of the store…
Lucilius looked to his left and to his right. The crowd was clearly crazed over something they’d learned, something the young woman had done. And quickly, he took the hand of the small girl and threaded her hand into her father’s and stepped forward before the crowd and approached the young sobbing woman. He kneeled before her, and smiled flatly, humbly before her tear struck face.
“All will be well my dear. Give me a moment with these silly people.”
Then he stood and turned and looked at the crowd and called from within him the strength of a voice deep and loud enough to rattle in around all of them.
“Only those who have never done any wrong may harm this woman and cast the first stone.”
The crowd grew silent, their fists grasping stones still held high.
“I am from a far away land,” Lucilius bellowed. “And I have one gift in life: I can see all that you have done wrong just by staring in your face. I will determine who is worthy to punish this woman before you.”
The crowd grew meek at his words and Lucilius approached them, and carefully, diligently looked into each and every one of their faces, moving full across the entire front line, looking past them at every accuser standing. After some time, after he had looked into each of their faces, Lucilius stood back.
“Only one of you is worthy to punish this woman. The rest of you have committed wrongs equal or greater and you mock yourselves to stand here above this woman, condemning her, for you are no better.”
Some petulant onlooker then shouted “Well who is it? Who is going to punish that wretched woman!”
Lucilius smiled and then kneeled, until he was the same height as the girl who had fed him. The store owner’s daughter. He motioned for her to come closer.
“You my sweet child are the only one who’s wrongs are small enough to punish this woman. I’m sorry but you must choose your weapon.”
The little girl was downcast at the prospect, but she turned and looked at the stones her fellow villagers had set down before themselves. She went to the first, but it was too heavy, and she could not pick it up. And the same with the second - it was too heavy for her to comfortably life. She returned to Lucilius distressed and nervous…
“They are all too heavy, the stones people have brought.”
“My child, the punishment is yours to decide, for you are blameless. Your weapon may be whatever you wish.”
The girl held Lucilius’ gaze steadily, and then she looked down, curious. She knelt down and picked up a tiny pebble.
“This,” she said.
Lucilius nodded, approvingly and he motioned to the store owner’s sister who still cowered on the ground, watching the strange turn of events.
The little girl approached the woman, her family, and smiled before limply tossing the tiny pebble at her. It landed softly against the woman’s garments, and the woman, teared up with her smile and sat up and reached out for the little girl who ran into her embrace. The two beg an to cry at their union and Lucilius turned to face the crowd.
“And what punishment do all of you deserve for your presumption? Your false superiority? Your sense of hollow morality? Would you rather the fates punish you with the gifts of a child or something more equal to the weight of your faults?”
Lucilius surveyed them all, their downcast faces.
“I am but a wandering traveller, guilty like all of you, trapped by the whims of life frozen in a past I can only right by my actions in the present.”
He watched them all, the crowd now bowed to his words.
“You partake in the punishment you deliver. Cast a stone, but only if you expect to be injured yourself. Forgive, and feel the sweet relief of a horrible thing lifted from all of us.”