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The Tinkered Mind
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March 17th, 2019
Lucilius was sitting in the baggage claim area of an airport, waiting during a long layover. He took a sip from an old pannikin – a metal mug - he’d used for several hundred years. The mug was dented and scratched, misshapen but loved, and still – only faintly – showed the image of Hercules, crudely etched, swinging a sword at a many-headed monster.
He realized it had been decades since he’d last looked at the faded piece of art. Hercules had yet to figure out the trick to defeating the monster and it was still getting stronger and stronger, growing more heads every time Hercules cut one off. Lucilius held the mug out and took in all the dimples and dents. Hercules’ sword was bent because of one dent, and the monster wrapped round the rest of the mug.
At that moment he heard a short shriek and a moan. He looked up and saw a woman kneeling over a suitcase unzipped and open. She was holding white and blue shards of a tea cup that had shattered in her luggage. She began to cry as she peeled back paper and clothing to find more broken pieces of china, the whole mess of it clinking and crunching as she moved things around, searching for even a single unbroken piece. The woman sat back and started to have a full-on tantrum, anger and grief flashing across her face.
An airport janitor walked some distance past her and the crying woman yelled,
“Why can’t you be careful with people’s stuff?”
The janitor briefly looked around to see who she might be addressing and then continued on their way.
Lucilius sipped more coffee, watching the scene and became aware once more of his mug. He held it out at length, next to the sight of the bereaved woman.
The mug certainly wasn’t new and far from pristine, but, Lucilius realized, it had somehow become better than when it had first been given to him.
The woman mopped up her face and then dragged the splayed suitcase over to a trashcan next to the bench where Lucilius sat. She struggled to lift the suitcase and get an edge to the lip of the trash, tilting it until the whole crushed mess clattered out and dumped into the bin. The woman coughed at the dust cloud that plumed up from the crash as she flipped the whole suitcase on top of the trash bin and then walked away.
Lucilius cracked an old book and began to read while his next flight was still sometime off and it wasn’t long before the same janitor had circled back and noticed the suitcase atop the trash bin.
The janitor removed the suitcase and groaned, looking down at the heavy mess. The janitor tried to lift the plastic trash bag from the bin but with the weight, it only ripped where he gripped it. In defeated frustration, the janitor took a step back to reassess the situation, and as he did, he bumped Lucilius’ mug balanced on the edge of the bench. The now empty mug fell and bounced on the tile, clattering to a stop. The janitor spun around in the same instant.
“I’m so so sorry.” He said as he picked up the mug and handed it back to Lucilius.
“Don’t worry,” Lucilius said “it’s made for that.”