Brojo had settled into his temporary job. Zeldritch urged him to think, and the long hours of physical labor gave him the time to do it.

            Brojo was beginning to understand that even the most menial job was important. After all, it was the coal that fueled the train. Without the train, the North Pole couldn't be efficient and organized.  He also knew the reasons for 'cleaning as you go'. The most important reason to Brojo was so that the mess wasn't overwhelming. He realized that if he picked up the loosened coal before he broke more, his area stayed neat.

            "So," Zeldritch said, "today I want to know what makes you happy, and what makes you sad?"

            Brojo bagged the clumps of coal he had just loosened. "Happy -- I think I'm happiest belonging someplace.  I was part of a great community, and I had an important job, not that this job isn't important, but I just didn't realize I was happy."

            "It takes sadness to make happiness stand out as something special. Otherwise, it's the same old boring thing," Zeldritch said. "So, what makes you feel sad?"

            "Hmmm, I think I've been saddest because I disappointed a lot of folks who believed in me. When someone trusts me, it's wrong to betray that trust."

            "And what have you learned about trust?"

            Brojo thought for a minute. "Well, I guess it's about the most important thing in the world." He let his axe fall into another mound of coal, and picked up the pieces.

            "What have you lost?" Zeldritch asked.

            "The trust of the community. Yep, that's for sure." Brojo shook his head. "And my partner, and my job, and all my friends."

            "You know, Brojo, I like my job.  I like to be by myself, and like you said, every job is important. And every few centuries, I get to meet a person who needs me.  You're that person."

            "I do need you, Zeldritch.  Without you, I have no one."

            "Having no one isn't so bad, if you're a loner."

            "I suppose," Brojo sighed. He lifted the axe high above his head, and let it fall.

            "Do you enjoy this work?"

            Brojo gathered the coal. "Well, it's not so bad, now that my hands have healed." He looked at his palms, now calloused.

            "How have you changed since coming here?"

            "Well, I feel a lot older, a lot more tired."

            "Think about it, and we will talk more tomorrow." And Zeldritch disappeared.

***

            So Brojo thought some more. When he first arrived at the Coal Mine, Zeldritch disappeared for days.  Wow! I left everyone in the dark, too. No one knew where I was, and no one knew how to do my job. Zeldritch had refused to give him a bed or a blanket, or even a chair.I thought Zeldritch was selfish, but I was really selfish when I ran away. Zeldritch had two blankets around her shoulders, and a nice featherbed to snuggle up in, and plenty of snacks, which she ate in front of Brojo. I thought she was beyond selfish, even self indulgent, but what about me?  I ate so much sugar that I fell into a sugar sleep, and Santa had to send a search party.  AND, the PIN dropped.

            It was like a light came on for Brojo. Zeldritch had behaved exactly like Brojo. Zeldritch was, indeed, his shadow, and his best teacher!

***

            When Zeldritch appeared the next morning, Brojo was waiting. "I know.  I know the answer to the question."

            "Do you, now?"

            "Yes.  You taught me all about being left behind, being selfish, and being self-indulgent. I'm not like that, now. I've changed.  I know a good thing when I see it, and I don't let small things make me angry.  My family and friends depend on me, and that means so much. I'm positive and I'm trustworthy, now.Thank you, Zeldritch, for showing me myself, and being my shadow." And, with those words, he embraced Zeldritch. The boulder rolled away from the mouth of the Coal Mine.

            "You are free, Brojo. Return to the community, and always remember your lessons."

           

 


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