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It was back in the days when wagons were the thing, and wheels went round
and Specific was a nice small town where three rivers came together to
become one big river. Names for wagons or vehicles came from where people
came from before they got to Specific, or the way people dressed might have
told it; there were covered wagons and buckboards, Connestogas and
cabriolets, rigs and equipage. Specific people made wheels for barouches and
chariots and droshkies, none lacking for a name. There were elegant names
like hansoms and landaus and phaetons and dozens of other names for the big
and the small, for the want of a style, or as designed for a task or a
journey.

And they all needed wheels. Specific's wheels went on medicine wagons and
bakery wagons and milk wagons as well as fire wagons and drover's carts and
four-in-hand coaches.

And wheels needed hub makers and spoke makers and rim makers. And the town
called Specific had the very best. In Specific were men best at what they
did, artisans, and the times were good.

Everything had its place in Specific.

Jackbin the hub maker was a rugged man with wide shoulders and muscled arms.
With a fine house, two daughters, a new son, and a wife who brought lunch to
him every day, he was on top of the world. Hundreds of times his hubs had
gone all the way to the Pacific Coast. They also wore down the streets in
New York and other big cities, so many did he make. Day after day his hammer
and anvil rang out as he forged master cores of new wheels. Often the less
timid boys would watch in fascination as Jackbin accelerated the flames of
his forge, shaped a new piece amid a chorus of sounds and a cloud of steam,
setting it up for accepting the rugged spokes. Stronger boys among the
onlookers dreamed of being hub makers, but Jackbin would never take a new
man on, never mind a boy, as an apprentice. Things were too good for him.

"That's a good fire," he'd yell to the boys looking on as he flashed
overhead a piece of red-hot iron in his tongs. "That's fire, boys, and
beware of its touch!" He always gave warnings to the onlookers; it was as
much advice as warning. Muscles bulged at his shoulders and in his arms.
Sometimes the rain would hiss on the tongs. Boys loved to watch him work.
Jackbin loved the crowd about his forge, but to be good was special; that
was held to be true by all the people who lived in Specific. Jackbin knew he
was special, "The core," he'd whisper to himself, bringing a smile to his
lips as a new hub shaped itself for fitting.

The spokes that fit Jackbin's hubs were made by a skilled wood carver,
Dockmill, a slender reed of a man who also had a fine house, though he had
no family to share it with. People said his eyes were perfect tools for
picking out the best wood. Torture or twist or disruption in a wooden grain
was exposed to him immediately. He could see the grain in every possible
spoke, and knew how to find flaws. A flawed limb right at the outset would
end up in Jackbin's forge as charcoal, or in his own fireplace. Every spoke
that Dockmill carved to fit into Jackbin's hub was exactly the same in every
way. They weighed the same, they were shaped the same, and, short of fire,
each would last as long as the others.

The last man in the wheel chain, the rim maker, worked in wood and iron. In
his work he could wear splinters or burns as insignia, as marks of his
trade. The rim man in Specific was named Longtack, a busy little spider of a
man who went from wood to forge, knife to rake, and hilt to hammer, day
after day after day. People admired him. Some said he never slept, for there
would be a pile of spokes from Dockmill and a rack of hubs from Jackbin
sitting in his yard waiting to be shaped into the round. Early in the
morning, before the sun would rise over Specific, the first wheel of the day
would roll out of Longtack's shop. When the fourth wheel of a set rolled
out, another man with a heavy wagon came and took the wheels away to be put
on another dearborn or another drover's cart. A person might have to go
quite a distance before the wheels began to roll of their own.

Yet Longtack would take on no help either, preferring to keep his tasks, and
his income, to himself. "No," he'd tell a young hopeful, "I am no teacher, I
am a worker," as he deftly dropped an iron ring about a wooden wheel with
all the spokes in place. How he loved to smell the hot rim scoring the inner
wooden rim! How he loved to roll a new wheel out into his work yard, after
Dockmill's spokes found a home in Jackbin's hubs! It was exciting.

Specific, it was said, from its little place where the three rivers met,
made the world go round.

"We have it made," a grinning Longtack said one night at the gathering
place. "And we are the best at what we do. No one can touch us. I heard that
Gregman over in Purchase left his shop and has gone west, but he's a fool
adventurer." He nodded as he said, "His spokes were not as good as yours."
His nod was at Dockmill. Jackbin roared his approval. "We are Specific," he
said. "We make it go round."

One day they suddenly realized that all the other nearby wheel makers had
gone; all the other hub men, all the other spokes men, all the other rim
men. Now there was one hub man, one spoke man, and one rim man. Truly they
were on top of the world.

With the realization came agreement that they would not share their good
times with anybody.

Then, as fate would have it, came the day the round world of Specific
stopped rolling, came to a standstill. Early in the morning it was apparent
Longtack's fire was not lit, no smoke curled from his chimney. There was no
light in his shop, no early morning wheel rolled in place out in front.
Dockmill and Jackbin crossed the road slowly. People watched them on the
dusty road approaching Longtack's shop.

Something had to be wrong, out of kilter.

A cry came from inside the shop. Longtack was gone. All his gear was gone.
He had moved out in the night. A note hung on a beam told all. "I have gone
elsewhere with my trade. I will be in Reproach starting a new shop. I am
sorry but I have taken on a helper. I am tired of success. There must be
something else."

Soon, almost before one could wink an eye, the way Jackbin and Dockmill
worked, there was a pile of hubs and a pile of spokes climbing upward. The
two men did not stop working, for it was the only thing they knew how to do.
The hubs kept coming, round and bulky and heavy, and the pile of spokes grew
to be a small mountain.

The people said, "What will you do with all these hubs and spokes if you do
not make wheels from them? What will we do?" They saw the size of the piles
still growing, flowing all over the place. Specific was filling up with
wheel hubs and wooden spokes.

"That is not up to us," roared Jackbin and Dockmill together. "If you do not
want the piles here, go get a rim man. We are not rim men. We make hubs, we
make spokes. It is not our problem." Their aims, it can be said, were too
one-way and had little of imagination.

In the end, when there was no rim man, no young man to take Longtack's
place, no promising apprentice at rim making, the people of Specific slowly
drifted out of town. Now Jackbin and Dockmill have long gone, and there is a
pile of hubs frozen in rust and a pile of sawdust where the spokes used to
be, in the town called Specific, where the three rivers meet.



Sheehan has ten Pushcart nominations. His books are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans;
A Collection of Friends  and From the Quickening. His work is in Home of the Brave, Stories in Uniform
and  Milspeak Anthology.  He also has Noted Story nominations for 2007 and 2008, the Georges Simenon
Award for fiction, and a selection for inclusion in the Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009. He served
with the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951.





The piece was written in 2004 and sat around for a while after it was rejected by one or more sites, mistakenly thought issued in another site and became "lost" for a time in other energies. It was written in an excursion into fable-type work as a result of another story, "The Man Who Hid Music,"
selected for the anthology, "The Silver Rose Anthology," from American Renaissance of the 21st Century (ART). It was one of 13 stories picked out of about 1000 read for the issue. That story later earned a Pushcart nomination from another site. 7 such fable-type pieces have been published to date in various issues. A Town Called Specific is the 8th.

The title was changed several times before I settled on the final one carrying its thematic note.  I am pleased that a piece I have believed in has finally landed, after some question on my part that it had been used, but I had lost a lot of info on a computer crash. That's a horrible feeling to face until you find old back-up to fill the holes, such as on old floppies from my first computer, a Mac with a postage-stamp monitor that my family bought for me the day I retired in 1991, my entry into the computer world.

  


Copyright 2009