The tailor smiled his careful smile as he closed the door behind the two young men. He raised a hand. Not that they’d notice, those rich dandies. They didn’t even think of him as a human being, most likely. Those young men Just like all the tailor’s other customers: they’d notice if he stuck a pin in them, that was about it. Some people would ask his advice about cut and fabric. Not the dandies though. They made their demands for bigger, better, brighter suits of clothes and struck poses while the little tailor tried to measure them, talking all the time to their companions if they’d come accompanied or to the air if they were alone.
He mopped his brow and his clammy hands. How stuffy it was in his little shop today. Perhaps he’s prop the door open, let a little air in. He leaned against the door jamb and sighed.
No matter how much these bright young men belittled him, no matter how preposterous their adventures, he could not help himself – he admired them. No! He envied them. In they strode, with their silly heeled shoes and dangling lace cuffs, swords hanging from their belts more decoration than weaponry. In they strode, with their air of privilege and self-importance. Just to look at them was enough to make the little tailor tremble with anticipation. For at once they would begin to spin impossibly elaborate tales of their adventures: tales of derring-do, impossible escapes, unconquerable enemies defeated, unsurpassably beautiful ladies won and occasionally lost, extraordinary treasures unearthed.
“On single blow was all it took,” they’d say. “Dead as a doornail!”
“… struck off his head and the damsel fell at my feet…”
“Thought I might have a go at that dragon over in the next kingdom. You up for it?”
“So there I was, scaling the castle wall, with a knife in my teeth…”
When it was a matter of fitting a matron out with a new riding coat or providing some burgher with an outfit for the mayor’s inauguration, the tailor would chat politely about the weather or the customer’s family as he worked, steering clear of anything too personal or political, of course, in the way his father had taught him. But with the young dandies, he held his tongue for the most part. He went about his work as efficiently as ever, tape flicking over their bodies as he measured, occasionally murmuring, “Arm straight out now, sir,” or suchlike, though he tried to keep his interruptions to a minimum.
And when they’d gone, he would climb up onto his sewing platform in the window again and pick up his work, but he wouldn’t start, not straight away. He’d think about the stories they’d told. He’d wonder where truth left off and fantasy began. He’d start to think about how fate had made him a tailor and them brave, bold adventurers. They weren’t so very different. He was no older than them, though he’d been earning a living when they were still being cared for by nursemaids. The difference was confidence, he thought. The young dandies acted like they owned the world and the rest of the world agreed.
There was no use in thinking about it, of course. Here he was, nothing but a tailor and he always would be.
The little tailor lifted the cloth off the piece of bread and jam he’d been about to eat when the young men had arrived. A fly buzzed around his hand as he brought the bread and jam to his mouth. Then another.
A whole cloud of flies now.
He threw down the bread.
He slammed his hand down on it.
He lifted his jammy hand to find seven dead flies clinging to it.
Seven at one blow.
That sounds good, he thought. He raised his head a little higher.
Seven at one blow.
That’s enough to start a story.