Carried Away

I’m working on a children’s story at the moment, which should be finished in a week or two… or maybe today if I keep drinking coffee! Anyway, I started writing what was supposed to be a two-line aside about a bit character. Something like “He looked a little like this and he was such and such a thing. Here is a thing he did one time.”

Instead, I wrote this and now I kind of want to write Julius Extraño his own story…

The owner of the quill store, Julius Extraño, was a bit of a mystery. No one knew how old Mr Extraño was exactly – himself included – but he estimated he was around 93, or maybe 101. He arrived in Amelia Bay on a small boat he had built himself. That was back in 1947. The story he told about where he had come from and how he had arrived didn’t really make sense. Or, rather, it made sense, but it was so fantastical that no one ever quite believed it.

Mr Extraño was tall and very thin, with deep olivebrown skin, large green eyes, and a long, gracefully curving nose. On his left forearm was a tattoo that read felix culpa: “I woke up with it one day when I was still a boy. I don’t know what it means and I don’t care to find out.” He spent his first few decades in town getting by on storytelling and singing on the main street for spare change. Eventually, in the mid-60s, one of the many locals he befriended took him in, letting him live in the granny flat out back of their house. For years he thrived there. Planting and tending a glorious garden, singing to the family pets and teaching them tricks, and captivating local kids with storytelling sessions and magic tricks in the backyard. He also taught the family’s children how to fish, sew, cook, hunt, build treehouses and rafts, play guitar, skin rabbits, paint with oils, and mend old pocket-watches – of which he had brought 30 or 40 along with him in the boat.

Then, in the late 70s, a group of heartbroken young men whose girlfriends had recently left them moved to Amelia Bay and formed a poetry group. Their plan was to get inspired by the sea and write poetry so beautiful their loves would return to them. But life doesn’t work like that, and eventually the men gave up on that idea, taking comfort in each others’ company and forming a little poetry writing commune. Their poems were very bad. So, revealing yet another skill, Mr Extraño began making exquisite quills and ink pots for the young poets. Armed with these beautiful quills, their work improved drastically. It was as if the quills drew out whatever was most beautiful, painful, tender, funny, or wise in the young men and captured its essence in line after line of breathtaking poetry. Soon they were all quite successful and many other writers were drawn to Amelia Bay. Their commune grew, developing its own writing school and a writer’s festival and regular book tours by local authors and poets – and every word written there was written with an Extraño quill. All of a sudden, the mysterious man was quite wealthy and opened up shop, which these days sold quills to local writers, tourists, traveling authors, and collectors, as well as shipping hand-crafted quills to heartbroken poets all around the world.

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