The Aphorisms of
nalan [ nah LAWN ], (noun) -- influence; one's effect on others
(conscious or not).
"Eat, friend," the Physician said, ladling
more broth into my bowl. "I don't need you joining the petitioners outside
I smiled and obeyed. Every week in winter
the Physician brought his broth and I made tea, and we whiled away an
afternoon in my studio. Half his reason was to escape his work for a
time... the other half, as he forthrightly declared, was "to keep you from
brooding. You spend too much time alone."
Few people come to me in winter when they
could be indoors with their families. It made me think too much of my own,
living outside the city... and of my wife and daughter, both sped from me.
With the Physician gone, I returned to my
table. My list of pending commissions was blank... the only piece on my
desk was a half-realized painting I had started for myself, which I now
resumed. Snow was rare in winter, so the fields I painted were dull umber:
the wan sun that illumined this landscape could put no sparkle in dew. I
mixed a darker brown for the well-maintained fence alongside the fields,
remembering it in every particular as my brush described the burls in the
posts. Yellow ochre brought forth a dusty road, shadowed in lilacs made
with the same cold blue I used for the sky.
My studio door opened as I washed my
fingers between water changes. I looked up and then stood swiftly so I
could bow. My lord's heir stood on my threshold, accompanied by his
cousin, whom I had advised earlier in the year.
"Calligrapher," the heir said, smiling at
me. "The day's greetings to you."
"And you, my lord," I said, Abased. "How
would you be served?"
He glanced at his cousin and said, "We
were just walking... I thought I'd stop and see the art." Remembering his
duties, he added, "And your accounting."
Hiding a smile, I bowed and said, "The
books will be set out for you."
The two made a show of going over my
records before turning with more relish to the sample art. Assured that
they did not need my attention and warmed by their presence, I returned to
I felt the heir's gaze sometime later.
"It's beautiful," he said. "Is it ours?"
I nodded. "The fields in our district,
where I grew up."
He watched me paint a little longer, then
said, "May I have it?" He blushed. "You can refuse."
"No," I said, flattered. "All that is mine
He nodded. And then, "There are no people
Surprised, for I hadn't noticed, I said,
"An oversight. I will rectify it."
The following day I sent the finished
piece before closing the studio and heading for the nearest cafe. The
Physician was right. I spent too much time alone. An Ai-Naidari is only as
important as what he shares with others.
I didn't stop to write that one down. It
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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth