“Alaia”: The Wild Wide Field

Posted on May 5, 2007 by Jenna

← Previous | Next →

You’re just in time; we’ve been speaking of Hank Makeway, and if you hurry you can find the first parts of this story

here, and

We’ve done the bit where the road to New Jerusalem had failed; and how Hank Makeway came to build a new; and how he made the first adult tooth in the mouth of Kailani Tate, of the twenty-eight he’ll build; how he was satisfied, and more than satisfied, with the work he’d done thus far; but of course, there was a flaw… .

The Wild Wide Field

Three weeks later, as he walks to the site of the fourth tooth, the goddess speaks.

“Why am I a road to New Jerusalem?”


She is quiet for a bit.

“I mean,” she says, “am I a self-defining creature, or am I unfree?”

Hank laughs.

He leans against a stay and he says, “There’s none of us chooses the circumstances of our birth.”

“No,” she says, dubiously.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” he says. “But you mustn’t tell anyone I told.”

Her interest sharpens. “Please!”

“You were always here,” Hank says. “You existed before me, before my horses, before even Kailani Tate. You were sleeping in the substrate of the world. You were here, but you were buried, and the truths you slept among occluded you. When I ground away everything that wasn’t a road to New Jerusalem, I un-differentiated it to leave only the substance of your body; and here you are.”

She is quiet for a while.

“Do you understand?” he says.

“I am free,” she says.

“More than free,” he says. “You are my partner in this, my student, my teacher. I am a builder of lattices, a grinder of gums, a master of horses, and a placer of stays. But I cannot make a toothway. That job is yours.”

“Maker of smiths,” she says.

His smile embarrasses him; he fights the urge to look down.

“Let me tell you of New Jerusalem,” he says.

And for a long time, as he works, he does. He tells her of the spires of New Jerusalem and of how it became holy to his people and his craft. Then he speaks of Kelly Whitecap and her labors; and of Mandate Wisdom before her; and Sephirot Gumsman, and Maker Ben, and Two-Tooth Jenny, and all the way back the line of smiths to that Razor Jenkins who’d first conceived of giving children teeth. He tells her of his own life and of how he came to study teeth and of the year he spent in New Jerusalem, suffused with grace. He shows her the marks of his studies there, two whitened bite scars still wrapped in angry red.

On the seventh tooth he becomes aware of the error in his crafting. He rips out the ivory of that tooth and tries again; after the third planting, he recognizes that the error is pervasive and not localized as he had thought.

Its nature is elusive.

He does not see it. He only feels it. There is something wrong. The toothway is correct thus far: it points nowhere save New Jerusalem. But it is his dim perception that that destination is lost in darkness: that a person who rode the toothway would certainly enact a movement from Lauemford to New Jerusalem, but could not actually arrive.

Grimmer now, he works as he plants new teeth to correct this flaw. He emphasizes the brightness of New Jerusalem as he goes. He spins fabulous webs of story around the factual accounts of that city’s affairs. He gropes for the substance of the error, trying to construct it in reverse in the hope of compensating.

“Something is wrong,” the goddess tells him.

Hank thinks about this for a moment. Then he confirms it.


“I am failing,” she says.

Hank stares at a bleak and dismal place inside his soul for a time. Then he pulls his attention free and focuses on the gums.

“You can’t fail,” he says, “if you’re not being tested.”


“Goddess,” he says, and rests his hand on the great pulse of her. “That is not how a smith thinks. Craft is not deciding how good we are. Craft is in the effort and the eyes.”

“The eyes?”

“Seeing the good,” Hank Makeway says. “The possibility. The hope. So that we may nurture it and bring it forth.”

There is a lightening of the overall self-doubt in the gums; but in compensation, a core shape and essence of the goddess’ uncertainty darkens, pulls in on itself, and begins to calcify its boundaries. He can feel its nascent protest; and he acts to poison it with hope.

“There is virtue,” Hank says, “in having some acceptance of failure, in the sense of lowering one’s expectations when we can no longer meet them. Of recognizing when we must change our dream. But before we can do that, before we can even consider changing the structure of our hopes, we must understand the nature of the difficulty; otherwise, it is simply speculation, self-doubt, tainted air.”

“But where is it?” she asks. “Where is our difficulty?”

“Somewhere in this wild wide field of beauty,” Hank says, gesturing around; and because he says it, she can see it thus.

and as for the error, we shall leave its story until Monday; such excitement better suits a Monday than a Saturday, after all.