The Travelling Worker

He was nonchalant about his abilities: casual about his history. “We get by”. “Done a bit” was all he said but when he looked at you his eyes had knowledge.  “The thing about life is”, he said to me  . “It’s not personal. It just feels like it is but it ain’t. We’re just the wire the current runs through”.  He seemed to shine in the moment, bring a life to the tired and rudderless ; make the agèd  smile and the children laugh but that was it. How and where he came from was shrouded in mystery. Why he lived seemed a mystery. He had no personal agenda.

He knew plants. Could use their Latin name and talk their history. He might point out a bloom or leaf and dwell upon its life but more as an aside than as a lecture. He had sat on beaches the world over, and watched the tide come in. Seen the sun settling to its rest and wildlife easing through unmapped rituals. All this I got from conversations but in no order. He was not interested in age or chronology. Just in experiencing.

He had a reputation for competence as a carpenter and worked on recommendation but contract work only. Nothing permanent. When on a job his sandwiches always seemed to be the same. “Variety”, he said if questioned “is not always necessary”

You might ask his history: ask about children, look for scars from past experience but he was neither secretive nor revealing. When it was over he would be walking, job done, out of your life: a prophet without a following. “Nice to have met you”.  The world was his neighbour but he lived without intimacy. He was not reckless, but seemed carefree about his personal circumstances.

I worked with him for a short while. Shared a smoke after our sandwiches and nodded over music we both loved. “I do not dance”, he said, “but I know how to listen”. And he did. Music could transport him for a while to some secret garden from which he returned refreshed. His tastes were eclectic. I asked him if he had been in the army and yes he had. “I was a soldier. You do things because there is no choice. Because you have to”. That was all he said, but the shadow lingered for some time in the room. Of course he was the subject of gossip and speculation but he neither confirmed or denied any intrusive questions. He regarded speculation of that sort as unnecessary. “You’re not lending me money, and I’m not dating your daughter so what’s to know” I heard him say this to some lady whose flamboyant hat spoke of a disciplined and reflective approach to life.

Home was a camper van. Neat and orderly. He parked it in the yard of the plot we worked on. “Don’t you ever want for roots I asked him. “I like a change of view” he replied. That seemed to be the last of it. He had stepped aside from ambition. He used the fruits of his competence for petrol and food. His clothes were always clean but ‘how’ remained a mystery. I never saw or heard him speak of any tending regarding himself.

At the end of the job I asked him “Have you anywhere to go” . “Anywhere I want” he replied. He didn’t do specifics.

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Relationships, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to The Travelling Worker

  1. rod says:

    This is truly excellent. Apart from the quality of the writing, I really like what the man has to say.


  2. abbiefoxton says:

    You tell stories with such a comfortable ease. I sit on my imaginary porch steps and listen intently.


  3. Your writing, as ever, captivates me. I hunger and thirst for more. 🙂

    This character sounds to have Buddhism pretty much sorted in his life in my opinion. Attachment to nothing, living in the moment. I also hunger and thirst for this:)


  4. kate4samh says:

    Oh! Well done x


  5. I like his attitude. You have left me wondering though what he’s hiding, because he is hiding something.


  6. Jane says:

    You make me want to know more about your characters. Your work transports me into your world. What a gift.


  7. catterel says:

    This reminds me of the travelling journeyman carpenters in German-speaking countries who wander around with their bare essentials packed in a roll, dressed in a guildsman’s garb of black flared corduroy trousers, white shirt, black coat and broad-brimmed hat. They stay for a short time with a master carpenter, gaining experience, then move on to the next place. They have a strong code of honour – a tradition left over from mediaeval times, but still widespread. This man woud fit in well with them.


  8. Interesting guy. One I admire for their ability to wander freely. I know a few people like that myself. Thanks for stopping by my blog, hope you liked the story. Come back anytime.


  9. I have no choice but to really like this post. It reminds me of one of my main characters in SUNNI KNOWS. Normally I don’t mention my book when I post comments, but this time it seems okay, plus it’s free on Amazon – tomorrow only –


  10. Carolyn Dekat says:

    Skillfully drawn. Enjoyed this!


  11. Al says:

    It makes me want to say “Hey stranger, wait up, I’m coming along!”


  12. gotham girl says:

    Oh how I admire him! Excellent read!


  13. leagpage says:

    Love this. Especially: “wildlife easing through unmapped rituals.”


  14. mothermi6 says:

    Superb. Well done. Moving, meaningful & vivid. Evangeline


  15. Awesome my friend….simply awesome 🙂


  16. babs50nfab says:

    His life seems so matter of fact, yet deep. You are a master of character building, Peter!


  17. jdsfiction says:

    Simply wonderful, old friend.


  18. A self-assured and content man. “We’re just the wire the current runs through.” He really believes what he says. Much to think about here and re-read. Thanks for the wonderful vignette.


  19. You have a way with telling details. Well done.


  20. Solacin says:

    Such a mysterious character! I can’t help but want to meet him. I love those types of characters! The stories I bet he could tell!


  21. wendyvitols says:

    Wonderful prose. Really liked it.


  22. nelle says:

    A nice look at life eased of its complexity, slowed to a pace that can actually be sustained.


  23. Caroline says:

    Loved it:

    I have a wonderful image of the lady whose flamboyant hat spoke of a disciplined and reflective approach to life




  24. rooftoppuppeteer says:

    You’re such a good writer 🙂 I love all of your stories 🙂 Please keep posting them 🙂 xx


  25. araneus1 says:

    I have known a few blokes who, if you glued them together, subtracted some bits, would make someone close to your character.
    Thank you for the ride.


  26. A classic. Well written, leaves one wondering.


  27. vsperry says:

    I wish I was more like this character but I feel like he is the antithesis of me. I loved meeting him.


  28. Terrific character portrayal. I love the line of I don’t dance but I’m a good listener.


  29. donnaeve says:

    What I love about your writing is you do not waste words. Not one.


  30. Do you ever read your work aloud? I would love to listen!


  31. eof737 says:

    It’s been a while since I checked in, but I’m happy see your writing is flourishing. I love these short snippets on characters you know/met… 🙂


  32. Nina says:

    This was great! I enjoyed reading it. I thought it was cool that the beginning had a bit of a Fight Club feel to it.


  33. Purely.. Kay says:

    This character was definitely interesting to read. Your characters always have depth to them. It’s just simply amazing. An I see other people also love your stories just like I do 🙂


  34. Pete Armetta says:

    Conventionality is a ruse and being off the grid a wonderful notion. Or as far off it as possible. 🙂 Great reflection of both characters and enjoyable reading.


  35. “I do not dance”, he said, “but I know how to listen”.

    Great sentence by a Great writer. Xxxxx KISSssssssssss


  36. Pingback: The Travelling Worker | Love Mekanism

  37. brucethomasw says:

    A moving story – or is it, I mean a story? Of course it is!? The great thing about fiction – truthes expressed without footnotes or references. Thank you for dropping by to my post today, and I folk forward to have my soul flutter and moved , via you beautiful writing and spirit. thanks.


  38. limseeyee says:

    Feel free to follow me?? =)


  39. Another fascinating character, Peter, and story without end – the best kind!


  40. Kavita Joshi says:

    beautiful way to live and see life really


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