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Mister Cherry, carpenter, found a piece of wood that wept and cried

How it happened that Mastro Cherry, carpenter,
found a piece of wood that wept and laughed like a child


Chapter One

As retold for Aaron

How it happened that Mastro Cherry, carpenter, found a piece of wood that wept and laughed like a child

All right, so now you already know that there was a man named Cherry, and that he was a carpenter, and that this carpenter was called Mastro Cherry which means Master Cherry, and I guess he was called Master Cherry because he was an accomplished carpenter, for "Master" is a title you receive if you're very good at something, though someone else might argue that he was called Mastro just like we might call someone Mister or Sir, because Mastro is the same thing in Italian for Mister.
You also know this Mastro Cherry happened to come across a piece of wood that wept and laughed like a child.
All this you have already gathered from this chapter's title.
But, as I am about to reveal to you the details of this strange happening in a story, I ask you at least pretend to forget you already know about that strange piece of wood which Mastro Cherry found, so when I tell you of it again you may act a little surprised, like you'd never heard of such a thing.

1




There lived a carpenter named Mastro Cherry, perhaps not even so very long ago. Mastro Cherry's real name was Antonio, but people called him Mastro Cherry, and if you asked them why they'd say it was because his nose was big and red and shiny just like a juicy, fat cherry. He made things out of wood--chairs and tables, and stairway rails, and kitchen cabinets. Wooden furnishings and cabinetry you find in stores, are quite often made by machine, so Mastro Cherry's craft was rather specialized and he took great pride in what he did, such great pride that he considered himself an artist. But it seemed people were either buying all the art they needed at stores or simply not buying at all, for despite the fact Mastro Cherry was good at what he did, it came to be that Mastro Cherry was having a lean time. He hadn't had many commissions of late, which is to say that no one had placed an order with him for so much as a toothpick.
Oh, how was Mastro Cherry going to have enough money to eat, much less keep a roof over his head? That's what Mastro Cherry was wondering as he looked around his workshop, and I guess he didn't have enough money to even buy supplies for carving, or else he wouldn't have been as surprised and delighted as he was when, looking about, his eye settled upon a piece of wood.
It was ordinary wood from an ordinary tree, not exceptional or expensive bird's eye walnut or mahogany from which he might craft a handsome dresser. This piece of wood was the kind of log you would light in your fireplace on a cold winter night, saying you had a fireplace. Used to be everyone had fireplaces, because that's how they kept their homes warm and cooked their food, and this was the kind of big, thick log they'd have wanted for a fire.
Stories like this are often filled with "used to be's", telling you what things used to be like, as in "used to be" people didn't have it so good, or "used to be" people had it much better, depending on who's got the floor and how they see the world.
But back to our Mister Cherry (yes, let's call him Mister). What this piece of wood meant to Mister Cherry was that he could carve something from it and sell it and maybe make a little money. "In the nick of time, too," he said, because money was what he needed.
It was curious that Mister Cherry would find this piece of wood in his shop, just when he needed it, because though money doesn't grow on trees, wood does, and trees don't naturally chop themselves up and deliver themselves to you on their own. That's right, wood doesn't walk and it doesn't materialize out of thin air. Nature has arranged it so trees are made of wood, and you get more wood by, for example, nuts falling from trees into the ground and getting wet in the spring and new trees growing out of them.

2




This nice log Mister Cherry had found came from a tree. Question was, how had it come to be in Mister Cherry's workshop just when he needed it?
Mister Cherry remembered that he had begun making a table some time before his last few commissions, and that he'd never completed it. The table still lacked a leg.
"Seems your purpose in life is to be a table leg, and I guess that's why you're here. I just got to peel your bark and whittle away until I find that table leg inside of you," Mister Cherry said, raising his hatchet over his head, and he was about to strike the wood when he heard a wee little voice reply in the most beseeching, plaintive tone, "Please, be careful! Don't hit me hard!"
What? Stopped cold by the voice, Mister Cherry shivered. Had the voice come from the log? Certainly not. He looked about the room to see if someone had snuck in and was playing a joke on him, but there was no one. He looked under his bench--still, no one. Certain he'd heard the voice, he looked in the closet, but again there was no one. No one was there.
"Oh, I see," Mister Cherry laughed uncomfortably, scratching his head, "I've been talking to myself, and now myself has decided to talk back to me. If you must talk, just don't complain; I've got work to do or else neither one of us will be fed. Let's get on with it."
Mister Cherry brought his hatchet down on the piece of wood. "Oh, oh! You hurt me!" the same wee voice immediately cried, sounding like a weeping child.
His eyes fairly popping out of his head and his mouth hanging wide open, Mister Cherry leaped back, dumbfound. As soon as he regained his senses, still trembling and stuttering from fright, he exclaimed, "Who is that? Who said that? Wood doesn't have any mind to learn to weep and cry like a child. I don't believe it, this log didn't talk, it couldn't--unless there's someone, somehow hidden in the midst of it. And that's impossible. No, it's me talking back to myself again. Well, let's just see who makes the decisions around here!"
Determined to teach himself a lesson, but not fond of the idea of striking himself about, Mister Cherry instead grabbed up the log and knocked it around unmercifully. When he was through pounding it on the walls, the floor, even the ceiling, he dropped it and waited to see what might happen.
The log made no sound at all despite the brutal beating it had gotten.
"There, now we both know who's lord and master here, I can get back to work," Mister Cherry laughed, understanding that he spoke to no one at all. That the voice had only been a figment of his imagination. Still, he was scared half to death, and as he settled back down to work he thought he should sing a gay song to distract himself and calm his nerves.

3




The bark was peeled off the log by the thrashing it had received. Mister Cherry, making an effort to sing, now took up the plane which he would run back and forth over the wood to make its surface smooth and even. As he began to draw the plane to and fro over the wood, there came the voice again, giggling, "Stop it! Oh, please, stop! Ha, ha! You're tickling my stomach!"
Mister Cherry fell down as if he'd been struck by a bolt of lightning, his poor jolly red nose now turning a painful purple.
"Why'd you stop singing?" the wee voice called out. "It was a nice song too. I was enjoying it."
"You have no ears to hear with," Mister Cherry managed to whisper.
"Oh, haven't I?" replied the wee, little voice.
Mister Cherry considered the world was a far more complex place than he'd thought it to be. The realization, despite the fact its provocation gaily giggled, didn't please Mister Cherry one bit.

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Rewritten by J. Kearns (in some places considerably, in other places not so considerably, and in others not much at all) from the translation by Carol Della Chiesa of C. Collodi's original story
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