Author : Glen Luke Flanagan
“I’m sorry,” the shopkeeper told him. “I can’t hire you. We can’t accommodate your condition.”
George nodded sadly. He was used to this kind of response. As the last Windmill-Man, he was an oddity, a curiosity – but not a productive member of society. His people had once built a thriving culture, but now they were gone. He didn’t know when or why they left, only that he had been left behind.
He turned sideways to make room for the wooden blades on his back, and slipped through the door. Everywhere he went, he got the same response.
“You’d distract our customers.”
“You wouldn’t be able to do the job.”
“Your windmill would be a health hazard to the other workers.”
As he wandered the streets dejected, George chanced upon a shop window displaying old-fashioned wooden toys and delicate porcelain dolls. Drawn by memories of a simpler time, he entered. Seated at a bench, carefully hammering together parts of a wooden toy like the ones in the window, sat a rosy-cheeked old toymaker.
“Hello, hello! Come in!” He turned to greet George with a smile. “Are you looking for a toy?”
“I’m looking for a job, actually.” George dared not sound too hopeful. “Might you be needing anyone around the shop?”
The man studied him thoughtfully. His eyes were old, and seemed to see far beyond the here and now, into a person’s life story. Finally, he set his hammer on the table, and spoke.
“Yes,” he said, quietly. “Yes, I think I could find a place for you here.”
George had steeled himself for another rejection, so it took a moment for the words to process. When he understood, his eyes got a little misty, and his windmill gave an excited little spin.
“Can I start today?” he asked. The man smiled and nodded.
George was happy at the shop, happier than he had been in a long while. He found that he was quite good at making toys, and he found that his toys made children smile. The toymaker became a good friend; kind, perceptive, and interested in George’s past. He never pried, but George seemed to want to tell him about the Windmill-People of his own accord.
One day, George found himself gazing upon a small wooden windmill. He hadn’t entirely realized what he was crafting until it was done, but now that it was, he was pleased with it. He gave the blades a spin with his finger, and his own blades whirred contentedly in response.
When the toymaker saw it, he looked thoughtful.
“The first Windmill-Man built his own windmill, didn’t he?” he asked.
“That’s what the stories say,” George explained. “Most of us were born with our windmills, but it’s said that he built his own, and those of the first families.”
The toymaker nodded, spun the windmill blades gently, and said no more about it. But the conversation had set off a spark in George’s brain. He began tinkering in his free time, building windmills of various sizes and shapes, and wooden skeletons to mount them on.
Many of the experiments ended up gathering dust in his attic. It was an imprecise process, and he had nothing to base his work on. Building a new race from scratch – or rather, rebuilding an old one – was a daunting task. But it was a labor of love, and it made him happy. And maybe, one day, he would no longer be the last Windmill-Man.