June 4th, 2020

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "To Love With The Heart Of A Child"

To Love With The Heart Of A Child
idol season 11 | week 23 | 4300 words
I'm the Usain Bolt of Running From My Problems

Note: This week's story is an Idol Intersection with rayaso. We decided to try a new approach this time, for fun. He sent me the opening paragraphs of his story, and then we wrote independently using the same overall characters and business. I expect our stories will be quite different! His entry is here, and they can be read in any order.

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They called him The Toymaker, but they didn't know the half of it. If Otto was a toymaker, then Paganini was just a fiddler, which was absurd.

Otto was the last in a long line of legendary wizards of whimsy, who were known as the Drosselmeyers. The Drosselmeyers specialized in exquisite playthings that should not have been possible to make. No one had ever been able to determine how they did it. Whether it was talking marionettes or sword-fighting nutcracker princes, their custom-made toys were unparalleled.

They were also expensive, which made attracting new customers challenging.

Otto's shop, H. Drosselmeyer & Sons, was in the old part of "downtown" Brooklyn, where it had been since his great-grandfather came over from the old country back in the late 1800s. It sat side-by-side with Abe's Instrument repair, a front window full of dolls and trains and fantastical mechanized creatures in one shop, and trumpets, flutes, and violins in the other.

"Abe," Otto asked one day, "when was the last time someone asked you to restore a really special instrument that was worth your time and talent?"

"Are you kidding?" Abe said. "I'm still waiting…"

So, that was how it was for the two of them. Artisans in an age of instant gratification and planned obsolescence, masters of their craft abandoned to the cobwebs of their lonely—

"Hey, don't involve me in your dramas," Abe said. "I got my own problems."

"But don't you remember how it was," Otto said, "when we were sought after and respected?"

"Yeah, I remember. But it is what it is. And right now, I gotta go teach Mozart to some rich little rat-fink out in Queens."

So fine, maybe it wasn't quite the same for Abe. He gave piano lessons to cover the rent, whereas Otto would have been out on the street years ago if his great-grandfather hadn't paid off the mortgage on the store.

Business had been good back then, but it was hard to make a living crafting custom toys these days. Most children were so obsessed with video games that they'd forgotten what an actual toy could be like. They went straight from teddy bears to playing with phones and computers (Otto blamed the parents), and they wouldn't even dream of asking for something like a mechanical bird that could actually fly! They had no idea what was possible. Why, Otto's great-great-great-grandfather had once made a mechanical life-sized doll so beautiful, a young poet had fallen in love with her. She hadn't been able to love the poet back, of course, and he'd ruined himself over her, but still, wasn't that something?

Otto still made amazing toys, even if he didn't always find customers who wanted to buy them. His toys sat out on display tables and shelves, moving in turn through the front window and all hoping to catch the eye of some child or grandparent who would see what they had to offer.

At night, or when the shop was empty, they complained about their plight.

"I just want some nice little boy or girl to love me," the creepy wind-up jester doll would say (in retrospect, that particular toy had been poorly thought out). Or, "Perhaps a new coat of paint?" the little steam train might suggest. "I hear blue's all the rage these days."

Then one night, there was a knock on the door.

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