The Seat Where Mr. Fiedler Sat

Each morning, the girl would see Mr. Fiedler on the number thirteen tram, seated on the same left-hand side window seat as the morning before and every morning as far back as she could remember.
This is the story about a young girl named Wilda, who sees her teacher on the tram to school every morning; a teacher who loves music and stories and making children smile. This is a story about a poor country and some powerful, scared men and time and how it changes. It is a story about fear and friendship and forgiveness.
So, yeah. Just read it.

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1. A Much Needed Introduction

The World was far different then and not so many stories had been told. Everyone has a story: some are very short and some are very long. Some are blanched and prim and tied up in a red bow and some are scattered across the jaws of a shadowed shore. 

In fact, you are holding one in your hands at this very moment.

Please forgive me. Where are my manners? All stories must start with a beginning, and here is mine: 

I’m a shadow, a slightly-smaller-than-average-sized something that lingers at the corners of looking-glasses, pausing at the edges of street corners. I am also quite partial to Liquorice Allsorts when the opportunity occurs. I am not Life or Death or any other kind of omnipotent Father Christmas-type figure. I’m just a small, slightly hunched human being, who collects stories; as many as I can carry.

Salutations. I am your esteemed narrator. The narrator bit is kind of a given. The esteemed part was earned. See, I’m not like the other humans. I can stop and look at the little, unimportant things that they can’t remember how to find. I have the time to listen because no one cares to listen to me. 

It started when I was very small, and happened every night from then on: from out of nowhere the thin, starlight-grey people would gather, slowly at first and then all at once, at the end of my bed. I do not know where they came from, or why they chose to stand at the end of my bed, of all beds. I was scared at first, because they were empty and cold, but there was also something inside them that made everything seem warmer and less lonely. The starlight people would all smile sadly and look into their cupped hands, because they each carried a broken story. So, I would fix them with glue and thread and some hope and when I was finished they would leave. But some would let me keep their stories. And that’s how I came to collect them. 

My job has its perks, though: opportunities for travel, generous holidays and a secure pension scheme. No complaints there. I have Time as a friend; we go way-back. Sort of. Perhaps “friend” is not exactly an adequate choice of words. Time is the type of “friend” who steals all the milk from your fridge and collapses drunk on your sofa every Friday night and “borrows” money as often as they like and you’re too afraid to say or do anything because you still kind of owe them for this big thing that they did for you that one time. Do you know what I mean? Of course you do. 

And one day, Time will leave me. It will leave all of us. It will take the glitter in our eyes and the innocence and leave us with nothing but a bloated mortgage, moth holes in our cardigans, dead teeth and grey hair. I don’t exactly paint a pleasant picture of old age. But without Time, what would I be? A shrivelled old thing, weighed down by the stories in the pockets of my duffel coat. They’re useful things, pockets. Warm and familiar, they’ll welcome anybody. And one day, they’ll welcome a new story-collector. But it doesn't do to dwell on what will be. 

Well, that's what my Nan says, anyway. 

Now, onto the small matter of a miracle that belongs in the gutters of a city which no one cares to remember anymore. This miracle was not wrapped in brown paper and secured with a red ribbon. It did not twinkle in the starlight, and it was not warm and welcoming. This miracle was a story, about a girl who never thought to think, a man who knew everything, some music  and the most beautiful window seat in the whole world. Somewhere in there is Hope, too, of the flickering and slightly dangerous kind. This story once belonged to humans, not unlike yourselves, at a time when lots of confused people burnt stories for fun. For a long time, these stories where lost; but after a while they began to travel on the wind as pieces of small ashen flakes until finally they could be understood. Stories that had been charred and moulded, so much so, that they were barely recognisable and nobody could un-pick one from the other. But everyone has a story. Tonight, this one belongs to you. Go ahead, open it. It is a gift.

There are many things that you can do with a story: despise it, cherish it, compress it, share it, forgive it. 

Please, I ask you now: never forget it. 

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