Vincent the beaver took great pride in how aptly he was able to use his teeth. Vincent’s personal record was known to all his friends: three seconds per pencil, precisely. He knew perfectly how to nibble at a pencil lightning-fast so that the pencil’s lead would come out clean, without a scratch on it.
Finally, there came the day when Vincent’s dream turned into reality: he reached the age he could start work and went to the nearest building site, proud of himself. On the site, there towered the enormous high-rise which he used to routinely observe from his window. Builders were the most valuable folk in the city of beavers, so – needless to say – Vincent had long seen himself part of the site, imagined how he would succeed in his undertaking and become Chief Builder, and how Senior Engineer would ask the young genius to assume his duties, while allowing himself to hang up his hard hat for good, being comfortable about the future.
And so Vincent got up early in the morning, packed carefully and arrived at the building site, sporting his best necktie and favourite peaky cap. He approached Senior Engineer:
“Here I am! Want to employ me?” He breathed out, invigorated.
For some reason, however, he saw little enthusiasm in response to match his own. Obviously baffled by such self-confidence, the superintendant turned his head slowly towards the young beaver and mumbled:
“Anything you’re good at?”
Pointedly, Vincent fished out a pencil (there were always several of them in his pocket to not miss an opportunity for the absolute favourite trick), and then, just like an accomplished conjurer, he showed each side of it to the engineer, after which – snip-snip, snap-snap – he grinded down the pencil in three seconds.
“Look!” Said Vincent proudly, holding a scratchless, perfectly smooth lead right before the engineer’s nose.
The engineer made a wry face, as if somebody just ate a live cockroach before him.
“Yeah, great. So, can you write with it now?”
Vincent was dumbstruck.
“That’s not… what I tried to…” Having landed in such a bewildering situation, the beaver was at a loss for words. Meanwhile, the builder put on the hard hat and with brief “take it easy, lad” he ran to a group of workers who had troubles with a collapsed wall.
That was the first time Vincent met with frustration. Nobody was waiting for him, nowhere his skilful three-second way with pencils was needed. Each and every interview would end with similar phrases.
“Yeah, well done. What about your work skills?”
“We need something more professionally-looking than a grinded away pencil.”
“What about weights? Can you carry them?”
“What about high walls? Can you build one in three seconds?”
“We require labour force, not a jeweller.”
And so Vincent lost all hope. He didn’t want to erect walls and fill handcarts with clay like other workers did, instead he dreamt of being an artist, an indispensable craftsman who can work wood in three seconds.
Vincent considered various ideas on how to improve the skill. At first, the beaver thought that three seconds seemed a bit too many, and he trained to improve the record to two seconds, but that still wasn’t enough for employers to take him on. Then, Vincent tried to work other wooden objects, but in the result either the wood proved too hard, or he came up with rubbish. Vincent locked himself in his apartments and vowed not to get out until he found a solution.
The beaver reserved some bits of wood that weren’t wanted anymore on the high-rise building site. He collected the bits from builders there (and the Senior Engineer pulled the already-familiar face, making it clear for the good-for-nothing worker that he should get busy), so now Vincent could get down to business.
The beaver worked several small planks, but nothing was to his taste. On both sides of Vincent, who was sitting at the table, rows of worked planks were formed, but no sooner than after watching them intently did the young craftsman notice that the form of every one of them reminded him of a sandwich. Yes, exactly, the slices of bread which humans were fond of spreading with butter and covering with caviar (ugh, whoever would eat that caviar?). And then an idea flashed in Vincent’s brain. But of course! Adorably-looking food in three seconds! Because he’d be able to give wooden planks whatever shape he pleased. Are you after a cake-shaped dinner? Here you are! Want a wolf-shaped one? You’re welcome! Shaped like yourself? Most easily done!
Although, it wasn’t only food that could be created like that. All the doors in the city were opening before Vincent! Finest bijouterie for nutrias, toys for beaver kittens, adornments for home, wooden grids, hand tools, domestic appliances… His head was swimming.
In excitement Vincent almost swooned, but then a rat-tat on the door interfered.
He got off the table and, reeling, opened the door to see the unbidden guest. On the doorstep there stood the greybeard who was the town sculptor. He inspected Vincent with the cunning eyes and spoke cautiously:
“I heard that three seconds are the time you can work wood. And what my studio needs is an assistant. For old I am truly, and my teeth have lost their bite, and no more my eyes are trustworthy. Thus, imaginative young artisans are kindly welcome. Would you be my apprentice?”
The meaning of the elder beaver’s words wasn’t quick to enter the muddy mind of Vincent, but in a moment or two he was already grinning a smile blissful and slightly crazy, and invited his guest to the apartments. Finally, the skills of Vincent were put to good use, even if it wasn’t the way he imagined. But this is only the beginning.
(Translate by Pavel Zamachowski)