hit counter code Jack of All Trades
the World




Jack of All Trades
Author: John L. Campbell

His name was Renni DiStefano, though he hadn't used it, or even heard it spoken, in over fifteen years. Now he was Mouse, as well as other aliases, a nickname he had picked up in childhood for his stature and ability to quickly slip away unnoticed. What's in a name, anyway? He awoke two minutes before six, and lay motionless in his bed, listening. Early light slipped through the shutters of the window that faced the piazza, throwing pale slats onto the floor. Motes drifted lazily through the light. The air held the faint, intriguing aromas of freshly baked bread, and the sharper scent of brewing pucino. His stomach growled. There was a murmur of voices from the rooms below, and outside the louder calls of early risers, a clatter of cart wheels on the piazza stones, and the raucous braying of a donkey. A moment later, the great clock tower chimed the hour.
He swung his feet out of bed, stood and stretched, enjoying the popping in his joints. Throughout his life he had never needed to be awakened. He simply decided what time he would wake up, and his internal clock did the rest. It had turned into an internal competition of sorts, and he knew that when the day came that he lost this talent, time would have won and the grave wouldn't be far away.
The bedroom was small but comfortable. It held the big feather bed, an oversized armoire covered in baroque carvings of angels. It had once been cargo on a caravan coming from Florenta, the capital city, bound for a bishop's bedroom. It never arrived. There was a pair of polished, brass-bound chests with sturdy locks, and against one wall stood an elegant teak side table with pitcher, basin and grooming items upon it. Mounted to the wall above was a large mirror in gilded frame. Mouse retrieved the chamber pot from under the bed, relieved himself and yawned immensely as he did so, then padded barefoot into the next room, wearing a nightshirt and carrying the pot. He unlocked the four bolts securing the front door, and deposited the pot in the hall, locking up once more.

The front room was a living area, comfortably furnished and complete with a small fireplace, currently cold. In front of it was a large, overstuffed chair of polished cherry wood and burgundy velvet (another piece which never reached the bishop) and a tasteful divan with silk throw pillows. A long-stemmed pipe rested atop an ivory tobacco box on a small end table. The rest of the room was occupied by a large, round black oak table polished to a shine and ringed by four


matching high-backed chairs, all sitting upon a fine rug from Grenada done in reds and browns. Brass oil lamps were set in the walls of the room, and another armoire stood against a wall, this in dark-oiled pine and carved with images of roses. A nearby cabinet served as a pantry; a few foodstuffs, silverware and plates inside, and on top a cluster of lead glass goblets and several bottles of brandy and wine.
Mouse retreated to the bedchamber and opened the shutters, flooding the room with daylight and the saltiness of the nearby sea. From his third floor room he could see the piazza below, an open area of well-worn tiles ringed by three, four and five story buildings. A marble fountain bubbled at the center, the carved image of an angel rising heavenwards at the center. Many vendors had already set up their stalls, and others were laying out blankets, placing their wares out for the morning's business. There was activity everywhere as men and women in common garb hustled about their chores, unloading carts and calling out good mornings, pausing in their labors to laugh and gossip. The busy atmosphere never failed to send a tingle of excitement through the rogue. He truly loved the unfettered life of this city.
Returning to the wash basin to scrub his face and wet his hair, he applied a small measure of grease from a screw-top jar and combed it back. The face in the mirror was lean, shaded with mild stubble, with only a few wrinkles around the eyes to reveal the fast approach of his 30th birthday. The eyes were gray and clear, and he was not an unattractive man. Handsome devil," he said, winking at the reflection.
Mouse pulled off his nightshirt and cast it onto the bed, standing naked before the baroque wardrobe and opening both doors. Around his neck hung a small, reddish coin on a leather thong, his only piece of jewelry. At 5'8" he weighed a lean one-hundred-fifty, his body slender and muscled, his chest, back and arms creased with the occasional white scar. Reminders that he had chosen a life other than ordinary.

The interior of the massive piece of furniture was organized with precision; garments hung on one side, evenly spaced, more garments were folded neatly in pull-out drawers, and on the right sat twenty-two pairs of shoes in orderly rows on shelves. It was a wide assortment of styles and colors, some simple and common, others polished to a high finish, some elegant with silver buckles and fashionable tassels. Regardless of their condition, each pair (shabby or refined), was well cared-for and arranged with the same precise attention.