The midday sun baked into Shup’s body. He yearned for the slightest breeze.
“Elder Barnside, I know I misused the Vine’s power, but I can help.” Shup fidgeted with the wizard’s ridiculous staff, leaves bursting at the top like a topiary. The wizard ignored him. Shup could sense the flow of the Vine’s substance as Barnside drew from it, bringing chain links into physical form to repair the wagon winch. These links would never fail. The wagon’s owner looked on, rapt with his work.
“I can make bigger things than pieces of chain,” said Shup.
“I’m sure you can,” said the elder. “But it’s not about what you can do. First you have to learn discipline.”
Shup scoffed. “Everyone knows the only reason wizards insist on it is because one ancient elder used it for teaching. That hardly qualifies as a good reason to restrict it at other times.” He started picking at the leaves.
He finished a link and started another. “You’re not quite right. There are plenty of confraternities that do the same and have no knowledge of Elder Emmond. It’s easy to underestimate the sacred mystery of the Vine because you can’t see it. You must develop the right posture toward it before taking its power willy-nilly. Now stop tearing the leaves off my staff.”
Shup began to whistle a bouncy children’s tune.
“Please stop whistling.”
“I’m just passing the time.” Shup continued to whistle with more vigor.
“I can’t concentrate. Stop whistling.”
Shup slumped to the ground cross-legged, and rested the staff on his thighs. “I could make the links in the middle of a parade without too much trouble.”
“I’m so very proud of you. Perhaps I should channel the Vine’s substance into a merit badge for you.”
Shup scoffed. “You’re so serious all the time.”
“You’ve known me for four days traveling through pouring rain, sweltering heat, and swarming mosquitoes. You really going to judge me by that?”
Shup began to whistle again.
“Shup, please. I have just a few more.”
Shup started humming the tune, first softly, but progressively louder.
“Enough! Save it for the road.”
Shup sulked. “Everyone knows a proper discipline would train you to do things with distractions.”
“You might think,” said Barnside. “But they thought it better to teach us discipline to resist strangling annoyances or conjuring a permanent strap to cover their mouths.” He stood up and patted the owner on the back. “Finished.”
Back on the road Shup sang aloud, repeating verses about his old nag Daisy over and over again.
“Do you really have to?” asked the elder.
“You said save it for the road, so that’s what I did. I’m following your discipline.”
“Besides,” said Shup, “Everybody knows the best way to pass time on the road is with music.”
The Elder started to chant. The rhythm interfered with Shup’s song, disrupting his vocals. Soon Shup plodded in time with it, humming the melody and losing himself in daydreams of blueberries and cream, dice games, and puppy races.
“Time to set up camp,” said Barnside.
“Wha—” Shup startled into awareness of the road and the darkening sky. “Didn’t we just leave the wagon repair?”
Barnside smirked. “You were lost in the song. You were right that it could pass the time.”
“Wow. I never realized.” He felt little fatigue from the day.
“That’s the thing about youth,” said Barnside. “You’re almost always both right and very wrong.”