Chapter 5

The next day, Empath in his new star-patterned suit visited Papa Smurf in his laboratory. He was busy cleaning his vials, tubes, burners, beakers, and jars when Empath entered. "You wanted to talk to this smurf about something important?" he asked.
"I'm just wondering what you're planning to smurf as a trade for the rest of your life here," Papa Smurf answered.
"A trade?" Empath asked. He knew Papa Smurf was asking about a job, but Empath hardly had time to think about it when he found out he would no longer be sent back to Psychelia.
"Well, smurfing a trade is part of what a grown-up Smurf does to support the well-being of his community," Papa Smurf explained, "since every Smurf does have something to contribute. You are of an age where you must smurf on the responsibilities of a grown-up. I know you're well smurfed in various tasks, maybe more so than any other Smurf here. But I do have to know, smurfer or later, what skill you'll be smurfializing in."
Empath felt a little uneasy about the question. "This sounds a little like being in Psychelia, except that the Psyche Master chooses for us what our future roles will be." That got Empath thinking. "Are you sure you didn't ask this smurf in here for something you had in mind for a future role, Papa Smurf?"
Papa Smurf felt slightly embarrassed that Empath pointed out what he was thinking and unwittingly hiding. "Sorry, Empath," he chuckled, "I knew I shouldn't beat around the smurf with you. It's just that I need someone I can train to be a sorcerer when I'm passed away, and..."
"This smurf thought you have already chosen Brainy to be your apprentice in that trade," Empath pointed out. "Is there anything wrong with him?"
Papa Smurf sighed heavily. "Only that in the past five years, he's been persistently smurfing my laboratory without my permission to perform experiments that have had disastrous results, and that I had to use my magic skills to smurf Brainy out of whatever trouble he's created. I just feel that he is too irresponsible as a Smurf to be seriously trained as a sorcerer."
"Brainy just wants to be like you so he can be respected by the other Smurfs," Empath commented. "He doesn't intentionally do what he does to hurt anybody. But he doesn't want to wait until he's your age to gain that respect."
"I pretty much know the value of patience by now, Empath," Papa Smurf said, "though I am beginning to wonder what good is it to teach a Smurf who doesn't have any patience to control what he learns."
"Brainy does have the patience, as does this smurf when it comes to listening to others," Empath said. "However, this smurf needs to know if you're truly being tolerant of Brainy or are you just smurfing too much weight for him to carry."
"I wish I could have more time to smurf with Brainy to work this out, without having to solve every Smurf's problem that smurfs along in the course of the day." Papa Smurf's voice dropped to a mutter when his mind came across an idea, and then he exclaimed, "Great Smurf! Why didn't I smurf of that sooner?"
Empath knew what Papa Smurf was thinking, because he had the same idea in mind, but he wanted to hear Papa Smurf say it.
"I was thinking that you could be my assistant in another area -- that is, being a counselor for the other Smurfs," he explained. "It's a difficult job, but I see no other Smurf who's more able to smurf to the others one-on-one than you, Empath. As you've just said, you're a patient listener. You're also a good obsmurfer of character; you're not afraid to be with others, and they're smurftainly not afraid of being with you. You can smurf how they're feeling, and you're very respectful of their feelings."
"The only problem this smurf has is that this smurf doesn't have your level of experience," Empath pointed out.
"You don't need my experience to start off as a counselor, Empath," Papa Smurf replied. "Your own level of experience right now is all that you really need."
Empath thought over the idea. "This smurf could possibly help you out in that respect, Papa Smurf, though it may not be what this smurf would want to do as a lifelong trade."
"It doesn't have to be, Empath," Papa Smurf said. "Any amount of assistance you can offer will be good enough. But in my opinion, I think you'll smurf an excellent job. If for any reason you have a problem you can't smurf by yourself..."
"This smurf can come to you," Empath answered as he was starting to leave. "This smurf would be honored to accept, Papa Smurf."
"I should thank you, Empath," Papa Smurf remarked. "You helped me decide what I should do with Brainy from now on."
As Empath left Papa Smurf's laboratory, he ran straight into Brainy who was heading toward the lab. "What did Papa Smurf want to see you for?" he asked.
"He needed this smurf's advice about what he should do about you," Empath answered. "This smurf didn't say much, but Papa Smurf decided to make this smurf his assistant counselor so he could smurf more time with you."
Brainy couldn't believe what he was hearing, but the news made him happy for the rest of the day. He felt like Papa Smurf was truly paying attention to him for the first time in a long while.

Through much of the day Empath found himself dealing with one personality problem between two or more of his fellow Smurfs after another, with an occasional odd job done when necessary, though none of them required anything more than mere muscle or ordinary mind power. Empath began to feel a little like Papa Smurf, whose intelligence and wisdom separated him from the others. Empath's youth, however, made this distance he felt more noticeable, for afterward the other Smurfs went on their own ways without much more to say to him. In any case, Empath felt that the peace he mediated somehow would last longer than in those situations that Papa Smurf had to come between, and that gave him some level of satisfaction.
Like Brainy had Clumsy, Empath had a fellow Smurf as a friend who was both similar to him and the exact opposite, a Smurf who listened to him without ever judging him. His name was Grouchy, and like Empath he had trouble interacting with his fellow Smurfs. Grouchy was a hard Smurf for any other Smurf to try talking to, since he doesn't like sharing what he feels to anyone, preferring only to spout "I hate this!" and "I hate that!" when he needs to say something. But alone with Empath, Grouchy was very friendly and had a lot of things to say to him. In fact, when they first met, Grouchy just opened up to Empath when nobody was looking.
Empath was talking to Grouchy in the midafternoon about things going on with each other and things that happened. Talking to Grouchy made Empath remember talking with Polaris Psyche, where in Psychelia privacy wasn't allowed and talking was inappropriate except for giving or accepting orders. Grouchy talked guardedly, sounding gruffer when he and Empath passed by anybody and easing up when they were alone again.
As they were talking, Empath saw a crowd up ahead chattering in excitement. Empath got closer to the crowd and saw, inside the ring of Smurfs, Hefty at a table arm-wrestling with another Smurf. Some Smurfs were cheering for Hefty, while others rooted for his opponent.
"Oh, brother," Grouchy said in disgust. "If there's anything I hate, it's watching Hefty testing his smurfhood again. I have better things to smurf!" He told Empath that he would see him later as he headed away from the crowd.
Empath stayed to watch as Hefty won the arm-wrestling match. Those rooting for him applauded as Hefty threw up his tattooed arms in a victory he could brag about. "Who's my next victim?" he called out to the crowd.
Tuffy, one of the Smurfs who was in the crowd, stepped forward and sat down at the table, where he locked arms with Hefty in hopes of winning a round.
The shouting match between the onlookers continued as Empath watched. During his watching, Tapper came around, serving mugs of sarsaparilla ale to the onlookers. "Fancy smurfing the likes of you here, my fellow Empath, watching Hefty smurf his mettle against his fellow Smurfs in his usual game of arm-wrestling," Tapper commented as he approached Empath.
"It's not something this smurf likes to watch for an entertainment on a regular basis, Tapper," Empath said as he took a glass of sarsaparilla ale to drink.  "But Hefty's determination to prove himself in any kind of physical activity, whether it would be in work or a sport, remains a fascinating study nonetheless."  He took a sip of the ale as he continued to watch.
"You should watch Duncan McSmurf arm-wrestling Hefty sometime if you're interested in a 'fascinating study', my friend," Tapper said. "Those matches will really last a long time since the both of them are equally strong." He then moved on to continue serving his ale.
Jokey, who was standing near the outside of the crowd and not saying anything, approached Empath. "Gee, doesn't Hefty ever get tired of this contest?" he exclaimed.
"How many times does Hefty win, Jokey?" asked Empath, taking another sip of his ale.
"Maybe more times than I smurf my surprises on anybody," Jokey replied. "He's so strong, I don't think any Smurf can ever beat him...except maybe for you..." His voice trailed off as he just thought of something, then he exclaimed, "Hey, Empath, why don't you go smurf old muscle-brains a run for his smurf in arm-wrestling?"
Empath didn't like the idea. "This smurf doesn't feel like this smurf should..." he fumbled in his protest.
Hefty won the round again, surrounded by more hurrahs as Tuffy carried himself away. "Is there any other Smurf who wants to challenge the undesmurfable Hefty?" he called out.
"I've got a challenger for you, Hefty," Jokey responded from behind the crowd. "Let's see you take on Empath!"
Empath looked at Jokey in shock as if he had just been betrayed.
The crowd fell silent as they looked at Jokey and Empath in astonishment. So did Hefty, who was now thinking Jokey must be going out of his mind.
Hefty didn't appreciate matching himself physically with Empath very much, not even the idea. He remembered that time he showed Empath how strong he was by lifting a big heavy rock high over his head with both hands. It felt straining, but at the moment he was just about to proudly say, "Now let's see you smurf this same rock with your hands," Empath picked up Hefty by the ankles and effortlessly lifted him and the rock above his head. Hefty was stupefied and humbled by the experience.
Now Hefty wasn't so convinced that Empath was really that physically strong. He had seen Empath lift larger things than that rock above his head, and sometimes saw him carrying these objects even when flying. Hefty knew that Empath had special abilities, but he was more apt to believe that much of Empath's strength came more from his mind than from his hands.
But before Hefty or Empath could protest, the crowd of Smurfs started encouraging Empath to accept the challenge. Empath slowly and reluctantly made his way inside the ring of onlookers, uneasy about the whole idea. Most of the crowd cheered for him.
"I have only one thing to say, Empath," Hefty grunted as Empath sat down at the table. "No smurfing your mind to make you strong, got that?"
One time Empath thought that Hefty's tattoos were what made him strong. But he had known better long ago.
"This smurf agrees," replied Empath.
He locked his arm with Hefty. Someone called "Ready...set...smurf!" And both Hefty and Empath exerted strength into their arms as they strained to push the other's arm down onto the table.
At first there wasn't any movement, but after almost a minute, the locked arms began to move slowly one way and then the other. The Smurfs watched both contestants and rooted for either of them. It was any Smurf's match at this point.
Hefty flexed and strained the muscles in his face, gritting his teeth and sweating as he pushed against Empath's arm. Empath, however, remained cool, composed, and focused. Hefty felt like was up against the impossible, but he would give it his all to show every Smurf that Empath was a fraud when it comes to strength.
Another minute passed, and both arms were moving only slightly in either direction. The crowd was getting more anxious for a winner. More of them were rooting for Empath.
The Smurflings, who were busy practicing their jugband music, saw and heard the crowd nearby. They dropped their instruments and went over to watch, sitting on Puppy's back to get a better view of the arm-wrestling contest.
"Jumping junebugs...that's Empath in a match with Hefty!" Sassette shouted. The other Smurflings cheered, knowing Hefty was in for a real challenge.
The crowd got bigger as more Smurfs saw Empath and Hefty arm-wrestling. Papa Smurf had left his lab talking over things with Brainy about new rules for using the lab when they came near the crowd and heard what was going on. They put aside their talk and watched, Papa Smurf remaining silent. Smurfette joined up with Papa Smurf carrying Baby Smurf along. Like Grouchy, Smurfette wasn't interested in watching arm-wrestling, but seeing Empath in the middle of it all made her stay to watch until it was all over, so she could talk to Empath in private again.
Yet another minute passed. Hefty felt his arm getting sore, his strength draining, and his confidence in besting Empath slowly giving way to defeat. Empath still looked as if he hasn't yet broken a sweat. The neutral expression on his face hardly changed at all. It was like arm-wrestling a living statue.
The shouting became more intense. Nearly every Smurf was now rooting for Empath, for his arm was now pushing Hefty's closer to the table. But Hefty wasn't giving up.
After four minutes, Hefty's arm started getting limp until, suddenly, Empath slammed it hard against the table.
The crowd gathered around Empath and applauded their new champion, patting him on the back and congratulating him in their own ways. Empath didn't know if he could take any pleasure in defeating Hefty in a contest he didn't want any part of, but he smiled and let himself be taken in by the crowd nevertheless.
Hefty, who felt the bitter hurtful sting of being shown up by Empath yet again, scowled at him and left the table cradling his limp arm.