Open Source Everything


Well, here it is, the night of November 5th and I’ve got a wonderful little buzz from the mediocre Cosecha 2001 from Palacio de Monsalud, recommended by the local liquor store owner. I remember now why I don’t trust their recommendations.

Tonight's plans changed quite a few times, starting with ideas of going to CGC benefit concert in the city, morphing into a local movie theater trip to see Serenity or Wallace and Gromit – and having struck out at everything up until then, ended with us heading home for a “date” night in watching a favorite movie with a good bottle of wine.

I “delicioused” a great little list of cheap wines that don’t taste like ass a while back, and went to the store armed with a bunch of names and descriptions, only to find that no one around here stocks them. Figures. I ended up with what the shopkeep wanted to move off his shelves.

So a glass or two in and a few hours and a movie later, and I’m feeling very into the idea of NaDruWriNi – just enough lubrication to allow me to plow through my normal writing inhibitions and get some ideas down on paper. I’m not doing the NaNoWriMo this year, as I’ve got plenty to do already this month, besides doing the requisite family visits around thanksgiving.

So instead, I give you this short story. Ill-conceived and only half formed as I begin it, but hopefully bolstered by my active imagination and alcohol enabled fleet-fingers.

The Clockwork Magician

“Chi-ging... ging... ging...” The bells on the door of the little shop chimed softly as the woman entered. She was tall, maybe 32 or so, and had a stateliness about her.

“Hello Suzanne. What’s the trouble this week?” Daniel asked, extending his hand to her.

Suzanne looked up at him from her purse and smiled, handing her pocketwatch to him and holding his hand as she did. She always marveled at his hands, so slender and delicate, more like a woman’s than any man she’d known. Soft and precise and oh! She’d been holding it a little too long she realized. She flushed and smiled again, taking her hand back.

“It’s this old pocketwatch. Can’t seem to keep it together, no matter how gentle I try to be. I know it’s not fashionable for a lady to carry a watch, but, well you know me.”

“I certainly do” Daniel said, smiling back at her now. Daniel’s body matched his hands; his lanky form moved with a cat’s grace, and he took the watch from her hand and opened it, regarding first it’s face, then hers, in one silky motion.

She softened a bit under his gaze and he cocked his head to the side a bit and smiled, holding the broken watch to his ear.

“Oh. A slipped gear. We’ll have this fixed in a moment.” He said, already taking a tiny, well worn screwdriver from his toolbench.

Suzanne watched as Daniel performed his surgery, opening up her father’s watch and turning it swiftly into a collection of glass, springs, and gears she could never reconcile. She’d never confided that the watch was her father’s only heirloom, an Terry & Barnum prototype from 1855. She had a feeling Daniel knew anyway.

“Oh dear,” he said, looking up at her over his smallish, gold rimmed glasses. “I’m afraid this poor old cog has just worn away. These teeth are all but gone.

“Oh no. Is there no way we can fix it?” Suzanne asked, feigning genuine worry. She’d known Daniel too long to doubt his mechanical prowess. If it moved, clicked, drove, or ticked, he could repair it, and make it better in the process.

“Well, you’d need a replacement gear, and lets be honest, these little marvels aren’t exactly commonplace, now, are they?” Daniel said, with a twinkling in his eye.

Suzanne smiled. She knew damn well that there were no replacement parts for this watch, yet Daniel always returned it to her, ticking like new.

“Which brings me to the question at hand, Daniel” Suzanne began, taking his hand again, and stepping forward to his bench. She was close enough to speak quietly now, and there was an urgency in her eyes. “Where do you get the replacement parts?”

Daniel didn’t flinch. He left his right hand in hers and simply matched her gaze and pulled a pocketwatch from the inside of his drawer, and slipped it into her hand.

“But this...” She began, stepping back and stammering a bit. “this is my fathers watch. That’s impossible, there’s only 1 in the world.”

“That’s true.” Daniel said, and it was. The watch he’d just handed her was a copy. An exact replica down to the teeth of the last gear inside the clockwork. “There is only one in the world. The thing you hold now is a cheap imitation.”

“It’s exacting” She said, marveling at the absolute attention to detail that had gone into replicating her father’s watch.

“It’s a fitting homage.” Daniel said. “It was a beautiful design. It seemed a shame to allow it to pass into oblivion.”

“So what’s this then?”

“Parts,” Daniel said, gently taking the replica back from her and opening it’s face. He removed a small gear, and placed it delicately into the Barnum watch. He deftly reassembled the original watch, and handed it back to Suzanne, already assured by it’s vibrations in his hand that it was working perfectly. He could feel it, the watch practically sang with the whirring and harmonics of it’s proper operation.

“I’m afraid I still don’t understand” Suzanne began. How did you make a copy of my Father’s watch. You’ve only held it for a day, maybe two, at most.

“I cast molds, took measurements, and remembered.”

“Well, I can’t take your spare gear then. You’ve gone to so much trouble to put that thing together, only to give me it’s heart. I can’t take it.”

“Don’t you worry. I can always make another.” Daniel said, the twinkle returning to his eye.

“Daniel, there’s someone you should meet.”

-Eight years later-

Daniel sat in a chair that should have been comfortable, but failed to accomplish it’s purpose. Nothing here seemed quite right to him. He couldn’t articulate it to others, but he knew that something felt out of step here. Everything had an artifice to it, and false sense of hope.

Everything except the machines. The wonderful machines. Instruments of such complexity and force that they made the watches and automotives he used to tinker with in Connecticut pale in comparison.

“Henry. Finally” Daniel said, standing, and greeting his friend as he entered the room.

“Sorry to keep you waiting. Die Furor had a lot to say. It’s going to be an interesting year.” Henry Ford took several confident strides towards his favorite engineer. Daniel wasn’t the most accomplished on his staff, but he was by far the most attuned to the type of detail this project required. Gears and drive mechanisms on war vehicles this size didn’t just need to work, they needed to be perfectly married to each other and stay in sync with the other parts, even bombs were going off.

“Henry” Daniel began. "I don’t know if I can do this. "

To Be Continued

* by the rules of the NaDruWriNi, this has to be posted tonight, and can't be edited once it's posted, so here it is, for better or worse.
* Confused why Henry Ford is talking with Hitler? Me too! I thought I made this up for the story (linking mechanical prowess with the assembly line, then to war prodction and the moral dilemmas there), did some research, and found out it was totally true. There's a lot more to this story than I was able to write tonight, but I think it's a neat little starting point with lots of ideas. Daniel really has an innate, almost empathic ability with all things mechnical, and becomes both a pawn and a player in a lot more than he bargained for. Maybe someday I'll develop this further here, we'll see.
* Oops- one late edit to add the Creative-Commons info. I'd LOVE for someone to pick this ball up and run with it, and the CC-BY-SA license assures that you can if you want to.

Content © Eric Skiff. Some rights reserved.
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