Archive for January, 2009


January 5, 2009

Bil and Cal continued with their odd-jobs around the factory. They started in the kitchen: peeling potatoes and carrots, taking out the trash, feeding the animals that were kept in the yard. Then they were asked to clean up the factory, picking up debris, cleaning equipment and returning it to storage. Cal was put on some of the more arduous tasks of the factory. He dealt with some of the heavier equipment, and he started to tend the furnace.

As they became more accustomed to the place, they got the miscellaneous work done quickly. Ferr began to look for something more substantial for them. Since most of the other factory workers has assigned jobs already, Ferr put the two boys to work on new projects – the stuff for which he couldn’t spare his other workers. The newest project was the rolled plate. Ferr had rigged up a cylinder over which he poured molten glass. The glass dripped from the cylinder in a uniformly thin sheet onto a conveyor belt. When it cooled off a bit, but not completely, a huge blade came down and sliced it into large panes. By adjusting the time of the cutting, he could get panes of varying lengths. The width was determined by the length of the cylinder. Currently Ferr was experimenting with different compositions of glass to get a stronger pane, something that wouldn’t collapse under its own weight.

Naarka rode down the road, searching for the landmark the trader had described to him. He left the eatery outwardly calm. Excitement rose coldly inside him as ice rises up a thin cylinder as water freezes within it.

He calmly asked his questions of this non-citizen. The trader could see the cold fire in Naarka’s eyes growing slowly, steadily brighter with each answer. When Naarka had enough information, he walked slowly back to his table, calmly figured the bill, and sat down to wait patiently for change.

While waiting he tried to plan what his next move. His thoughts were frenzied. He was too excited. As he waited for change he tried to calm the tornado raging through his skull. What could he plan, really? He was going to go down there, that much he knew. What he would do when he got there – how could he know until he was there? He would evaluate the situation once he arrived.

He scooped up his change as the young boy in beige cotton leggings and a dark brown sweater came and gave it to him. Even though the waiter’s slightly greasy hair had killed Naarka’s appetite he left a medium coin for a tip.  As he got up, he shoved his chair back and looked at it for the first time. The chair was a fold of metal that looked like it had been extruded and then twisted and pressed in a tortuous kind of way – like the metal had sufferd actual pain to be put into the shape it found itself in now. The metal might still have been in pain, sacrificing its own comfort in order to give comfort to Naarka.

Naarka turned and rubbed the grit on the floor under his boot as he walked to the door. He could almost feel every grain though the many millimeters of rubber sole and then the cotton of his sock as well.

It was dusky inside the eatery, which was basically a large tent, and daylight could be seen through the woven strands of the tent wall and roof. But the amount of that filtered through those patches wasn’t enough to actually illuminate the inside. It was lit with electric lights over by the counter. Additional light spilled through the flap leading to the kitchen, which the waiter boys kept scampering in and out of. Also, candles stood on the tables and oil lamps on stands here and there between tables.

The interior light seemed to only illuminate the bottom half of the the tent, so that there was a cloud-like cover of darkness hovering over the dining patrons. Naarka walked under the cafe’s dusk, almost subconsciously ducking underneath it as he walked to the flap entrance. This was pinned open, so that a triangle of brightness thrust a little way inside. He stepped into this triangle, which he thought would somehow prepare him for the brightness of the full-on day, but it didn’t. He grabbed the edge of the flap to steady himself as he ducked through it and out into the yard.

There was really nothing else within easy walking distance of this thing. It was much too far north of where the warehouses along the river had ended. Here was past where the road curved to the northwest. The large field that served as the parking lot was scattered with the pack train of the trader Naarka had talked to, and the vehicles and animals and retinue of the rest of the customers – a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. Naarka’s vehicle was parked near the tent, in a little area roped off near for the personal vehicles of citizens. Most citizens traveled in personal or family vehicles separate from their retinue. There were only two or three other citizen’s vehicles parked there. The eatery sat several dozen, and only about half the seats were filled inside. There weren’t a lot of citizens eating there, then quite a few helots. The lot was full of other members of retinues – some were helots catching the sun, or the air, or a nap. A lot of them couldn’t even be allowed inside the eatery: chattel slaves and barbarian foreigners. These did their own cooking. Awnings were unfolded from the sides of wagons, cooking tables set up, portable burners fired up, even some wood and charcoal fires started on the ground or in brick or stone pits that were either set up makeshift on the spot with bricks or stones that were carried with the caravan especiallay for the purpose, or in masoned pits that put were there by the management for this very purpose.

Naarka got on his vehicle and maneuvered through this throng outwardly calm. He rode down the road, searching for the landmark the trader had described to him.  Excitement rose coldly inside him as ice rises up a thin cylinder as water freezes within it.