Holy shit! TEN!
Okay, that’s not really a whole lot, but still…ten is a number that matters to us decimal monsters.
It has been just a few short months since I started and the posts have been sporadic, but this blog has been one of my favorite undertakings. Hitting the “Publish” button after finishing a piece is one of the most gratifying sensations I have ever experienced. Something about it makes that day feel complete.
I learn so much about my process when doing these posts and each piece is a seed bursting with potential. I have high hopes and grand designs and this is one place I can hone my craft, experiment, and see what sticks. I have a lot to accomplish, but elephants are best eaten one bite at a time. (But don’t eat elephants, that would be most uncool.)
Anyway, I wanted to post something a bit more uplifting with this one. It’s an idea I had many years ago and tried to explore then, but it never went anywhere. It’s a bit closer to my heart these days. Here it is completed. Enjoy!
Timothy lived in the old city beneath the elevated topside train. The undercity hidden from the world above. It all had to be clean up there. Pristine. The most beautiful city on Earth had an underbelly of dirt and rust. Refugees lived here. All among the forgotten. To an outsider, things seemed bleak and decayed, but beneath the tracks of the train there was culture and life.
Every day, Timothy made his way to the bazaar. Traders from across the galaxy came here. The Knothole, as it came to be known, was the best kept secret of gray market traders. To Timothy, it was a playground of information. The best place he knew to learn. He didn’t go to school. None of the kids down here did. No one above seemed to care. Most kids spent their days with gangs, pilfering treats and trinkets from the many travelers that passed through.
Timothy watched and listened. He learned all he could about the people that came through. He knew that the folks of Nantis Valerii loved sweets. Especially the ones found in the tiny stall tucked between the footings of Pylon 5. Old, fat Berillo was adept at cloning the confections of many higher end sweet shops for a fraction of the cost. Frugal customers knew him well and were always pleased with his work.
The Irchesian Meridis were always in disguise when they came through, but Timothy had learned to spot them. They were high society on their home world and it just wouldn’t do for them to be seen in such a place, but nowhere else had the tiny larks they so desired for their collections. Arabet Pioro’s shop was nestled into the spot next to the old data pipe access shed. They could have easily sent brokers in their stead, but they always preferred to see the goods themselves. Meridis always made him laugh as they tried their best to seem like average people.
Timothy often earned money and trinkets by showing newcomers around and making sure to point them in the right direction for the things they needed. As well as the things he knew they really wanted. He had made friends from dozens of different planets and they usually sought his help on return visits. The owners running each stall had come to rely on his help in directing new customers their way. He had even developed a knack for fixing things. Broken merchandise and broken equipment used by the shopkeepers, but his favorite was patching machines into the mechanics used to power the city above. At a mere 10 years old, he was known to some as “Little Ambassador” and to others as “The Child Mechanic”. He had become an invaluable member of the community that had formed around the bazaar.
Momma didn’t much like that he spent his time there, but she couldn’t afford to send him off to school and she had to work to keep them fed. The days were difficult enough without worrying about him. Work was hard to find for a veteran who had lost a limb in combat. She never had the money to buy a prosthetic and her benefits only covered one very basic piece. Timothy had to help her to work each morning. That single prosthetic she had been given had worn out some years ago and he pushed her wheelchair to the tiny office building she had been able to find work at. She was young, but sadness and tiring work had made her weak. Momma never wanted to admit that what little extra he could bring home from the bazaar was of great value to their little family. She never wanted him to have to beg to help them get by and she was afraid of the people Timothy might meet, but she did not know how they really felt about him.
She did not know that his services were seen as invaluable by some of the roughest creatures from across the stars. Timothy kept his nose clean. If something didn’t seem right to him, he didn’t do it. This would occasionally anger visitors, but they were promptly barred from returning to the bazaar. Word traveled fast and they were even barred from returning to the city itself. In that piece of land underneath the train, he was improving relations between dozens of species.
Timothy was happy to help, but his real interests lie with the Mechanics. Machine Whisperers as some called them. They were quiet and almost never needed his help, but he shadowed them whenever they came through. None of them ever seemed to mind that he was there, but they rarely acknowledged his presence. Still, he followed and listened for every little thing he could hear. Every scrap of information was committed to memory and his diligence with them occasionally led him to shirk his duties helping the other new patrons. Most Mechanics did their business and left, but a few understood what Timothy was trying to do. These few usually left him with something as they parted.
Amily Mreva was his favorite. She was a Bruvessian from Albehr Prime. Tiny, with four arms and blue skin and two sets of round, black eyes on each side of her head. And Timothy found her quite beautiful. A Mechanic for Tradell Mining, she was one of the few that seemed to be a constant regular at the bazaar. The corporation provided her with all the tools and materials she needed, but she had a sense of artistry with her work and sought out more exotic pieces. Amily traded in micro-machinery. Tiny motors. Servos, actuators, and the like. She actually took the time to teach Timothy about her work as he followed her and was the only Mechanic that truly engaged him. Before Timothy had even been born, she was already so well known that she never needed his help getting around the shops, but she was always happy for the company.
At the end of each visit, Amily gave him the choice of one spare item from her haul for the day or simple cash for his services. He always chose an item. At first, she assumed his choices were random or even based simply on the sparkle of each piece. She thought he chose what would make the most impressive bauble to show to his friends, but after several visits, she realized what he was actually doing. Timothy had listened well and he had studied on his own. He had a plan with the parts that he chose.
Amily was often gone for weeks to months at a time between visits, but Timothy had learned much from her and had been collecting pieces on his own. After her most recent visit, he felt confident that he would be able to accomplish his goal. He missed his friend and knew her guidance would be helpful, but he had no way of knowing when or if she would return. She had often warned him that due to the nature of her work and the nature of space travel, there could come a time when they may no longer be able to visit with one another.
One morning, he decided to skip out on his usual day at the bazaar. He was aware that he risked upsetting many of the shopkeepers and patrons that came to rely on his help, but he had a more pressing matter to attend to. He pushed Momma in her wheelchair to the little office building. Once she had taken her place at her desk, she embarrassed him with a kiss on the cheek and warned him to be safe during his day. He smiled and bolted out the door, but instead of making his way to the bazaar, he tore for home.
Each of the pieces he had been collecting were carefully hidden in a small cubby he had found in the basement of the apartment building they lived in. Few families were there anymore, so he felt sure that no one would bother his treasures. As gentle as he could, he gathered them and took them to their kitchen while making sure that no one saw him. Once there, he laid them all out on the table and left again to return to the basement. He had also hidden a small cache of tools that he had acquired from others at the bazaar. Once safely back home, he arranged the tools on the table and began to work.
Remembering all that Amily had taught him, all that he gleaned from other Mechanics, and every piece of info he had been able to read in various books he found, he began piecing together each tiny part. His little hands weren’t used to such delicate work, but he persisted. The day wore on and he thought little of what might be happening at the bazaar. His only thought was his task and Momma. He had to finish before it was time to help her get home. He stopped occasionally to eat something, but took few breaks. As the day wore on and his task came closer to nearing completion, his eyes grew heavy. He fought off sleep as long as he could, but it soon took him.
The sound of the front door unlocking woke him. In a panic, he took his project to Momma’s bed and placed it on there for her to find. He was unsure if he had truly finished, but he was more unsure that it could wait. As quick and quiet as he could, he slipped into his room before Momma could spot him and dove into his bed. He would do his best to pretend to be asleep when she came in. He could hear the wheelchair rolling down the hallway toward his room. The door creaked open and she came to his bedside. The plastic of her seat creaked as she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. She rolled from the room and closed the door gently behind her.
The walls in their apartment were quite thin and he could hear her in her own room. She rolled in and stopped. He placed his ear to the wall to hear better. A gasp, followed by quiet sobbing. He knew she had found it. He was beaming with joy. He wanted to go to his mother, but he was still afraid she might be upset with him for not helping her home. He lay in bed for but a moment before losing out to sleep once more.
Morning came and he woke to a sound that surprise him. Running! He realized what was happening and vaulted from his bed. He reached the end of the hall and peaked around the corner. In the living room, his mother was jogging round and round in circles in the middle of the room. She spied him and stopped. Her eyes narrowed for a moment before filling with tears. She threw her head back and laughed. Below her right knee was a gleaming prosthetic complete with joints and toes. It was a hodgepodge of mismatched metals and only just resembled a human foot, but it worked.
“It’s not perfect,” he said softly, “but I learned from every Mechanic I met and made it just for you.”
Momma grinned wide and jogged over to him. She knelt on her left knee so the two could admire his work. Then she scooped him up in her arms and smothered him in kisses.