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Authors: Jamie Sedgwick

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The Tinkerer's Daughter (3 page)

BOOK: The Tinkerer's Daughter
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“Well what do you think? It’s going to be
your room
!”

I looked at him, uncertain as to what I should say. It didn’t look terribly inviting, and I couldn’t imagine what use I might have for a room.

He smiled. “We will paint it this evening, and tomorrow I’ll make you your own bed. We can decorate it any way you want. And after it’s painted, we’ll put in some furniture of course. Where would you like the window?”

I was overwhelmed, but his excitement was contagious. I walked around the room for several minutes, imagining what I was supposed to do with such a place. I’d never had a private space of my own.

I finally decided I wanted a window on the western wall, closest to the trees. I also wanted a window on the roof, so that I could see the sky at night, and so the sun would shine in during the day.

“I’ll have to think about that,” he mumbled. “Ain’t ever seen a window on a roof before.”

Over the next few days my room became a quaint, cozy little space. Soon I had a bed and bookshelves just as Tinker had promised, and even a small writing desk. He offered to make one of his light-creations for my room, but I asked for candles. My little accident in the barn had left me with a new respect for Tinker’s devices, and the thing’s proclivity for throwing sparks made me nervous.

 

Chapter 4

 

 

 

This was the manner in which I came to know Tinker, and it wasn’t the first time I would be surprised by his willingness to push everything aside just to make me comfortable or happy. That was Tinker’s way. Despite his quiet, solitary nature, Tinker’s heart was in everything he did, especially when it came to his friends. Not only that, Tinker was also the smartest person I ever met.

He was a quiet man, not given to boasting or showing off, and because of this most people never really knew him. If I hadn’t seen the things that I witnessed in the days to come, I never would have guessed the true depth of Tinker’s character. But even then, before I really knew anything about him, I learned something from him every single day. Tinker never withheld knowledge from me, and more importantly, he gave me the curiosity to seek it out myself. Without this curiosity, things never would have turned out like they did.

The weeks slipped quietly by, and over time Tinker and I became close friends. He began to teach me details about his work; about the mechanisms inside a clock or the way that iron could be turned to steel and made into things like blades and springs. He encouraged me to think of new ways to use the junk we had, and I found myself approaching the world from a decidedly
Tinkerish
perspective. The more I watched Tinker and learned, the more I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Tinkering was fun!

Unfortunately, there was very little work that was safe for a child and I continued to spend much of my time wandering the woods around the cottage and listening to the quiet thoughts of the trees. I stayed far away from the barn and anything else that looked even remotely explosive.

Gradually, Tinker’s little cottage became my home. There were still nights when I would lie in bed and think of my father –and on occasion I might shed a few tears-but for the most part I had gotten used to my new life. On those nights when I was sad and lonely, I would sneak up the ladder into Tinker’s bed and curl up next to him.

 

It was a week after the first snow when Tinker announced that he must take a trip into town. “I have neglected my business,” he said, “and we are low on supplies. I spent far too much time building that extra room, and now I must set things to right.”

“Can I go?” I asked. “Please take me with you!”

He frowned. “It’s not a good idea.”

“Please, Tinker? I’ll behave. I won’t touch anything!”

He sighed and ran his hand through that rat’s nest he called hair. “I suppose it’s just as dangerous, leaving you here alone…” He disappeared into the loft and came back holding a knit wool cap. “You must wear this,” he said. “You must promise me that you won’t take it off, no matter what happens. You must not let anyone see your ears, or they might become angry.”

“I promise,” I said.

“Alright then, remember you must do whatever I say. We don’t have money to spend so we won’t be doing any shopping, and we won’t be staying long, understand?”

“I understand.”

I tried on my new hat as Tinker went behind the garage and pulled out an old wagon. It was a rusty, rickety thing that looked like it would rattle apart if someone sneezed. There was a long bench seat across the front, and an odd contraption rested just behind the seat. He crawled into the back of the wagon and built a fire inside the tall metal chamber.

I watched with growing curiosity, and soon enough the questions came bubbling out. “What is that thing, Tinker? What does it do? Will it keep us warm? How will we pull the wagon without a horse?”

He chuckled as the questions streamed out of me. “Aren’t you the curious one today?” he said. I smiled. “Just be patient, child. All your questions will be answered soon enough.” He lifted me onto the seat. “You wait here while I load the wagon.”

I did as he instructed, eager to prove that I was worthy of his trust. He hauled a few boxes out of the barn and then climbed into the seat next to me. I felt warmth radiating off the contraption, and it felt good on that wintry morning.

“Hang on,” Tinker said. He pulled back on a long metal bar that rose up in front of the bench (which I soon learned was the brake), and the cart started to move. I gasped, and he shot me a smile. “This is what we call steam locomotion,” he said. “This is my
steamwagon
.”

I bent over, trying to get a look at what was happening underneath us. He grabbed my coat by the collar and hauled me back. “I don’t want you bouncing out,” he said. “Last thing I need is you with a broken arm, or worse yet, a broken neck.” I glanced around and saw steam exhausting out of the machine, and heard a loud hissing noise.

The wagon bounced happily down the road as I twisted left and right, searching for an understanding of this bizarre creation. It was slow-going as we traveled down the valley, but once we reached the flatlands, Tinker let it go. We easily doubled the speed of a horse-drawn carriage and in less than an hour, we rolled into town.

It was breathtaking.

Like Tinker, my father had lived in seclusion. I’d never been near a town in my life. I had never even dreamed of the wonders that now revealed themselves to me. The town of Riverfork was alive with festivity. The buildings were decorated with dancing skeletons and brilliant streamers of gold and red for the celebration of Sowen, the week of the dead.

Tinker explained that although the name of the holiday sounded morbid, it was actually a celebration of the seasonal harvest and the transition into winter. The citizens celebrated by hanging stick figures in the shape of skeletons and black cats from the street lamps and doors, and by placing pumpkins with angry faces carved into them on their porches to ward off the specter of death.

I absorbed this all in mute wonder. I was equally awed by the town itself. The buildings were tall, some as high as four stories, and their steep roofs cast shadows across the cobbled streets even in the middle of the day. I saw dozens of people on the streets, some pulling carts, others riding in wagons or, rarely, even in a carriage. Others strolled along the wooden boardwalks peering into shop windows and greeting one another with smiles and nods. Lamps rose up along the street every few yards, and Tinker was kind enough to explain their purpose as I stared in wide-eyed wonder.

Looking back now, I know that our town was really little more than a backwater village, but at that moment it was a city. I had never imagined so many people might exist in the whole world, much less in one place. I was so overwhelmed with excitement that I completely forgot who I was and why I was there. I just wanted to see it all.

We made several stops along the way and Tinker was cautious to warn me every time. “Stay put, and keep that hat on! I’ll be back in a few moments.”

He wandered into the first shop with a box of nuts and bolts, and other hand-made fasteners. He returned with saw blades, paint, and sandpaper. At another stop he traded knife blades and sharpening tools for a good supply of smoked meat. A peddler on the street gave us a pig and two chickens for a clock and a small supply of Tinker’s explosive balls. Tinker delivered several boxes of those balls at the post office, and I was glad to see them gone.

We made several more stops like this, and our wagon slowly filled with the supplies that Tinker would need to get us through the winter. It wasn’t until our last stop that things went bad.

It was late afternoon when we pulled up to the mercantile at the far end of town. The sun had already begun to set behind the mountains. A middle-aged man and his plump wife were standing on the long porch, greeting people on the street. They waved as we pulled up. “Evening, Tinkerman,” said the man. “What can we do for you?”

Before Tinker could reply, the woman let out a squeal. “Oh, my, look at this dear child. Tell me this isn’t one of your fabulous inventions!”

Tinker smiled and said, “This is my niece, Breeze. She’s visiting for a few weeks while her family tends to matters with their farm in South Bronwyr.” It was so well rehearsed that I almost believed it myself.

“Well, lucky for us!” said the woman. “Come, child, let’s get you inside. I’ll fetch you a piece of candy.” Before I knew it, she was at my side, lifting me out of the wagon.

Tinker reached out but I was already gone. “I don’t think… we don’t really have time for-”

“Oh, nonsense. You men see about your business, while us ladies get acquainted.”

Tinker gave me a helpless look as the woman hauled me away. Inside the store, she plopped me down on the counter. She bent over, and reappeared with a small, brightly colored stick. “Here we go, the best sweets in Riverfork.” She handed it to me, and I thanked her. “Well now, we haven’t been properly introduced. Your name is Breeze, yes? Well I’m Analyn Trader. My husband out there is Daran. This is our store. So tell me Breeze, how long will you be staying?”

“I don’t know.”

“I see. Tell me, what sort of education have you?”

“Education?”

“Yes, proper education I mean. Not tending sheep and chickens and the like, but writing and reading and math. Do you know these things?”

“Some,” I said awkwardly. I wasn’t sure where her train of questioning was leading, and I was afraid Tinker was going to be angry with me. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.

“Some? Tell me, how long ago did you start school?”

I gave her a blank look.

“You haven’t been to school?” she said. “Well this is a scandal! It’s an outrage! I’m going to have a talk with that tinkerer.” She was scowling, but she must have seen the terror in my eyes. Her face softened a bit and she decided to change the subject. “Ah well, later for that. You are a pretty little thing, do you know that? And look at those curls. Do you know what we call hair that color? Strawberry-blonde. It’s almost pink in the sunlight, isn’t it? Here, let’s brush it out.”

Before I even realized what was happening, she reached out and pulled off my hat. She didn’t give me a second glance as she spun around and grabbed a brush off the counter behind her. I froze, terrified of what was about to happen, but powerless to stop it.

Then Analyn turned around. She saw my ears. She screamed.

 

Chapter 5

 

 

 

Analyn’s brush hit the floor at the same instant the door flew open. Tinker and Daran burst in, their eyes searching for the cause of the outcry. Tinker saw me sitting on the counter and froze. He glanced at the cap and then back at me, and his eyebrows narrowed. Daran looked at his wife questioningly, and then followed her gaze to me and did a double take. His jaw dropped.

“What have you done, Tinkerman?” he said.

“Half-breed,” Analyn hissed. “He’s created an abomination.”

I glanced back and forth between the three of them, my heart in my throat. I didn’t know what an abomination was, or what the term “half-breed” meant, but Analyn’s cold stare gave me a wrenching feeling in my gut.

Seconds ago she’d been such a sweet, kind woman… the change had been instantaneous. It was terrifying to see her change like that. I had no idea what I’d done wrong, or how I could have incited such venomous anger. I wanted to crawl down a hole and die.

“Breeze, put on your hat and go wait for me in the wagon.” Tinker’s voice was stiff and controlled, but I could hear the anger behind his words. The situation was so unfair, so hard to understand. I wanted to break down in tears.

“But Tinker…” I started to object. I wanted to explain that it wasn’t my fault, that I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“Do it, now,” he said firmly. It was clear from his tone that I’d better do it. I grabbed my hat from the counter and yanked it over my head. I jumped down, and ran outside. Fortunately, I had the good sense to keep my fingers on that stick of candy.

I waited on the wagon, my heart thumping wildly and my eyes downcast so that no passing stranger might see my tears. A light snow had begun falling and the flakes drifted down around me, settling onto the padded bench beside me and onto the floor of the steamwagon, dusting everything in a thin layer of white. The steam engine in the back chugged along, idling and belching out clouds of hot vapor and releasing a loud hiss every few seconds.

I held out my hands, letting the flakes settle onto my palms where they dissipated almost instantly. I heard harsh voices drifting out through the mercantile doors, and I tried not to listen. I didn’t want to hear any more. I didn’t entirely understand what had happened, but I had enough sense to know that I was in trouble. And that, for reasons that were beyond my understanding, I was bad.

Eventually Tinker came out of the store. He was carrying canvas bags full of food which he carelessly tossed into the back of the wagon. He didn’t say a word as he climbed into the driver’s seat and released the brake. In fact, he didn’t speak at all as we raced down the busy street, weaving a dangerous path through the traffic. He ignored the waves and angry shouts of people he’d nearly run over.

BOOK: The Tinkerer's Daughter
2.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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