Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Sleigh Maker

The Sleigh Maker
by
David B. Riley

  Simon turned off the acetylene welder and removed his goggles. That was the last weld. A year’s worth of work finally done. Except for the paint, of course. He’d do that tomorrow. He caught some motion out of the corner of his eye. That damned Blitzen was looking in the window again. Simon shook his fist. “Go on, get out of here!”
  He turned out the lights and made sure the heavy gauge steel door was locked, then he headed home for the night. As the Chief Engineer, he had a private cottage all to himself. It was a considerable improvement over the barracks of the toy makers. But his accommodations did not really matter. It was all about tomorrow. Tomorrow everyone would be talking about Simon Thomas Tinker.
 Traditional red or a nice shade of blue? He fell asleep thinking about wonderful colorful paint.

***
  The boss was munching on a piece of gingerbread as he looked over a letter from a Thea Wilson of San Francisco, California, Young Miss Wilson was extolling on her exemplary behavior during the previous year. She wanted some model of submersible ship, Nautilus, envisioned by Mister Jules Verne, which she claimed could be obtained from the Emporium store in San Francisco for an astronomical price. And it apparently had working hatches and such.  This seemed an odd request for a young girl. He took a sip of coffee. “Give her a rag doll,” he declared.
 “Uh, I don’t think she likes dolls,” Elf Randy replied.
 “All girls like dolls,” the boss insisted.
 “Not this one,” Elf Randy argued.
 “Put her down for those creepy looking ones. We’ve got tons of those to get rid of.”
 “Sir,” Elf William was saying, “it’s time for your appointment with the Chief Engineer.”
 “I’d nearly forgotten. Let’s get it over with.”

***

 Elliott topped off the water tank then gently pulled the throttle. The sleigh glided down the street and came to rest in front of the big house.  He set it to idle.  The sleigh let out a gasp of steam, then quieted to a gentle purr. 
 “Why is it blue?” Elf Randy asked. “Sleighs are supposed to be red.”
 “That’s so passe,” Simon said.
 “A blue sleigh,” the boss sort of muttered. “I don’t know.”
 “We can paint it any color you want,” Simon pointed out. “Not a problem.”
 The boss walked around the strange looking sleigh that had no place for reindeer. “I don’t know.”
 “It’s fast, really fast,” Simon said.
 The boss stared at it for a moment. “Steam, that means stoking coal, doesn’t it?”
 “It uses a liquid fuel,” Simon explained. “Much more efficient and cleaner, too. And it doesn’t need expensive hay and oats all year long. The saving will really add up.”
  “T’s just, we’ve used reindeer for so long,” the boss said. “What will become of the reindeer?”
 “You do remember the barbecue grill I made for you,?” Simon asked as he patted his stomach.“Perhaps a test ride? See what it can do?”
 “Well I guess that would be prudent to check it out and all,” the boss agreed.
 “You’re not getting in that thing!”
 Mrs. C. He’d been hoping to avoid this. He’d scheduled the meeting when she usually took her nap.  Mrs. C. and Simon had a history–a bad history.  She hated every single one of his ideas. She even hated the barbecue grill. Claimed it made too much smoke.
 “I don’t think something like that could possibly be safe. Besides, we don’t need it. Come inside, it’s cold out here,” she said.
 He followed them inside. Simon made his final pitch to save the project. “Tell you what, just sit out on the porch. I’ll give you a demonstration, take it up and show you what it can do.”
 “Well dearest, I guess we owe him that much,” the boss agreed.
 “Okay, but why is it blue? Sleighs should be red.”
 “We can paint it any color,” Simon assured her.
 The boss and Mrs. C took up their favorite rocking chairs on the porch. Simon climbed into the sleigh and switched the engine to on. He pulled on the throttle. The sleigh lifted off the ground and shot into the sky. In seconds it looked like he could even reach out and touch the aurora borealis itself. He turned up the brightness on the side lanterns so they’d be able to see him down in the village.  He banked the sleigh into an arch, then tried a corkscrew pattern. Surely that would impress them.
 Then the sleigh started to rock. The steam thrusters were acting up. He looked at the glowing dials and saw the steam pressure was plummeting. That wasn’t right. The sleigh could run for hours. He’d just filled it. Then he noticed another problem–the temperature in the boiler was sky high. It was out of water. The manifold was actually starting to glow.
Some motion caught his eye on the right. It was that damned Blitzen. He was flying alongside the sleigh. Suddenly, it all made sense. When they’d gone inside the reindeer must’ve drained the water tank.
 H e shook his fist at Blitzen. The animal stuck out its tongue out at him, then sped off. “Dam it!” He would try to land.  But the sleigh had other ideas. It exploded into a ball of fire.
 “Looks like you were right, mother,” the boss said.
 “Dang fool blew himself up. Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here,” Mrs. C said.
 They would definitely be talking about Simon Tinker for a very long time.

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