“Oliver, are you at home?” came a call from outside, followed by knocking at the door.
Professor Oliver MacCrumb was hunched over his work table, intent on his task, growing irritable at the many distractions this day had brought. Ignoring the visitor he peered through his magnifying glass at his current contraption. Carefully he inserted a tiny cog using tweezers. Immediately the devices wings began to flap and it shot around the table knocking things about and on to the floor. It made quite a racket which prompted the visitor to only call out again, then knock more loudly.
“Drat and darn it all. I did it again.” the Professor mumbled as he snatched the contraption and pulled its winding key, which made it stop its disastrous flopping about. He did learn something though. The new synchronizing gear he just installed was indeed the right size. Now to work on the optics! He was rather enthusiastic as he thought of this, but an even louder knocking issued from the door.
“Oliver! I know you are at home. How rude of you to ignore me.” Mrs. Whiskers called once again.
Now all in the Woodlands knew that Mrs. Whiskers, of all good folk, could hardly be ignored. Sighing with resignation, the Professor shuffled through the mess of his work shop and opened the front door. Without hesitation the little mouse woman barged in. Just as he thought she might begin a tirad she stopped and let out a long sigh.
“It is beautiful.” she exclaimed as she stepped over to a tall antique clock. She ran her fingers over the freshly sanded and polished case. “And it is working.” she continued excitedly, noticing the swinging pendulum and the ‘tic toc’ sound of the devices inner workings.
“Yes of course. How ever it was never broken. Please allow me to explain.” moving over to the clock he opened the cases glass front, stopped the pendulum then pointed out a small lever. “By gently pulling this, it actually unlocks and opens the face of the clock. Like so.” As the face swung out, the devices inners were exposed and Mrs. Whiskers eyes went wide in wonder.
The inside was so complex with pins, coils and many gears of various sizes. It was unimaginable to her how it all possibly worked. To enhance her experience, the Professor sent the pendulum swinging once more. Some gears ticked with each swing, some after several. Then a hairspring went loose and a big gear turned changing the position of the weights. She jumped and giggled in delight at this. Professor MacCrumb loved his work, and moments like this made it all worthwhile.
“As you can see. One must merely set the pendulum into motion.” He concluded in satisfaction as he closed the clock.
“Marvelous. And such a fine job restoring the wood as well.” Mrs. Whiskers replied as she traced the scroll work with her finger. “Can you bring it today?”
“Of course I will.” he said happily. “If you could send some of the boys over to assist I would greatly appreciate it. We would not want to knock it out of alignment in the transport.”
“Certainly. I am assuming that the agreed price will be less, now that it wasn’t actually broken?” Mrs. Whiskers asked in her snooty way as she moved to leave.
“Indeed,” Professor MacCrumb frowned thinking to himself that he should have expected that. He wouldn’t be getting what he sought this time either. “The restoration still took some time ma’dam. What do you say to one watermelon and five pounds of your delicious potatoes?”
“Very well,” The little mouse woman responded and gave a slight curtsy. “I will send my two oldest immediately.” And with that she was off, skipping merrily down the road. She was in fact in a fine mood, as she once again avoided trading the old lamp to the Professor. He had been trying to trade for it, ever since Miss Tittles traded it to Mrs. Whiskers for work she desperately needed done. After a terrible Spring storm, everyone was busy with clean up and repairs. Mrs. Whiskers made the offer and did stop all of her own work to send many of her oldest children to help Miss Tittles. It was a fair barter, nevertheless Miss Tittles always regretted it, and Oliver had been trying to get it back since.
Professor MacCrumb shut the door and looked about his workshop. ‘What a mess,’ he thought to himself. He had much to do today and hoped the Whisker boys hurried to assist him. After delivering the clock he had to get over to Daryl the Wainwright’s home. Today they would apply the Professor’s organic rubber solution to the wooden wheel frames, of the wagon they had been building.
Togather, they had designed the rear axle for easy pulling, so that the wagon could carry larger loads yet not put so much burden on whomever may be pulling. Daryl had designed the perfect wagon, sturdy and accommodating for the heavy loads. Professor MacCrumb had spent much time calculating the gear ratios, and working with the blacksmith, to get the axles just right.
The mess would have to wait. Quickly he darted about getting his tool bags organized. He told himself that he would only need certain tools to complete his task at Daryl’s, but Olivar was after all, Olivar. ‘But what if this?’ he thought and grabbed two more tools. ‘And what of that?’ he thought again grabbing more tools. Now, his tool bags were overflowing and…
Knock, knock, knock, to late. He went to the door and the two oldest Whisker brothers were there. He didn’t expect them this quickly. “Good afternoon boys,” the professor greeted them.
“Young men!” they both retorted in unison. And just like their mother, barged right in and headed for the clock.
The Professor rolled his eyes. Noticing outside, he saw they had brought their own cart. It was a rickety old thing, and he hoped it would hold the weight of the clock. He was skeptical and was about to suggest using his when…
“Pardon us Oliver.” the brothers spoke in unison once more.
The Professor leaped aside as they rushed right out the door with the clock. One had the bottom and the other, the top. They had apparently tilted it back, hosted both ends and decided to just run off with it, most likely not even stopping the pendulum!
Eyes wide and very annoyed he went after them. “That’s Mr. MacCrumb or Professor to you, lads.” They seemed to be ignoring him as they loaded the clock. It was clear they made the motions of carefulness, but hastiness won over the young mice. Bang, scuff, drop!
“There perfect fit,” proclaimed one.
“I told you it would.” said the other.
The Professor stood staring as they started to pull the cart off. They hadn’t secured it with ties or padded it with anything. With each little rut or rock in the road, the clock would bounce. He wouldn’t even be able to collect his fruit and vegetables without redoing his work now. And probably having an actual, internal repair! He even considered chasing after and trying to make them be more careful, or at the least point out to Mrs. Whiskers that her sons were reckless. Deciding not to add that stress to his life, he went back inside to gather his things. He would just make time tomorrow to go over to Mrs. Whiskers and clean it up.
Once inside, it didn’t take him long. He resolved himself to just the basic tools then loaded his own cart. It was a nice cart, with only straight axles but the large wheel size aided in its ease of pulling. Not only that, Daryl and him also designed a ‘semi-elliptical spring’ suspension system. Daryl used it in all his carts and wagons now. The Whisker brothers did not have one of these newer designs…
Looking over his load one last time, he was satisfied that everything he needed was there. With determination and eagerness, for the next task, he set forth across town towards Daryl’s. He took a brief glance at his garage and smiled. ‘It wouldn’t be long now. No more pulling a cart for me,’ he thought to himself. He had been working on something special for almost three years now. It was a difficult project so he worked on it when he had the time. He called it his, ‘Hydro-Conveyance’, and he was sure it would change the world forever!
… to be continued.