Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday Fiction for November 25, 2011

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Karlene, over at Dancin’ In the Rain. Take a break from all the busy-ness of this Holiday Weekend, and enjoy some great fiction reading from the wonderful folks participating this week!

Clockwork Deacon is finished for the first draft. It’s a bit shorter than I normally like for a novel-length project, tallying in about 50,400 words (NaNoWriMo Official Tally amount, which differed slightly from MS Word’s count), but I suspect the length will change when I go back and begin the revision process in the near future. Still, it takes its place as my sixth straight NaNoWriMo win, and my twelfth novel finished. Now, I can get back to work and FINALLY finish “Precocious by Consent.” For this week, though, please enjoy the next portion of Chapter 6.

Clockwork Deacon
Chapter 6 – A Clockwork Christmas, part 2

The service opened with a joyful carol, followed by the more pensive God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Their father welcomed everyone, and extended holiday wishes, before declaring the good news that Christ was born. He gestured towards the back of the sanctuary, and added, “Even Deacon is filled with the spirit of the season! Good tidings of great joy, indeed, which shall be to all people, and – apparently – to machines like Deacon as well.”

If Deacon had any reaction to the statements, he did not show it. He simply stood quietly at the back, as he always did for services. With no voice, he could not sing the hymns along with the congregation, but he also never showed any outward signs of participation in the worship in other ways. He was no more animated than the podium itself during the service, and for Christmas Eve, he was no different beyond the costuming the boys had attached to him. His face stared straight forward, and his arms remain folded at his side.

The congregation sang a few more Christmas carols, and then came the Christmas message. Isaac and Jacob had heard such messages every Christmas of their young lives, and their attention drifted elsewhere as their father preached.

The two boys would rather have been at the back of the church, next to Deacon. It would have been a challenge to see what else they could do in decorating the Automaton, without anyone in the church noticing that they were doing it. Holiday service, or just the regular service, though, their mother had a firm rule that they were to sit up front as a family. It was important, she often told them, for them to set an example for the other children in the church. They had to remember, she always added, that their behavior reflected on their father, and if they did not respect his authority, how would anyone else in the congregation respect him?

Unfortunately, such logic failed to make the sermons interesting to the boys. By the time their father concluded the message, and the final song was sung, they were practically ready to explode from the pew. The church members came forward to decorate the tree after the service, but Isaac and Jacob ran to the back to find Deacon.

Except Deacon wasn’t there. “Where’d he go?” Jacob asked.

“I dunno,” Isaac answered. “Maybe the tool shed? Seems he’s been out there a lot lately.”

“Let’s go see.” Jacob ran for the door, and Isaac followed after him. They hurried through the darkness, around to the back of the church, and the fairly new tool shed that Deacon had built a couple of months before. Isaac, being the older and larger boy, had reached the shed first, and slowly pulled the door open.

Deacon stood inside at a bench, and gave no attention to the arrival of an audience. His gaze, and his hands, were turned towards something unseen in front of him.

“What’s he doin?” Jacob asked. “I can’t see.”

“I don’t know. Why’n’t you go ask him?”

“I ain’t gonna ask him. You ask him.”

“All right, I will. I ain’t chicken.” Isaac entered the shed, boldly at first, but the closer he got to Deacon, the more timid he acted. “Um, Deacon? What’cha doin?”

Deacon turned to look at him. The Santa hat and beard were still on his head, but the bag was now resting on the floor beside him. He rolled backwards just a bit, and gestured with his right hand towards the bench.

Several rows of little copper automatons stood on the bench, of various different configurations. A few were similar to Deacon’s design, while others were more similar to other designs the boys remembered from Schenectady.

“Where’d you get these?” Isaac asked.

“We made ‘em,” a voice answered from the door.

Isaac spun around, and Jacob ran across the floor to hide behind his brother. Standing in the door, leaning on a cane, was the miner that Deacon had rescued. He walked towards them, an obvious limp with each step of the wooden leg.

“Well, let me correct that,” the man said. “Deacon built ‘em, and I collected the metal he used.” He placed the cane atop the bench, and picked up one. There was a key on the back, and he turned it a few times. When he set it back on the bench, the miniature Deacon rolled across the bench, with his arms going back and forth. “No one was s’posed to know about ‘em yet, though.”

“Why?” Jacob asked, peeking out from behind Isaac.

“I ain’t got much, but I wanted to make sure every kid in Loma Roja got a toy for Christmas. Deacon was helpin’ me to learn to walk again, an’ I joked that every kid learnin’ to walk needed a Deacon to help ‘em, and then I started thinkin’, mebbe there was a way that every kid could have somethin’ like Deacon.” He picked up one of the other toys, and held it out to Jacob. “Since I can’t surprise you with ‘im now, here’s one for you. Just got to promise to not show him to any other kids until tomorrow, when all the kids find theirs.”

Jacob took the toy, still a bit cautious, but unable to resist the shiny metal miniature.

“I don’t know what kind that one is. Deacon jus’ made them all, and the only kind I recognize are the ones like him,” the man said.

Isaac looked at it. “That looks like one of the Automaton Porters that works at the big train station in New York.”

“Kinda thought it might be somethin’ like that, with the way it looks like it was made to carry lots of stuff.” He handed a different one to Isaac. “How ‘bout this one?”

Isaac took it, and turned it over and over in his hands. “This is the kind that works on the big engines that make the airships go.”

“You’ve seen the airships?”

“Yeah. They fly all over New York.”

“Are they as big as folks say?”

“Huge,” Jacob said.

“Bigger’n a house,” Isaac added. “They’re like big silver clouds, flyin’ along, with hotels stuck beneath ‘em.”

“An airship,” the man laughed. “Now, that’d be the way to deliver toys to kids on Christmas, huh?”

“So, how’re you gonna deliver ‘em?” Isaac asked.

“Deacon’s gonna deliver ‘em, late tonight. I’m gonna wrap ‘em up, and put each kid’s name on ‘em. I got this map that shows where each kid lives, and Deacon’ll leave the presents on the door of each house.”

Jacob’s eyes lit up. “Deacon is gonna really play Santa Claus?”


“Can we help? Please? We been makin’ Deacon up to be Santa all day, and this would be the best Christmas ever, if we could help really make him like Santa.”

“Well,” the man said. “I got all these little boxes here, that I need to put together so’s I can put the toys in ‘em. If you boys wanna help put the boxes together, that’ll make my job go a lot faster.” He held out his hand. “Name’s Syl, by the way.”

“This here’s Jacob,” Isaac said, shaking the hand. “An’ I’m Isaac.”

“You’re the Rev’rend’s boys, ain’t’cha?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I thought I’d seen ya before. Your folks ain’t gonna get worried ‘bout you?”

“Naw,” Isaac said. “It’ll be a while yet, before they’re done with the Christmas tree in the church, and then with the socializin’ that always goes on after, we got a while before they’ll come lookin’ for us.”

“Well, then,” Syl said. “We best get to work, before they do.”

To be continued…

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