Fantasies and Realities: Episode 13

Widger Gegg is down from Inteh, a small village up the mountain from Gumgeeville. He's a distant cousin of the Gumgeeville Geggs. He's heard tell that his cousin has brought home some sort of contraption from Simeland, and while trying to maintain a blase' appearance, is actually filled with excitement at the notion of such a piece of exotica.

Gegg is in the barn, lovingly reassembling the battered old machine. He's quite ~~ proud ~~ of his new acquisition, which will bring in a great deal of extra money, he hopes, as neighbors hire it from him.

Jed is cleaning disassembled parts and lightly oiling them against rust.

Jed: They sure built this thing to last.

Jed is impressed by the solid construction. He carefully files a burr off the part he's cleaning.

Gegg: Yup. And last it will, with a little care.

Gegg reaches for another part.

Gegg: Give me that wrench, will you?

Jed: Here you go.

Jed hands over the tool.

Gegg: Thanks.

Gegg busies himself reattaching the part in the proper location.

Widger stops at the house for the mandatory call on Toria, but he's never gotten along with her anyway, so he cuts it short and heads for the barn.

Gegg then tests the subsection, grunting in ~~ satisfaction ~~ as it performs properly.

Jed wipes the part with an oily rag, puts it on the newspaper with the other cleaned parts and picks up another one to work on.

Widger: Cousin, you in there?

Gegg pauses.

Gegg: Widger, is that you? What brings you so far from Inteh?

Widger: Well, wanted to catch some of your lowland air, y'know, and maybe catch a sight of a thing or two, eh?

Jed has met Gegg's cousin Widger before. Compared to him, the residents of Gumgeeville are real cosmopolitans.

Jed: G'day, Widger. What's new up there?

Widger: Well, lemme come in and we'll talk about it.

Widger walks in and finds himself a bale not too far from the machine, but not too close to it either.

Widger: Hey, Jed. Well, nothing much changes up there, barring a landslide, ha!

Widger chuckles dryly.

Gegg: Have you got snow still, or has it melted yet?

Widger: Oh, we got it lying about here and there, but not all over the place any more. Now in Upteh, that's another story. What with being so high and in a valley, they'll have snow for another month. Darned if I see how anybody can make a living at all up there, save by timbering.

Gegg: Don't forget hunting. There's some decent summer pasturage, too. Still, it's a hard life.

Widger: So it is, so it is. But as for the pasturage, they share that with us, y'know.

Gegg: True.

Widger: So what's that?

Gegg: It's a little something I picked up on my travels. It shells corn as fast as you can pick it from a basket.

Widger gestures toward the part Jed is currently bending back into shape.

Widger: Yeah, but I mean, what's that?

Gegg: Oh. That's part of the handle. You turn it, and it moves this bit here.

Widger: And then what happens?

Gegg: That grabs the corncob, which is dragged through here, where the kernels are scraped off. They drop through this grating, down the chute into a bin, and the cobs come out here.

Widger sings:

Widger: "And the cobs go down and around, ho ho ho ho, boom boom, and they come out here."

Gegg: Yup. Just about that simple, when it doesn't jam. Which it won't, much, when I'm done fixing it up. Guess the Simes don't know good equipment when they give it away.

Gegg considers.

Gegg: Or they were so rich they just didn't care. Good land, there. Rich and easy to farm.

Jed: All that and tentacles, too.

Widger: Huh? That counts as a good point?

Jed: Them tentacles are real strong. Gegg's going to have to regear this thing so we can crank it without them.

Widger: Ah, gotcha. Makes sense.

Gegg: Shouldn't be too hard, although it'll take a bit of tinkering. Might even try to rig it so it can be powered by a horse. That'll leave me free to handle the actual shucking.

Widger: Shouldn't think a horse 'ud be able to turn a bitty little handle like that, ha!

Gegg: Of course not. You'd have to extend the shaft and make a bigger wheel.

Widger: Aw, cousin, I was just funnin' ya. I'm not so dumb I don't know that.

Gegg: Sometimes I wonder, Widger. I mean, any guy who'd think plastering a few feathers on a frame would let him fly... Good thing the manure pile was just under you when you jumped off the barn roof, isn't it?

Widger laughs his barking laugh.

Widger: At least I didn't try to hold my breath till I could see myself turn blue, even though you double dared me.

Jed oils the part and puts it with the clean ones. He picks up another part and starts to sand the rust off it.

Gegg: At least I didn't break a leg doing it.

Gegg assembles five parts from Jed's stack, carefully inspecting each piece before fitting it together.

Widger would like to turn the conversation to Simeland, but isn't sure how.

Gegg: Look at this design. Clever, isn't it?

Widger looks into the works of the assembled part of the machine.

Widger: Yeah. That goes up and then that pushes that and then that moves this one, and that ... what does that do when it's connected to something?

Gegg: Moves the screen.

Widger shakes his head.

Widger: The what?

Widger looks around at the remaining parts for a "screen", but doesn't see one.

Gegg points.

Gegg: That thing there. Sorts the kernels from the cobs.

Widger: Oh. Gotcha. The Simes told you all this, or you figured it out yourself?

Gegg: I ended up doing some repairs to this thing while I was there -- that's why they decided to give it to me when they got a new one.

Jed: Gegg, the teeth that scrape the kernels off are awful worn. Maybe you should shim the whole assembly forward to make better contact.

Gegg inspects the situation.

Widger looks at the object in question and runs a fingertip over the teeth.

Gegg: Not a bad idea. Wouldn't hurt to see if I can sharpen those teeth a bit, too.

Jed: Maybe grind down the ones on the edges that are less worn -- make the whole plate more even.

Jed shrugs.

Jed: See how it works as it is, first, maybe.

Gegg: Yeah.

Jed: I'm looking forward to seeing this monster in action.

Widger screws his courage to the sticking point, or at least the finger-tight point.

Widger: So, cousin. What's it like -- out there?

Gegg: It's big. And strange. The folks have very different customs, but they were pretty hospitable.

Widger: Well, I guess so, if they gave you this thing. Or next to it. But you felt -- safe?

Gegg: I wasn't ever in any real danger. They were very careful about that.

Gegg's feelings had nothing to do with reality, of course.

Widger: Yeah -- but -- well --

Widger decides to leave that subject behind.

Widger: So I heard you and your boy had a bit of a reunion there.

Gegg smiles broadly.

Gegg: Yeah. We saw Mik.

Widger: And how was he doing, eh?

Gegg: He's good. Gonna be a channel, so he'll have a good job.

Widger: What's a channel?

Widger is from very far up the mountain, after all.

Gegg: That's the Simes that can take your selyn without killing you. Like they got at the Sime Center at the Ford.

Widger: Ah. Never been there myself, but yeah, I heared of it.

Gegg: Good job security, decent pay, and he'll be respected, at least on that side of the border. Not bad for a farm boy from Gumgeeville, don't you think?

Widger: Yeah. A'course, we don't have that choice. Still burying 'em in the back yard, up to Inteh.

Gegg: It takes a long time to change the way things are.

Gegg is, however, ~~ sympathetic ~~.

Gegg: Too much work, for a lot of folks.

Widger sighs.

Widger: And just not possible, for a lot more folks.

Widger had three babies: he has one son.

Jed: Yeah. Can't count on getting to the Ford in time from here, much less from where you are.

Widger nods slowly. He knows they all know.

Jed: But if you want to make some real easy money fast, go see the channel at the Ford. Real nice young woman, name's Bibi.

Widger: Yeah? That's something to think about. But I don't know, it 'ud be a two-day trip, eh?

Jed: Take the train from here -- what you get will pay your fare with plenty left over.

Widger: Even so I'd not get home before dark. Plus, no point in having money in Inteh, so have to have time to spend it, too.

Gegg: So, spend the money at the Ford. Buy some pretty cloth for your wife, or something.

Jed shrugs. He's not going to argue with Widger.

Widger sighs. They just don't get it.

Widger: Well, you got it all assembled there? Why don't you start 'er up and see why she don't work, then?

Gegg: Sure. Jed, why don't you go grab us some of that seed corn from the bin in the feed room?

Jed goes and brings back a full sack, and a basket for the shelled maize.

Gegg takes the opportunity to add a little oil where it might do some good.

Gegg: Now, we don't have this set up for horse power at the moment, but we should be able to check it without that. Widger, you turn the crank there, and Jed, you hold the basket under that spout.

Widger laughs again.

Gegg is busy selecting a couple of ears from the sack.

Widger: Always got to get me to do the hard part, huh? Well, okay for now. But I expect -- well, I'll think of something.

Jed holds the basket under the chute.

Gegg: Give her a good spin, now. It shouldn't turn too hard, without any corn in it.

Widger starts to crank, slowly at first but then faster as he gets used to the stiff resistance of the machine.

Widger: Yeah -- gotta -- fix -- gearing.

Jed: That's some flywheel on her.

Gegg: That oughta be fast enough. I'll start with just the one ear.

Gegg carefully feeds a single ear into the contraption.

Widger braces himself for even more resistance.

Gegg smiles as the first ear feeds through without a hitch, spilling a handful of kernels into Jed's basket, then groans as the second ear jams.

Gegg: Well, looks like there's still a bit of figuring to do before it runs right.

Jed pokes through the shelled maize with his finger.

Jed: Comes out nice and clean -- hardly any bits of cob.

Jed is impressed.

Gegg: Yeah. When it's been fixed, it'll do a whole sack in jig time.

Jed nods.

Jed: It's really something, Gegg.

Gegg: Isn't it just?

Gegg grins, picks up his wrench, and bends back over the machine.

Widger is happy to see his cousin so pleased; it gives him ideas about what he might manage himself.

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