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invention

Parker Sixteen (new flash fiction)

Today's bit of flash fiction has a steampunk flavor! Enjoy. 

Factorem-Gear.jpg

Parker Sixteen

It was looking at me. 

It was standing in the center of a ring of junk, no face that I could see, and I couldn't see any eyes at all. But I could feel it looking at me. 

Grandpa's shed has always been my favorite place. Whenever I stayed with him, this was where I'd end up, connecting bits of pipe and wire and old electronics into ... something. I was never sure what I was building. I didn't have a plan. I was just tinkering.

Until the day it worked.

I had the last bit, a piece of an old radio, pulled free of its casing. It was a small circuit board with a bunch of stuff on it. I used a screwdriver to turn a few things that had slots. I pried a couple of things off of the board. I wrapped wire through holes and around metal legs that were soldered to the board. I had nothing in mind. No idea what I was building.

And then it worked.

There was a flash, blue and bright, and then the hum of something from under the pile. The air smelled weird, a sort of burnt smell, and I felt like a million ants had just walked over my whole body. I was tingling.

The pile moved, and stuff started shifting and falling away. I jumped back to avoid getting hit, and looked as the pile opened up, some of it sinking downward.

And then it stood up. Or walked out. Or something. I wasn't exactly sure. It was just sort of there.

It looked kind of like a man wearing a suit, like those old-timey clothes you see on TV and in the movies. He had on a suit, and under the coat was a vest and a tie that bulged from the top. But his head wasn't human. It looked more like an upside down bowl, with a bunch of slits cut in it. The bowl rotated all the way around until it was back to where it started, and light started coming from the slits.

I didn't know what to do. I stood there.

"Hello," it said.

"Hi," I said, still not sure if I should run and hide. 

It looked around the scrap heap, and put a finger on the gadget I'd built. It sort of ran its finger along one of the pipes, then stuck it up in front of the upside down bowl, in front of one of the slits, as if it was looking at it closer. "Well that's impressive," it said. "An accidental one. You made an accidental portam."

"Uh ... I did?"

"You did. And that shows promise. Mister ...?"

"I'm Parker," I said.

"Mister Parker."

"No, I'm not a mister. I'm just sixteen."

The man stood still for a moment, and I got the impression that it was smiling. "Parker Sixteen. Well, Parker, that's quite a feat. And one to be proud of. How'd you do it? Just cobbled stuff together?"

"I ... yes, I think so."

"Remarkable. Well then, I'll have to keep an eye on you." He reached into a pocket and took something out, then walked up to me, reaching out his hand.

I reached back, not even sure why. Like shaking hands. Automatic.

He gripped my hand, and then let go. He turned and walked back to the circle of junk, and touched his wrist, where he was wearing something I couldn't see. As he turned to face me, the blue light and the burning smell came back. "Parker Sixteen, it has been a pleasure. You will do some amazing things. I'm happy to have been the first to meet you! Keep cobbling. We will meet again!"

And then he was gone. The light dropped away, the smell drifted, and I was alone in Grandpa's shed, with the junk and my gadget.

I looked at my hand and saw that I was holding small, round gear with a pin soldered to its back. It was about the size of a quarter, and it had a flat metal band across its middle with a small hole in the center. On that cross-piece was the word "Factorem." I had no idea what it meant, but it felt important. It felt big. It felt like seeing the future.

I pinned it to my shirt, and then pulled the door shut on Grandpa's shed before running inside. I could already smell supper. The day was ending, and a new one would start in the morning. I couldn't wait to see it.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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No apologies

OK, I admit I have problems with authority.

I'm not facing down Lou Gossett Junior, refusing to do push-ups in the rain or anything. I just don't like to ask permission for things.

You know those geeks that have top-five lists? What about the really uber geeks who have top-five lists that no one else would have have a top-five list for?

Here are my top-five favorite geniuses:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci
  2. Benjamin Franklin
  3. Thomas Edison
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Steve Jobs

Up until a couple of weeks ago number five was "Henry Ford." But after reading Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs bio (SPOILER ALERT: He dies), I booted Ford for a more modern, more irascible genius. Steve Jobs was kind of the Dr. House of the computer world. Someone tell Bryan Singer.

By the way, Einstein is vying for that number four spot with Walt Disney. Which is ironic, because I'm pretty sure Disney would have loved that playful little Jewish physicist like a brother.

Everyone on my top-five list has something in common (besides being dead). They were all known for doing things their own way, and never asking for permission to do it. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of them were considered assholes in their day.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Gee, Kev., way to backhandedly compare yourself to the greatest geniuses in history."

Agreed.

But my real point is that great leaders and great minds rarely ask permission to do the things that make them great. They just do it and accept the consequences, good or bad.

"Consequences" is kind of an ugly word for some folks, and I get that. Responsibility is hard because no one ever wants to be the one responsible for the bad stuff. If you get fired, you want to be able to point your finger at the boss and say, "That guy's a jerk. He never understood my potential." If a project fails or a deadline is missed, you want to be able to point at someone else and say, "It's that bozo's fault."

It's tough to put it all on the line and accept that when stuff goes bad it's going to go bad because of you.

But if you don't ever take that risk, you never get to the cool part.

You never create a masterpiece artwork that people talk about for centuries after the last stroke of your brush.

You never sign your name to a document that creates the most powerful nation in history.

You never invent something that becomes so indispensable that it becomes the symbol for genius.

You never create a theory that redefines scientific thought.

You never create a company that redefines multiple industries, over and over.

You don't get to do these things by asking permission. You do them when people tell you that they can't be done. You do them because you can't imagine a world that doesn't include what you have to offer. You do them because you are willing to take responsibility for something and see it change the world.

I hate asking permission. I'd rather just define my principles and take action, then accept the consequences and work with what I get. If it blows up in my face, then I earned that. But if it redefines the world around me, makes its way into history, creates something new and remarkable and pure in the world ... I earned that, too.

And I'm never going to apologize for that.



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Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.