“If this works, we won’t have to worry about snow or smoke ever again!” Aria pulled the clear film tight.
“You said that about the endostatic filters,” Reyes answered. His white hair stuck out at odd angles from his scalp.
“And they worked! They were just more expensive to manufacture than I expected. But someone’s getting use out of them!” Aria countered with a bubbly voice. She stretched the sheet taut and suspended it over the space between two worktables. She reached for some nearby weights and placed them atop the sheet. They sunk into the material.
“Ah, yes, the Filtered Rooms. Your biggest customer!”
“Hey, they’re good people over there.” Aria watched as the weights dipped lower, stretching the sheet. The material pulled thinner, thinner –
— the weight broke through and clattered to the ground.
Aria wrinkled her nose. “All right, so the film needs a little work before we can stretch it over the top of a pit. But imagine! It would hold the heat in and keep out the snow and the smoke! We could turn an entire pit green!”
Reyes answered with a rough chuckle. “Well, ‘it needs a little work’ should be your motto.”
Aria pointed a finger at him. “Don’t make me come over there.”
“Little girl, you don’t scare me.”
“I’m hardly little anymore. Now, would you assist me like I pay you to do?”
“I am assisting you.” Reyes spread his hands out. “I’m giving you good advice.”
Before Aria could answer, the chime sounded. “Someone’s at the door. Go get that, would you?”
“Sure, boss.” Reyes stretched as he stood and sauntered out of the workroom while Aria cleaned up.
She heard the front hatch open. Heavy steps entered. Reyes greeted, “Welcome, sir. What can we do for you today at the Emporium?”
“I understand you fix things,” a cultured voice answered.
Aria didn’t listen. She didn’t have to. Reyes played his part well. She picked up the sheet of material and considered the tear. She had to strengthen it. Could she simply thicken the film? Would that be the answer? Then again, she’d never tested it in the cold. Perhaps the temperature would add rigidity. Then again…
Reyes came back to the workshop holding a lamp. “Needs new wiring.”
Aria tore herself from her conundrum. Something had to pay the bills, and her plans for making a better pit apparently wouldn’t do it today. “Is the guy waiting?”
“Mr. Gallahn is waiting, yes.”
“All right.” She took the lamp from his hand and set to work. New wiring should take only a few minutes of time.
As she sat down on a dirty stool, Reyes muttered, “Gonna use the loo. Be back.”
Aria paid no attention. The old man spent more time using the facilities than girls telling each other secrets. He still wasn’t back when she finished. She harrumphed, hopped off the stool, and went to the front room.
“Here you go, sir,” she said as she offered the lamp. “That’ll be thirty, please.”
A thin man with a dark thin mustache smiled at her. “Of course, young miss. Are you Scatham’s assistant?” He removed a wallet from a back pocket and offered a card.
Aria accepted it. “Sure.”
“I’m surprised to find a girl working here. Shouldn’t a young woman like you be taking care of a husband or working the fields?”
Aria shrugged. “I wanted to be here. Thanks for your business. Come back to the Emporium any time something’s busted.”
“You do find work here, and fast. I shall recommend your establishment to my friends.” The man slipped out of the hatch and into the frigid air beyond.
As soon as the hatch sealed, Aria stepped to the back room. Time to get back to that film. If only she could figure out some way to keep the stretch but strengthen it…
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the previous story, Catching Fish, here.
Read the next story, Chasing Goats, here.