Bad Idea and the Unsung Hero
By Jim king
I usually don't get many calls at my shop. Most of my business comes from tourists passing by my store window. People don't decide to go out and purchase a ship in a bottle. It's a whimsy- too much thought and they pass by. The bells on the old phone that my father had installed forty-three years ago still functioned perfectly. The brass cymbals inside made a reverberation in the air that didn't quite subside between rings. "Hello, Roy Smith here. May I help you? "Mister Smith, this is Doctor Donisuir over at the E.R., is this the Roy Smith who makes ships in a bottle?" Yes "Well we have a situation here that summons your expertise. I'll just be blunt- I have a patient here who has a glass bottle lodged in is colon. I haven't had any success getting a grip on the neck to remove it. I was thinking you could rig something up for me so I can pull it out." Ah a, why would, I mean wouldn't ah .what now? Is this a joke? "No I'm afraid not. I would really appreciate your help. I can't get a tight enough grip on the neck with the tools I have. I'm afraid too much pressure will crack it, if that happens the poor guy could be in for major surgery." Well yea I think I can make something for you. "How long will it take?" I should be there in about thirty or forty minutes. "Ok great, come right to the desk at the E.R."
I half dropped the heavy receiver making the bells sound. I wiped my hands on the sides of my shirt. My hands always get sweaty when I get nervous. "Is this for real, I thought?" Last month I had been looking through my new phone book and noticed that one could identify a caller by pushing *69. My old phone doesn't have an asterisk, I thought. You could still get an operator by rapidly pushing the buttons up and down a few times though, which was a feature I liked.
I wished I hadn't had that coffee earlier. I love the taste of coffee with cream and sugar, but I don't drink it on the days I plan to craft my ships, on those days I drink black tea. I've tried all the different varieties from the market. I don't care much for the orange tea. Earl Grey- the good kind that produces an oil that floats on the surface. No time for tea right now, but the thought of it did relax me. I had a sip of water instead.
I quickly put together a mechanism for the job, a stick of oak, with a lever that would raise and lock into position after being inserted in the bottle. I copied the locking mechanism from one I'd seen many years ago, on a ride at a traveling carnival. I knew it was strong enough, but I hung the phone on it to test it, just for the heck of it.
I was ready to head out the door, but I stopped and went back to my workbench. I cut of the wire I had attached to the device and replaced with a nylon cord. Real nylon cord, not that cheap plastic stuff. I had bought some cord without looking at the label a couple of years ago, thinking it was nylon. It looks very similar, but when I tried to cinch down a washing machine in my pick-up truck bed, it broke very easily. This was pretty thin cord, but the label said it would hold two hundred pounds.
It took me a couple of tries to get the square knot right. Four years in Boy Scouts, and another four in the Navy, and I never was able to get the hang of knots. I just used a simple double knot in my work, with a dab of glue to make sure. I tried using brown thread once, because I had the idea that it would look more like real rope. But it turns out that white or black thread looks much better. The phone rang again for the second time in a year or more, "Yea, I'll be right there- ten minutes.
I hadn't been at that hospital for forty-three years, when I got stitches in my ankle. I was mad at my dad for making me lay on my bed as a punishment for something. He had told me to be quite, so I was gonna bang the window with my foot to make some noise. I was stunned by how easily my foot went through the glass.
Something was missing- no smell of alcohol. They used to soak the thermometers in it. I remember the doctor purposely broke one to show me the mercury. He poured it out on a tray and played with it for a while. He put it in a test tube and gave it to me.
"I'm Roy Smith, Doctor Donisuir is expecting me." I showed the Doctor how to use the device. He looked at it tentatively. His face showed that he didn't have much confidence in it. "Are you sure this is strong enough? It will have to take a pretty strong pull." "I'm sure." I said. "I bet you could take that bicycle I saw parked out front, attach it to this, and swing it around with no problem. This mechanism is made from dense oak, and the cord has a two hundred pound tensile strength. "All right then." He said. I could see some approval and confidence on his face now. He turned and walked toward the two big stainless steel clad swinging doors that opened into the emergency room. He stopped for a moment before going through to gaze at the device I had given him. He placed his foot at the base of the door and shoved it with the exact amount of pressure that gave him just enough time to slip through before its springs swung it back. The door swung back toward me one time then stopped. Just the right size spring for a door that size and weight. I wondered if there was a formula for determining what spring to use in different kinds of applications. It must be a very good quality spring. It had been there for over forty years and still worked perfectly. I could see it was the original spring because I could see the original paint under other chipped off coats from over the years. "If one wanted paint to stick to a spring; it would have to have an elastic quality."
I sat down and waited. I noticed a copy of the children's magazine "Highlighter" on the table. "I'll bet that's been here since the last time I was here." I thought. I remembered reading a feature called "Gufus and Gallant in that magazine, that showed Gufus reaching over a platter of apples offered him and grabbing the biggest one, but Gallant politely took the one nearest him which exhibited the proper etiquette in such situations. I was tempted to pick up the children's magazine, but picked up a "Readers Digest" instead. I was perturbed that I had to search through a bunch of ads to find the table of contents. The old Readers Digest had the table of contents right on the front cover. I read about a hero who saved a co-worker from a crazed knife-wielding attacker.
There was a yellow rubber plant leave that had fallen with its stem stuck in a floor vent. Every fifteen minutes or so the air would come on and the leave would stand up straight, then fall forward when the air stopped. It was disappointing when; waiting for its fourth bow, a cleaning person came by and snatched it up in her latex gloved hand.
The patient came out and left in a taxi that I noticed was painted the same uncommon green color that the hospital used to be. The taxi was glossy, metallic. I remembered the old hospital walls seemed much flatter, which surprised me because the old walls must have been painted with enamel, but the color still didn't seem to have a gloss, unless you really looked for it.
"Success." The doctor said. "Thank you very much." ..Your welcome
Back at the shop I considered brewing some tea. I took a bag out and smelled it~
A very satisfying aroma. I decided not to have tea and laid the bag on my old gray metal desk, sat down and enjoyed the smell of the tea bag for a while. Then I placed it in my top drawer, knowing it would never be used because by the time I got around to using it, it would be too stale. When I shut the drawer it caused the bells on the phone to ding a bit. The ring very slowly faded away.