Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"Friday" story time 2- Nationalist Drama, Other

Since it's Friday, I'll now post the Friday story, which is done on Friday. And not 2 weeks late. Which doesn't matter, since nobody is reading this anyways. I'm off the hook! Phew


It was stifling, absolutely stifling. And the humidity- well, you couldn't have that many bodies in one place at one time and not have the air be sticky. Beth was glad her hair was tied back underneath the hankerchief, or it would have been completely frizzy.

"Beth! Come down from there!" yelled Mr. Jacobsen from the ground. Tall, with dark hair pomaded down, wearing glasses- at any other time, he would be a handsome man. But right now, he was just another Joe who wasn't over there fighting for the freedom of the world. Sad, Beth thought, and she finished welding up the final piece of the fuselage. She flipped her mask up

"I'm coming down, Mr. Jacobsen!" Her work pants slid smoothly over the steel wing, and she dropped lightly down to the ground. She smiled at him- not so bad, really, but not like her Charlie over there in France. Clark Kent to her Superman.

She smiled, thinking of him, "What can I do for you, Mr. Jacobsen?"

He glanced down at his notepad, then looked at her through the thick frames, "Uh, Beth, Paulie is sick today, and we're behind schedule- I need you to go into the Furnace for me."

Some other workers had started to look down at the conversation, and their expressions of shock were the same as Beth's. "Mr. Jacobsen, no woman has ever worked in the Furnace before- why not get Bill or Sam to do it?"

"Bill is an old man, he'd be overcome. And Sam- well, you know how Sam is- he's liable to get killed in there. Look, Beth, I need you-just 100 units, and I know that Charlie would want you to.."

Her venemous look stopped him cold, "All right, all right! I'll go in, but don't you talk about Charlie! And you owe me big time for this." With that, she walked off.


Where the plant was stifling, the Furnace was choking. It was a small room in the corner of the building. It's like Hell, Beth thought as she stood, the heavy asbestos apron and gloves itching her skin. Jutting out from the wall like a dragon's maw was the actual furnace, with a table stacked with blocks of iron to the left, and a press to the right.
Each plane needed a type C cog for the bomb bay doors- without it, they would not open. Additionally, the part was determined to be crucial enough that they couldn't be made off-site. Each bar needed to be melted down, poured into the press, pressed into the correct shape, and then hand-trimmed to the proper measurement before they would be ready.
And Beth had never done it before. She looked at the charts on the wall- they were dusty with iron shavings, which she brushed off with her gloved hand. Everything seemed easy enough, so she turned to the stack of bars and counted them- 25 bars, just enough to make 100 cogs. That meant she had to be perfect. She grabbed the first bar, and her biceps strained as she lifted it off the stack. These were so heavy, much more than anything she had had to weld. She managed to half-drag it next to the furnace, and grabbed the door to that flaming gouge set in the wall.
The smell of burning asbestos assaulted Beth's nose and she looked down at the singed material. The door was open and pouring out was heat unlike any she had known. Already sweating, she felt faint in the asbestos clothing. Beth shook her head and looked around- there was nothing to grab the furnace door with. She was wondering how she was supposed to get the bar in the furnace when she noticed a small crank wheel on the right side of the furnace. She turned it and slowly, with shrieks and groans, a smooth bucket with a spout at the top rose from the depths of the furnace, eventually resting at an angle. The room wavered in front of Beth momentarily, then she moved over and deposited the bar in the bucket with a loud clang. It was obvious that the bucket couldn't hold more than a single bar at a time. She cranked the wheel again and the bucket lowered into the heat.
She picked up the snips and pushed the furnace door closed in a move that seemed to chill the room. Beth turned back to the directions- 3 minutes and the bar should be melted. She counted silently in her head, removed her glove and wiped the sweat off of her brow. Finally, the time was up. She maneuvered the door open with the snips again and was assaulted by the heat once more. Worse, with a loud bang the bolt holding the furnace door shot down, and the door soon followed. Beth danced out of the way, and the door came to rest near the wall. Crap, she thought, Well, there's no fixing it now. What time was it? It was awfully hot, and when she moved near the furnace she thought she could hear the workers chatting as they threw more fuel on the fire.
The rest of the job was easy. The melted steel poured easily into the four different molds, and she placed them on the opposite side of the room to cool them as quickly as possible. Just like that, 4 down. Only 96 more to go. And that had taken 20 minutes. The heat was becoming unbearable.
They found her, the next day, on the floor, a filled mold in her hand, the furnace had not been started for the day. When they woke her, gave her some water and told her where she was, she was anxious to know if she had finished. Mr. Jacobsen straightened his glasses, cleared his throat and looked away.

"Beth, I should never have made you go in there. You didn't have a chance at actually reaching the number I asked for- I'm sorry."

Beth was crestfallen. "Well, how many did I do? I lost count after 48..."

Jacobsen blinked, "No, my dear, you don't understand. You didn't have a chance at reaching that number, but you did. 100 cogs, and although the last four had to be snipped clean, you did it."

With that, those around her began talking at once- offering congratulations, commendations and expressions of joy. And at the plant, the legend became known as Beth vs The Furnace.


I hope you enjoyed the story- I really hate it, myself. I backed myself into a corner, however, by starting without a clear vision of where I was going with it. Instead, I said "Self, let's not do a dramatic war story, but instead focus on some other part the world at that time." I agreed with myself and so I had a topic. But it was a fool's game, and in the end, I feel like I burned that story worse than my mom could do cooking. Zing! I still owe 2 more stories, so hopefully they'll be of higher quality.


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