Today we present for your entertainment the first entry received for the Writers Forum 2020 Short Story Contest. Since the contest judges are supposed to be judging the entries without knowing who wrote them, the author’s names will be withheld until after the winner selection. After the winners have been chosen, all authors will be identified, and the top three stories will be re-posted. The contest is only open to Writers Forum members. Click here for the complete contest rules.
Writers Forum Member #1
Sheesh. What does the old geezer want now, Matt thought as he trudged reluctantly for the third time that day out to his uncle’s workshop, almost tripping along the flagstone path that led up from the house. And just when I was getting the hang of Level 9 on that awesome new video game Mom sent me.
Fourteen-year-old boys weren’t supposed to be at the beck and call of any old relative that agreed to put them up for the summer, Matt grumbled to himself. It didn’t matter that Mom was off enjoying herself on a honeymoon after marrying that banker who had been hanging around the house for the past year-and-a-half. Matt was much more interested in mastering the finer points of his new X-Box game player than helping out his Mom’s oldest brother, Ken Moss.
Oh, Uncle Ken was an OK guy, Matt allowed. For someone who was retired, anyway. But there was never much of anything fun to do in Butte, Montana. He’d already seen the huge open pit mine twice. At least the part that hadn’t filled in with toxic wastewater poisonous to birds. And the open-air museum was way too dusty and crowded with summer tourists to really explore the way he wanted to.
Why couldn’t Mom have sent me to Disneyland or someplace fun for a change, Matt muttered to himself as he pushed aside a heavy wooden door partially blocking the workshop’s entrance. Every time Matt caught a glimpse of this place, his mind filled with wonder. This was no ordinary workshop. Built almost entirely of recycled barn siding, the shed where his uncle spent most of each day could easily have swallowed up several three-bedroom houses and still leave room to shoehorn in a detached garage or two.
Scents of tanned leather, glue, burning coals, hot metal, wood shavings and varnish filled Matt’s nose even before he had fully drawn his first breath.
“There you are,’’ Uncle Ken hollered at Matt from across a dimly lighted space piled high with large wooden wheels, some of them missing a few spokes.
“I need you to do some research for me on the computer upstairs,’’ the old man continued as Matt’s eyes adjusted from bright sunlight to the semi-darkened room.
“The spokes on these wagon wheels are splintering whenever they use my coaches for a TV commercial. I’ve got to replace every one of the spokes on these wheels,’’ the older man said as he brushed a thin shock of gray hair out of his eyes.
“I reckon our Montana prairie dog holes, rocks and gullies are taking their toll every time they drive my Concords over open country at full gallop,’’ his thin-faced uncle continued to grumble to no one in particular and anyone within earshot.
“I’ve got to find a way to build these wheels stronger on my replica stagecoaches or Wells Fargo Bank will stop buying ‘em. The first three coaches I built for them are relegated to parade duty until I fix the wheel spoke problem,’’ Ken said by way of further explanation to his nephew, who was just beginning to catch on.
If you ask me, I think the sawmills are selling me their culls,’’ Ken continued even before Matt could respond. “So, if there is a place back east that could make spokes for me from better quality wood stock, it would save me time and effort. I need you to find me that supplier, and I need it pronto! Do you think you might put those computer skills of yours to work and do that for me, lad?’’
“I dunno, Uncle Ken,’’ Matt responded, somewhat surprised yet pleased that his uncle was finally asking him to do something more important than simply fetch a glass of iced tea or a clean packet of shop towels from the house.
“I guess I could do a Google search on wooden coach wheels and see if anyone makes spokes for them,’’ Matt gulped. “Would that help?’’
“Sure thing, Matt. That’d be just what the doctor ordered,’’ his uncle said as he stooped to inspect a wagon wheel that he was repairing.
“Er, Unk, I think I might need just a bit more information from you before I start,’’ Matt said following a few seconds hesitation. He did not want to distract the 67-year-old who was obviously concentrating hard on something.
“I mean, like, what kind of stagecoaches are you making? How big are the wheels? And what kind of wood do you want the spokes made from?’’ Matt blurted out, his mind spinning with all sorts of other intriguing questions that he desperately wanted to ask. Continue reading