Sunday, July 19, 2009


She unbuckled the case and opened it. The familiar smell of leather and feathers reminded her of school, back when the craft of her old profession still required precision tools manufactured in Germany, fine constructions of stainless steel with knurled surfaces and threaded rods. These were mixed incongruously with small bits of graphite and charcoal, clumsy earthen lumps gripped in zero-tolerance pincers. All this was in the service of rendering an approximation of a mental image of space and material. It was no wonder then that more direct methods were devised, that these crude workarounds were abandoned to handsome velvet-lined wooden boxes set on high shelves of closets. These boxes had form-fitting depressions for each tool, and inevitably one or two would be empty, slowly losing their crispness, as if forgetting the shape of what they were made to hold.

But this was not the sort of case she opened. These tools were part of the day-to-day work of her new profession. She ran her fingers along the row of feathers, condor and albatross for distance, starling and swallow for control, selecting them individually and fitting them to the armature. Soon she was nearly complete, and snugged the harness-straps over her shoulders, testing the spring tension and flexure limits. She drew out the wings to their full span and brought them in quickly, fluttering them to be sure no feathers slipped free from the clamping bar. Satisfied with this she folded them back and returned to the case.

She selected a last feather, and drew a small blade from its sheath. With a practiced swipe she took a quarter-inch from its tip, examined the quill to make sure it wasn’t split, and dipped it in a small pot of resin-ink. She laid out a sheet of parchment and quickly documented her flight plan. There was enough of the quill for two or three more uses. She hesitated for a moment, since if everything went as planned she wouldn’t need to file any more flights. But a good tool is a good tool, so she fitted the feather back into its slot. She folded the case and buckled it shut.

--Steve Kilian

----------------------------------- Russian Roulette

----------------------------------- The Future of Cars

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