Inspired by Mechanics by AnHellica
Was that sunset, or sunrise?
Issac blinked several times and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He tried to clear the blur out of his eyes. It didn’t work. He put his glasses back on, and the black blob on the hill resolved itself into the old oak. The sky was red and orange, fading to golden and blue.
“What time is it?” Issac asked.
Jacob didn’t respond. The rhythm of shifting metal, as he carefully tightened a screw, didn’t slow.
Issac stepped over the empty engine case of the twenty four-sixty they’d disassembled a few years ago, making his careful way around to where Jacob was crouched by the main turbine. Jacob’s watch chain glinted in the hesitant light. A cool breeze slunk in the door Issac had left open.
Issac crouched down next to his brother and tugged on the watch chain.
“Hmm?” Jacob said, not looking up as he changed screws.
“Move your leg. Your watch is stuck in your pocket.”
Jacob obliged, and Issac pulled gently on the silver chain. The watch swung out. Issac caught it, the inlay easy to feel on cold hands. The birds were growing louder, making it very hard to hear the tick. Issac clicked the watch open.
Five and eleven minutes.
Issac closed the watch and set it gently on the wooden floor.
“What time?” Jacob asked, as he moved on to the last screw.
“Five and eleven.” Issac said, sitting back and leaning against the ruined water heater that they’d hauled in last winter.
Jacob groaned, although not heavily. “Again?”
“Yup.” Issac took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. His fingers were stiff.
Jacob finished and stood up, catching the watch as it swung and slipping it into his pocket. He dropped the screwdriver into the tool box sitting on top of the turbine and stretched. “Mom’s gonna kill us.” Then he yawned.
“Yeah.” Issac said. “Want pancakes?”
They walked out into the chill morning. Issac watched the sun, burning orange, growing slowly small and round. The brisk air felt like it was whisking away the fatigue, cleaning his face. There was a series of low clinks as Jacob finished locking the door to their shed. Then they made their way across the grass, lightly coated with condensation. The sky was clear, already brightening.
“Looks like a good day for a test.” Issac said, keeping his voice low as they approached the house. Everything was dark. They’d beaten mom, although probably only just.
Jacob shook his head. “We’re supposed to help down at the loading yard after school.” He said, grimly.
“Oh. Right.” Issac had forgotten about that. It was a stupid punishment anyway, and wouldn’t have even been that bad, except that they wanted to be working on their project. That was probably the point. “I wonder if they’d let us skip if we promised not to stay up all night?”
Jacob snorted, stopping at the water barrel and grabbing the towel he left folded on the nearby windowsill. Issac shook his head and slipped quietly inside. There was a small crack as Jacob smashed the ice, and a splash as he dunked his head. Issac woke the fire up and loaded on the wood, turning the valve so the stove would start heating.
Mom had mostly refused to let them touch the kitchen. Jacob was working on her. Issac had convinced dad ages ago, but convincing dad that they should be allowed to do crazy things to the stove was a very different bag of bearings from convincing mom.
Jacob came in, toweling his face and his short blond hair. He hung the ratted towel on the kitchen towel rack and went back out with a bucket.
When mom woke up they had the coffee hot and pancakes sizzling.
“Good morning, mom.” Issac said quietly, not wanting to wake the sisters.
“Morning mom.” Jacob echoed, looking up from the sink with a smile. He was fiddling with the pump.
Her smile turned a bit exasperated. “Jacob…”
He slipped the rod back down and tightened a screw. “Good as new mom, promise.” As if to show her, he pumped out some more water into the large pot in the sink. It was indeed good as new, without the coughing thunk it had started making in the last few weeks.
Mom smiled again. “Alright then. Good morning.”
Jacob grinned at her. Issac handed her a pancake. “Coffee?”
“Yes, thank you.” She said, laughter gathering in the edges of her voice. “You realize that I’m still going to lecture you about staying up all night, right?”
“Oh.” Issac, about to give her the large, wide bottomed mug of coffee, pulled away, putting a big eyed, big lipped, disappointed face on.
Mom chuckled and they shared a smile.
“Coffee?” Dad said hopefully, tightening his belt as he slipped quietly into the crowded kitchen.
Issac poured him a mug too.
Jacob dried his hands and took over for him at the stove, flipping a cake just as it started to burn.
“So did you make progress?” Mom asked as she and dad sat at the table.
Issac shrugged and took up Jacob’s place at the sink, cleaning dishes.
“We did okay.” Jacob answered. “Gotta test, see if it’ll turn on.”
“We got the pistons straightened and realigned, worked out the timing and fixed a bit of clockwork up, got the clockwork strapped down into the turbine and tightened everything down.” Issac elaborated. He couldn’t see their faces, but dad always got exasperated with Jacob’s lack of detail. “We’re going to need to work out an alternate fuel source though.” He added.
“It’ll be fine.” Jacob said, flipping pancakes.
Issac shrugged. He was fairly confident it wouldn’t be fine. He was fairly confident it would explode. But this wasn’t the time for that debate. They could have it later. In the loading yard.
“Is there enough of that batter for the girls?” Mom asked, just in case he and Jacob decided to start talking about it now.
“Yep!” Issac said cheerfully.
“You boys are saints.” Mom said drily.