Friday, February 3, 2017

Fixer-upper

(By Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO (http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1638a/) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Dan opened the door to the access tunnel and frowned.

"What a mess," he muttered. The wires looked as though they had been chewed through by vermin. And worse, some of the piping that supplied the illumination gasses would need to be replaced as well. He shined his flashlight down the access tunnel.

"Son of a bitch. This is going to take all day - half the galaxy is out," he said. Dan flipped open his heavy-duty tool box. The smell of oiled metal, rust, and leather wafted out. It was a good smell. An honest smell. His tools were neatly arranged in small compartments, pliers, assorted wrenches, wooden handled screwdrivers that had become smooth with use, a hand-crank drill, and a set of fine hand knives for cutting out shapes in the darkness.

He got to work removing wires that were too frayed and chewed through to be fixed, and unwinding a fresh thread of silvery filament from a spool he snipped it off without having to measure. Using the pliers he fixed the wire to the connections, and he screwed them back into place. The quiet repetition of the job was soothing and he found his mind drifting pleasantly as he worked. Thinking about hitting the Corner Mart and picking up a nice steak and green beans for dinner. Sally, prim and dainty as she was, loved steaks.

Dan finished with the rewire and grabbed his adjustable wrench, and began to work loose the damaged pipes. He had to go back to his truck to get new tubing, and he looked back at the galaxy, frowning. It didn't look right without lights. He found himself trotting back to the access board to finish up. Fitting the new pipes wasn't too difficult. Hardest part was cutting them to the correct length and welding it. It wasn't hard, just tedious.

Dan finished the last few connections and smiled at his work. He walked the length of the access port, checking connections and ports. Everything was looking good when he heard a soft cooing sound. Dan reached for his tool belt and grabbed his wrench peering into the darkness. The noise grew louder, and suddenly a soft glow threw shadows against the wall, and Dan saw the celestial squid and sighed.

"You're the one who caused all the damage? I oughta crack you one," he said. The squid, which was fully glowing with alarm colors, was completely tangled in fiberoptic webbing matrix. This happened every once in awhile, the numb things would see the glow and think they were going to find a mate. Then there was some softer chirping, and Dan saw a half dozen little baby squids glowing and tugging at their mom's tentacles.

"Ah, you daft blighter, hold still will ya?" he put his wrench back in the belt loop and taking his small exacto-knife, began slicing through the webbing. When he first approached with the knife, the babies flared bright blue and wrapped their little tentacles around his fingers, nipping at his knuckles with their beaks. But Dans hands were callused, and they couldn't break the skin.

"Hush, you nutters, I'm gettin' yer mum out, Yeah, yeah, it's not like I put her there," he said mostly to himself, letting the things bite at him.

Soon, the celestial squid was free of the matrix and she zipped a few feet away from Dan and regarded him with one of her saucer-sized eyes. She was still glowing, but now it was with softer blues and lavenders - she looked like a galaxy all her own. Dan wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that was the case.

"Alright, you best clear out, miss. I have to re-install the matrix and I can't do it with you gawking at me. Now git," he said waving his arms. One of the squid's tentacles reached out and curled around his arm. It squeezed gently and released, and Dan found himself blushing.

"Weren't nothing, miss. You take care of yourself," he said. She glided away, hustling her babies with her.

He worked for another few hours, getting the matrix in place. When it was done, he flipped the switch. There was a few flickers, and then the lights began to shine steadily. Dan smiled and headed back to his truck.

Driving away, he looked in his rear-view mirror and the arms of the galaxy shone brightly. A deep sense of satisfaction welled up inside him as he flipped his turn signal and headed to the Corner Mart.

Prompt: Pliers and Wrenches
Written: Feb. 2, 2017