“Nephew,” the gentleman said, chastising the lad with just one word simply by holding on to the second syllable for a bit. The seven year old boy quickly withdrew his hand. The two of them were sitting on an antique sofa in the reception area of the 300 year old Hotel Constantine. A grandfather clock behind the check-in desk showed they had another half hour to wait before the scheduled carriage would take them to the train station in downtown Bologna. The boy had been reaching toward one of the pieces of art that decorated the coffee tables and the corbel shelves that were scattered throughout the expansive lobby. The piece on the table in front of them was different from all the others in the room. Where most of the others were solid sculptures, either busts or abstracts, this piece was a contraption in miniature. Its label read simply “La Curiosità”.
“La Curiosità” was a jumble of mechanical pieces. Or not actually a jumble, but an intricate construction of a multitude of gears and levers and struts and cantilevers and pulleys, and wires both stiff and flexible, and miniature I-beams and other parts with less common names. It consumed almost the entirety of the table top in front of them, yet no piece was longer than a few inches.
The uncle spotted the lever that the youngster had been reaching for and now that his attention had been drawn to it his eyes began to follow the connections: if the lever was operated it would pull the stiff piece of wire that was soldered onto it which would in turn pull a length of flexible twisted wire that looped through a pulley and that would turn a small gear. The small gear shared an axle with a larger gear, the larger gear’s teeth locked into several gears that would rotate oppositely and would…. Would what? That was as far as the uncle could visually trace the interconnections, the cause-and-effect of the “La Curiosità”. It needed trying. Without any real thought, he leaned forward and stretched his hand toward the lever.
“Uncle,” the boy intoned, holding on to the second syllable for just a bit.
C. Richard Patton writes with the Green Room Writers at 16 Main Gallery in northern Alabama. His poetry has appeared in “The Valley Planet” (Huntsville, AL) and his fiction in “Dew on the Kudzu” (online). Software Engineering pays the bills; his other extracurricular passion is table tennis.
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