Excerpt: A Welded Wave

Swearing under his breath, Mark slid his hand over the welds he’d made a few hours ago. One of the bike chain links was bent out of shape. No one would notice—it was one link among thousands—but, knowing it was there still bugged him. He couldn’t stop running his fingers over it as he thought about the fact that someone had used the arc welder he was borrowing to weld something thicker than the chain links and returned it to his corner of the machine shop without changing the settings back or leaving him a note.

He was lucky all that happened was excess melting and a skewed link. Grabbing his red leather-bound notebook from the top of the battered desk next to him, he flipped to the page with his safety checklist and circled “Go over the welder settings.” After setting the notebook down, he sighed and leaned on the arc welder. The workday was winding down and many of the employees had gone home. There were a few huddled around some odd metal bushings that looked a bit like beer cozies, talking heatedly. At least he wasn’t the only one having a bad day.

Looking around the shop, he made sure that none of the noisy machinery was running before he took off his ear protectors. Having sweaty ears all day was very unpleasant, but hearing loss was immeasurably more so. Oil and metal shavings clung to every surface. The lathe that was near him had little spirals of metal that had a slight blue tinge from the heat caused by the process of liberating them from the metal they had been part of.

It was oddly fitting that he did his art in this machine shop. While everyone was busy creating useful subtractive sculptures of metal, he was creating useless additive sculptures. Sure, his stuff was beautiful to look at, but that was its only purpose… Wow, how did he get so depressed today?

As he was looking at the progress he’d made on his half-finished 3D representation of The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a yawn caught him off guard and he brought his hand up to cover his mouth. There was no one to see the yawn, but the habit his mother had instilled was instinct now.

He could hear the yelling; Sal was doing the bulk of it. Sal’s short wavy hair was bouncing lightly as she pointed at the parts and the workers alternately. “This is seventeen-four stainless steel; you have to treat them like eggshells. Eggshells! Not fucking diamonds!” She sighed and continued more quietly. “They have individual boxes for a reason. The only time they should be out of their boxes is when they’re on the lathe.”

One of the workers, a man with an auburn beard and hair in a ponytail, said, “Isn’t stainless steel more like butter? It’s soft and deform—”

“Jake, go home!” The man hung his head and looked at his shoes as she took a couple deep breaths to calm herself. “I have to call the customer. We’re done here.”

As Sal was turning to leave, Jake asked, “You want us to come back tomorrow, right?”

She turned around, face turning red and clenching her teeth. “Of course! One grand fuck up a year is what I expect from my employees.” She turned around and stormed off.

When Jake took a step forward, a man with short-cropped dark hair and a very prominent nose grabbed his shoulder. “Don’t.”

Jake stopped and looked back at the other employee as the door to Sal’s office slammed, causing the old glass pane in it to rattle.

The short-haired guy said, “There’s something you need to know about Sal. The best thing you can do when she’s like that is stay quiet and listen while she’s yelling and then let her be.”

Mark nodded at his advice. Sal was kind enough to let him have a corner of her machine shop, but he knew that her business would always be more important than their friendship. It was for that reason that he didn’t allow himself to pretend there was any sort of permanence to his arrangement with her. He’d needed a place to continue his art until he could save up to make the down payment on a studio space of his own and she gave him that space. For how long, he didn’t know.

He heard his phone buzz and wiped off his hands before grabbing it out of a drawer in the old yellow-topped steel desk near the welder. It was a text from Enis. Dinner tonight?

He sent back, I think I’m going to try and get a bit more done.

Get more done? Haven’t you been there all day already?

I got here late because I slept in.

Let me guess, you were up late last night working on it.

Mark shook his head; Enis knew him too well. No…?

Dinner!

Work!

Squirrel!

Mark laughed. Our conversation has devolved into random nouns.

By the time we get to dinner, we will be speaking in undignified grunts.

Sounds kinky. :p

You’re kinky.

Mark chuckled as he thought about how to respond. :O I’m going to tell your boyfriend!

Go ahead, he’s single now.

You finally broke up? Was it the way he snuffled in his sleep?

It was the way he got hospitalized for alcohol poisoning again and then tried to blame it on me.

I’m so sorry. A couple minutes passed and Mark went about thoroughly washing his hands and then wiping off the screen protector on his phone.

Had to pull over.

You were driving!?

I was using voice2text.

Mark raised an eyebrow. You had to look at the screen to correct it didn’t you?

Only for a second and I was in rush hour.

Mark shook his head. Next time, just call me.

Only if you go to dinner.

Mark clicked his tongue. Fine! Where the hell is this dinner?

Maybe that sausage place?

Okay, I’ll meet you there in 1h.

A minute later, Enis responded. 1.5h and you have a deal.

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