March 8th, 2005

Mask

Strubley

Haraman hated Strubley.





Every morning, forty-three minutes after Haraman had arrived at the shop, Strubley would come in, nod, and trundle up to his office muttering curses.
Haraman loved the precious minutes before Strubley arrived. He would unravel his soft leather tool case and spread each of his beaten tools out on the table, arranging them by size and use. Haraman would close his eyes and run his fingers over the edges of the metal, blunt and sharp, rough and slick, oiled and dry. Then, relaxed and attuned, he would open the boxes that were outside the Shop and examine each of the little broken machines.

Strubley had little better to do than to watch Haraman, and give useless pointers. Strubley appeared to spend most of his time processing paperwork in his rusty office. On good days, he would close the curtains to his office windows and nap. At least, Haraman suspected he was napping.
Strubley didn’t even own the shop; Mr. Olark owned the shop, and paid Haraman and the Bies Boys to fix the little machines from the plant. Strubley was there to do the paperwork, and, Haraman thought, to polish his bronze degree from the Flying University of Farax City.

At noon, the Bies Boys, young men fresh from the docks, smelling of fish and brine would stumble in, eyes bleary from early morning work and late night drinking. Haraman would give them tasks, lifting heavy pieces of machinery, running out for parts, pulling on the complex system of levers and pullies to lift and lower the engines they fixed. Strubley would watch all of this with a suspicious gaze.

Strubley had a wife, a plump woman with flame orange hair who made lunch every day and would laboriously climb the stairs to her husbands boxed, rusty office. When she reached the top, her breathing was always heavy, but smiling, always smiling, she would hand her husband her basket full of delicious smells. Sometimes she would bring Haraman a pastry. Haraman often wondered why nice women married despicable men. Left with no logical explanation, he attributed it to a mystery of nature. He knew that if Strubleys wife were his, he would not make her walk up those stairs.

Strubley never finished his lunch. He was a very thin man, which made his nose seem even larger and his fingers appear knifelike, switchblades on the end of a sandpaper palm. He would dump the contents of the basket into the waste tank in the back of the shop, fresh bread, jam and sliced meat all tumbling together with oil and metal, cooking together under the midday sun.





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