As the day drug through and when I felt as if my brain could no longer handle the monotony, the candles finished setting and were ready to be cut apart and trimmed for sale. I gathered the delivery list from the hand-sketched notations of my father and set to harvest the typewriter from a cabinet under the display room counter across the hall.
My father never accepted anything more than his hands, but I loved the tactile sensation and the soft click-click-click the typewriter made as I transcribed. I took a fresh piece of paper out from another cabinet — this one with a shelf for it — and loaded it through the platen, weaving it through the bail and aligning it so it was centered. I used the platen knob to advance the paper and then began typing. I was careful not to make any mistakes, even though it was just me doing the deliveries. I was practicing both speed and efficiency. After each line, I used the carriage return lever to advance the document on the platen. It only seemed as though a few minutes had passed before I was done.
By this time, the shop sign had been moved over to “open” and customers were starting to enter the room. I had not even noticed who flipped over the sign, but I was glad I looked up when I did. A man was smiling at me and took off his hat, but not before tipping it to me first, which I did notice.
“Morning,” he said with a side smile. I paused putting away the typewriter. He had a strong jawline, a scar on the corner of his mouth — possibly forcing him to smile more on one side than both, dark hair and piercing hazel eyes. His skin was also darker, like mine, but he had the look of someone well-traveled, and the darkness did not cover him completely. It looked as though he had been in the solislight for too long.
“What can I do for you?” I asked him, pushing down the folds of my dress beneath my waist. They had puffed up a bit after I had stopped down to retrieve the typewriter and paper previously.
“I have been trying to find a call box and I have not the foggiest idea where one could be.” He looked around the room as if he expected one to show up on the wall.
“We have not established phone service here quite yet. With the addition of the steam engine system and the depot they just build, I would hope we would acquire it rather soon.” I told him and he just shook his head in dismay. “You could send an aether-gram.”
“Not exactly air, not exactly liquid, and neither hot nor cold. No thank you. I like something more tangible,” he said sternly, making a claw-like motion with his hand in front of his face. “To think of messages traveling through light and more magic than science…I would not risk it. What if it were to get lost, my message? Sent to the wrong person?”
“Sir, I am hardly accustomed to giving persons advice on any matter outside the realm of the chandlery.” I admitted. With a line of more visitors behind him, I did not want to waste a whole day of missed deliveries as well as having to deal with frustrated customers who were waiting on matters I could attend to.
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