Monday, February 07, 2005

Chapter 8

"Lets try something" Mr Featherstone took a pinch of powder from a jar that was labeled "Epsom Salts" "Hmm, this is far to strong, I will mix it with water to dilute it."
So carefully he measured some distilled water into a flask, he weighed some of the powder and when he was satisfied he wrote the amounts down, He mixed the powder in the water and stirred it for quite some time. With an eyedropper Mr Featherstone placed the smallest amount of the liquid onto one of the slides which had the algae on it, the algae turned dark purple.
"Try this now Beswick, this may work like sunglasses, blocking out a little more of the light"
Beswick placed the slide infront of his glasses and looked through them once again. The room was dark, he could barely see a thing.
"Mr Featherstone, they are too dark I can't see anything"
Mr featherstone was busy scribbling notes on his pad.
Suddently the slide slipped from Beswicks hand by accident.
Plop, right into his root beer!
"Oh No" he cried!
Mr Featherstone chuckled. "Not to worry Master Beswick, we still have the control slide, we have lots of algae and saline solution."
Beswick pulled the slide from his root beer, it had turned to a purple red colour. He looked through the slide, he could see shapes but everything was a different colour.
He looked at Mr Featherstone, who shone bright orange, he looked at the dark blue glow of his icy mug of rootbeer, He recognized everything but the colours seemed so strange.
"Wow" Beswick exclaimed.
"What do you see" Mr Featherstone asked excitedly?
"I see everything, but it all looks so different" Beswick replied. "You are glowing orange, my root beer is blue. Mr Biggles is orange too."
"Most extraordinary Beswick, most extraordinary. May I see"?
Beswick passed the slide to Mr. Featherstone who looked through the slide. His face seemed to sadden,
"All I see is a purple tinge to everything " Mr Fetherstone sounded dismayed.
"It is my glasses Mr Featherstone, remember the crystals?" Beswick exclaimed.
Beswick passed his glasses to Mr Featherstone.
"Remarkable Master Beswick, I do believe you have had your first Eureka moment! You know what we have here Beswick"?
"Cool Sunglasses" Beswick said with a cheesy grin.
"No Master Beswick" Mr Featherstone chuckled, "But I like your sense of humour. No Master Beswick, you have made something far more remarkable than that, you have made infared glasses. You can see heat and cold. This is indeed extraordinary. We must log all of our data and see what made the algae behave in this manner."
"That is easy" Beswick said, "it was the root beer."
"Yes," smiled Mr Featherstone, "but what about the rootbeer, was it the sugar content? Was it the temperature? Was it the chemical composition? This is a wonderful discovery Master Beswick but if we cannot reproduce it again it is pointless"!
Mr Featherstone and Beswick worked for the next few hours and finally reproduced the experiment again. It was the combination of the sugars and the acids in the root beer. They could control the colour of the glasses by varying the amounts.
Each time they changed the amounts, Beswick would scribble the results, just as Mr Featherstone dictated them to him.
Hundreds of thoughts flew through Beswick's Head. He had visions of a pair of glasses with two small vials attached to them. The vials could dispense sugar and acid solutions into a space between two layers of glass, this way he could control the function of the glasses.
He scribbled a simple diagram onto the stack of papers covered with the notes.
Mr. Featherstone looked over Beswick's shoulder and let a quiet "Hmmmmm" escape his lips. "How extraordinary Beswick! You never cease to amaze me."
Beswick grinned.
"I think we have done enough for today Master Beswick. Tomorrow, however is a whole new day never before touched by human hands and it is all ours!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Chapter 7, Eureka!

Mr. Featherstone stopped at the door; he placed his hand on a glowing stone by the doorknob. The stone dimmed as he touched it. He placed another hand on a stone a little higher, it went dim too. There was a click inside the door and Mr. Featherstone turned the knob, the door swung in.
Beswick entered the room, the walls were all glowing, just like the blocks in the stairway. He slowly scanned the room, all the walls were glowing, the ceiling too. It was as bright as daylight. Some glowed green, others were rainbow patterned. There were benches all over the room, some filled with chemical apparatus others were electrical, There were Jacobs' Ladders and Plasma globes. Giant electromagnets hung from the ceiling. In the corner was a large cylinder with a "Liquid Nitrogen" label on it.
Beswick was awestruck, he had never seen anything like this before.
"Sit down Master Beswick", Mr. Featherstone said. " We will have to go over some of the things in the laboratory before we get started."
Beswick was looking everywhere, each time he scanned the room something else revealed itself.
"The walls and ceiling are glowing!" Beswick exclaimed!
"Yes, that, well I wanted to save some money on lighting. Do you remember the books in the library, there was one called the Organic Flashlight."
Beswick nodded.
"The walls are covered in a form of algae, it produces light." The light colour is determined by the food they eat and the conditions they live in. If I want to change the colour of the light I can change the food they eat. Watch this." Mr. Featherstone took a spray bottle from the table and sprayed the contents onto a section of wall. "This bottle contains saline, a simple salt and water solution," As the saline touched the walls the glow turned from light green to a deep blue.
"I am still experimenting with this but it is a fascinating subject. Temperature food, humidity, all play a role. Feed and care for the algae and it will shine for you."
"WOW" Beswick exclaimed.
"WOW indeed" said Mr. Featherstone with a grin.
"I work on many experiments down here Master Beswick. Over in the corner I have been working on the properties of electricity and magnetism when super cooled. It seems that when they make electric motors for people in the real world they are not very efficient. If we can increase the magnetic fields we can get very powerful and efficient motors in small packages."
For the rest of the afternoon, Mr. Featherstone showed Beswick the lab, cautioning him on the dangerous elements and encouraging him to try things himself. All the while Mr. Biggles paced back and forth on the floor, brushing Beswick’s feet.
Mr. Featherstone showed Beswick how to make a report and log the results of the experiments. "There is no sense doing an experiment if you can’t prove the results" he said.
"Take a look at this report I have done on the growth of crystals in a magnetic field, this is the experiment that helped fix your spectacles."
Beswick looked at the papers; many of the words were too hard for Beswick to read.
Mr. Featherstone could see the frustration in Berwick’s face. "Let’s have a nice cold mug of root beer." He took two cans and poured them into mugs, then he took the mugs over the cylinder of liquid nitrogen. He opened a valve and sprayed the mugs, crystals of ice formed on the mugs. He smiled and placed the mug down on the table for Beswick. "Best let the mug climatize before you drink" he winked. "I think next time I will make some ice-cream for us, the texture of ice-cream made with the cooling properties of liquid nitrogen is the best you will ever have" he grinned.
"Maybe a float made from the ice-cream and this root beer" Beswick asked?
"That's what I like about you Young Master Beswick, you are always coming up with new ideas. I wonder why I never thought of that before" he mused.
Beswick sipped on the icy root beer as Mr. Featherstone explained the way he documented his data in the reports. There were still words that Beswick didn’t understand but that would come someday.
As they read the crystal reports Beswick got a better understanding of his new glasses, his mind drifted away as he thought about the countless possibilities for Mr. Featherstone’s discovery. He thought of repairing chips in windshields, making telescopes that would see more than man had ever seen before. He dreamed of microscopes like the ones he used at school and all the fascinating things he could discover with them.
"Beswick. Are you still with me here" Mr. Featherstone asked?
"Do you understand why we must document all of our experiments"?
"Er Yes! Mr., Featherstone" he replied.
"Good! Now I want you to look over these notes that I have taken on the Bioluminescence Projects I have been working on. I want you to fill out this report form. Just read through the notes, if you come across something you don't understand, let me know and I will help you. I am going to perform some more experiments and will document them as I go along."
Beswick nodded and took a pencil and the form; He read slowly through the notes, writing down the time the experiments were conducted, the conditions they were conducted under and the results of the experiments.
His mind started to whirl as he started to read the results of Mr. Featherstone’s work. He saw first hand how the algae changed colour based on the food, temperature and other conditions. Once again he started to drift away in his thoughts, hopping from cloud to cloud in his mind.
"Wow you could make lights anywhere, any colour" he thought.
"You could mix the algae together and make a huge TV! It could be any size!" He hopped onto another cloud. "You could make sunglasses that would change colour! You could make any colour look like any other colour.
You could correct colour blindness for people! I could put t he algae onto my new glasses and amplify any one colour, or all colours! "
"I wonder!" Beswick said out loud.
"You wonder what Master Beswick?" Mr. Featherstone asked.
"Oh nothing really." Beswick was a little embarrassed that he spoke out loud.
Mr. Featherstone got up from his experiment "I am glad you wonder Beswick. That is what separates the scientists from the rest of the people. Just what do you wonder?"
"I was just wondering what would happen if we put some of the algae onto my glasses, with the crystals" Beswick asked?
"Oh my, what a thought Master Beswick, what an incredible extraordinary thought!"

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Chapter 6, A special place

Beswick, went back into the kitchen to see the table set with three bowls, a couple of glasses of pop and a platter full of bread rolls.
Mr. Biggles hopped up onto the table and sat contently, waiting for the other two to sit down. Mr. Featherstone ladled soup into two of the bowls. Mr. Biggles bowl was already filled with chunks of meat and gravy.
"Sit down Master Beswick, sit down"
Beswick sat down beside Mr Biggles, and waited for Mr Featherstone to join them.
The soup was tasty and filling, Beswick sopped up the juices with a plump bread roll.
"You are going back to school soon Beswick., do you find that exciting?"
"Sometimes I do Mr Featherstone, I like to learn new things, but I don't look forward to Cedric and the rest of his bullies." Beswick said.
"Ah yes, the bullies, funny thing about bullies Beswick. they are controlled by chaos, and you know I don't care for chaos. I prefer things in order." Mr Featherstone said. "When things are organized, you can see what is out of place, then if you think about it you can make sense out of what remains, like a puzzle."
"In Chaos, when something is missing, the rest fall apart and go on their own direction.. It may be good to remember that in the future."
"Do you have any friends at school Master Beswick?"
"Yes Mr. Featherstone, Isaac Ramsbottom he is a good friend, he went away this summer to visit his aunt and uncle in the Rocky Mountains. I am sure he will have lots to tell me when he gets home. And there is Abigail Ford, we call her Abby for short. She likes to talk lots." Beswick was thinking of all his other friends at school too, like Billy Johnson, the mailman's son, and Nancy Ridley, her family owned the store. He would meet up with lots of his friends, the summer was fading away fast.
But he did not look forward to the bullies, not at all.
Mr Featherstone cut in "what is your favorite subject Master Beswick" he asked?
"Oh that would have to be science I think" he replied.
"I really like science but I don't care for history too much"
"That is funny Master Beswick, they go hand in hand. Isn't the science you learn at school a records of someone's discoveries, a history?" Mr. Featherstone asked.
"I guess so" Beswick answered" but it is exciting. I can use what I learn in science every day."
"This is true, but the same can be said about history. As a matter of fact the same can be said about anything you learn. Knowledge is a wonderful thing but the real art is knowing how to apply that knowledge, That is wisdom, and that is what separates you from the ordinary people, You are extraordinary Beswick, You have a gift, you see things in a different light. I have seen it in the way you look upon things you have learned. I have been watching you for some time now."
Beswick was smiling, I am extraordinary he thought to himself.
"Many times you will know the correct questions to ask in order for you to understand what you need to know. Like the spectacles for instance. You discovered that crystals now coat the lenses. There will be times, Master Beswick, when you will ask me questions, and I will answer them with a question. I am not being awkward, I am just wanting you to think about the possibilities. There is much to learn in this world and I will sharpen your tools so you can learn it well. We will finish up our lunch, then we will check the library one more time, After that we will be going somewhere very special. Now eat up and we can get going"
The three friends finished off the bread rolls and soup. Mr Biggles licked the last of the gravy from the bowl and jumped over to Beswicks lap. He purred loudly as Beswick rubbed him behind the ears. Mr Featherstone took the dishes and placed them in the dishwasher. He cleared the rest of the table.
They got up and walked into the library. Beswick was still in awe over the number of books in the shelves surrounding the room.
Mr Featherstone scanned the shelves, Everything was in fine order. "I believe we have done a good job here Beswick, Everything in its proper home. Now it is time for us to go to that special place I mentioned." and with a grin Mr Featherstone turned around and marched right back into the kitchen. Mr Biggles scurried behind, stopping every once in a while to look over his shoulder and see if Beswick was following.
The went through the back door and into the back yard, Down the two steps across the flagstones towards the shed. Mr Featherstone turned to the stone wall surrounding the yard and walked over to the big wooden door with the large hinges and the old metal padlock.
we must be going for a walk somewhere in town Beswick thought.
Mr Featherstone took a key from his pocket and placed it in the padlock.
He turned the key, the lock clicked and slipped open. He unlatched the door and swung it back. It was heavy and slow, the hinges didn't creak like Beswick thought they would, the swung slowly open.

Beswick walked towards the door, expecting to go into the alley. But there was another stone wall on the other side of the door. He was puzzled. The wall bust have been about six feet thick, there was a staircase going down inside the wall!
"Come Master Beswick" Mr Featherstone requested as he slipped through the doorway.
Beswick followed, Mr Featherstone waved his arm in front of himself. "Down the stairs lad. I need to close the door after. Mr Biggles will show you the way."
Down the staircase they went, Mr Biggles stopping every once in a while to make surte Beswick was following. It wasn't very bright but the light from the yard was enough to see the steps.
Mr Featherstone closed the door behind them, The stairway went pitch black for just one moment. The stones in the wall started to glow!
Each one a slightly different colour. Some had swirls of colour like the rainbow of oil in a puddle on the street. Beswick was lookind around the staircase, awestruck!
Mr Biggles meowed at the bottom of the stairs There was another heavy wooded door waiting for Mr Featehrstone to open it.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Chapter 5, The Library

Beswick fastened the wheel back on the bike, spun it around and listened to the whirr it made.
He squeezed the breaks and watched the pads rub against the rim. So smooth! he was proud of his achievement. He looked up at Mr Featherstone who was grinning away.

"Come Master Beswick" he said " Leave your bike here until it is time for you to go"
Mr Biggles jumped of the bench and ran ahead of them to the backdoor. Beswick followed them both. They went up the two small steps through the back door and into the kitchen.
Mr Featherstone went down the hall and opened a door on his right. Beswick followed a few steps behind, He entered the room. A Library!
The room was very tall, bookcases covered three walls, the fourth wall had another door and a bay window. In the bay window was a bench. The center of the room had a large oak rolltop desk, each pigeonhole was neatly stuffed with papers. Beside the desk was a very old globe. A large table behind the desk was covered in stacks of books. Old marvelous books with leather bindings.

"There must be more books here than the Public Library" he said,
Mr Featherstone, smiled" Not really Master Beswick, but I do have a better selection that suites my interests. Today you will help me put the piles of books back on the appropriate shelves. Sometimes I get carried away with my research and I let things get a little messy. I don't like chaos, although it is an interesting field of study."
"People study chaos?" Beswick asked.
"Some do Master Beswick, but it is not my cup of tea. I prefer optics, chemistry and physics. I have dabbled in some botany, but I prefer the physical sciences."
I will give you a few minutes to get familiar with the library, I am going to the kitchen to get us each a nice mug of root beer. I can always use something sweet before I start work" he smiled.
Beswick slowly walked around the room gazing at the shelves like a child in a candy store.
There were books on astronomy, botany, chemistry. It seemed like every topic under the sun.
Each one was alphabetized in its own section.
He strolled over to the table, even though the books were piled high he could see Mr Featherstone had them in order. The first stack must have been chemistry.
Growing crystals by professor Justin Marks.
Crystal Recipes.
The growth of Crystals in Zero Gravity. a paper by Dr. J Deans. N.A.S.A.
Magnetism and Crystal growth.
Mr Featherstone came back with two cold glasses of root beer. "Ah, crystals, a fascinating subject" he smiled. "There will always be room for more studying of crystals. There optic properties, how the resonate, how they glow."
"Think of the possibilities Master Beswick, if you could grow crystals that had the exact properties you wanted them to have. To bend light at just the correct amount. To resonate at just the right frequency. To actually amplify light as it passes through the crystal."
Beswick was trying to understand what resonate meant when suddenly a light came on in his head. "Amplify light! Bend it just right! That is how you fixed my glasses isn't it Mr Featherstone? You grew crystals on them, or covered them with crystals. Something like that!"
"Something like that indeed!" Mr Featherstone chuckled. He took a big swig of root beer. "Master Beswick I do think you have the brains of a scientist! Quite remarkable!
Yes that is what we did, coat the lenses with crystals. Not just any crystal but one that will bend the light to the precise spot required for you to see. For anyone to see for that matter. Your glasses will work for anyone Beswick. The light is amplified too. That is why you can see so clearly, so far away."
"You know what is more remarkable Master Beswick. The fact that you discovered that by yourself. I didn't have to tell you. What an extraordinary young man you are!
Drink up Beswick, there is work to be done!"
Beswick gulped the rootbeer down so fast it burned his throat. He let out a big belch! "Excuse me" he exclaimed!
Mr Featherstone belched too! They both laughed out loud.
Mr Featherstone walked over to the table and scooped the pile of books on crystals. He started placing them back on the shelf in alphabetical order.
Beswick took a smaller pile, he looked at the top book. "Rare Earth Magnets". "Hmm he thought to himself. Where would this go" The next book was entitled " Supercooled Electrical Conductors" Beswick took the books and started placing them in the electrical section of the library.
Back and forth they went, scooping piles of books and placing them back on the shelves. Time whizzed by. Before they realized, it was time for lunch!
Beswick had one last stack of books to put away.
Bioluminescence, the Organic Flashlight by Seymour Midnight.
Bioluminescence of Aequorea.
"I have a hard time reading these titles" Beswick said.
Mr Featherstone smiled back. "Yes I was in the dark with that subject once before too" He chuckled at the thought. Beswick was lost it was way over his head.
"Place them in the organic chemistry section. Alphabetically, just like the other books. You don't have to understand the words just yet. We won't have a test until tomorrow" He laughed out loud at the joke he just made, the look on Beswicks face make him laugh even louder!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Chapter 4, Plunk Plunk Plink

Mr Biggles led the way into the kitchen. Beswick looked around the room just as he did yesterday, but today he could read the labels on the jars. Everything was written in Latin. He really couldn't understand a word.
Mr Featherstone pulled a chair from the table. "Sit down Master Beswick" he said " we will discuss the tasks at hand. I believe the first thing would be to repair your bicycle"
"I didn't see it when I came here" Beswick said.
"that's right I took it to the the workshop. Tell me Beswick, have you ever trued a wheel before?"
Beswick looked a little puzzled. "I am not sure, what does true a wheel mean?"
Mr Featherstone chuckled. "It means repair the wheel, make the shape of it a true circle with no wobbles. I think your front bicycle wheel would be a good place to start!"
"Is it hard to do?" Beswick asked.
"No, but it will let me see how patient you are." Mr Featherstone smiled. "Come now Master Beswick, lets get started."
Mr Featherstone got up from the table and started for the back door, Beswick close on his heels and Mr Biggles winding his way between them.
Through the back door Beswick could see a remarkable back yard surrounded by a stone fence. A large wooden door with strong steel hinges led out to the alley. The door was locked with an old iron padlock.
In the corner was the workshop. It was a wooden building with a roof that was staggered.
Along the length of the roof was skylights, The front of the workshop had a heavy wooden door hanging on on overhead track, beside the door was a large wooden barrel filled with water collected from the roof. With the amount of rain that fell in the past weeks the barrel was brimming.
Mr Featherstone slid back the heavy wooden door, there was a workbench up against the far wall of the shed. He had already removed the front wheel from the bicycle and placed it in an old set of forks clamped into a vice. There was an assortment of tools layed out on the bench. Beswick also noticed a piece of chalk, an old rag and a pan of water.
He followed Mr, Featherstone into the shed. Mr Featherstone took a stool down from the rafters and placed it next to the bench
"Master Beswick, sit down her so you can have a close look at the wheel."
Beswick sat down and watched as Mr Featherstone spun the wobbly wheel on the forks.
"See how much the wheel wobbles?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr Featherstone". he replied.
"I am going to take a piece of chalk and put it on the side of the fork, just away from the wheel."
Beswick watched intently.
"As the wheel spins around I will move the chalk closer and closer to the tire, When the chalk touches the tire it will rub only on the wobble" Mr Featherstone told him.
Sure enough there was a white mark only on part of the tire.
"Can you think of why we do this Master Beswick?"
Beswick thought for a minute. "To show where the wobble is" he said.
"Indeed!" Mr Featherstone replied. "And why would we need to know where the wobble is?"
Again there was a pause from Beswick. "If we know where the wobble is then we know what part of the wheel needs fixing?" he answered with the tone of someone unsure.
"precisely!" Mr Featherstone replied." You think like a scientist Master Beswick, open eyes and open mind!"
Beswick grinned, thinking "that must be the way Leonardo thought too"

Mr Featherstone, turned to the bench and picked up a small tool. He turned back to Beswick and asked, "Why do you suppose the spokes on the wheel have square ends?"
Much as Beswick thought and thought, he had no idea!
"I, don't know Mr Featherstone." he said sheepishly.

"Not to worry Master Beswick, you will figure it out soon enough." he smiled.
He placed his finger close to the spokes, resting it on them. A rhythmic plunking sound filled the shed.
Plink, plink, plink, plink, plunk, plunk, plink.
Plink, plink, plink, plink, plunk, plunk, plink.
"Do you hear the sounds? " he asked?
"Yes Mr Featherstone, some spokes sound different." Beswick replied
"That is because some spokes are tighter than others." Mr Featherstone told him.
He then took the small tool and placed it on the square end of a spoke. He gave it a twist and plucked the spoke again. This time the plunk sounded higher.
A light came on in Beswicks face "The square ends are to tighten and loosen the spokes!" he exclaimed.
"Indeed" mused Mr Featherstone. "And why would we do that?
Beswick stopped and had to think rather a long time.
"Why would we need to pull on some spokes more than others? Mr Featherstone asked.
"Oh...Oh... To make the wheel not wobble anymore" Beswick exclaimed.
"Precisely." Mr Featherstone said, handing the tool over to Beswick.
He took a rag soaked it in water and washed away the chalk.
Then he turned to Beswick and said.
"I have given you the tools, and shown you what happens with the chalk and the spoke wrench. You know the object is to make the wheel not wobble anymore. I am going inside to do some chores and I will come back from time to time to see how you are making out. Mr Biggles will keep you company. Now you can get to work and I can see just how much patience you really have." With that he turned around and marched out of the shed.

Beswick looked at Mr Biggles and smiled, He grabbed the chalk, spun the wheel and moved the chalk till it made a mark. Then he stopped the wheel. He plucked the spokes by the mark, one side of the spokes was a dull low plunk, the other side was a high pitched plink.
He place the spoke wrench on the spokes and turned. He made some spokes sound lower and some spokes sound higher. He wiped the chalk off and spun the wheel again. This time when he marked the tire the chalk line was smaller.
"This is easy he thought to himself." Back and forth he went. Chalk, tighten, loosen wipe. Chalk, tighten loosen wipe.
Mr Biggles was sitting on the bench watching him contently. Back and forth Beswick went, his fingers were getting sore from the spokes, but each time he marked with the chalk the marks got smaller and smaller.
Time went by quite quickly for Beswick, Mr Featherstone came back in half an hour to see how he was making out.
Beswick was quite pleased with his progress and was ready to show Mr Featherstone just how well he had done.
He placed the chalk on the side of the tire and spun it around. There was such a small amount of chalk on the tire he knew he was almost done!
Mr Featherstone smiled, he wiped the tire clean and placed the chalk on the other side. A rather large white stripe appeared.
Beswick looked up with a little dissapointment in his eye. Mr Featherstone winked kindly. handed the chalk back to Beswick and said "I will come back in a short time to see how you are making out"
So once more Beswick marked with chalk, tightened, loosened and wiped. This time he did one side of the wheel and then the other. The wheel would be better than new when he was finished.
Half an hour went by and out came Mr Featherstone. Beswick put the chalk and the wrench down. He wipped the tire and stepped out of the way for Mr Featherstone to examine it.
Mr Featherstone spun the wheel very fast, it whirred as it spun. He placed the chalk on one side of the wheel. A white mark spun around the entire tire. He placed the chalk on the other side. Once again the white went all around the tire.
Beswick was shocked. He said" But the marks were getting smaller and smaller!"
Mr Featherstone grinned" Yes, and the wheel now runs true. The chalk markes all of the tire because there is no wobble. Very good work Master Beswick, very good work indeed!"
"I think if we put the wheel back on the bike it will run faster than it ever did before!"

"I sure hope so" Beswick said." I wish I could make it run faster than Cedric and his bullies!"
"Well Master Beswick, we can make the bike go faster than the bullies but I dont think that will help. Sometimes we need to face our problems head on."
"I did that last time Mr Featherstone, and I got a bent wheel and broken glasses."
"That is true Beswick, but you also learned how to true a wheel and your glasses are fixed now, even better than before arent they?" Mr Featherstone replied.
"My glasses, I was going to ask you about that, I can see so much better than I could before. How is that possible?"
"All in good time Master Beswick, all in good time. Today you learned how to true a wheel, there will be lots of time to learn the other lessons I have to teach you, lots of time indeed"

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Chapter 3, I can see clearly now

The sun streamed through the crack in the curtains. A shaft of light danced on the wall as the cool morning breeze moved the thin fabric from side to side.
A redwinged blackbird sang it's sweet song waking Beswick up from a very restful sleep.
He could hear is mother in the wash house below his window. She had the water boiling in order to start the laundry. Beswick slipped his glasses on his face, his cheek was a little sore from the blow he received yesterday. Everything seemed so much brighter today. He wasn't sure if it was the glasses that Mr Featherstone had fixed for him or the fact the sun was cutting through his bedroom.
I guess the little man and lady in the barometer house were right he thought to himself. I will have to talk to Mr Featherstone and see if he can tell me how it works.
Beswick got out of bed and slipped on a clean pair of jeans, this time without a hole in the knee.
He took his favorite t-shirt out of the drawer, it was bright white with a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci on it. Beswick read about Leonardo at the library. It was one of his most favorite places to go.
He pulled the shirt over his red hair, forgetting to take his glasses off as usual, they slipped off his nose and into the shirt. He laughed at himself and placed them back on his face. Boy everything is so clear he was thinking to himself.

Beswick ran to the washroom did the usual things he did there, spending extra time on his teeth. His mother always told him "Teeth are very important, look after them."
He slid down the banister to the ground floor. Something he was not supposed to do but then again his mom was outside.
He heard a voice from the kitchen. "Don't slide down that banister Beswick Winkles!"
"Sorry mom, I got carried away" he replied.
Beswick skipped into the kitchen and popped four slices of toast into the toaster. He went to the fridge and pulled out the fieldberry jam. From the pantry he took a jar of peanut butter and placed it on the table along with two knives and two plates.
"Mom, is it ok if I go to visit Mr Featherstone today, I have to pick up my bike and I told him I would help him around the house." he said.
"It amazes me Beswick, that children are so eager to help other people in their houses but don't seem to have the same enthusiasm to help in their own." she replied.
"Well I suppose there are worse things you could be doing, like hanging around with Cedric Whatmore and those other lay abouts" she said.
"Don't even joke about that mom, you know I don't like Cedric, he is a mean bully." He had never really told her how much of a pest Cedric was at school, and definitely not about the occurrence yesterday.
"You are right Beswick, I know you are far more mature than that group of hoodlums."
"Do you need some money today, or do you still have some left from the store?"
Beswick replied" I have twelve cents left mom, that's more than enough"
"More than enough for what, Beswick. That wont even buy you a chocolate bar!"
"It won't today mom, but one day it did. I don't need any money mom."
The toast popped and Beswick placed two slices on each plate. He poured a cup of tea that his mother was brewing on the stove, and a small glass of milk for himself.
They sat down at the table and enjoyed the best peanut butter toast Beswick had ever tasted.
Beswick looked across the kitchen to the calendar on the wall.
"I see you have a dentist appointment on Wednesday mom." he said.
"Yes I do, but don't tell me you can read that calendar from there Beswick" she exclaimed.
"Yes I can mom, it says Dentist 2:00." he replied.
"You are such a fibber Beswick Winkles, there is no way you can read that across the room, you must have read it when you came down the stairs!" she smiled at him.
"Honest mom I can read it, everything seems so much clearer since Mr Featherstone fixed my glasses." he replied.
"Fixed your glasses?. I didn't even know they were broken." she exclaimed.

Oh boy! how was Beswick going to explain about the glasses, the fight, the spilled soap!
"They fell off my face into the gutter and the lens popped out mom" he said.
He wasnt lieing, they did fall off and get chipped. "Mr Featherstone asked if they could fix them
I said that would be nice and thank you."
"If they could fix them? Who is they?"she asked
"I guess he was talking about him and Mr Biggles" he replied. Her face looked puzzled. "Mr Biggles is his cat. I think he talks about the two of them like they are friends or something."
"Well that was very nice of them wasn't it." she said.
"Yes mom it was very nice".
After breakfast Beswick did the dishes and poured his mom another cup of tea. The water was boiling hard in the wash house and Mrs Winkles would be working hard to make the money they needed to live.
Beswick kissed her goodbye and ran out the back yard down the alley. He knew at this early hour any bully worth his reputation would be fast asleep.
He skipped down the street listening to the birds singing in the trees. Across the street was a squirrel chattering at a nosy cat. The Newspaper racks were full of the days news. He could read the headline from here. "Flooding Subsides weather change for the good". As a matter of fact he could read the entire story from across the street!
"That is certainly extraordinary" he thought to himself.
There were still puddles in the street, as much as he wanted to splash in them he knew his canvas runners wouldnt keep the water out.
As he reached the corner he grabbed the lamp post and swung around, changing the direction he was walking. If he continued straight on this road he would end up at the library, his favorite place in town. But he had to go to Mr Featherstone's house across Pine Street. He turned the corner and saw Mr Featherstones house. He could see Mr. Biggles pacing in the window. There was no sign of his bike though. As he came closer to the house he noticed the mailman walking down the street.
"Hello Mr Johnson" Beswick shouted.
"Hi Beswick" Mr Johnson replied.
They met each other just outside Mr Featherstone's house. Mr. Johnson was just about to put the letters in the mailbox when Beswick said "I can take those in"
Mr Johnson smiled. "I am sorry Beswick, but the law states I must place these in the mailbox and not give them to anyone else. Otherwise you are tampering with the mail, and that is a criminal offence. We cant have you commiting crimes now can we?" he smiled and dropped them in the mailbox.
Just as Beswick pressed the doorbell, Mr Biggles jumped down from the window. He heard the footsteps of Mr Featherstone in the house and the purring of his new friend Mr. Biggles.
Beswick looked over his shoulder to see if Mr. Johnson had left then he took all the mail from the mailbox to hand it over to Mr Featherstone.
The door opened and standing there in the usual grey pants with cuffs turned up was Mr Featherstone. He was wearing a green button up shirt with a cardigan over it.
He scanned over the guest at the door and smiled with delight at the shirt Beswick was wearing.
"Excellent choice of shirts indeed!" He grinned. "Come in Young Master Beswick, come in!"

Chapter 2, Twenty seven cents

The warm shirt felt so good on Beswick's cold skin. A pair of grey sweatpants would take the chill of his legs too. The bundle of his soaking wet clothes sat in a puddle on the bathroom floor.
He picked them up one by one and wrung them out by twisting them tightly, something he had seen his mother do countless times before. He mopped up the rest of the water with his shirt and wrung that out too.
He picked up the contents of his jacket pocket, twenty seven cents change from Mr Ridley's store, one chipped eyeglass lens and his fathers pocketwatch. The watch hadn't worked in many years but that didn't matter to Beswick, it used to belong to his father and now it was one of his most prized possessions.
Beswick slipped the items into the pocket of the sweatpants, gathered up the damp wrung out clothes and went to the kitchen.
Mr Featherstone had just hung up the phone. Turning to Beswick with a smile he said"Well your mom knows you are alright, she said not to worry about the soap just yet because she has enough for today!"
The soap!
"But I do worry about the soap Mr Featherstone" he said "I have to go back to Mr. Ridley's store and see if can lend me some"
"Now now young Master Beswick, you are not going anywhere in this weather. Lets put those clothes on the clotheshorse by the fire. You sit down here at the table and have a nice hot bowl of porridge."
Beswick squinted through his broken glasses at the surroundings in the kitchen. There was a fireplace burning at one end of the room. An old iron pot was merrily bubbling away over the flames. A small table with two wooden chairs was against the wall. Glass jars lined a shelf above the table, each one neatly labeled, but with broken glasses, Beswick couldn't read any of them
The counters and cupboard were all neat as a pin. The stove had a pot of porridge and the familiar smell was making his mouth water.
Mr Featherstone went to a closet and pulled out the clotheshorse. He set it up in front of the fire and placed the wet clothes on it neatly, being sure to keep the nylon jacket away from the hot side of the fire.
Beswick sat at the table and Mr. Featherstone scooped out bowls of porridge for them both.
He placed them on the table along with spoons, a jug of milk and a bowl of brown sugar.
"I hope you don't mind brown sugar, young Master Beswick, that is all I have."
"Not at all" replied Beswick.
The black cat had come and started snaking its way around Beswick's legs at the table. It started to purr so loud it made Beswick laugh.
"I see Mr. Biggles likes you." Mr. Featherstone chuckled.
"Is that the cats name, Mr. Biggles?" Beswick asked.
"Yes, Mr. Biggles is his name, and an extraordinary cat he is, indeed" Mr Featherstone smiled.
He sat at the table and after pouring some milk, and sprinkling what seemed like far too much sugar on his porridge, he took a big spoonful and popped it into his mouth.
"Don't just sit there Master Beswick, eat up!" he grinned.

Beswick sprinkled a little brown sugar on the porridge and a small splash of milk, he knew milk was expensive and not to be wasted. He blew on the porridge to cool it off and slipped the spoon into his mouth. The scent of brown sugar teased his nose as the spoon slipped under it. The warmth of the porridge spread through his body with each bite. Down his throat, into his tummy and slowly spreading through each of his limbs. His bones, which seemed to be chilled with the cold rain started to thaw, the colour came back to his face and the familiar twinkled popped back into his eyes.
Mr. Biggles had jumped up onto the table and sat beside him staring intently.
"I think Mr Biggles would like to know what you were doing outside, in the rain, wearing a broken pair of spectacles and pushing a broken bike." Mr Featherstone said, "And come to think of it so would I" he grinned.

So Beswick recalled the tale of going to get some soap, being picked on by the bullies, knocked down, losing his glasses only to recover them with a chipped lens. He explained how they broke his bike and he had to go back to Mr Ridley and see if he could borrow some soap until he could figure out some way to pay for it.

"That is dilemma, indeed, young Master Beswick" rubbing his chin as though he was deep in thought, "Yes quite a dilemma!"
Beswick looked at him a little confused. "What's a dilemma, "he asked.
"Oh, dilemma is another word for a problem" smiled Mr Featherstone, "you will have to forgive me, sometimes I forget I am talking with an extraordinary young man."

"That's twice you....." Mr. Biggles jumped onto Beswicks lap, cutting his sentence short. Beswick looked down with a smile and started to pet Mr. Biggles.
"So you have the other lens for your spectacles then?" Mr Featherstone asked.
Beswick nodded and pulled the contents of his pocket out onto the table.
"I think we can fix those spectacles Beswick, would you like us to try?"
"Yes please." he replied, removing his bent frames and handing them over to Mr. Featherstone.
The room was very blurry without his glasses.
He saw Mr Featherstone get up from the table and go to a drawer on the other side of the room.
Beswick couldn't see what was going on but within a few moments, the drawer was closed and he was returning to the table.
"There you go" he said with a smile, handing the glasses back. Beswick put them on, they were so clean, the images in the room seemed so much brighter than before. They were better than new, in fact even the chip was gone!
"How could you fix them like that?" Beswick exclaimed.
"How could I fix them any other way, young Master Beswick?" he replied.
"Is it magic, Mr Featherstone?" he asked.
"It is what it is, Master Beswick. Nothing more, nothing less. I asked if we may fix them and you said yes, so that is what we did."
Before Beswick had a chance to respond, Mr Featherstone asked, " How did you expect to pay Mr Ridley back for the soap you were going to borrow?"
This caught Beswick totally of guard. "I am not sure." he said. Maybe I could do some chores for him like sweep up or stock the shelves."
"You are not afraid of hard work then?" Featherstone asked.
"No Sir," replied Beswick. "I may be just an ordinary boy but I can work as hard as a man!"
"I have no doubt of that at all young man, none at all."
"Would you consider working for me young Master Beswick" Mr. Featherstone asked.
"I can see Mr. Biggles really likes you and cats are such fine judges of character."
"I couldn't pay you a lot of money but you will end up with something far more valuable if you are willing to work for it."
Beswick replied " I would like to work for you Mr Featherstone, but I really need to get some soap for my mother, and all I have left is twenty seven cents."
" So Master Beswick, young man of character" he smiled,"If you could purchase soap for twenty seven cents, then you could work for me, and the money would no longer be an issue."
"Yes sir," he replied" But soap costs much more that twenty seven cents!"
Once again Mr Featherstone smiled." You are quite bright for such a young man. Do you think there was a time when soap could be purchased for twenty seven cents?"
"I imagine many years ago, you could buy lots of things for twenty seven cents."
Mr Featherstone chuckled out loud. He got up from the table and went to a door at the far end of the kitchen. He opened the door to a pantry and on the top shelf surrounded by cleaning products, brooms, brushes and mops, was a cardboard box. He reached up and took the box down. He blew the dust off it and brought it to the table, carefully closing the pantry door behind him. He put the box on the table.
"Take a look" he said to Beswick.
Beswick took the box and read the label. " Smith Brothers Chemically Pure Borax Soap"
The picture on the box was of ladies in long dresses with their hair done up high and fancy.

He looked in the corner and saw a price label. Fifteen Cents! He seemed puzzled as he stared at the box.
Mr Featherstone spoke" What is twenty seven take away fifteen?"
"Twelve" replied Beswick.
"Hmm seems you have some money left over" he chuckled.
Beswick's face was beaming. He put down the soap box and finished off his porridge. My Biggles waited till he was almost done then licked the rest of the milk from the bowl.
Mr Featherstone rose from the table and was about to put the bowls into the sink, when Beswick took them smiling and started to wash them. Mr Biggles snaking around his feet as he stood at the sink.
Beswick went back to the table. Picked up fifteen cents and gave it to Mr Featherstone. He placed the remaining twelve cents in his pocket along with the watch.
"I will give you a ride home in my car" Mr. Featherstone said. "You can pick your bike up tomorrow when the rain subsides."
"How do you know the rain will subside tomorrow" Beswick asked.
"The barometer on the wall says we are in for a change, see." He pointed to a little wooden house on the wall with a tiny man and a lady. One seemed to be walking into the house with an umbrella, and the other was walking out of the house with a watering can.
"How on earth can they know if it is going to rain tomorrow?" Beswick asked.
"Just because we don't understand how things work doesn't mean they won't work does it now?
You will learn the secrets of the man and lady in the barometer, along with many other secrets that will unlock your mind." Mr Featherstone replied." This is how you will get paid if you work for me. Come on now Master Beswick, I am sure Mrs. Winkles will be happy to see you, and tomorrow you can come back and get that bike."

Friday, August 27, 2004

Chapter 1, Beswick Winkles, an ordinary boy.

It had rained for almost three weeks now. The puddles had turned into ponds, the water in the gutters attempted to brink the shores of the road. The gloomy grey skies were overshadowed by a dark black ominous cloud. Beswick was riding his bicycle back from the store with a few groceries his mother had sent him to buy.
Beswick was eleven now, more than just a child but not quite a teenager. He wore a light nylon jacket, a few sizes too big and his jeans were torn at the knee. His canvas runners were soaked from the torrents of rain showering over him.
His bicycle had no fenders and a rooster tail of water sprayed up his back, not that fenders would have kept him any drier on a day like this. On the front of the bike was a basket that contained the milk, bread and soap his mother needed to do the laundry. The rain ran through his red hair and streamed over his glasses, it was a wonder he could even see the road let alone the boys on the corner.

A shout rang out from the corner. "BEESWAX, BEESWAX WINKY!"
As cold as Beswick was, his skin wrinkled from the cold rain, an even colder chill ran up his spine to the hairs on the back of his neck!

"BEESWAX, you running errands for your mommy?" The tall round shape of Cedric stepped off the corner. Cedric Whatmore was the biggest meanest bully Beswick had ever come face to face with. The first thought in Beswicks mind was to run Cedric over, but Cedric being the size he was would have probably even stopped a car!
Maybe he could steer around him and continue on his way.
As he started to veer to the other side of the road the rest of the boys stepped onto the road. They locked arms!
"Red rover red rover, BEESWAX come over" they all taunted.
Beswick had little choice, he pressed back on the pedals to apply the brake, the bicycle slowed to a stop just in front of Cedric Whatmore.

Cedric grabbed the bag from the front of the basket.
"what's in here Beeswax?" he said with a sly grin on his face.
"Just some things for my mom that's all, now give them back." replied Beswick.
Cedric just grinned. "Think you are big enough to tell me what to do?" he sneered " Your just a little worm, a worm in the ground just like your daddy!"

Beswick could feel the rage starting to overtake him. He had never really known his father who died in a mining accident when Beswick was only two.
"You take that back!" he shouted. His anger had far outstripped the fear he felt a few minutes earlier.
Cedric would have no backtalk from anyone he was challenging so he punched Beswick square on the chin. Beswicks head snapped sideways and his glasses flew into the gutter. The boys all cheered Cedric on. "Smash him! Grind the worm into the ground!"
Beswick lunged up at the hulk of a boy. Cedric stood his ground and threw him into the gutter right on top of his glasses.
Then he tore open the soap and sprinkled it all over Beswick and the gutter.
"Time to clean up BEEZWAX". The boys all laughed, poor Beswick was soaked, his lip was bleeding, he couldn't find his glasses and the soap his mother needed to do laundry was scattered in the street.
As if this wasn't enough, Cedric and the boys smashed the front wheel of the bicycle, threw the bag with the bread and milk at him and turned and ran away.

The rain did a good job hiding Beswicks tears. He wasn't crying because he was hurt, he was crying because he was angry.
He was angry at the bullies for picking on him. He was angry at the mine for taking his father. He was angry at the town for only letting his mother do laundry to try and make ends meet. But mostly he was angry at himself for being an ordinary boy!

If I was stronger, I could have stopped Cedric, he thought. If I was faster I could have gone around them! If we had money then I wouldn't have to go to the store and buy soap.
The soap! Oh No! How could he go home without the soap. His mother had no more money, she needed the soap to make more money.

Beswick decided he would go back to the store and talk to Mr. Ridley, surely he would give Beswick some more soap till he could pay for it.
He fumbled in the gutter, water up to his elbows feeling for his glasses. He found them, twisted, one lens missing. He twisted them back and put them on. Closing one eye he continued to look. The other lens was there on the sidewalk, chipped but still usable. He slipped it into the pocket of his nylon jacket and scooped up the soggy bag of bread and milk.
The bicycle wheel would turn and catch on the brakes where the boys had warped it. It couldn't be ridden but he could push it back to the store.
Beswick looked over his shoulder at the whirlpool of suds slipping down the drain.
He could hear the laughter of the boys in the distance as the dark cloud drew closer.
A flash of lightning made him look up into the driving rain.
He was wetter than he had ever been before. His shirt dripped water down his back, his jeans clung to his legs as he walked, making it harder than ever to push the broken bike.
He had six blocks to go before he reached Ridley's Store ad the bottom of the hill.
He just rounded the corner of Pine Street when he heard the first crack of thunder.
His mind was playing the same thoughts over and over again." An ordinary boy, if I had only done this... or even that..... if I wasn't so small I could have..."
The water was running into his ears, he tilted his head to let it trickle out.
"Young Master Beswick" a voice called out from the street.
He looked around to see if he had heard someone or if it was his mind playing tricks on him.
"Young Master Beswick!" the voice echoed, this time with more urgency "Come in out of the rain!" "I hardly think you mother would be too happy with me if I was to let you drown"

Beswick squinted through the one wet lens at the doorway across the square. A short man wearing a flat cap and a tweed jacket was waving him over. As Beswick came closer he could see the woolen plaid scarf around his neck, the grey trousers were too long and had been rolled up in cuffs around the ankles. A black cat with the bluest eyes Beswick had ever seen was snaking around the mans legs. Beswick swore he could hear the cat purr, but that would be impossible with the rain dancing on the tin roof.
Beswick pushed the bicycle over to the door and rested it under the eaves.
He recognized Mr. Featherstone as one of his mothers customers. She had been doing laundry for him as long as he could remember.
Mr Featherstone ushered Beswick in taking the soggy bag of bread and milk from him and placing it in the kitchen.
"Here are some dry clothes" he said "get changed in the bathroom and I will call your mother to let you know you are alright."
Mr Featherstone patted him on the shoulder with a smile. "Once you are cleaned up you can sit down to a nice bowl of hot oatmeal and we can talk about your glasses and your bike." "Don't you worry none, Young Master Beswick, I will tell your mom you are fine and we will have time to chat and maybe even discover what an extraordinary young man like you is doing, pushing a broken bike out in the rain!"