Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rinkmurton the Inventor

Author's Note:
First, I admit: I'm breaking the rules. The following piece of writing is not connected in any way to a prompt, and my fellow authors will (probably) not be posting stories vaguely similar to this in the near future. It's just something that I wrote and felt like sharing, and this was the best place I could think of for doing that.

This is a unique story for me. I suppose it could be called a children's story; however, its themes go deeper (I like to think) than the usual fare in this genre. This is the first time I have ever drawn on my actual life experience in my writing, and it may or may not be the last. Who can say? Just to clarify, when I say "life experience," I do not mean in any way that I have ever met a robot, neither is my father an inventor. What I mean is that I have drawn on a feeling, an emotion, a general air that accompanies the passing of a loved one. So, without further ado, I give you my latest story:

Rinkmurton the Inventor

Once there was a man whose name was Rinkmurton, and he was an inventor. For many years he had worked for the circus and made quite a fortune therewith, dazzling the crowds with his fantastic contraptions, but eventually he thought it about time to move on and do some personal work. Many were sad to see him leave, and the clowns frowned, but clowns always do that so it didn’t change much.

 In the days following his departure, he would often sit in the parlor of the Vraiment Sympa Hotel, drinking tea and looking over the land and buildings advertisements. A workshop is what he desired, something adequate for the great project he had in mind and with a generous living space. Yes, now that would be fantastic! However, sun came up and sun went down many times before anything struck his fancy. Finally one day, while looking through an issue of Old George did a little corner paragraph catch his eye:

5 story building, 2 bottom most floors furnished living space, remaining floors unfurnished. Location: 225 Ramsbury Ln. Town of England, UK.

This looked perfect, and so without much delay he set off to see the property for himself. The Town of England was more of a tall town than a wide town. All of the buildings were rather thin but were built high and close together, so that when you walked amongst the winding cobblestone streets you felt as if you were in the midst a forest.

The building, upon inspection, was just as good if not better than the advertisement; and so, without much haggling, it was soon in the possession of Mr. Mortimer Rinkmurton. The neighbors were cordial, yet wary of the inventor. He said good day and they said good day, but not a few words were whispered behind his back.

Almost immediately he began moving in equipment for his workshop of both whimsical appearance and purpose. He then hung out a shingle above the door with “M. Rinkmurton, Inventor,” painted in bronze letters. He set to work, and slowly the neighbors’ cordiality turned to annoyance and finally to flat out dislike.
“That cursed hammering drives us batty,” said the Highnoses to the Sadlips one day as the four of them sat over tea.
“Indeed,” Mr. Sadlips said drearily. “And what about his name, eh? Rinkmurton. I dare say I thought that was a fungus of the nostrils.”
“Everything is a fungus of the nostrils with you Herbert,” blabbed his portly wife in a tedious gummy way.
“G-now, g-now,” chided Mrs. Highnose through that organ of smell. “We barely gnow the ban. Howeber, I do womber what he is buildig.”
“As do I,” joined Mr. Highnose, whose nasal inflections were not as severe as his wife’s. “I’ve heard even the Toothadillies, who have the misfortune of living in the next house over from his, have a few theories as to what he’s up to.”

In truth, it was not only the Toothadillies who had theories but all three neighbors who had their two cents to give on the issue. But theories turned to suspicion, and suspicion turned to unchecked paranoia.
“I saw him talking with a strange ban yesterday bornding!” said Mrs. Highnose quite in a flutter.
“I believe it was the postman, Fiona,” said her husband. “But,” he continued, “I’d bet my very nose if the package he received were not the instructions for a giant meat grinder, with which he plans to turn everyone in this town into sausages!”
“No! he’s making a breed of giant rats the size of horses!” interjected Mr. Sadlips.
“I say it’s a mechanical dragon which will burn us all in our beds!” said the Toothadillies. The mental state of the neighbors became so agitated that at one point Mr. Toothadilly marched to Rinkmurton’s door and demanded to see the bodies. Mortimer assured him that he was in possession of no such things, and that within the next week he would show them what he had been up to. This pacified them to a point, and so they waited quietly until on Wednesday of the next week a letter was slipped into the mail slots of all their doors. It was an invitation to come to Rinkmurton’s workshop on Friday evening, whereat he would reveal his invention.

Friday evening came, and all three couples congregated outside the door, where they commenced to shake hands and address each other in low, solemn tones as if they were going to the firing squad. Mr. Sadlips was elected as the one to ring the bell. The door opened and there stood Rinkmurton with slightly bedraggled hair, but smiling warmly.

“Welcome dear neighbors! Come in, come in!” He seemed to act as if they had always been old friends, which made the rest of them feel a slight bit guilty for suspecting him of such awful things. “I suppose that you’re all rather curious as to what I’ve been doing.”
“I should say,” mumbled Mr. Toothadilly.
“Well your waiting is over.”  He walked to a door on the far side of the room and opened it. “Enter and see,” he said standing aside. They edged in, one after another, and looked around the chamber.
“Why,” said Mrs. Sadlips, “it’s an infant’s room!”
“Yes indeed, look in the crib,” said Rinkmurton.

 They all did so, and there was a general murmur of something between surprise and disapproval. There, smiling up at them, was a little automaton with a little engine heart and shining eyes. They were quite taken aback, and Mrs. Sadlips said it would never grow, but Rinkmurton said that it would; he had designed him to grow. They all said very little after that save for Mr. Highnose who in his most cordial tones said it had been a pleasure and said he would be going home now. This was repeated by all the neighbors, one after the other, until all of them were out the door and Rinkmurton and the robot child were left alone.

* * *

Rinkmurton named the child Rodger and engraved the name over the little automaton’s mechanical heart. His inventing fell by the wayside as he focused all his energy on raising his little robot. There was barely a moment when they were apart. He would gaze down as Rodger slept in the cradle whispering, “Grow! Grow, Rodger, grow!” And Rodger did grow.
Soon, he was big enough to sit at the table with his father, Rinkmurton with a plate of mutton and he with a little dish of coal to eat. There Mortimer would tell him stories of the circus, of the dancing bears and acrobat monkeys and how he built a giant mechanical suit for the ringmaster that shot sparklers out the back. Rodger wanted to be an inventor just like his father, and so Rinkmurton once more fired up his machines and got his workshop running so that he could teach him what he knew.
Rodger was extremely adept at his father’s trade from the start, and they would spend hours in the workshop together. He even built a little dog which he named Leopold. Many days Mortimer would sit in his great chair, watching Rodger tinkering or playing with Leopold and he would whisper, “Grow, grow, grow!” and Rodger did grow.

Time passed, and a new shingle hung over the door which read: “Rinkmurton and Son, Inventors.” The neighbors coughed and scoffed behind their backs. “That little automaton is not a child,” they would say.

Rinkmurton grew older; he bought glasses, and his hair grew wilder. Rodger grew into a fine young robot man a head or two taller than his father. They would go for walks every evening past the factory and through the park, and upon returning they would wave to the neighbors who didn’t wave back. Often Rinkmurton would comment on how much Rodger had grown.

One day they talked as they tinkered in the workshop. Rinkmurton said he had taught him all that he knew and what would Rodger think about going to the University? Rodger thought this to be a grand idea, and Mortimer said they had made enough money to send him in three weeks time if he wished.

And so it was settled. With bright hopes for the future, Rodger set out for the University, and Rinkmurton stayed home and was once more alone in his workshop. However, they promised to write letters every day, and both were true to their word. Rodger wrote about the new things he had learned, and Rinkmurton wrote about the business and sent little bits of advice in the postscripts.

But time wore on, as it tends to do; Rinkmurton got less business and Rodger finished college. He was offered a high position in a mechanics company, and with encouragement from his father, he took it. They continued to write, Rodger’s hand getting stronger and more professional and Mortimer’s getting always more scratchy and small. Soon Rinkmurton’s letters began coming every other day, then twice a week, and then once a week, until one week no letter came and Rodger remembered how long it had been since he had seen his father.

He booked the first train home and wrote his father that he would see him soon. And oh how glad was Mortimer when Rodger came in the door. But it seemed to Rodger that something was different. Rinkmurton had gotten smaller and his hair had gotten wilder and turned white as snow. He used a cane to get about now, and his glasses seemed to have grown too.

Rinkmurton explained that writing had become difficult for him once his eyes worsened, but that didn’t matter now that Rodger was there. They talked about everything they had missed, and they laughed, Mortimer over his plate of mutton and Rodger over his dish of coal. For a time every thing seemed as though it might return to what it always had been. Perhaps, Rodger thought, his presence would right the maladies wrought in his absence, but Rinkmurton continued to get older and smaller, and his hair to get wilder, and his glasses to get thicker. There were times when Rodger would sit and watch his father sleeping before the fire, and he would whisper, “Grow, grow, grow!” but the old man couldn’t grow.

 Soon the cane was put on a hanger, and Rodger built a little chair with wheels for Mortimer to scoot about in. He would roll around the house but couldn’t make it up into the shop anymore. He said it didn’t matter. Meanwhile, they still laughed and talked, and Rodger would eat his coal, but Mortimer would rarely touch his mutton.

 All of the inventing Mortimer did these days was fumble with the gears in his old pocket watch. “The cogs sound a bit scratchy,” he would always say. Often now Rodger would watch him as he sat with his watch, and he would whisper, “Grow, grow, grow!” but Mortimer didn’t grow.

 One day the chair was put in the storehouse and Rodger carried Rinkmurton to his little bed. Rinkmurton didn’t remember Rodger anymore, but he was still happy when he was in the room. “What a marvel you are,” he would say. “The man who made you must have been a clever one indeed.” Then he would chuckle and mumble as we went off to sleep. Sometimes Mortimer was awake, and he would eat mutton and listen in wonder to Rodger’s tales of the circus: of the dancing bears and acrobat monkeys, and how a marvelous inventor named Mortimer Rinkmurton built a giant mechanical suit for the ringmaster that shot sparklers out the back.

 Finally, one day as Rodger sat slowly reading an issue of the Old George periodical beside the bed, he looked down to see Mortimer, now very small, gazing up at him with a smile. “Why, hello Rodger,” he said. “Back from the University, I see. It’s good to have you back, my boy.” And with that Mortimer drifted into a sleep, more peaceful than any Rodger had ever seen before.

* * *

 The neighbors, the whole while, had ignored Mortimer and Rodger to such an extent that they nearly forgot they were there. They hardly noticed when a “For Sale” sign was hung up in the window or when Rodger got into a carriage with all his luggage. They all threw out the farewell letters that were placed on their doorsteps. Time seemed to have worked on them too, for Mr. Sadlips’ lips seemed sadder, the Highnoses’ noses were longer and covered in a preponderance of freckles, and the Toothadillies teeth had gotten longer and more yellow. More than anything they looked like six piles of blankets in wheelchairs with some exceptionally miserable faces placed on top.

 One day as they all sat over tea, Mrs. Highnose brought up the subject of the inventor and his son.
“I say,” said the quilt-wrapped comforter with the long nose. “Guat eber habbened with that pesgy neighbor Rigburton?”
“I haven’t heard much from that house in a long while,” blubbed the knitted cap and triple-coat with the saggy mouth.
“Do you know if he still lives next to you Mr. Toothadilly?”
“Well, my eyes are not what they used to be,” whistled the shawl through equine teeth, “But I dare say it looks rather hollow, and the shingle has been taken down.”
“All the better I say,” said the rotund hot water bottle. “All the better for the rest of us.” There was a tired mumbling of “hear, hear!” which quickly gave way to snoring.

However, the neighbors’ houses grew quiet and empty over time, and new people with new neighbors moved in. Old neighbors were forgotten, their furniture sold, and not even the breath of their memory was left. But Rodger never forgot his father, and from time to time there can be seen a mechanical man walking down Ramsbury Lane. If you stop him and ask what he is about, he will tell you the wonderful story of Mortimer Rinkmurton, the inventor.


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