Monday, February 26, 2018

Unfinished Short Story: Loideain Plaid Kilt

The third vat held a marigold color which, when dyed into the wool, produced the softest and most pleasing shade of golden orange. These dyes had been selected with the utmost care, because it was essential to the operation that Dimitri capture the colors with precision. 

To Dimitri's left, the enormous mechanism of his weaving machine waited. Smooth and shining, the machine had been meticulously polished to remove every trace of machine oil and dust from its exterior. To save labor, Dimitri had to invent a cleaning machine to perform the task. The cleaner rested in a large appliance garage behind the behemoth loom.

Dimitri turned to the wiry, gray-haired man beside him. "Vould you care to do the honors, Mr. Loideain*?"

The elderly man eyed the Russian with skepticism, his green eyes flashing in the bright factory light. "Only if you're sure this thing is safe, Count Vronsky." 

Dimitri politely ignored his newly-coined nickname. "I assure you my gearvorks are safely contained inside the mechanism of the loom, created with such clockvork precision, human hands need come near them only in rare cases of malfunction. Such a case is only to happen many years in the future."

Loideain made a small noise to indicate what he thought of the foreigner's high estimation of his factory. In halting steps he made his way over to the lever protruding from the wall and pulled. The thing proved more stubborn than Loideain had anticipated; it did not move. Loideain braced himself and pulled the lever again, much harder this time. 

A humming came from the direction of the vats. Loideain turned his head in time to see a series of metal spools come down from ceiling and dip into the tops of the dye vats. Around each of these wound yards of snow-white wool. The spools submerged, then spun, the threads they bore unwinding in the depths of the dye. 

From the bottoms of the vats, another series of spools rose. As the newly-dyed wool unwound from one spool, it free-floated for only a moment before the second spool caught it and rotated. When the first spool emptied and the second one filled, the thread appeared to be sucked down a tube at the center of the bottom spool.

"Where does it go?" Loideain asked the Russian.

"The beauty of my system," Dimitri said rather grandly, "is the wet wool never sees the light of day after it enters the dye vats. It's forced through the tube, where a steady flow of warm air dries it and allows the dye to set. A series of wheels direct it to a set of spools arranged in a precise order, and the loom does its vork from there."

Loideain jumped as the gigantic loom whirred to life. In addition to the whirring sound of the engine, it produced dozens of small clicks as the wheels Dimitri had described grabbed onto the warm, dry thread. The thing sounded like an enormous typewriter, or a popcorn popper. 

****

“My high-speed loom is weaving the thread into cloth,” Dimitri replied. 

Moments later, a loud rushing sound proceeded from the near end of the loom. “Follow me,” Dimitri said, leading Mr. Loideain down a metal spiral staircase that clanged as they walked.

They walked out onto a factory floor as large as that with the dye vats and the tremendous loom. This time, the product of the loom’s work was clearly visible. Through a large metallic slot in the wall, a conveyer fed a long sheet of green, white, gold, and blue cloth toward a series of mechanical arms, hanging from the ceiling like vaguely menacing iron spiders. 

“What do you think?” the Russian asked the elderly Irishman. Loideain was silent for a moment, and Dimitri’s heart thundered in his chest. Had all his work – investing in this small, muddy town so far from his home, inventing the mechanisms, bringing his brainchild to life – been in vain? If Loideain wasn’t impressed with the quality of the cloth, the entire enterprise was worthless.

But Loideain’s eyes filled with tears. “In all my sixty years, I’ve only rarely seen anything so beautiful, and I live in the land of Ireland,” he sputtered. “It’s exactly like the ones me mam and grandmam made for me and the boys when we were small. Being the last of my line, the last male member of Clan Loideain, I never thought I’d live to see its like again. But you, Count Vronsky – er, Mr. Ivanov – you’ve brought my clan colors back from the dead. I feel like I’m witnessing a miracle!”

Dimitri was taken aback by the effusive praise. To resurrect the Loideain family’s traditional colors, its pattern, its link to the past even when the last Loideain granddaughters were married off and the family named disappeared, had been Dimitri’s hope from the start.

With precise timing, the mechanical spiders sprang to life, grabbing the roll of woolen cloth with steel hands and snipping it into identical pieces with steel scissors. These snips of cloth were fed into a large metal box. The box hummed, filled as it was with mechanized sewing machines. The box opened, and a wooden figure resembling a dressmaker’s dummy emerged from the open side. The dummy wore a Loideain plaid kilt.

(*pronounced LIE-din)