The World According to Luke
Book II: The Age of Reason
Chapter 1: The Age of Reason
The storm continued for ten more knots. Snow on top of snow, on top of snow; infinite whiteness surrounded us. Joe and Carlos took turns with the outside chores—eggs, lookout, firewood. Grampa tried to sneak out and do some of it, but they wouldn’t let him. Erin read constantly. Once she learned to read, there was no stopping her. The cooking got better and faster, and the stories got more and more interesting. That was the only time Erin stopped reading. We learned a lot about Joe and Carlos that winter, not only by their stories but also by their actions.
Carlos spent hours in their room ciphering. He’d bring out a tablet full of numbers and show it to Grampa. They’d talk for a while about spread patterns, load limits and all sorts other stuff that didn’t make much sense. But when we looked at the tablet, it was filled with numbers and squiggly lines and arrow points pointing in either direction. It wasn’t gibberish, for sure and for certain, and it wasn’t English. We were convinced that as far as that language, Grampa and Carlos were on equal footing. There was no strange accent coming out of Carlos. Numbers had no ‘CH’ instead of ‘Y’ sound or no ‘Y’ instead of ‘J’ as when he spoke.
Not that there wasn’t plenty of Xs and Ys on the paper, it was filled with them between the arrows and squiggly lines. They talked about Mayas, flip-flops, and magnetic turnovers. They’d go into the string room and study the strings, Grampa’s and Lone Eagle’s, his Grampa’s, which Carlos argued were the longest and most extensive record available of the years before and after The Fall.
Curious as we were, me and Erin started asking questions, and that winter, we went from a rudimentary understanding of math to the starting of algebra. Pretty soon we were writing long strings of letters and numbers. We couldn’t understand how Carlos or Gramps could just look and say we were wrong, but they could. After a while, Gramps and Carlos would go check the lookout and talk all the way there and back.
One day, Joe came back from the lookout pointing north all excited. “Come quick, Señor Maik. Faier; Señor Maik, faier! Out there!”
Gramps and Carlos darted out at the same time and when they came back form the lookout, they were arguing. I was trying to calm Laura and Erin down. They had gone into a panic as soon as they heard the word fire.
“It’s nothing, people,” Grampa said. “There’s a plume of smoke coming from the nearest relay station, probably some drifter trying to stay out of the cold. We can’t do anything about it; the snow won’t let us get there.”
“It is more than one peoples, Señor Maik, too many feet prints for one person.”
“Joe, there’s no way we can walk seventy-five clicks in this snow. The car’s too heavy so’s the truck, they’ll sink! If you can come up with a way to get there and back quickly, we’ll go check it out. There’s about five to seven days worth of supplies in there. They have food and a warm place to stay, that’s as much as we can do for them—if there’s more than one. I’d like to help, but in this snow, we’re as helpless as they are.”
“Let’s go, Carlos,” Joe said. “¡Ayúdame!”
“No se puede, muchachos,” Gramps said. “The snow’s too deep. We’ll sink every step of the way. It ain’t like before. The roads ain’t plowed and maintained anymore.”
“You said if I can get you there, we will go, Señor Maik. A’yam going to make chu a way to get there, Señor. ¡Vámonos, Carlos!”
They were gone all day, and when they came back Joe’s hands were all beat up and bloody. “It is noting, Señora.” He hid his hands as he saw Laura’s face. “A lot of the bolts were really hard to break loose, but we got it. By tomorrow, you will have a way to get there, Señor Maik. You will see!”
They sat by the fireplace for a long time rubbing their hands and shivering. After dinner, Gramps and Carlos continued their running argument and went into the library. Laura kept trying to tend to Joe’s hands, but it was the same kind of cuts Gramps had gotten wrapping the bear’s claws. They just bled like you were gutted. When Laura saw that, she got some marrow jelly and rubbed his hands with it and the bleeding stopped. Gramps and Carlos came back; evidently, they had come up with a solution. When the snow melted, they’d go check it out.
“Is it something we should worry about, Michael?” Laura asked, sort of worried.
“No, Laura. Carlos seems to think that the shooting stars we saw a while back were not shooting stars at all. He thinks it was a satellite whose orbit finally decayed enough to get caught by the gravitational pull and crash to earth. His math is certainly compelling, but it’s a far stretch, it’s been fifteen years, after all.”
“You can figure out stuff like that with numbers!” Erin said, amazed. “What’s a satellite?” she added scratching her head.
“Before The Fall most countries used to put stuff up in space to help them communicate with other places, and to keep an eye on their enemies. We did the same thing. Space was littered with satellites and a variety of other devices like telescopes to help them see farther into the galaxy, and science laboratories to help make new medicines and different farming techniques.”
“We had eyes in the sky, Grampa?”
“Yes and all sorts of scientific research went on up there. There are books of some of the pictures the space telescope took and sent down here in the library. They could get a better view if they did not have to contend with the distorting effects of the atmosphere, and governments didn’t trust each other, sweetie. That was one of the problems that caused wars.”
“Well, that was stupid!” she said. “Din’t they know they would fall down?”
“Yes, sweetie, but—”
“Din’t they know anyone could see them from down here? The sky’s wide open! It’s not like they could hide ’em behind a star or something!”
Laura smiled and Gramps tried to explain man’s stupidity before The Fall. Joe spent the rest of the night in his room drawing some kind of new car that would go on snow without sinking. When Joe got stumped he’d call Carlos and he’d come back out smiling.
“I thought he was crazy, Señor Maik, but this might work.”
“What’s he working on, Carlos?”
“A snowmobile, Señora, I think we have enough parts to build one, maybe two if we want to dig more of that machine out of the snow.”
“A snowmobile!” Grampa said, surprised. “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”
“Good thing we went and got ’em, huh, Grampa!” Erin said. “What’s a snowmobile?” she added scratching her head.
“Sweetie, every day I thank the Lord for everything you’ve given us, includin’ Joe and Carlos!”
“What machine?” I asked, confused.
“It is a road grinder, Little Look. They used it to scrape the surface off the road before they repaved it.” Carlos answered. “It has two long conveyor belts to move the scrapings up into the dump trucks. Joe has something cooked up in his mind. We will have to wait and see what else he has dreamed up. I know we have a motor strong enough to turn the belt, maybe a couple of rheostats and a few rectifiers—” He took his tablet and started scratching on it.
Carlos was lost in numbers the rest of the night. We turned in excited to find out how a snowmobile would stay on top of the snow, but Gramps’ mind was reeling.
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