I have a blank page before me and don't know how to begin. I know I need to tell someone about some of the things that happened but I have to be reasonably careful, because I don't want others to get hurt. The people who have taken me in have been very kind, but I dare not tell them anything of what happened. Fortunately they have accepted my story as an actor who is down on his luck. I've also been helping around the house at repairing things and earning my keep, so they're not likely to notice anything.
For starters, I'm in my late thirties. I grew up in a household where you fixed things and made do with what you had. My father was quite adroit at mechanical objects so while we didn't have much he made it work so that my mother didn't have to work so hard.
Of the four of us siblings I took to doing things like my father did very readily, so often he had me as his assistant. Later, when I was old enough, he had me at the shop he worked at. The other mechanics weren't sure of having a kid hanging around where there was heavy machinery that could easily take off an arm or leg. But I proved to be sensible and alert, not prone to fooling around. I knew that when I had my cap and work overall on that I was to be serious and pay attention because one never knew for certain what Dad needed. Soon the other mechanics grew fond of my being there and I was soon running errands and helping them out when they needed an extra hand.
You probably wonder why a kid like me was allowed in such a place. At the time, it wasn't unusual for a kid or two to be there. They did the grunt work: fetching coffee or rags; carrying parts; holding tools ready for mechanics. But it was tough to be there. The shop was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Grease and dirt was everywhere and the place stank of old oil, sweat, and metal shavings. When I showed up there was a kid there who was nearly apprentice age that later on was thrown out because he had been caught stealing cast off metal to sell at the scrap yard. It was awful to see him being dragged out, beaten, then left out on the street to make his way. I never knew what happened to him, but I suspected that he found his way somewhere else to steal, because times were hard and we knew he had no family.
I worked at the shop diligently though the work was hard. I was earning a few extra kuleks for the family, which meant that we could have better food. When I was made an apprentice, we celebrated with a feast of roast chicken, potatoes, greens, and fresh milk. Milk! It was so good. I saved some to go with the dessert I had chosen: apple pie. It was a rare meal for us. I remember my brother and sisters wolfing theirs down and my mother being so proud of me.
My years as apprentice were not long. The shop foreman saw how well I did and how quickly I learned. When there was a call for a new job, he made sure I was with the crew. I did not always work beside my father, but he was proud of how well I did because he knew that I could go further than he. One night on the walk home he said, "Son, someday you will find your ship and it will take you to your dreams. Stay true to what you have learned from your mother and me, trust your heart, and you will go far."
I had little idea of where it would take me. One day the owner, Rupert H. D. Sandhurst, came through the shop. We had no idea he was coming. He was well known to the world as a man of adventure but very shrewd. When he spoke to others his ideas, often they would respond that they were impossible. But he would make them possible and it made him very rich. Our shop was but one of many he owned, but he felt it was important to meet the people who worked for him. "It is easy to lose sight of the world," he once said, "when you don't walk beyond the halls of your office." Mr Sandhurst walked through the shop and all work came to a standstill until he said, "Don't stop on account of me." "Get back at it!" shouted the foreman, and we bent to our jobs.
While I worked at grinding a part, Mr Sandhurst and the foreman came by. It made me nervous having him there and I fumbled the piece a little. "It's okay, boy," said Mr Sandhurst. "Don't mind my watching. I want to see how you do it."
"Sorry," I murmured, noticing the foreman looking anxious.
"If you like, sir," said the foreman, "there's a fella who can show ya how it's done."
"No," said Mr Sandhurst. "I've heard of this one. I want to see his work."
I gulped and nodded a little, turning back to grind the piece. It was a gear for the mainshaft of the ship we were building and my job was to clean up the piece before it went to the next man. It didn't take long when I forgot that Mr Sandhurst and the foreman were there. I took off the rough edges and polished the surface to the right consistency. I was about to pick up the next piece when the clean hand of Mr Sandhurst stopped me. I looked at him.
"You're Edmund Snitterton," asked Mr Sandhurst.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"Um hmm. How old are you, Snitterton?"
"Seventeen next Rose Day, sir."
"How long have you been prenticed here?"
I tried to think but the foreman blurted out the answer before I could speak. "Two and a half years, Mr Sandhurst."
"Really?" Mr Sandhurst smiled. "You started quite early, Snitterton. Remarkable."
"He's been quite the hand, sir," said the foreman. "You can thank his dad for that."
"Really? And who is his dad? Does he work here?"
"Yes, sir," said the foreman. "Roger Snitterton's his name."
Mr Sandhurst looked thoughful, then he shook my hand. "We will be talking soon, Snitterton. I have a few things I must take care of first. Borling, where is this other Snitterton?"
I watched as Mr Sandhurst and the foreman went to talk with my father. I had no idea what to think. What did Mr Sandhurst want with me? As I watched them talk, my father's grease-smudged face went from wary to pride to surprise. He looked at me then back at Mr Sandhurst, then he slowly nodded. When Mr Sandhurst and the foreman walked away, my father didn't look up at me. One of the mechanics went up to him, but he said nothing.
"Snitterton!" shouted the foreman. "Clean up and come to the office."