“Your stupid machine is making the road construction take longer!” A.S. was raging at James. He started to shut the door on her without answering, but she pushed on it, surprising him with strength from such a tiny frame. “Just because you made it once with that Snow Eater doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to slow down the construction on the ONLY road from Up North to Merriton, RIGHT BEFORE ONION DAYS!”
James walked away from her and pointed at John. “I’m not married to ‘er. I’m not takin’ this from ‘er.” John shook his head and replied, “I’m not married to ‘er either.” James instantly regretted his words with the look of pain on his brother’s face. He turned around and faced A.S.
“My machine ain’t slowin’ things down, A.S.” James almost whispered his words, sitting calmly on the couch. A.S. looked at him, taken aback. She looked at John, as if she wondered why he had abdicated his position. “They gotta put rumble strips in with my machine or the other kind. I tested ‘em. Mine takes just as long as theirs.”
She tried to argue with him, “But Onion Days is THIS Saturday. This construction is gonna ruin everything!” James sighed, “But it’s not my fault and goin’ over there and interrogatin’ every worker on the road isn’t gonna make ‘em finish faster.” John furtively piped in, “Plus, it doesn’t matter. The road to our ranch is finished. Everybody will park here and we’ll give ‘em hay rides to the festival.”
James watched A.S. instantly calm down at the sound of his brother’s voice. Her voice changed and suddenly James felt as if all three of them were on the same team. “It’s just that I wanted everything to be perfect this year.” She started confessing to John all her worries, “You know, how Dad loves to have Onion Days start out right? I just want it to be good for him, even though he can barely be there.”
John led A.S. to the couch and James hurriedly stood up to avoid them. His brother calmly spoke to her, “I know. You and Angie been workin’ so hard on this. Let me and James take care of the traffic problems. They’ll just park here and ride up to Merriton on our tractors. It’ll be fun for ‘em and they won’t be all grumpy from tryin’ to find a parkin’ space.” A.S. answered, “And they’ll take a tour of your new distillery and buy up all your lavender oil. I saw your harvest last week. The whole field was purple. Looks so different.”
James sensed that his presence was no longer needed or wanted and he left the house out the back, heading for his workshop. He was besides himself with worry. If A.S. was blaming his machine for the delays in the road construction, would the road crew do the same? He cringed at the idea that he might have a multi-million dollar idea on his hands that could be lost because of lazy construction workers.
Worse still, what if the machine didn’t work the way it was supposed to? He kept telling himself that the worst case scenario would be that the road would have a boring old rumble strip instead of one that said, “Wake up,” but it wasn’t much of a consolation to him.
He felt like he did the day he accidentally killed the barn cat with the first iteration of the Snow Eater. That sickening feeling of failure mixed with the added regret of hurting others made him ill. He picked up his welding torch and breathed in the scent of the spent fuel and melted steel. All those years, tinkering in this barn with his dad, he just wanted to keep the aging farm equipment running smoothly.
Now, the farm was secondary to the tinkering. The Snow Eater profits were the only thing keeping the farm afloat. Sure, John’s lavender might be better than acres of corn, but they wouldn’t know for a year or two whether it would work. His rumble strip machine needed to be the next big thing. It just HAD to work.