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Friday, December 30, 2011

Fiction Friday: One More Time, Chapter 30 - How Do You Explain a Car?

Dorcas entered the cooking area as Sarah prepared breakfast. “Sarah, I thought all night long about this future time. Could you explain more about these cars, trucks, and calling things?”

Sarah placed the bread dough on the stove and brushed her hands clean on a cloth. “I’ll try, Dorcas. That’s not where my education is, so I don’t know how well I can explain it. You’ve seen lightning. The light you see there is called electricity. A small version of lightning is the sparks that fly when you rub sticks together or strike stones together to start a fire. Cars produce small sparks that create small explosions of fire that forces metal gears, cogs, and spindles to move.”

She made a circle with her thumb and a finger, then a larger one with her arm to her shoulder. “These smaller cogs make the bigger wheels move; and different sized gears, cogs and spindles can be used to increase the car’s speed. Some cars can go about three or four times faster than the fastest horse you have ever seen; a truck can go about two or three times faster. A car doesn’t need to stop or slow down for a rest. A trip from here to Ptolemais, for instance, might only take an hour.”

“Ohhh. A winter hour or a summer hour? But it doesn’t matter. Either would be impossible. Ptolemais is a day’s journey from here.” Dorcas sat on a stool and watched with wide eyes.

“In the time that we come from, the population of the world has grown immensely. Most of the adults where we live each have a car. The small explosions in the cars and trucks produce noise and smoke. If you live in a large city, there are few places where you don’t hear the constant hum and roar of the traffic—“traffic” is what the numerous cars and trucks moving along roads together are called. The smoke makes the air look like there is a dirty fog hanging over the cities all the time.”

“It’s so hard for me to fathom so many people and so many cars.” Dorcas frowned. “How would you ever be able to cross a road to get to the other side?”

“It’s difficult sometimes. There are street lights in the cities—different colors of lights, green for go, red for stop, and amber for be careful because the green light is about to change to red. When the cars stop for the red lights, people hurry across the street. Then, too, there are sometimes bridges for people, and sometimes bridges for cars to pass over other cars.”

“How do the lights work? Does someone hold up the different colors of lamps?”

Sarah laughed. “Madam, you’re trying the very limits of my education! Also in our time, people have learned to generate and harness electricity to make it light our homes and the traffic lights, and lots of other things.

Dorcas shook her head and laughed, too. “My brain is too full, Sarah! I think I’ve absorbed as much as I can for one day. Perhaps we can talk another time about that calling object, but for now I shall have to think about these things you have explained to me. I’m assuming there is much, much more that’s different about your other time.”

“Yes, there is a lot that’s different—in fact, there isn’t much that’s the same. Maybe next time we can talk about clothes—I have a little more experience with that!”

“Oh, wait! I have to know about the clothes. Maybe just one more thing won’t make my brain explode.”

Sarah laughed. “I need to serve breakfast, madam. You and I might love to discuss clothes rather than eat, but I doubt that the rest of your family would agree!”

“Oh, all right. But right after the meal?” Dorcas looked as eager to learn about the latest fashions as any woman might.

At least that hasn’t changed, Sarah carried the tray of food to the dining room.

After the meal Dorcas followed Sarah back to the cooking, even carrying one of the trays to speed the process.

Sarah had been thinking about how to explain the fashions. Perhaps some of the children’s wax tablets and quills—it would be easier to draw them.

When Sarah suggested the tablets, Dorcas brightened. “That would be wonderful. Maybe you can draw some of these others you talked about, too. I’ll go get something to write on while you preparing the servant’s meal. Paul could make a tablet for us, or we might even put these down on parchment!”

“Oh, no, madam, that wouldn’t be wise. Parchment sometimes lasts thousands of years, and if some future scholar found ancient drawings of cars and fashions, one of them would think that aliens—people from one of the distant planets—were feeding the ancients—that’s us—information. Or one of your authorities could find it and arrest everyone in this household!”

“Hmm. All right, no parchment.”

Dorcas left in search of Paulos to make a tablet for them. Sarah hoped it would be a large one—they wouldn’t have to remelt the wax so often.

When Dorcas came back, Sarah proceeded to draw the latest ladies’ fashions in 2008.

“These are the dresses—some are much shorter,” she said.

Dorcas sat back, her eyes wide. “Their limbs are showing.”

Sarah laughed. “Wait till you see the swimsuits,” she said, and proceeded to sketch a lady in a bikini.

“No! I can’t believe a woman would expose herself so. Not even a prostitute would wear anything like this. Are there no modest items of clothing?”

“Well, there are some dresses and coats—much like tunics, cloaks, and mantles. They can be full length—to the ankles—or just cover part of their outfits.”

“Out-fits?”

“That is what we call items of clothing worn together. Sometimes an outfit can be a one-piece dress, but often it’s two or even three pieces: a skirt or pants, a blouse, and a jacket,” Sarah said, drawing each as fast as she could.

“Fashions changed for women every year or so, at least for wealthy women. Most of us couldn’t afford to do that. I think it’s a scheme of the clothing designers and manufacturers so that women will buy new clothes every year. And shoes, too. Except I think some shoes must have been designed by men who hate women. They pinch the toes into painful triangles and make women walk on their toes,” she said, and drew a pair of stilettos, top and side views.

“Why do women buy them?”

“I’m not sure why. I guess because we think men like the way our ankles look with them on.”

“It sounds like women didn’t get any smarter over time. We wear hair ornaments and embroidered tunics to attract male attention or to show other women how fashionable we are. So what about men? Were their clothes so outrageous, too?”

“Not quite so much so. They mostly wore slacks and shirts—sort of like this,” she said, sketching again. “But some of the young men would wear very baggy pants that hung off their hips and threatened to fall down. Nauseating.”

Dorcas laughed again. “Hm. Men don’t get any smarter through the ages, either.”

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