It was Monday, 3:51 p.m. The man called the Builder--he once had a name but he'd long forgotten, and everyone he used to know was dead or gone or didn't recognize him anymore--the man called the Builder always knew what time it was. An old-fashioned watch that he wound religiously every evening at eight p.m. was his most precious and also his most mysterious of his few possessions. For the most part, he owned only what he needed for survival: a small generator, a camping stove, a tattered sleeping bag patched with bits of discarded blankets, an old, dirty Igloo cooler that kept his food fresh for a few days.
Nobody knew where the watch came from. It was clearly an antique, with brass fixtures; a wide, shiny, hair-pinching wrist band; and ornately painted numbers underneath the glass face. After the Builder wound his watch, he would shine it with a scrap of rag, lovingly polishing its metal surfaces with a spot of oil from his kerosene lamp. Lin could see all this from the side window of his house, had seen this every day of his ten years, that he could remember. The main room of the rooftop shanty, which his father had built above Lin's aunt and uncle's house with his own two hands, looked out onto other run-down houses, other shanties. And the Builder's...dwelling.
There was really no other word for it. It wasn't exactly a house. Part of it was a house, but the rest....It was 3:59, David knew, because the Builder had emerged from his front doorway, which was quite stable but leaned to one side at a disturbing angle. Every Monday at 3:59 the Builder came out, carrying a creation made from metal rods, discarded wood, thrown-away utensils, and anything else long and slender, attached at intricate angles, like a communications tower or a giant comb or a rake. And then, at precisely 4:00, the Builder would gingerly scale a precarious ladder built into the side of his house, carrying his creation over his shoulder.
He would scuttle along the roof, a maze of railings and uneven roof, and add the wood-and-metal object to all the rest, and Lin would gape upwards in awe. It was like the rigging of some small but insanely complicated ship, like a contraption built to contact UFOs, but Lin did not know what it was for. He didn't know if it was "for" anything. He was too afraid to ask the Builder, and his parents warned him to stay away. But one day, when Lin was eleven, everything changed...
This week's piece was inspired by WIRE(LESS) by Flickr user min'. I love this picture--really fascinating. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.